In this article I wanna take the time to tell you why I think the Surface Pro is a great tablet but an awful ultrabook replacement, at least that´s the way I see it.
A really great tablet (sort of)
Why do I say kind of, that has one pretty obvious reason. It has gotten bigger in terms of screen but therefore gotten lighter and thinner, that´s a really fantastic accomplishment but still, it’s a really huge tablet after all, to heavy and big for most people to use it comfortably for longer periods of time. For me though it is pretty much what I’m looking for in a tablet, nice size to work with but still kinda light enough to use it with a few drawbacks and then there’s still this really fantastic stand that will make a lot of things way easier. But that´s not all, now it’s almost completely silent but still delivers the same performance if not even better one thanks to the i7 option you now have. This means you get a REAL powerhouse that’s actually quite light and small compared to what it offers.
A half-assed ultrabook replacement
Wait, it has pretty much exactly the same specs as any modern ultrabook out there, is super silent and way lighter than all of these and still is a bad ultrabook replacement, how’s that possible you might ask. Here’s my answer and Armando totally agreed with me on this on our last live hangout. The biggest issue here is the attachable keyboard.
Yes it is maybe pretty good to type on a flat surface like a desk and the bigger size made things just better but the moment you are gonna try to use it really comfortably on your lap like for example sitting on a bench, your couch or maybe late at night in your bed. It just won’t work the same stable way as it would be using a real laptop keyboard with a hinge that securely and stable is attached to the screen and provides you a solid solution to type on. Yes I know Microsoft mentioned “lapability” quite a lot in their presentation always calling out this second attach mechanism snapping the keyboard with a magnet band to the screen that should provide more stability. And while this may work out better on a desk I still highly doubt that´s any real help on your lap and first hands on reviews seem to prove me right here. So no matter how much they improved the old keyboard and how much better it is now, it’s still just way to far off compared to any ultrabook keyboard out there. And it’s this lack of a ultrabook keyboard dock that’s most certainly gonna make sure I won´t buy one for myself.
Logitech to the rescue…please!
Since I highly doubt Microsoft will come up with such a ultrabook keyboard dock, after all it would be against all great they want us to make-believe their keyboard solution is, the only OEM I see on the horizon that could actually provide us with such a product would be Logitech. They are the most popular company out there producing high quality peripherals like keyboard and mice, their products for the iPad are the best ones available and with a good reason. I don’t know if Logitech actually has any intention of doing something like this or if they are even able to due to the proprietary connector for the keyboard but if someone is able to do it it’s Logitech. And this would actually be the only way I would still consider to grab myself an Surface Pro 3.
What else did they mess up?
There are a bunch of minor things and some of them can even be fixed quite easy with a software update. Those bugs for example would be the Windows button they moved to the side, I guess because the new magnetic keyboard strip would block it. The button seems to be quite easy to trigger when you are using the stylus and get to close to the button with your right hand. This should have been thought of I think since first reviewers noticed that within the first hours. It’s a miracle to me how Microsoft could miss that, maybe only left-handed people were working on designing the Surface Pro 3, who knows.
But then there are also other drawbacks they can’t fix that easy because they had to make sacrifices to get the device so thin, quiet and keep the good battery life, for example you don’t have a high performance mode anymore like before so you won’t be able to use all the power anymore while on battery. This could maybe be added at some later point but I think they left it out on purpose to make sure the battery would last longer. But then again I don’t think this should really be any problem for most of the people anyways. The last thing I wanna quickly mention here, in the case of the i5 version you get the same CPU as on last years model but now have a higher resolution with 2160 x 1440, this means you will have slightly worse performance after all and you could run earlier into some scaling issues as you did before on certain programs and this is a kind of known issue of all high-res/small screen Windows 8 devices.
What about the i3-Version ?
I can answer this real quick, stay the hell away from it, there’s a very high chance you will regret it pretty fast. It only uses the way slower i3 4020Y which is an even more lower voltage CPU and just isn´t the right CPU for this kind of machine. It also comes with a way slower GPU, so the difference to the i5 version will be quite dramatic. And you also have to consider this version comes with a 64GB storage and 4GB RAM, the RAM is less of a problem but the low amount of storage is, because after the system you are left with about 30GB at most, at least that’s in the ballpark of what I got on my ThinkPad 8. They money you save on the i3 just isn’t worth the big compromise. Sure, they wanted to offer one with a lower price but what they delivered instead in one with a worse overall experience. So whatever you may think, my tip is to go at least with the lower i5-Version, 128GB storage and 4GB of RAM in my opinion still isn’t enough for a device that is supposed to be a true All-in-One tablet/ultrabook replacement but it should be good enough after all.
The Surface Pro 3 in some way is a huge step in the right direction but with things like the keyboard that leaves a lot to be desired it also is nothing more than a big step to the side. In some ways it’s also even a step backwards if we take the less powerful i3 version in consideration. As a big tablet is really does an outstanding job but I don’t think it will end up as the ultrabook replacement for nearly as many people as Microsoft wants it to.