TAIPEI: MICROSOFT UNVEILED its long-rumoured Surface Pro 3 tablet last month with a bigger and better 12in HD screen, touting it as "the tablet that can replace your laptop".
The Surface Pro 3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor with an Intel Haswell processor and is set to be made available in Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 chip variants.
Intel, which has worked closely with Microsoft, gave us a close look at Microsoft's latest tablet at the Computex trade show in Taiwan this week, powered by a Core i5 CPU and running Windows 8.1.
Design and build
Measuring 9.1mm thick, the Surface Pro 3 is the thinnest Intel Core product "ever made", according to Microsoft, which it credits to the device's "fanless build". It might not sound like a vast improvement over the Surface Pro 2, which was 13.5mm thick, but you'll immediately notice a huge difference in aesthetics. It is much nicer to hold due to its thinner design and it's apparent that Microsoft has made an effort to make the device much more attractive to consumers.
The Surface Pro 3's aluminium chassis feels robust and this makes the device feel expensive, probably because it is. It will retail from £849 for the Core i5 model when Microsoft launches it on 31 August. However, it's reassuring to think that you're getting premium kit for your money.
Picking up the tablet we noticed that it feels much lighter compared to the Surface Pro 2, despite its larger screen size. Unfortunately, one thing that hasn't changed with the Surface Pro 3 is the keyboard dock. We are simply not fans of the keyboard dock, especially the coloured version that we saw in our hands-on review. Not only does it cheapen the overall look of the device but we found that it makes it difficult to use because of the odd layout of the trackpad and cheap feeling keys, which have poor travel.
Although Microsoft has updated the trackpad, which we can confirm works much better than the previous version, it feels more akin to those found on full-size clamshell laptops.
On first impression we were rather impressed with the overall design of the Surface Pro 3. Its best feature is the display upgrade. This is the first time we've seen a Surface device with a form factor that actually makes us want to use it.
The Surface Pro 3's 2160x1440 resolution HD display is the tablet's biggest overhaul since the previous iteration and is also now its nicest feature.
While it's around 1.5in bigger than the Surface Pro 2, it feels much bigger in the hand, which is probably accentuated due to its slimmer design. It's quite bright and the resolution doesn't lie - images displayed are impeccably detailed with no jagged text and with deep colour representation. It also proved very responsive to touch in our tests, in the same way the Surface Pro 2 did before. The updated screen is a welcome improvement over the Surface Pro 2's 1920x1080 display.
The Surface Pro 3's kickstand is also an improvement over the last version, which had only two angles to choose from. The Surface Pro 3's "full friction" kickstand allows the tablet to sit in almost any position and in our tests it rested well at any angle without slipping, even when applying pressure to the screen.
Microsoft has said that an optional docking station will also be available at or sometime after launch, allowing users to hook the tablet up to a 4K display. It will ship with a Digitizer Stylus, too, which we can confirm works accurately.
Unfortunately we didn't have long enough with the Surface Pro 3 to really put it through its paces, but we did have a quick play around on it. Operations were fluid and the Windows 8.1 operating system proved very responsive. However, we are looking forward to testing the Surface Pro 3 thoroughly in a full review.
The Core i5 powered Surface Pro 3 will hit the UK sometime towards the end of August, priced at £849 and £1,109 for 128GB and 256GB storage options, respectively.
The cheapest, an Intel Core i3-powered Surface Pro 3 model, has already gone up for pre-order in the UK, priced at £639. The most powerful and expensive Core i7 model will set users back an eye-watering £1,649. µ