Some Reflections on the Surface Pro 3 (Review)

Discussion in 'Microsoft Surface Pro 3' started by gemini, Aug 17, 2014.

  1. gemini

    gemini New Member

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    Finally...the tablet achieves Productivity


    “QWERTY is absolutely useless on a touch screen.”

    “If a caricature can be presented for the two companies: Microsoft poorly implements great ideas with a focus on efficiency and productivity whereas Apply excellently implements poor ideas with a focus on flash and entertainment. “

    “Knowing that I was holding a full-powered Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Windows 8.1 device in one hand with no problem…well, was and is nothing short of a magical experience.”

    “If the Microsoft SP3 dock had an included external graphics card though, I think a large number of people would be very quick to replace their clunky rigs and embrace the future. I would happily put down $200-$300 for such a magical (although incredibly simple) thing.”

    More important than this problem is the lack of updates addressing this issue. I’m sure that this will push several people from wanting to deal with another Microsoft product ever again.”

    “I deal with it because the SP3 is the best there is. Again, compromise shouldn’t be the standard just because most companies are lazy and consumers are desperate.”

    “It’s only fair to write at least a small critique of Windows 8.1 as the SP3 is the prototype device for the touch-first platform that Microsoft is currently trying to push. The news isn’t really great here. Even with a touch enabled device like the Surface Pro 3, I hardly venture into the Metro world. 99.9% of my time is spent in desktop Windows.”

    “Community support for Windows 8 is pretty small and the one time I did try to download and install a Windows Store app, I was presented with an error and told to try again later. It’s been months and I still haven’t tried to download a Metro App since. This is really Microsoft’s biggest weakness right now.”

    “Despite touch navigation being a chore in desktop, it does still work and there is nothing cooler than pulling up .mkv movies and TV shows in Media Player Classic, archiving and expanding files through Winrar, or browsing a web page and having all the content available. This is full Windows all accessible by touch! It really doesn’t get more amazing than that. Web browsers allow scrolling by touch, windows can be resized and dragged easily. Files can be browsed, selected, copied, and pasted. Both Metro and desktop auto-rotate for easy transition between laptop and one-handed surfing.”

    “The type cover is the metaphoric days of PC barely hanging on by a magnetic hinge. It swings uselessly and cumbersomely, slowing me down, as I try to take my mobile device from one place to the next. Just imagine a tablet that requires no keyboard or touchpad to be used effectively…it solves every compromise that has to be made with the SP3.”

    “I imagine 15.6” and 18” very thin and very light tablets being extremely successful for workstation-type productivity while also being able to slip into backpacks and briefcases.”

    “What about a dual ARM/Intel architecture for tablets where ARM handles always-on notifications and updates while Intel kicks in to handle heavy applications?”


    Caution: This is a first draft and as such there are still a wide swath of errors, made-up words, and improvements to be implemented. Try to focus on the ideas and not so much the style and you should be just fine. :)

    This device review is the perfect time to take a look at the current state of the mobile device industry. But, it is still fundamentally a review. Feel free to skip down past the introduction and see what this device is all about. For everyone else, sit back, relax, and allow yourself to be taken on a journey through the current mobile tech industry landscape…

    Every couple of years a product comes along that subtly redefines how we interact with digital content. The PC, the laptop, the PDA, the smartphone, the tablet (I'm certain other devices could be added to the list). But, while every item on that timeline showed an immediate benefit at its inception (or whenever it was marketed and sold successfully), the tablet has managed to surf along for more than 4 years without any real uses.

