The new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 could well be the first true laptop replacement and we spent some quality hands-on time with it before launch.
Microsoft’s Surface is back and better than ever. Set to hit stores in the UK in August, the new Surface Pro 3 sports proper PC hardware underpinnings, runs full Windows 8.1, boasts a higher-than-Full HD resolution display and improved stylus input.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 hands-on review: Design
When we first saw the Surface Pro 3 back in May we had a good indication of its impressive design, but it’s all the more desirable in the flesh metal.
Just as MacBook Air users are forever bowled over by the power such a thin computer offers (I am at least), the Surface Pro 3 pulls off the exact same trick, which is fitting seeing as it serves as a direct rival to Apple’s razor-thin laptop. At 9.1mm you can wield it in one hand more easily than previous models, especially as the weight is more evenly distributed thanks to the display’s new aspect ratio.
The milled aluminium body has space for microSD expandability, there’s a full-sized USB 3.0 port which can take all the common PC peripherals you’d expect, a mini display port output and even vented edging for the internal cooling fan milled right into the chassis – all this in a body that weighs just 800 grams too.
The kickstand is also a big hook with the new Surface Pro 3 as it fixes the problem both previous iterations of Pro suffered from. We went from hammering on the Type Cover, to tapping on the touchscreen and sketching with the stylus in seconds. It uses a new sprung hinge that gives you degrees of control over the position of the display relative to you face, from upright to a near flat position (150 degrees).
The Touch and Type Covers have also been redesigned to feature a larger trackpad that offers considerably more feedback when right or left-clicking, not to mention both touch and swipe accuracy have been upped too. Those looking to add a little artistry to their work can also keep the new Surface Pen tucked away in an adhesive loop that matches the colour of your preferred cover.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 hands-on review: Screen
The front of the Surface Pro 3 is adorned with an exceptionally crisp ClearType Full HD Plus LCD panel. The 12-inch, 2160×1440 resolution makes this the largest display to have featured on a Surface whilst still retaining excellent detail, colours and accurate contrast. The aforementioned 3:2 aspect ratio also means it’s easy to handle and better suits most of the applications on offer out-the-box.
As with previous versions, the Pro 3 supports stylus input too, which can be used in conjunction with on-screen swipes and taps at the same time. With 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, impressively low latency and a smaller gap between the Surface Pen nib and the display, it boasts one of the most natural, responsive digital illustration experiences around. The Surface even has palm detection, so you can carry on sketching whilst resting your hand on another part of the touch screen without worry.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 hands-on review: Performance and features
So, based on our initial encounter, can the Surface Pro 3 truly replace the laptop? The user experience certainly feels fast and fluid (we were using an i5 processor-based prototype), swiping around the Windows 8.1 Start screen is easy by hand or with the latest Touch and Type Covers, which include handy hardware key shortcuts too.
As with the Windows Phone experience, Microsoft’s latest Bing apps have grown in number and quality, now covering health and fitness, news, sports, finance, travel and more. Microsoft Office is naturally a big part of the Surface package as well, offering the full suite in a wholly portable package.
OneNote is one example of an app built with Surface in mind. Tapping the top of the Surface Pen quick-launches the application, so you can scribble down your freshest ideas at a moment’s notice. This even works on the lock screen, so you or your friends can enter things in without the need for a password. That same stylus also helps take full-sized screenshots, which again get pushed into OneNote with a double tap on the button at the opposing end to the nib.
Back on the tablet itself, whilst expandability and USB support are fantastic inclusions, you’ll be able to pick from a myriad of storage options and processor specs. Ranging from 4th-generation Intel i3, to i5, to i7 silicon, Microsoft is hoping users can consider this a serious portable workhorse, capable of more than just Photoshop and some light 3D gaming, but video editing and other intensive processes too.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 hands-on review: Price and availability
The lowest storage available is a 64GB-flavoured model, but if you need more space, the priciest of the bunch can accommodate an impressive 512GB of flash storage, along with an Intel i7 chip and 8GB of RAM.
Our time with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 was fleeting, but we’re itching to test it out in full once it’s available. As we stated in our video hands-on, expect UK stores to offer up this newest Surface from late August, with prices starting at £639. If you’re really intrigued, you can even pre-order it, right now.