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Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Katharine Byrne
6 Aug 2014
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Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 

It's quite expensive, but the Surface Pro 3 is a superb Windows tablet that can genuinely replace your laptop



Processor: Dual-core 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U, Screen size: 12in, Screen resolution: 2,160x1,440, Rear camera: 5-megapixel, Storage: 128GB, Wireless data: N/A, Size: 292x201x9.1mm, Weight: 800g, Operating system: Windows 8.1 Pro

Another thing that distinguishes the Surface Pro 3 from its predecessors is the availability of multiple specifications. Previously, Microsoft only let you change the amount of internal storage that came with your Surface tablet, but now there are specifications ranging from a £649 Core i3 model with 64GB of storage right up to a £1,649 Core i7 version with 512GB of storage.

Our review sample was one of the lower-end specifications which comes with a 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This is a similar set-up to most Ultrabook laptops, so the Surface Pro 3 certainly has a lot more processing power than your average Windows tablet.

However, that slim chassis isn’t best suited to intense multi-tasking, as it can't dissipate all the heat generated to runs its CPU at full speed all the time. Because of this the Surface Pro 3 only scored 41 overall in our multimedia benchmarks. This is six points lower than other Core i5 Ultrabooks we’ve tested, giving it performance speeds more akin to an older Ivy-Bridge Core i5 Ultrabook instead. This is a shame, as the Surface Pro 2’s Core i5-4200U processor performed much better, scoring 47 overall.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 rear

The Surface Pro 3 mainly struggled with our video processing and multi-tasking tests. The rear of the tablet became quite toasty during the latter, and we could hear the fans whirring away inside as well. Our image encoding test, on the other hand, was actually very quick, putting the tablet on par with laptops which have a Core i7-4500U processor, so it’s unlikely you’ll notice the tablet becoming sluggish unless you’re using really heavy-duty media editing software.

The processor’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 chip can even play 3D games as long as you don’t mind playing on lower detail settings. While its average frame rate of 19.7fps in Dirt Showdown on High quality at a resolution of 1,280x720 isn’t really fast enough to play games at a decent speed, we managed a much more respectable 26.1fps when we set the quality to Low with x4 anti-aliasing. We wouldn’t recommend trying to play games at the Surface Pro 3’s native resolution of 2,160x1,440, though, as it couldn't even reach 15fps on Low quality with no AA.

More impressive was the Surface Pro 3's battery life. While Microsoft only estimate around 9 hours of web browsing, we were able to get a huge 12 hours and 46 minutes out of it in our light use test with the screen set to half brightness. This is outstanding for such a powerful tablet, and is almost a full hour longer than the Surface Pro 2's battery life.