Microsoft's Surface tablet has been trying (with mixed results) to replace your laptop for a few years now, but now it means business. The Surface Pro 3 is the thinnest, lightest and most powerful Surface yet. It packs a 12-inch, 2160 x 1440-pixel display that's designed to compete with the best displays of any business notebook. If you're curious how much of an improvement the Surface Pro 3 is over its predecessor, here's a look at what's changed.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Row 0 - Cell 1||Row 0 - Cell 2|
|Row 1 - Cell 0||Microsoft Surface Pro 3||Microsoft Surface Pro 2|
|CPU||4th Generation Intel Core i3 Processor||1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4300U|
|Display||12-inch 2160 x 1440||10.6-inch 1920 x 1080|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 4400||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|OS||Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro||Microsoft Windows 8.1|
|Size||11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches||10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53|
|Weight||1.76 pounds||2 pounds|
|Cameras Rear/Front||5-MP, 1080p front and rear cameras||720p front and rear cameras|
Thinner, lighter and packing a larger display, the Surface Pro 3 is certifiably sexier than the Pro 2. Microsoft has shaved the tablet's weight down from 2 pounds to 1.76 pounds, with a thinness of just 0.36 inches compared to the Pro 2's 0.5 inches. The slate's sleek magnesium casing features an improved kickstand, which can fold up to 150 degrees for easy lap or tabletop use.
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While the Surface Pro 2 ran on an Intel Core i5-4200U CPU, the Pro 3 can be configured with an even speedier Core i7 processor. The slate's 12-inch 2160 x 1440 display is both larger and sharper than the Pro 2's 10.6-inch 1080p screen, and the Pro 3's 5-MP, 1080p front and rear cameras should take better shots than the Pro 2's 720p shooters. The Pro 3 runs Windows 8.1 Pro and, like its predecessor, packs integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400.
New Type Cover
Microsoft needed to improve its Type Cover keyboard to make the Surface Pro 3 a worthy laptop replacement, and that's exactly what it did. The Surface Pro 3 Type Cover is thinner than its predecessor, with a 68 percent bigger trackpad that should make browsing a bit easier. The new Type Cover can be clicked to the Surface Pro 3's display, making the keyboard feel more stable and natural when being used in your lap.
The Surface Pro 3 marks the debut of the official Surface Pen, with a weightier design that's meant to feel like more like an actual pen than the styli that came with previous Surface tablets. You can open the OneNote app just by clicking the Surface pen, and a double-click will capture whatever content you're viewing on-screen. The pressure sensitive pen is meant to easily translate analog writing into digital content, as exemplified on the New York Times Crossword app during the device's unveiling in NYC.
Pricing and Configurations
Even with its improvements, the Surface Pro 3's starting price of $799 (Core i3, 64GB storage and 4GB RAM) is actually cheaper than the Surface Pro 2's starting $899 price tag, which gets you Core i5, 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. The Core i5 Pro 3 costs $999 for 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, with a $1,299 Core i5 model that gets you 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. If you want Core i7 performance, there's a $1,549 configuration with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, as well as a final $1,949 model with 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM.
Unfortunately, Microsoft still hasn't learned that a laptop replacement should probably ship with a keyboard. The Surface Pro Type Cover will run you an additional $129.
With a large, crisp display and a thinner body than ever, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 could finally live up to the Surface line's purpose as a laptop replacement. The tablet's design refinements make it easier to use in your lap, and the option for a Core i7 processor make it more appealing than ever for productivity. We still wish Microsoft would bundle the improved Type Cover with its tablet, but overall, the Surface Pro 3 is shaping up to be a significant step up from its predecessor. If you're unsure whether or not to ditch your Surface Pro 2 for this new model, stay tuned for our full review.