Unlike the other machines on this list, the new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is a convertible tablet. So while it is not an Ultrabook, we did want to include it because Microsoft is promoting it as a tablet that can replace your notebook when you add a keyboard to it. While Microsoft was saying the same thing about the smaller Surface Pro 2, we think with the Pro 3 Microsoft finally has a device that is up to this task. Also, it does come with Windows 8.1 Professional, so Microsoft is clearly aiming this at business users, rather than consumers.

Since it is also a tablet, the Surface Pro 3 is very thin and very light. Even with the keyboard cover attached it is 1.4 cm, making it the thinnest machine in this list. It is extremely well made from magnesium-alloy, and has a very high level of fit and finish. It is also very attractive – its crisp, clean lines are finished in matte silver that resists fingerprints. However, despite its premium construction and materials, it is not going to be as durable as some of the other Ultrabooks on this list that has passed various MIL-SPEC tests.

Surface_Pro3-1For it to function as an Ultrabook, there are two important components. The kickstand on the back of the Surface props up the tablet on a table or your lap, and the keyboard cover that attaches magnetically to the bottom. The Pro 3 has improved these two components considerably over its predecessor. Firstly, the kickstand now has a full range of motion (the Surface 2 Pro’s stand only has three positions), so the screen can be set at any angle, as it can be on traditional notebooks. Secondly, the keyboard cover now has a secondary magnetic attachment point that helps keep the Surface Pro 3 steadier when using it as an Ultrabook and improves the typing experience. That being said, despite all these improvements, the Pro 3 is still not as flexible and comfortable to use ‘proper’ notebook in every situation. You need enough room for both the keyboard and the kickstand to have some support – a regular notebook just needs support under the keyboard in order to be able to use it.

The Surface Pro 3 has a gorgeous super high-resolution IPS screen that Microsoft is calling Full HD Plus (2160 x 1440). It has an unusual 3:2 aspect ratio, making it a little squarer than the 16:9 screens found on most Ultrabooks. This aspect ratio makes the screen wider when using the Pro 3 as a tablet in portrait mode. One problem such a high-resolution screen has when using Windows is that some legacy (desktop) apps may have trouble scaling to the very high DPI of the Pro 3′s screen.

The Pro 3’s ‘Type Cover’ keyboard is naturally bigger than the Pro 2’s because the tablet itself is bigger. This larger size means that the Pro 3 has a much better typing experience because the keys are bigger, and the cover has less flex. Unfortunately, while it is a better keyboard that the ones found on older Surfaces’, and even some of the 3rd party keyboards for other tablets like the iPad, it is still no real substitute for ‘real’ keyboards like the one on the T440s. The cover still flexes when you type, and the key travel is very shallow, making for a ‘springy’ typing experience that can hinder speed and accuracy. Similarly, while the touchpad is vastly improved from the one on the previous generation Type Covers, being a bigger and being a real clickpad, it cannot compare to the touchpads of the other Ultrabooks on this list. It is simply too small.

Surface_Pro3-6

The Surface Pro 3 is the only Ultrabook here that has Pen input support. It uses N-trig’s technology, so the pen has a battery inside, and is a little thicker and heavier than the Wacom pen that came with the Surface Pro 2. The pen works well for both creative work in Photoshop and other graphic design programs, and for handwritten note taking with applications like One Note. There is even a button on the top of the pen that opens OneNote when you click it, so you can take a new Note, even if the Surface’s screen is off. Part of the reason the feel of the pen is so good is that the gap between the Surface’s glass and LCD is incredibly thin, so it looks like you are putting actual pen to paper when working with the stylus. Disappointingly, like the Surface Pro 2, there is no slot for the Pen. In fact, this time round the pen does not even attach magnetically to the Surface – there is a fairly flimsy looking loop that attaches to the keyboard that holds the pen. This set up doesn’t look very practical, and we would have much rather had Microsoft add a little more girth to the Surface so the pen could be stored internally – if you end up losing it, it costs $50 to replace.

