Earlier today, Microsoft took the wraps off the Surface Pro 3, the company’s third attempt at crafting the ultimate laptop replacement. And that’s exactly how they’re positioning it: a solution for the “conflict” that exists between laptops and tablets. (Somewhere in Hollywood, some hack is outlining a Freaky Friday remake.)
This is an intriguing product for a number of reasons, starting with price: the Pro 3 starts at $799, which is actually less than the Pro 2. But the top-end model costs a jaw-dropping $1,949 (not including a couple must-have accessories), a price point normally reserved for flagship MacBooks. And rich people.
Another big deal: the big screen. The Pro 3 measures 12 inches diagonally, which puts it closer to laptop territory. (The previous Pro had a 10.6-inch display.) Just as important, it allows for a larger, less-cramped keyboard. All told, it should make work chores more comfortable. Size does matter, especially where your fingers are involved. (Wait, that came out wrong.)
And speaking of comfort, Microsoft’s newly designed hinge lets you position its built-in kickstand at nearly any angle, a welcome change from the previous model’s two-angle click-stand. It’s pretty much just like the hinge on your laptop screen, though Microsoft would have you think they reinvented the, well, hinge.
Thought it looks like a tablet first, the Surface Pro 3 packs some decidedly laptop-caliber hardware. I won’t bore you with all the specs, but you can get the system with an Intel Core i3, i5, or heavyweight i7 processor and anywhere from 64-512GB of solid-state storage. And the screen resolution is a razor-sharp 2,160 by 1,440 pixels.
Other notable specs include a touch-sensitive pen, front- and rear-facing cameras, a USB 3.0 port, a microSD card slot, and a battery Microsoft promises will give you nine hours of runtime. Total weight (not including keyboard): 1.76 pounds. (During the launch event, Microsoft went with the rounder-sounding “800 grams” instead–forcing every U.S. resident to Google “convert 800 grams to a weight that makes sense.”)
Sounds like a pretty sweet laptop, right? It does to me, and yet Microsoft continues to sour the deal by making the keyboard optional. That’s right: If you want the new Surface Pro Type Cover (an admittedly cool screen cover with keys built right in), it’ll cost you another $129.99. What kind of laptop replacement makes you pay extra for the keyboard?
To my thinking, this has been the fatal flaw of the Surface line since the beginning. It feels like an insult, especially when you’re already paying a premium for the hardware.
And, you know, it was one thing when the Surface had a 10-inch screen. At that size it’s still a tablet you can one-hand, so the idea of an optional keyboard at least made sense. But Microsoft expressly calls the Pro 3 “the tablet that can replace your laptop”–without the necessary asterisk that reads, “*If you pony up another $130 for a keyboard.”
I give the company credit for trying to make this product line work, to engineer a tablet that can also be a business laptop. And I’ll admit no other tablet comes close to offering such a high level of productivity acumen–certainly not the iPad, and not even those Android tablets that come with keyboard docks.
But if this is truly a laptop replacement, it should come with a keyboard. Otherwise it’s just an oversize tablet, and I don’t think anyone’s clamoring for 12-inch tablets. I’m certainly not.
What are your thoughts on the Surface Pro 3? Would you buy one? Or would you just spend your small fortune on a lightweight laptop?
Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC World and Wired.