Today Microsoft announced the release of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. For those living under a rock, the Surface Pro represents Microsoft’s vision of how tablets and laptops can occupy the same space and how Windows 8 as an operating system can handle different use cases. I suppose there are arguments to be made about the successes and failures of that vision but today breaks the mold, literally. Today, Microsoft shows off the new Surface Pro 3, the first in the line of laplets (I just made that up, don’t hurt me) to deviate strongly from the original’s design.
With the Surface, Microsoft gave us a device that struggled as a laptop due to its hinge design and struggled as a tablet due to it’s immense weight. I owned one for a while, and while I liked using it for very small use cases, I could not justify keeping it when I had an iPad and a MacBook Pro (not to mention Windows laptops through work). With the Surface Pro 2, Microsoft gave us essentially the same device with a slightly better hinge (allowing for 2 angles instead of one) and a processor bump providing improved performance and much improved battery life. The Surface Pro 3 ditches that model and introduces us to something completely different.
The Surface Pro 3 has moved from the 16:9 aspect ratios 10.6″ screen to a 3:2 aspect ratio 12″ screen. This gives it a shape more akin to a large book or iPad instead of that really long rectangular look it had in the past. The screen on the device has seen an increase from the 1080p days to 2160 x 1440. The device has been slimmed down to 9.1 mm thick versus 13.5 of the past. The weight has been brought down to 28.2 ounces from the 31.7 of the Surface Pro 2 (despite having a larger footprint.) On top of the changes in overall shape, the kickstand that made the Surface famous gets an update to allow for positioning at basically any angle. It’s pretty impressive what they have done from an incremental standpoint.
Inside the chassis of this reworked product we will see some changes as well. The Surface Pro line will have more choices on what’s powering the device as it gives you the option of the Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 as opposed to just the i5 in years past. The storage and memory varies with the processors as well with a bottom of 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage all the way up to 8 gb RAM and 512 GB storage, paired with the i3 and i7 respectively. Overall we will likely end up with 5 skus: 1 with the i3, 2 with the i5, and 2 with the i7.
On top of all that, Microsoft announced an improved stylus with more functionality for tieing in with OneNote and a new Touch Keyboard that should provide a better user experience.
Overall, I like what I see in the Surface Pro 3. At first I was disappointed in the fact that it was not something more dashing or daring but I think positioning this against the MacBook Air (they did this during the announcement) at 12″ is smart. I think it will end up being a more pleasing device than the previous Surfi (another one I just made up, sorry). I also think getting it out now may have been a smart idea. It allows them to continue to position the Surface Pro 2 for those who are attached to the 16:9 aspect ratio (if they want) and it puts a little more distance between a smaller surface that could fit in nicely around the same size as the iPad. On top of that it is heading off the pass to get in on a size before Apple can announce an iPad Pro (which I expect at WWDC.) Props to Microsoft for turning my frown upside down. Maybe the post Steve Ballmer era is looking bright?
Oops there’s a smile.