One month with the Surface Pro 3

When I started my current job and tweeted about my new “laptop” (a Microsoft Surface Pro 3), I was a little surprised at the reaction from some people, including one of my friends whose words were along the line of “give it a month and then then tell me if you still like it…”

Well, it’s been a month, so here we go…

<tl; dr> I really, really, like it.

That’s not really much of a review though… so here’s some of the things that are good, and some that are less so…

Starting out with the positives:

  • It’s a fully-featured PC. Every time I see someone comparing the Surface with an iPad I cringe. I tried using an iPad as my primary device and it didn’t work for me. I can see why it would for some people but I need to work with multiple applications and task switch, copy and paste text all of the time. The Surface Pro runs Windows 8.1 and does everything I expect of a Windows PC, plus the benefits of having a touch screen display and a tablet form factor.
  • The display is fantastic. Crisp, clear, 2160×1440 (as Ed Bott highlights, that would be called a retina display on an Apple device).
  • The type cover keyboard is really good. Backlit keys, easy to type on, a good size. Combined with the kickstand on the tablet itself, it becomes a fully-featured 12″ laptop and it’s far more stable than many tablet/cover/keyboard combinations.
  • I live in OneNote. I can draw with the Surface Pen now – and that is incredibly useful.
  • It’s light. I haven’t checked how light, but light enough to carry with ease.
  • The power supply is not too big – and it has a USB charging socket too. Having said that, I can usually manage on the battery to catch the train in/out of London and get through a customer meeting.

On the downside though:

  • There aren’t enough USB ports and the use of a Mini DisplayPort means I need to carry adaptors. To be fair, I carry quite a few for my other devices too.
  • The price of accessories is way over the top: type cover is a penny under £110; Surface Pen is £45; Docking station is £165. Really? Add that to the cost of the device itself and you could buy a pretty good laptop. (The Surface Pro 3 range starts at £639 but the Intel i5 model with 4GB RAM and 128GB of storage that I use is £849 and the top of the range Intel i7 with 8GB RAM and 512GB storage will set you back £1549).
  • The type cover trackpad is awful. I use a mouse. That’s how bad it is.
  • The pen takes some getting used to (this post from Microsoft helps) – and I ran through the first set of batteries in no time (this support page came in useful too).
  • I’ve had some worrying issues with resuming from standby, sometimes not resuming at all, sometimes having to go through a full reboot. I suspect that’s the Windows build it’s running though – I can’t blame the Surface for that…

I’m more than happy with the Surface Pro 3 (at least, I am until the Surface Pro 4 comes out!). I was given the choice between this and a Dell ultrabook and I’m pretty sure I made the right choice. Maybe if I was a developer and I needed a laptop which was effectively a portable server then that would be a different story – but for my work as a Consultant/Architect – it’s exactly what I need.

If you need a Windows PC, your work is mobile (and not too taxing in terms of hardware requirements), and your employer has the facilities for effective remote working, the Surface Pro 3 is worth a look. I’d even go as far as to say I would spend my own money on this device. That’s more than I can say about any company-supplied PC I’ve had to date.

5 thoughts on “One month with the Surface Pro 3


  1. Hi Mark,
    How do you find it actually on your lap?

    I’ve currently got a Surface RT and use a Surface Pro for work, both original spec, so the Surface Pro is bulky! I’ve got a touch cover on the RT and a type cover on the Pro

    I love the Surface RT as a tablet, it nice to use for browsing the web from the sofa etc.

    In a “desktop” scenario, ie on a desk / table / breakfast bar etc the Surface’s both work quite well too, I can RDP to one of my servers at home or my desktop at work and do most things, although I don’t particularly like working on a screen of that size.

    BUT if I actually want to use something on my lap, eg sitting on the Sofa / bed etc and want to write an email or do some work, I always find myself going for my laptop instead, purely because of the way the kickstand works, I don’t find it very comfortable / easy working from the surface.

    So in the dilemma of getting a new Surface Pro 3 or a Dell ultrabook, I’m currently swinging towards the ultrabook…

    James


  2. Hi James, to be honest, I haven’t really used it on my lap that much. If I’m sofa-surfing I can use it as a tablet and if I’m trying to do some real work, I tend to use a table of some description (even on the train I can usually get a table). You’re right about the physical screen size but the higher resolution makes it easer somehow than my previous 12″ laptop. I do still plan to get an external monitor for use when working at home though.

    I think it’s still horses for courses though – I can see that if you want to work as a laptop (literally), then the weight distribution is all wrong!

Leave a Reply