I’ve waited a while to take a good look at the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to let the hype die down and see what the device is really like as a day-to-day user, and ask the question is it really “the tablet that can replace your laptop” as Microsoft claims?
Is it “The tablet that can replace your laptop”?
At its core, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (Surface) is everything any computer could be for you, and in many cases more. Packed inside are all the same components you’ll find in almost any laptop or ultrabook – Intel Core “i” processors, stacks of RAM and a variety of hard drive size choices.
In that sense it most certainly can replace your laptop – most notably given that the device also has a touch screen and a stylus which you’ll struggle to find both of on any laptop on the market. That means in reality it’s got more to offer than many laptops.
The only real issue with comparing the specifications of the Surface to a laptop is that many laptops will come with much larger hard-drive capacity.
Key to any laptop to “tablet” comparison is the usability in portable situations. The Surface can sit proudly alongside a laptop on the desk or at a table, however on the “lap” it simply doesn’t stack up.
Without a case, the surface has a kick-stand at the back which is quite innovative, and allows you to choose a screen angle to suit you, the problem is that kick stand is a thin bit of metal, and for extended periods of time it really sticks into your leg. I honestly can’t imagine using the Surface on my lap for anything more than a little while.
Given your investment in the Surface though, you’ll likely buy a case for it – and in the NVS Folio case I’ve been using this week the Surface became a very usable “lap computer”.
The Surface has the power to compete with your laptop, it can (with the right accessories) be held like a laptop – so on this one, Microsoft may just have nailed it.
At what price?
It’s a beautifully engineered and feels in the hand like it’s made from premium materials – the question is, does that make it something you will pay an extended premium for.
You’ll find it for $978 at Harvey Norman and JB HiFi – and for that price you’re getting an Intel Core i3, 4GB of RAM and just 64GB of storage. The problem with that is you can get a laptop with those specifications but a comparatively enormous hard-drive for under $500.
This makes the “tablet that can replace your laptop” claim a bit tough – price is important and you’ve really got to shell out some cash for decent specifications. An i7 processor and 512GB hard drive will set you back almost $2300.
You’ll also need to shell out an additional $150 for the keyboard cover. A shame, because it is excellent.
In comparison to?
Be careful not to compare the Surface to an Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab S. Those are Tablets. The Surface is just so much more and really does sit in another category altogether – the problem for Microsoft is that it’s a category that is not defined – so when you’re out shopping you’re looking at Tablets or Laptops and the Surface always struggles in almost all comparisons.
When you ask yourself questions like
- Can I snap a keyboard on to this tablet with ease and have a normal typing experience?
- Can this tablet sit on my table without any accessory at all at almost any angle?
- How does it feel to hold – both weight and comfort – compared to these other laptops
- Do those other laptops have a touch-screen and stylus?
You start to get a sense of what the real comparisons are and how hard the buying decisions are.
While this sounds like a challenge for Microsoft, EFTM understands that sales in Aussie retail stores are doing quite well, in many cases beyond the expectations of the retailers. For that reason we’re starting to see more accessories in retail already.
Overall, this is one very impressive device. Streets ahead of previous Surface versions and head to head it will outperform many laptops and most certainly tablets.
Be careful with your choice of specifications, look for something that will work for you over time and be prepared to pay extra – don’t sacrifice storage for price.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.