Along with the MacBook Air and HP EliteBook 1040 G1, the Core-i7 Surface Pro 3 models come with Intel with HD 5000 graphics, a big step up in performance from the HD 4400 graphics found in the i5 model. We have not been able to test an i7 model out though since they are not shipping until the end of the summer. The i7 model can also be configured with a 512 GB SSD drive, and like the graphics story, the Pro 3 is one of the few models here that can come with such a large amount of storage out of the box.

Due to its dimensions, it is understandable that the Pro 3 wouldn’t have much in the way of ports – it only has one USB 3.0, a mini DisplayPort out and a microSD card reader. We would have liked to see Microsoft try and squeeze in at least one more USB 3.0 port. It does, surprisingly, have full docking station compatibility. The Surface Pro 3 slides into its dock vertically, since there is no way to connect to the keyboard, and it also needs to be to dock when it is acting as just a tablet. The $200 Surface Pro 3 Docking Station adds three USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet and mini DisplayPort. Like many of the Ultrabooks in this list, there are no user upgradeable parts, but with the Surface there isn’t even an option to unscrew and disassemble the chassis if you are confident enough – it is completely sealed.

Surface_Pro3-4

The Surface Pro 3’s non-removable battery has been tested to run for 7.5 hours, which is good, but not great, for an Ultrabook (but not so good when compared to other tablets).

One of the biggest complaints we have about the Surface 3 Pro is that the Type Cover is not included with it or in the price. If Microsoft if pushing the Pro 3 as an Ultrabook competitor, then they should include a keyboard, at least in one SKU for a reduced price (the pricing shown below includes the separate cost of the keyboard cover). That way users Microsoft can potentially sell the Surface to more customers if they are OK with, say, a black or blue keyboard cover, and then sell the two separately for those who want to be able to pick a different keyboard cover.

The Core-i7 Pro 3 models when you include the price of the keyboard cover are very expensive, especially when you consider the limitations of the Pro 3 compared to other top-end business Ultrabooks. In spite of that, the lower end Core-i5 models ARE comparable in price to equivalently spec’d Ultrabooks.

So, the big question is can the Surface Pro 3 be an Ultrabook replacement since it is still, after all, simply a Windows tablet with a keyboard attachment. The answer would depend on how you work since while it does work well as a notebook, there are other machines in this list that are better Ultrabooks. However, none of them are also tablets, and none of them have pen input, so if those are features you think you will find yourself using a lot, then, yes, the Surface Pro 3 is a good business Ultrabook choice.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Specs:

  • 12” LED backlit display 3:2 Full HD plus (2160 x 1440, IPS)
  • 1.5 GHz Core i3-4020Y CPU (no vPro) – 1.7 GHz Core i7-4650U CPU
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400 or 5000
  • 4 GB or 8 GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 64 GB – 512 GB SSD
  • 29.2 x 20.1 x 1.4 cm (11.5 x 7.93 x 0.55 in) including Type Cover
  • 1.09 kg (2.41 lb) including Type Cover
  • Windows 8.1 Pro 64
  • 3-year warranty
  • Models from $980 – $2,130 (including Type Cover)
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  • http://HonoluluHi5.com George Krischke

    The actual keys appear to be the same size for both the pro 3 and the pro 2 type cover, …with the exception of the size of the touchpad.

  • 32Devlin1

    To slow to be a laptop and uses to much power to be a tablet and its to big,wished it had a AMD apu at least you could game with it but sense its Intel you can forget that,

    • meh

      I have a surface pro 2 and am able to play Skyrim on it. Intel cards are a lot better than they use to be.

    • Granpa0

      Clearly, you have never owned a Surface. Too slow to be a laptop? On what planet? It’s faster than any laptop I’ve ever used, and the Intel GPU is more than adequate for gaming. Sure it’s not on par with a Razer Blade, but it is not meant to be. Compared to any other laptop however, the Surface Pro blows it out of the water. As far as the power thing, I really couldn’t tell you how good the battery life is on the SP3, the SP1 was pretty bad however, but it was also too heavy to be a tablet replacement. I can’t say the same thing about the SP3, it’s so incredibly light it feels like I’m holding an iPad in my hand.

      • 32Devlin1

        Yes i do have one it just does not play bf4 or any other high lvl game hell for the price i payed i could have added $200 to it and got a gaming laptop from MSI or Asus.O by the way don’t know about yours but half the time i can’t even use WIFI for $799 you would think that would work.

