Surface Pro 3 Product Notes
On May 20, 2014 Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3, the third generation Surface design. Notably, the ARM-based Windows RT version has been discontinued, leaving only the range of Intel-based, full Windows 8 Pro models, now with larger screens and more flexible kickstands. The Surface Pro 3 has been available for pre-order since May 22 with an expected ship date before the end of June 2014 for i5 models and August for i3/i7 models.
Surface Pro 3
The Surface Pro 3 keeps the same general form as previous Surfaces, but has been completely reengineered within that form. It now has a larger 12” display with a resolution of 2160 x 1440 (a 3:2 aspect ratio), and five different configurations ranging from a Core i3 to Core i7 (notable since all prior Surface Pros have been limited to Core i5s), 64 GB to 512 GB of storage, and 4 or 8 GB of RAM. Wireless cards are improved to 802.11ac in addition to the standard 802.11 a/b/g/n, and battery life has been improved to an estimated nine hours.
With its larger screen, the Surface Pro 3 now has a larger footprint at 11.5 x 7.93 inches, but is thinner and lighter than prior Surface Pro models at a claimed 0.3 inches and 1.76 pounds. Unlike the Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2, which came with full HD displays, the Surface Pro 3 features a QHD display with a slightly higher 216 PPI. Connectivity includes microSDXC, USB 3.0, and Mini DisplayPort video. The included operating system is Windows 8.1 Pro, with full Windows manageability and domain connectivity.
The Surface Pro 3 also features a completely renovated kickstand, capable of up to 150 degrees of tilt, allowing variable angles and a flatter stance when sat on a surface.
Once again, the Type Cover (now called the “Surface Pro Type Cover”) has been refreshed, featuring an even thinner design at 5 mm, backlit keys, and additional magnets to hold it in place against the front of the Surface Pro 3 while typing. Microsoft has not released a revamped Touch Cover, but does offer all four of the older covers for purchase. Note that although covers are interchangeable between both newer and older models, the change in dimensions implies that only the newest Type Cover will be an exact fit for the Surface Pro 3.
The new design of the Surface Pen includes a dedicated OneNote launch button for quick note taking in addition to right-click and erase buttons. Microsoft indicates that the new Surface Pen will have over 250 discrete levels of pressure sensitivity to enhance the writing experience. It is now battery powered (one AAAA and two #319 coin cell batteries) and features Bluetooth 4.0, indicating that in the future it may be possible to configure the pen’s functionality.
The Surface Pro 3 docking station adds three USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a 4K-capable mini-DisplayPort output, and a gigabit Ethernet port, but availability has not been announced.
In addition to the design changes found on the Surface Pro 3, the magnetic power connector has also been revamped. This means that neither the docking station nor the power adapters are interchangeable between earlier models and the Surface Pro 3.
The Surface Pro 3 is once again a significant upgrade from prior Surfaces. Microsoft remains committed to producing its own Windows-based hardware, and continues to refine and improve the Surface line. That Microsoft continues to innovate despite apparently lackluster sales of prior Surfaces is an interesting revelation given previous high-profile cancellations of product lines. The discontinuation of an RT-based Surface is certainly a reaction to the market, and indicates that Microsoft is positioning the Surface Pro 3, with its range of Core i processors, in the ultra lightweight notebook category. Given Microsoft's launch, it seems that they are at least in some way positioning it as a Windows competitor to the MacBook Air. The lower prices also address one of the main criticisms of prior Surface Pros: they were far too expensive.
The Surface Pro 3 continues to be a solid option for Windows-centric users, and is a viable notebook alternative for some University users. Information Systems & Computing (ISC) believes that the Surface Pro 3 will find a wider audience at Penn than the Surface Pro 2, but how much wider remains an open question.