The Surface Pro 3 performs to hype

Surface Pro 3/screenshot

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., December 12, 2014We stand in awe as every day, it seems, we witness more and more impressive technological advances. Many of them are associated with the magical machine that we use for almost everything in our lives. The Dream Machine as it was labeled in the old PBS series about the development and use of the personal computer.

But with the good comes the bad. As we test the limits of the hardware and software we discover flaws. This is especially for most of us that have adopted and continue using the PC system as developed by IBM and as hijacked by Microsoft.

Every one of us has at one time or another has criticized Microsoft. Faulty operating systems like Vista and buggy Internet browsers like Explorer made us want to pull out our hair in more than one occasion.

Not that MS has had some real winners in the past. The Media Center concept was phenomenal and many of us are still using it. Decades before the Roku, Chromecast, Apple Play, Logitech Revue the Microsoft Windows Media Edition gave us complete integration between television and the personal computer. With the cost of purchasing a computer and a decent monitor, one could forgo the cost of buying a television. Maybe it was ahead of its time and it didn’t help that Microsoft never appeared to promote it properly. It may go the way of the Zip drive, the DVD and other passing fads, and that is really too bad.

At least MS appears to have learned from this and is promoting the “tablet that will replace your laptop” heavily. We all are attracted to portable computing. It is sexy. We have gotten accustomed to seeing cool people on TV and movies, with a portable computer of some kind. Desktops don’t have the cache.

Portable computers are not that portable and even less lap-top friendly. Trying to do serious computing with a heavy, very hot object on one’s lap is not a lot of fun. Carrying a clumsy charger is also not that conducive to being comfortable. We all wonder how long it would take for someone to look at the human aspect of the design of the portable and offer something better.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 may be what we have been waiting for.

The tablet is about 3/8” thick, wide enough to attach a full size keyboard (sans numeric pad) and tall enough to satisfy even the old tired eyes of boomers. Its protective cover, sold separately, is also a full size Querty keyboard complete with a VERY sensitive touch pad (this is one beef I have against the Surface). It runs Windows 8.x and is in all aspects equivalent to a laptop or desktop that we are used to.

It has a hard drive in which you can keep your software, games, kitty videos and photographs. It also comes with a decent amount of memory (RAM), a mini SD port and a USB 3 one. Included with the tablet is an electronic pen that I am not sure is very useful (or maybe I just don’t know how to make it useful). The ads shows a person drawing and writing on the screen with it.

One can install any software that is compatible with Windows 8.x like Office 365 and VLC Media Player. It has a kick stand that can be angled to satisfy the user and minimize glare. It is a lot lighter than regular laptops and very attractive.

But what makes the Surface good?

For storage it has a Solid State Drive that makes any disc read/writes extremely fast. For the mid-price Surface (Core i5, 128 g storage and 4 gigs RAM), execution is lightning fast. On and off times are the fastest I have experienced. A Core i5 has two processors and four threads. When viewed in the Device Manager it shows as having four processors.

Do you really need the top of the line Surface?

While the fastest four core i7 (four cores, eight threads) processor is great, the additional cost is not really worth it. The Core i5 is fast enough for humans.

Storage today is cheap. A 128 gig flash drive can be purchased for less than $50 and a USB 3, 2 tera external hard drive for less than $100. So the additional cost of a 512 gig SSD is not really worth it for most. My experience with Solid State drives is that as they have higher capacity, their speed decreases, probably because being random access, searches may take longer. This is just my personal experience.

The biggest consideration when deciding whether to buy the Surface is price. It ranges from around $700 for the core i3 $2,000 + for the top of the line. You also have to pay extra for the protective cover/keyboard, around $130. Probably more importantly, if you need a new battery, Microsoft will replace your Surface for a mere $499! I guess there is always a catch.

While not having an optical drive (CD/DVD) may be a drawback for some, the USB 3 port allows you to connect to just about anything, including an optical drive.

