Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Microsoft's tablet vision pays off with Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

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The Surface Pro 3 improves upon the previous model in just about every which way – Microsoft has checked all of its boxes. The company was even so brash as to compare this hybrid of sorts to both Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air and its tablet atop the mountain, the iPad Air.

At least on the outside, the Surface Pro 3 falls somewhere smack in the middle. Measuring 7.93 x 11.5 x 0.36 inches (W x D x H), the 1.76-pound tablet isn't quite as thin and light as the iPad Air, but beats the MacBook Air in both respects easily.

And that's pretty much the point: a device that offers enough of both to replace both. The Pro 3 is a light enough tablet – but not the absolute lightest – and arguably one of the thinnest and lightest laptops around. But dimensions aren't even half of it. Does the Pro 3 offer comparable power to both, not to mention for a competitive price?

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Here is the Surface Pro 3 configuration given to TechRadar:

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.9GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • Screen: 12-inch, 2160 x 1440 multi-touch (ClearType, 3:2 aspect ratio)
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Ports: One USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, microSDXC card reader (up to 128GB), headphone/mic jack
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: Two 5MP webcams (1080p HD video)
  • Weight: 1.76 pounds
  • Size: 7.93 x 11.5 x 0.36 inches (W x D x H)

This is one of the mid-range Surface Pro 3 configurations, and it'll cost you a steep $1,299 (about £772, AU$1,403). The most affordable way into the latest Surface Pro 3 goes for just $799 (around £475, AU$863). However, you'll have to work with an Intel Core i3 chip, half as much RAM and just 64GB of storage. On the other hand, you can deck out this slate with a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of memory and a whopping 512GB solid-state drive for $1,949 (about £1,158, AU$2,106).

It's worth noting that various deals to snag the Surface Pro 3 at a lower price are kicking about. In the US, for example, you can pick up the device with a $150 discount if you're a student. If you opt for the higher-end Core i7 model, you can get an even better 10% off the retail price, which amounts to $195.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Returning to the device at hand, Microsoft says that it's essentially two devices in one, and has priced it accordingly, not to mention with Apple squarely in mind. So, starting with the latest iPad, it would cost $799 -- the Pro 3's starting price -- to only reach half of this Microsoft tablet's storage. And this is Apple's most premium configuration.

That price also gets you a 1.3GHz processor, a 9.7-inch display at 2048 x 1536 resolution, 802.11a/b/g/n dual-channel Wi-Fi with MIMO and Bluetooth 4.0. While it's tough to compare these displays given their difference in size, the iPad Air has a tough time competing with the Surface Pro 3 on paper.

The MacBook Air comparison is, surprisingly, an easier one to make, spec for spec. For $1,299, Apple's 13-inch thin-and-light laptop meets the Pro 3 head on in terms of storage and memory. However, that 1440 x 900 screen looks just dull in comparison. And while this notebook sports Intel's far superior HD Graphics 5000, the Core i5 chip behind them is much slower at 1.4GHz.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

At first glance, it looks like the Surface Pro 3 can dance around both of Apple's machines at the same time. However, that's assuming you purchased the optional Type Cover. That's right: the one tool that enables this tablet to truly replace the laptop does not come with the device. In fact, it costs a cool $130 (around £77, AU$140). Even so, this Surface Pro 3 configuration, with Type Cover included, still costs less than Apple's entry level tablet and laptop combined. Microsoft may have made good on its goal of replacing the laptop in terms of price, but what about performance?

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.