With Microsoft Corp.’s previous efforts with the Surface series getting widely panned by reviewers and consumers alike, we were waiting and watching to see what the Redmond, Wash.-based company would pull out this time with the Surface Pro 3.

And while the Surface Pro 3 does bear some resemblance to its predecessor, the Surface Pro 2, reviews definitely seem more optimistic this time around – lauding this latest tablet as one that may come a little closer to being the device that could replace the laptop. Here’s what reviewers have to say about the Surface Pro 3.

TechRadar’s Joe Osborne

For Osborne, seeing the Surface Pro 3 in action has convinced him that Microsoft may be onto something. Trying to build a tablet that might supersede the need for a laptop is no easy feat, but the company is getting there, he says.

“After over a week with the slate, I’d go so far as to say that the Pro 3 is closer than any laptop-tablet hybrid released yet,” he writes.

To that end, Microsoft has improved the design of its tablet. While the Pro 2 was only set at about 10.6 inches in terms of its screen size, it is now 12 inches, with an aspect ratio of 3:2. Unlike the Pro 2, which was set at 16:9, or the iPad at 4:3, the Pro 3 is meant to look more like a notepad when held in portrait orientation. It’s also supposed to be able to display more content this way, Microsoft says.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 comes with an improved kickstand. (Image: Microsoft).
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 comes with an improved kickstand. (Image: Microsoft).

Microsoft also upped its game when it came to the Surface Pro 3’s keyboard. Previous versions have used the Type Cover, which has now been redesigned for keys that click in more deeply, as well as a wider glass trackpad that also clicks. Plus, the keyboard now uses a strong magnet attached to the bottom of the Pro 3’s bezel, meaning it can now be set up so just part of it is sitting on your lap or on a desk. Other versions of the Surface Pro suffered from having a weird keyboard stand, making it really hard to set it up comfortably on a user’s lap.

CNET’s Dan Ackerman

In his review, Ackerman gets to the heart of the problem with tablets – some consumers want a device that hits the sweet spot between tablet and laptop, striking a balance between a tablet for consuming content, whereas a laptop can help them actually generate that content. Right now, most users still need to carry both.

Ackerman lauds the Surface Pro 3 for being lighter and thinner than its predecessors (though not quite as light as the iPad Air), and the display alone is a huge improvement, he notes. However, one thing that’s not so great? The lack of a place to keep the Surface Pen. Plus, while he calls the Type Cover “one of the coolest things” about the Surface Pro 3, it’s not great to have to buy it separately. And as great as it is for a tablet keyboard, it still doesn’t measure up to the kind of keyboard users would find with a budget laptop.

Still, Microsoft has improved the Surface Pro 3 by leaps and bounds, and it definitely comes close to the dream of having an all-in-one tablet and laptop combination.

“It’s not entirely there yet, and it’s still a bit of a leap to say this will be a true laptop replacement for most people, but the Surface Pro 3 is the first Surface device I feel confident in saying I could get away with using as a primary PC device,” Ackerman writes.

TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm

For Wilhelm, Microsoft has definitely created something more “compelling” with its latest iteration of the Surface Pro 3. However, can it beat out the MacBook Air, a long-time consumer favourite? The thing is, the Pro 3 offers different use cases from the MacBook Air, meaning it may not be a direct parallel offering.

“This brings together the pieces they wanted to in a package that’s finally attractive enough to make sense, at a price point I think the market will react well to,” Wilhelm says in his video review.

While users of the previous Surface devices will probably enjoy this newest offering, he says new users might also find things to like about it, he adds. Beyond the improvements to the keyboard, it has better speakers, as well as a better, bigger display so the windows on the device are more visible. There’s also an improvement to the Surface Pen, allowing for better interaction with the screen, Wilhelm says.

The Type Cover, compatible with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, costs an extra $129. (Image: Microsoft)
The Type Cover, compatible with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, costs an extra $129. (Image: Microsoft)

And the price is more attractive – it’s at $799 in the U.S., though you do need to pay another $129 for the keyboard. That means the Surface Pro 3 doesn’t come cheap, but it’s still cheaper than it was before, when users had to pay for both the Surface Pro 2 at around $899 plus shell out extra for the keyboard as well.

Canadian Business’ Peter Nowak

Still, not every reviewer is convinced the Surface Pro 3 can really take over as a replacement for a laptop. While Peter Nowak praises Microsoft for its engineering accomplishments, acknowledging the work that went into making the Surface Pro 3 nice and light while packing an excellent display, he writes it’s not as convenient as some of the other tablets already on the market.

For example, the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini might be considered better competitors in the tablet arena, especially as they come with more apps with the Android OS and Apple iOS, respectively.

Plus, for Nowak, the Canadian asking price of $849 is too high – not to mention higher prices once you add in more memory and storage, as well as the Type Cover.

“Hybrids inevitably bring tradeoffs and often deliver inferior experiences compared to dedicated single-use devices, which has definitely been the case with every Surface device yet. They’re just not as good as the typical laptop, nor the typical tablet,” he writes.

“Moreover, many consumers already have either a laptop or a tablet, or both, and are probably not thinking about getting rId of both. In that vein, they’re probably not going to consider one or the other that does either job only partially well.”

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  • Vishnu Priya

    Glad to listen that While the Pro 2 was only set at about 10.6 inches in terms of its screen size, it is now 12 inches, with an aspect ratio of 3:2. Unlike the Pro 2, which was set at 16:9, or the iPad at 4:3, the Pro 3 is meant to look more like a notepad when held in portrait orientation.
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