Surface Pro 3: A VERY different experience

If you are a long time reader of this blog you may remember how thrilled I was when I bought the first Microsoft Surface Pro sold in Canada.  I wrote about it (including videos) that week (Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro: It’s Here!) and quite a bit subsequently.  It was… well, it was a nice device, don’t get me wrong, but it was really a companion device to my laptop.  It simply didn’t have the oomph to replace my HP EliteBook (which I soon thereafter replaced myself with a Lenovo X1 Carbon).  I need more than 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to be comfortable.

This past February I decided to sell that device and trade up to a Surface Pro 2.  I was absolutely thrilled with the new device (Surface Pro 2: Oh yeah!) because it really was a replacement laptop for me… okay, it wasn’t… but only because the screen size was just too small.  However because of the amount of travel that I do I decided that was a small price to pay for a lighter load – and anyways, most of the offices I worked in and hotel rooms I stayed in had another screen I could connect to.  The 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage really did make the difference, although I was hesitant… I decided that before I actually sold my Lenovo I would put it away for a fortnight, and see if I ever missed it.  I didn’t, and when I decided it was time to sell I never looked back.

Okay, I looked back a little… I had been considering this as an option for a while, and in May I went out and purchased an external USB screen (There was a sale on the AOC model and I broke down and bought it).  The fact is that while I am on writing assignments – I don’t mean blog articles, but full length courses – I simply need more  desktop real estate, and I was not working from my home office so it was simply a necessity.

A few weeks ago Microsoft released the Surface Pro 3.  They didn’t release all of the models – there will be one with 512GB of storage, and one with a Core i7 CPU among others – but they released the equivalent model to my own… which really is all that I would ever need, as I use other devices (either servers or high-end laptops) to create the courseware that I am writing about.  I decided to roll the dice and see what I could get for my Surface Pro 2 on the open market. 

Jackpot!! I won’t say that I got my full purchase price for it, but I did get enough for it that the new device would not cost me too much… actually it wouldn’t cost me anything because I had a voucher!  I ran to the Microsoft Store at Yorkdale Mall (Toronto) and asked the associate to bring me a shiny new Microsoft Surface Pro 3, complete with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a navy blue type cover, and an extra stylus.  For good measure I purchased the Complete Care warranty too… that has saved my bacon a few times in the past!

For the first time in a very long time I found myself without a computer configured as my own, so I rushed home and opened it up… and I recorded the process of opening it up, narrating all along (including through the dropping thunk).

There are a couple of things that I noticed pretty quickly.  The Surface Pro 2 stylus was essentially a dumb device.  Not so with the Pro 3, and it comes complete with a AAAA battery.  You discover immediately when configuring the machine that it is also a Bluetooth device, and is pretty easily configured.

Did I mention how incredibly light it is?  Wow… 1.76lbs (800 grams) makes it 10% lighter than the Surface Pro 2…  and only about 10% heavier than the Surface RT.  As for thin, at 9.1mm thick it is 33% slimmer than the Pro 2 and only .2mm thicker than the RT.  All that with a larger screen (12”) with a better display resolution (2160×1440 compared to the 1920×1080 of the Pro 2).

Opening and getting to know the Surface Pro 3

Once you have watched the videos you should know that there were a couple of things that went wrong later on… For some reason out of the box I was getting a message that there was no battery detected, and I could not even turn the device on if it wasn’t plugged in.  I suspected at first that had to do with the battery type cover I have heard about, but when I looked up a solution on-line it seems that people had the same problem with the Surface Pro 2… I don’t know what it is, but it’s something… fortunately it was fixed by a couple of firmware updates.

Speaking of firmware updates and patching the device, it would not let me do any further patching until I had plugged the device in and charged the battery to 100%.  All this to say that rather than being ready to go right away, I spent the evening at the Niblick Pub in Oakville (which is no hardship I assure you!), and only when I got back a few hours later could I truly set it up.

Once that was done I have had no further issues… on anything.  I am sitting at Starbucks as we speak with my external AOC screen connected, but the truth is that I don’t need it; I probably would if I was on a writing assignment, but while the 16” external screen is larger than the 12” screen on the Surface Pro 3, the resolution of the Pro 3 beats the AOC hands down.

Is it a true laptop replacement?  I got into a bit of a debate with a friend about that on Facebook – it probably is for the vast majority of users, but for people who truly need higher resources – the friend in question truly does need 16gb of RAM to run the array of virtual machines he walks around with – it doesn’t cut it.  For most of us I suspect the Pro 3 really can replace our other laptops.

I was a little concerned by the size… next to the 10.6” Pro 2 the Pro 3 looks positively huge, and I was worried it would not fit into my messenger bag – when I shed the Lenovo I stopped lugging my huge laptop bag and have been happy carrying my kit in my messenger bag (not this exact one, but similar) and saving the added weight.  I was glad to see that while it truly is the maximum size I could comfortably fit into the bag, it did indeed fit.

Will the romance last? I don’t know.  For the time being I am thrilled with the device – not simply the size and form factor and novelty of it, but the performance is what I need to do my work.  I have been running a single Windows 8 virtual machine in the background and I haven’t seen any degradation in performance whatsoever.  Now granted, I have been writing, surfing, checking e-mail, and editing videos… nothing to truly test the mettle of the machine.  However with the 4th generation Intel Core i5 I don’t anticipate I will be disappointed.

Is it for you?  I don’t know.  Is it for me? Absolutely… all 800 grams of it!

P.S. I stand corrected… in the video I claim it is just under or over $1200, when in fact the model I have sells for $1,349, and the Complete Care Warranty would have added an additional $149, but there was a bundle of the Complete Care, a Type Cover keyboard, and a sleeve.  I don’t remember the exact deal, but the long and the short is that I walked out of the store $1,600 plus tax ($1,807) poorer… and one great machine richer!

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