Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Superb value, but no longer the best hybrid tablet
Third time lucky, Microsoft strikes gold with the Surface Pro 3
Update 18/12/2015: The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has arrived, and although not a major upgrade on the Surface Pro 3, it is now the best hybrid tablet you can buy. What's different about it? The new Surface Pro has a slightly larger 12.3in display with a higher resolution of 2,736 x 1,824, and includes the latest Intel Skylake processors.
The Surface Pro 3 is still on sale, however, and right now it's a bargain. The base Core i3 model is cheaper than the Core m3 Surface Pro 4 by £200, and the top-end Core i7 Surface Pro 3 with 512GB SSD is a massive £600 cheaper than the equivalent Surface Pro 4 model. The latest Surface Pro 4 might be the best hybrid on the market, then, but the Surface Pro 3 is still a great buy.
The Surface Pro 3 is the flagship of Microsoft’s Surface family, the big, pricier brother to the recently released Surface 3. The Pro ups the ante with a larger 12in display, a vastly more potent Intel Core processor and a nippy SSD. But is all that enough to back up Microsoft’s claims that this is "the tablet that can replace your laptop?" After all, not only does the machine have competition from Windows tablets, it now also faces the iPad Pro (and we've written a direct comparison if you're interested in how they compare). So it is still the hybrid to beat?
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Specifications
The Surface Pro 3 comes in a wide variety of specifications. You can choose from Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, as well as a spectrum of SSD capacities ranging from 64GB right up to 512GB. Pricing varies dramatically as a result, with the low-end model starting at a very tempting £639. We’d avoid this one, though: its Core i3 CPU and 4GB of RAM may do everything you need, but a 64GB SSD is too tiny these days.
A slightly better bet is the £849 version, which gets you a Core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, but ideally we’d pick the 256GB model, which also doubles the RAM, at £1,079. If nothing but the best will do, you’ll have to dig deep: the Core i7 versions are both equipped with 8GB of RAM, and the 256GB or 512GB SSD options come in at £1,299 and £1,549 respectively. In the US, but unfortunately not available here yet, Microsoft also has a 128GB i7 model available for $1,149 (~£739). Bear in mind that none of these prices include the Type Cover, which adds another £110 on top.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Design
The Surface Pro 3 makes a great first impression – it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Microsoft hardware. The clean, unfussy design oozes luxury, and while we prefer the moody, all-black exterior of the Surface Pro 2, there is something rather alluring about the Surface Pro 3. Light grey metal reaches all around the back and along the tapered edges, and a slight sparkle shimmers under the matte finish.
And while the the Surface Pro 3 is substantially wider and taller than what’s come before, Microsoft has used the extra surface area to spread the components more thinly and slash the overall weight – the chassis now measures a dainty 9.1mm thick and weighs 800g.
The 12in, 2,160 x 1,440 screen (protected by a glossy panel of Gorilla Glass 3) is a big step up from the 10.6in, 1,920 x 1,080 panels of previous Pro generations. It’s also a different shape, forsaking the Surface Pro 2’s widescreen 16:9 format in favour of a 3:2 ratio. This may not sound like a revolutionary change, but the ergonomic impact is huge. In laptop mode, the display’s extra height brings back happy memories of 4:3, square-screened laptops from the 1990s; held vertically in tablet mode, with the Surface Pen in hand, the extra width gives the feel of a slightly shrunken A4 page. No matter how you use it, the Surface Pro 3 feels like a more natural fit than previous models.
|Warranty||2 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||292 x 201 x 9.1mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4300U|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||0|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||2,160|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,440|
|Resolution||2160 x 1440|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics|
|Hard disk usable capacity||96GB|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||N/A|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Pointing device type||Touchscreen, Stylus|
|Camera megapixel rating||5.0mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||10hr 33min|
|Battery life, heavy use||2hr 20min|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.62|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|