Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: The Surface that got it right

Price when reviewed

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Features

Microsoft has made a few other tweaks here and there, too. The Surface Pro 3’s power connector is another thing that has been redesigned, from the press-on design much like Apple’s Magsafe to a neater, spade-like connector that’s far less prone to being yanked or knocked out.

In previous versions, the Surface Pen could be stored by clipping it into the magnetic power socket. That wasn’t ideal, since you couldn’t clip the pen in and charge the tablet at the same time. Now, you can stow the pen while the tablet is charging, with concealed magnets allowing you to attach the pen to anywhere on the edge of the tablet.

Surface Pro 3 review features surface pen

It still isn’t the ideal solution, though, because the attachment isn’t strong enough to survive being jostled around in a bag without it being knocked off. Annoyingly, there remains no slot in the edge of the Surface Pro 3’s chassis. However, Microsoft includes a small loop of fabric which attaches to the Type Cover, so you can stow the pen there.

Connectivity hasn’t changed a jot, either. The Surface Pro 3 has only a single USB 3 port, mini-DisplayPort video output, a 3.5mm headset jack and a microSD slot. For a device that aspires to replace your laptop, that’s a pretty limited selection. The presence of dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 sweeten the deal slightly, and the upgrade to TPM 2 security is welcome, too.

Similarly, the pair of 5-megapixel front and rear cameras are no more inspiring than those of the Surface Pro 2: smeary compression artefacts and mediocre detail are the order of the day, although we can’t imagine many people snapping selfies with this enormous tablet.

The speakers at least are an improvement. These are now positioned at either side of the display and provide crisp, detailed audio. They’re also a good deal louder than the meek drivers in the Surface Pro 2, although still not as good as those of the best tablets out there – to our ears, the Apple iPad Air provides a richer and more full-bodied performance, which is a surprise given how much slimmer it is.

Surface Pro 3 review headphone, volume and front-facing speakers

Recent firmware updates have added new features designed to make the Surface Pro 3 more secure. For example, you can now selectively disable the USB port, SD card slot, docking connector, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which is likely to make security-conscious system adminstrators a little bit happier. 

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Type Cover and kickstand

The Surface Pro keyboard, in the shape of the Type Cover, has always been one of its most unique features. With the Surface Pro 3’s expanded dimensions, the Type Cover has grown and it now weighs 300g. As before, it clips securely to the magnetic strip along the tablet’s bottom edge, drawing power via the metal docking connector, and folds up over the tablet’s display to keep it safe from harm when not in use. The keyboard itself is comfortably sized, with a wide, squat touchpad positioned underneath, and backlighting that’s adjustable through three different brightness settings. One minor addition is a stick-on loop of elasticated fabric, where you can store the Surface Pen.

This loop is also a source of minor irritation. Over time, like most thin plastics, it stretches a little. This means your lovely (and expensive) pen starts to fall out of it, usually when you’re carrying the Surface Pro 3 around. Since we started using the Surface Pro 3 a few months ago, we’ve already lost one pen this way – and lost count of the number of times we’ve ended up stooping to pick the pen up from the floor.

Surface Pro 3 review kickstand hinge

The Type Cover’s big new trick is a small hinged section, just above the keyboard’s function keys, that folds backwards and clips magnetically along the tablet’s lower bezel, raising the rear of the Type Cover up by a couple of centimetres. The effect is to angle the keys into a more comfortable typing position – neatly addressing one of the problems we had with previous Type Cover designs. When used on your lap, it also reduces the Type Cover’s tendency to rock from side to side – one of our biggest irrtations with the previous iteration.

It’s still flawed, however. Since there’s no support beneath the angled Type Cover it feels very odd to type on – a little like typing on a shoebox. What’s more, in its raised position, the Type Cover entirely covers the lower bezel, making it difficult to accurately press items along the taskbar with your fingers.

Surface Pro 3 review type cover

One major shortcoming of the original Surface Pro was its fixed-position kickstand. The Surface Pro 2 partially remedied this with a dual-position stand; now at last the Surface Pro 3 brings a properly hinged stand that’s smoothly adjustable through 150 degrees. It’s such a simple and obvious fix that we wonder why Microsoft didn’t do it this way in the first place, and the engineering behind it is just perfect. In the few months we’ve been using it, the stand hasn’t started to “sag” and it still feels exceptionally strong.

The upgraded stand allows the Surface Pro 3 to work in a wide variety of positions. With the Type Cover attached, the Surface Pro 3 can be propped up on your lap or desk, just like a regular laptop. Alternatively, when you unclip the keyboard and fold the stand right back, using the onscreen keyboard – previously an exercise in slip-slide futility – becomes a viable and even comfortable proposition.

The new design has also necessitated the removal of the capacitive Windows button to the right-hand side of the surround. This makes it easy to press accidentally when performing edge-swipes or even simply holding it when holding the tablet in landscape orientation.

Continues on page 3: Display & Performance



Warranty2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions292 x 201 x 9.1mm (WDH)

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i5-4300U
RAM capacity4.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total0

Screen and video

Screen size12.0in
Resolution screen horizontal2,160
Resolution screen vertical1,440
Resolution2160 x 1440
Graphics chipsetIntel HD Graphics
DisplayPort outputs1


Hard disk usable capacity96GB
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speedN/A
802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

3.5mm audio jacks1
SD card readeryes
Pointing device typeTouchscreen, Stylus
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating5.0mp

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use10hr 33min
Battery life, heavy use2hr 20min
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.62
Responsiveness score0.73
Media score0.69
Multitasking score0.45

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
OS familyWindows 8

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