The Surface keyboard is slightly different. It doesn’t have a PrntScr key (you use Fn-Space for screen shots). The Pause option is gone so to see the computer information page, you have to right click My Computer –> Properties and to see the Device Manager you find it on the left side of the info screen.

Biggest beef about the Surface? The darn touch-pad that is too sensitive and can’t be turned off temporarily.

Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is continually searching for the perfect computing solution and having a lot fun in the quest. He is in Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+ and Facebook (Mario Salazar).

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  • irene

    Great article even for a low techie like myself.

  • French_Underwood

    I thought this was a review but it is more of a spec sheet and Microsoft’s ad. Is the author a rookie or on Microsoft’s Payroll?

    • 21st Century Pacifist

      Well, not really a rookie. I have been working with computers since college in the late 60s. For many years assembled my own computers and I have programmed in Visual Basic, VBA, C, C++, C# and others to a lesser extent. Probably have forgotten more that you will ever know.
      I currently refurbish donated computers for less fortunate people as a volunteer.
      I presented my experiences with the Surface Pro. I don’t have any association with Microsoft and never had. You appeared not to have read the article, try it again and you will see that I give experiences and recommendations, or not.

      • French_Underwood

        You, Sir, sound more of a guy who has put the Spec-sheet up there and called it a review. You may have experience in certain fields. I have experience in my field. If I started listing my experiences then it probably will be bigger than any spec-sheet you ever put together. But let’s stick to Surface line. I have bought and used every single Surface product from RT to Sur Pro 3. Today, I only use Pro 2 8gb RAM and Pro 3 8gb RAM and up. I am very satisfied with those two Surface products.

        But you need to give us review when you say you would. We don’t want spec-sheets. We know how to look up/compare specs. Looks like you review these devices as a side hobby. You aren’t a pro reviewer (and I am saying it in a positive way). Goodluck!

        • 21st Century Pacifist

          That is it, I gave you a review, my personal experience. I don’t think talking about bench marks and other esoteric parameters would be useful for most people trying to decide whether to buy a Surface.
          And not, I am not a professional reviewer. I am lucky enough to be able to do many different things well and to enjoy doing them.
          Telling me that I reviewed the spec sheets is a compliment, I was able to synthesize the empirical and the research results.

    • William T Quick

      I thought you were a commenter, but this is more an ad hominem attack than a comment. Is this commenter a troll?

  • john applefield

    Great article indeed. I just bought the sp3 and lovin it. It has replaced my laptop already.. need to save up for the dock 🙂

    • 21st Century Pacifist

      The only thing I didn’t like about the cover/keyboard was the sensitivity of the touchpad and the fact that it can’t be turned off temporarily.

      • Chris

        The touch pad can be set to turn off when the pc detects a usb or bluetooth mouse.

        • 21st Century Pacifist

          I know. I don’t want to carry anything extra. That was one of the reasons I got the SP.
          I may have to resort to a small blue tooth mouse. Thank you for the information.

  • Shan

    The kickstand is a joke, try that on your lap wearing shorts

    • 21st Century Pacifist

      That is what I thought. Try using a hard cushion. I think the kickstand is great when one is at a table.

    • bsantero

      TBH, the kickstand in tablet mode on my lap in public, (no keyboard) is perfect to keep the device close to the body, hands-free and viewable without a folding cover accessory like for other devices, a virtual keyboard is easily present when type input is required. I believe the reasoning for the kickstand design is primarily due to the portability requirement as well as giving a touchscreen , it props up quite readily and neatly without any additional accessory, no laptop style battery heat/burn on the base, I guess it really made sense to do this as the device is a single-body unit rather than a double weight folding laptop. I’ve seen the Lenovo Yoga 3 and what worried me most about that was the flimsy screen when pulling it open. The slate style gives confidence to having a rigid body and screen surface to touch and draw on, the kickstand enhances the uni-body functionality. Excellent with shorts too 🙂

  • William T Quick

    Same place you can turn off the touchpad if mouse is attached, you can also specify the tap delay. Set it to “long.” This gets rid of almost all of the touchpad “jumpiness.”

    At least it does for me.