First impressions of Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3

We're in the midst of reviewing Microsoft's new Surface Pro 3 here at The Switch, but we thought we'd give you a sneak peek at what using the device is really like.

Since I got the device on Tuesday, I've been using the Surface as my primary computer. In fact, everything I've written in the past two days has been on the Surface Pro 3.


How I've been working for the past two days. (Photos by Hayley Tsukayama/ The Washington Post)

So far, it's been a pretty pleasant experience. One thing is clear -- this is a device aimed at being a laptop replacement, not a tablet replacement. The 12-inch screen is sizable, and it's definitely way heavier than an iPad or comparable Galaxy tablet.

Another thing that sets this up as something more than a tablet? Price. The lowest priced device starts at $799, without the fairly necessary $130 keyboard accessory. So the weight, size and expense of the Surface doesn't compare well to other tablets.

Against laptops? The Surface Pro is working at a lot of different angles.


The new Surface Pro 3 has a ton of angles -- this one is particularly good for reading. 

Compared against the field of laptops --  even the MacBook Air, which is pretty much the crowd favorite for devices like this -- the Surface Pro 3 is a serious competitor. It's heavy for a tablet, sure, but light for a laptop at 1.7 pounds. And while it doesn't have the array of ports that laptops do, you can make do with the two that it does have, a mini-display port that's good for presentations and a USB 3.0 that's good for, well, everything else. You will probably need a hub to get everything you want of this, though. (Or you could go to using Bluetooth accessories, which the Surface Pro 3 will also support.)

Because it runs a full version of Windows, you can supplement the continuing dearth of Windows 8 apps by downloading programs in the desktop mode, which gives you much more range. That means that you can use the device for work, even if your company makes you use programs that most definitely have not been made-over for a modern computing age.

From a design perspective, Microsoft's managed to get rid of some of the major problems with the last device. Battery life is, as promised, about 9 hours with regular use, which should just get your through the day unplugged. Microsof's also continued to improve on the stability of using the Surface in your lap. The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 offered two angle options. The latest version has a kickstand that lets you pick any angle you like to suit the situation -- something Microsoft Corporate Vice President Panos Panay calls "lapability."


Feeling totally secure on a crossed-leg lap. Sorry about the glare. 

The Surface Pro 3 does have its limitations. For me, the main one is that getting the thing into full laptop mode requires quite a bit of set-up: snapping on the keyboard, flipping out the kickstand, finding a place to clip the accompanying stylus. That sounds like a little gripe, but it adds up when you're doing it multiple times per day.

And switching between Windows 8 apps and the desktop mode also gets cumbersome after a while. Windows 8 has a lot of limitations -- although the programs do make a lot more sense on a touchscreen device -- and the screen on the Surface Pro 3 is a size that still requires a little squinting to use it in desktop mode.

I'll have a full version of the review up after the long weekend, with more gripes and a fuller evaluation of the Surface Pro 3. In the meantime, let me know what you'd like to know in the comments here.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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