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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 

Page 3 of 3Surface Pen, OneNote, Type Cover keyboard, conclusion

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

The Surface Pro 3 also comes with a brand new Surface Pen. Surface Pro tablets have always come with a fairly basic digitiser, but the Surface Pen actually lets you use the Surface Pro 3 much more like a drawing tablet or pad of paper. This is partly because the screen actually has palm-rejection this time round, so you can rest your hand on the screen without it making accidental marks on your document.

However, the real linchpin is the inclusion of OneNote, which comes bundled with every device and can be opened simply clicking the button on the end of the pen. You can even use the pen to open OneNote when the tablet's in sleep mode, letting you use it without going through the hassle of logging in to your Microsoft account and opening the program normally from the Start screen. This is great if you only want to jot a note down very quickly, and it's this kind of immediacy that elevates the Surface Pro 3 above other Windows tablets.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 stylus

You can also grab screenshots straight from your web browser by double-clicking the same button. This will bring up an overlay across the screen and then you can simply drag a box around the area you want to capture and it will go straight into OneNote, ready for you to add your own hand-drawn doodles to it. Everything's automatically saved to your OneDrive, too, so you can access all your OneNote documents from other Windows devices.

The Surface Pen is pressure-sensitive, so the thickness of your lines will vary depending on how hard you press on the screen. This makes the Surface Pro 3 a particularly useful tool for digital artists who want to be able to draw directly on the screen. OneNote isn't particularly useful in this respect as there's no function for adding extra layers to your artwork, so we installed free drawing program Gimp 2 instead.

Here, sketching worked wonderfully, and using the Surface Pen was just like drawing with a real pencil, albeit with extra buttons for an eraser and selection tool. Even better was the ability to hold the tablet vertically like a proper A4 sheet of paper for portrait pictures.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 sketch

The only slightly disappointing thing about the Surface Pen is how Microsoft has decided to keep it from getting lost. Previously, there's been a small loop of material built into the Type Cover keyboard where you can store the stylus, but this time you have to stick the loop on yourself. This solution is a little cheap for what's otherwise a very high-end product, but admittedly it's a small complaint overall.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with keyboard

This aside, we're big fans of Microsoft's new Type Cover keyboard for the Surface Pro 3. It's a shame they're still not bundled in with the tablet, as this adds another £110 onto the Surface Pro 3's overall price, but we feel it's an essential accessory for most and have factored its cost into our final reckoning. You can use an older Surface Pro 2 Touch or Type Cover keyboard with it instead; just bear in mind that the smaller dimensions of older keyboards won't protect the entire screen of the Surface Pro 3 when you're taking it on the move.

The Surface Pro 3 Type Covers, on the other hand, are the correct size and also have a small magnetic strip that runs along the top of the keyboard. This snaps on to the bottom of the tablet to give you a slightly raised typing angle, which we found was much more comfortable than simply typing flat on the table. Raising the keys also brings a welcome sense of stability when using the Surface Pro 3 on more uneven surfaces, such as reclining on the sofa. We also felt the extra height gave the keys slightly more tactile feedback as well, but typing flat was still just as accurate.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 from the side with the stand and keyboard

The touchpad is significantly bigger, too, due to the larger amount of space available on the keyboard. Previous Type Cover touchpads were truly miniscule, and while the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover's touchpad is still relatively small compared to your average Ultrabook laptop, the extra space is a very welcome addition. It's not only much easier to move the cursor round the screen, but we also hardly ever found ourselves bumping up against the edges as we swiped our fingers across its smooth surface. Swiping in from the side to bring up the Windows 8 Charms bar also worked well, as did multi-touch gestures such as pinch-zooming and two-finger scrolling.

It may have taken two years and three models to get right, but the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 finally feels like a laptop-tablet hybrid that really does give you the best of both worlds. It's a shame the slim chassis compromises its performance slightly, but it still remains one of the most powerful Windows tablets currently available. With a better battery life than its predecessors, excellent pen support and a superb screen, this is the tablet that really can replace your laptop.

ProcessorDual-core 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U
Screen size12in
Screen resolution2,160x1,440
Screen typeClearType
Front camera5-megapixel
Rear camera5-megapixel
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
Wireless dataN/A
Operating systemWindows 8.1 Pro
Battery sizeN/A
Buying information
WarrantyTwo-years RTB
Part codeSurface Pro 3

Page 3 of 3Surface Pen, OneNote, Type Cover keyboard, conclusion