Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Ports

Alongside the volume control, power and 'Windows key’ buttons, there are five ports dotted around the Surface Pro 3: headphones, USB 3.0, MicroSD, power and Mini DisplayPort – plus the silver strip where you connect the keyboard.

I found the single USB port to be rather annoying – need two at the same time happened a lot more than I initially thought it would – though there is a second USB port on the power pack for charging your phone. The MicroSD port is useful for photography, as most SD cards I own are MicroSD cards in adapters – so it’s easy to pop out the MicroSD card from its sheath and stick it straight into the Surface.

As you’d expect, there’s no Ethernet port, but there’s 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Sensors

The Surface Pro 3 includes a bunch of sensors that you’d find in tablets and phones, but here they’re mostly lacking in any real purpose. The Ambient Light sensor makes sense – raising or lowering the brightness to match your environment – but I’m a bit confused by the Accelerometer, Gyroscope and Magnetometer (a compass to you and me).

Are you going to play games by tilting the Surface, or go orienteering with it? If not, there’s nothing to see here.

This Surface has two 5MP cameras. The front-facing one is useful for Skype, the back for taking photos - assuming you’re happy to look as much of a douchebag as those tourists who use iPads as cameras. Or maybe it's for skyping when you want to show something other than your face (get your mind out of the gutter, I mean like something in the world around you).

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Battery life

The Surface Pro 3’s battery life is impressively long. Running our usual video-based battery life test, the Surface Pro 3 lasted for 8 hours and 25 minutes. This is even longer than the longest we’d seen previously – the 15-inch MacBook Pro’s 7 hours and 57 minutes – and a lot longer than the Dell Precision M3800’s paltry 2 hours 58 minutes.

In practice, when using the Surface Pro 3 primarily when travelling and in meetings, I could usually get away with charging it every other day (unless the battery life had been sucked out leech-like by something like that inexplicably battery-destroying wireless projector dongle). Getting a lot of work done on long flights was also possible - though that didn't always seem like a benefit.

Another practical consideration that helps the Surface Pro 3's battery life is that it's power adapter is smaller than a cigarette packet and about as light. Again, it's bigger than a tablet's - but carrying it with you in a small bag is really no trouble at all.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Price

The Surface Pro 3's flexibility comes at a price that’s more laptop than iPad - but it’s still a lot lower than a properly-specced 15-inch MacBook Pro or similar.

Where this Surface's price might seem high is in that it won't replace your desktop - so you need to be sure you'd use it enough to be worth the outlay (unless you're raking it in right now).

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review: Verdict


Studio photography shot at Play Deep Studios by Dominik Tomaszewski.

The Surface Pro 3 is a rare product indeed - a piece of tech that doesn't try to improve on what you're currently using by just making it faster or lighter or higher-resolution - but by letting you use it differently. It's the answer to the question 'what does a creative need most when he or she aren't at their desk?'. It puts comfort, creativity, flexibility, and ease-of-use over performance or just being a few mm thinner than the competition. It's a product designed for experience, not specs.

It's also very rare that I really miss a review product when its gone, but the Surface Pro 3 fitted neatly into a hole unfilled by any of my iMac, MacBook Pro or iPad. So it's now time to create a convincing case as to why our parent company IDG should buy me one.

OUR VERDICT

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 is the first - and only - laptop/tablet hybrid to get it (almost) completely right.