        • Dblkk

          Great call man. Compare a surface pro to a 17″, 10lb, 4 hour battery laptop. While gaming those laptops offer 60 min of gaming.
          32 Devlin 1 if all you want to do is play BF4, then buy a pc. I could spend $500 on a pc and play better than a $1000 laptop.
          I could spend $300 on a xbox 360 and play BF4.
          Other than playing BF4, I don’t see anything else in your comments.
          There are a hundred ways you can go right now and play BF4. Go do it. No the surface pro isn’t one, and it was never meant to be.
          Try heading over to a MacBook air or ipad website forum, and blast away that they cant play BF4.

          • 32Devlin1

            I really don’t game on laptops that much and the gaming rig I built myself was over $3,000 in parts alone not hating on the surface pro but peeps making comments that you can game with it is a joke,sure it’s nice for it’s price range but what I am saying is if you want a gaming laptop it’s going cost more then $799.

          • Dblkk

            Alright, I get that. I had beast of a workstation pc which games ok, and a MSI GT70 which used to have 880m which gamed great, now I swapped in a quaddro k5100m. Doesn’t game as good, but I don’t game. Maybe some lol.
            Spent $2400 on laptop, another $400 on 1tb 2.5 ssd, and $1500 on 3x1tb msata. Another $1100 for the k5100m…..all to play LOL. haha, and rendering and 3d work.
            But I have beast of a pc i7 4930k sli titan blacks (will be titan black 2′s if when they come out its worth the upgrade). Beast of a laptop.
            And I bought the surface for my go to daily driver. Something such as web browsing, forum reading, tech news following, emails, word, ect. Don’t think I need a $4000 10lb (although great) laptop. The surface pro i7 8gb 256gb with cover I think fits the bill perfect.
            I looked into the Asus Zenbook, Samsung Ativ book 9 plus, and acer s7. But none just wowed me.

            I’m still eyeing up the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2, but only because the price. Might end up trading the surface pro for it, not to sure. Still leaning 60/40 towards surface pro. I love a great keyboard, and surfaces is great, and I use the pen and tablet all the time. But when I need need to type, I usually plan on bringing my beast laptop. Would be nice to have a 2.5lb great keyboard.

    • DblKK

      with an AMD apu, you’d get less than half the battery life of the Intel. it would also run warmer and would have to be thicker to provide adequate cooling and fans. plus, tell me…. how much better is a a10′s graphics vs the 5000 iris?
      Theres a reason AMD apu’s are only used on budget laptops, and one of them isn’t gaming

      • 32Devlin1

        I don’t see Iris pro in the specs if you want iris pro it’s going to cost more then $799 and the 5000 is a joke but most peeps don’t buy these to play games anyway O and by the way I would give up 2 or three hours of battery life if I could play BF4 at 30fps any day.

  • Paul

    I think it’s the perfect size compare to the Surface Pro 1 & 2, with an 1.7 GHz Core i7 its more the capable of handing high-end AAA games. Also since it’s a Intel processor you might also be able to dual-boot OSX86 in the future, OSX86 can run on Surface 1.

  • Granpa0

    I went to Best Buy today and got a hands-on with the Surface Pro 3 and I’m blown away. Microsoft struck the perfect balance between making the SP3 light weight yet feel completely premium and sturdy. It’s incredibly thin for all the power it is housing. I currently own a Surface Pro 1 and the difference between the two are astronomical. It’s about half the weight of the Surface Pro 1, but thinner, with a bigger screen and just feels incredible. I want one bad!!

  • secs

    I upgrade to a surface pro 3 from a pro2. The surface pro 3 is unbelievably light and thin. It is blindingly fast, fluid and powerful. It has not only replaced my iPad air, but my laptop as well.
    The surface is built like a bank vault – very high quality. It boots in seconds and is rock solid reliable. Microsoft has built an extraordinary machine far ahead of anything else available.
    It can even be used as an android tablet to access Google play store Ps if desired.
    Its hard to believe that this much power, speed and graphics can be built itmo such a thin and light device.