    Since Apple announced the iPad in 2010, tablets have remained gimped computers. Hyped to be the ‘heralders’ of the post-PC era, great marketing has made the tablet a perfect epitome of the tech landscape’s brightest offerings, lots of fluff and glitz with absolutely zero purpose. Android soon joined the game and suddenly we have a $72 billion industry (http://tabtimes.com/resources/the-state-of-the-tablet-market) racing for profits and new markets with a completely useless device. (Wearables and the ‘internet of things’ will be sure to continue the trend…)

    But, yes, I’ve owned an iPad mini. I’ve owned a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014. As a tech aficionado, the temptation is irresistible. Billions of dollars have been poured into top of the line manufacturing techniques, packaging, software development, development communities, and so much else…for a worthless but still incredibly expensive device.

    Yes, I literally traversed to google.com and searched ‘reasons to buy a tablet’ (and I encourage you to do the same). The lack of reasons is almost amazing. I was desperate for any little reason to snatch one up and play with it. Once I had one in hand, I tried everything to have a reason to hold onto it. The iPad mini is b-e-a-utiful. Thin, light, incredibly wonderfully machined. iOS is as polished as ever (visually and interaction-wise). The same can be said for Android. The developer community is deep and wide, KitKat is Android more slick than ever and build quality and third-party software continues to get better and better and better.

    And, yet, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t find a reason to keep either tablet. My eyes felt like the flames of hades after trying to read books on the them. The same could be said for web browsing and reading long articles online (with or without glasses). That leaves music, email, videos, and a bunch of handy-but-no-so-useful apps. The Galaxy Note tablet’s features fared no better. The pen stayed holstered the entire three weeks I owned it.

    Now don’t forget that these devices cost $600. $600. Let that sink in for a bit. I can buy a full-fledged laptop for the same price…or put a down payment on a car. I can do music on a much smaller and more portable device. I can do email on a much smaller and more portable device. In fact, I can do almost everything on either my phone or laptop. So where does the tablet fit in? Why do I have a reason for carrying around a device that doesn’t fit in my pocket? Why place it in a book bag when a laptop is already there and a phone is holstered 24/7 to my hip?

    I can’t type any faster on a tablet (it actually ends up being slower than a phone and I have to find a stable surface to place it on…or else use just one hand). If I buy a keyboard, why not put that large chunk of change (tablet/keyboard combo) towards a laptop? QWERTY is absolutely useless on a touch screen.

    But silly compromises like this litter the tablet world and companies continue to push specs and app development at a breakneck speed for no other reason but to extend their quarterly projections. The iOS and Android software and hardware has managed to traverse the PC path in a fraction of the time. Except in this case, the device at the end of the day is almost completely unproductive.

    Its convenience can’t be denied. It has instant-on all the time. It’s light. It’s got a gorgeous high-density screen perfect for viewing content. It has touch for interacting with content in a way that feels so much more intuitive than keyboard and mouse. It’s a perfect device for consuming content.

    But, these features don’t justify a singular $600 device. They are a $200 upgrade to an existing PC. Why can’t we get a computer with a high-density touch screen, pen interaction, instant-on, pop-up notifications, led notifications, high quality microphones and cameras, high-quality design, and all-day battery life? Double tap to wake should be improved and enabled on every touch screen device. And yet the phone and tablet industries have sucked up all the ‘innovation’ and left the mobile PC out to dry.

    The laptop-with-a-touch-screen is just plain lazy. The tablet form factor provides a novel (and productive) platform that opens up a wide range of possibilities for software design and workstation-type productivity. Content can be consumed one-handed. Information can be displayed easily (kitchen counters, football field sidelines, night-stand info, etc.) and shared with others. Brainstorming, tutoring, and real productivity anywhere are just a few of the benefits.

    There is no reason that we don’t have tablets with full OS’s. Tablets than can be docked to keyboards/trackpads, workstations, monitors, music controllers, external graphics cards, and any other hardware that manufacturers can innovate. Afterall, its 2014. 2014!

    And yet, we only have one or two manufacturers daring to experiment and almost completely failing on the mass-acceptance front. When Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3 in late May, I was hoping that changes would finally be coming and companies would be challenged to present consumers with a better option than the laptop/gimped-tablet combo we’ve all been conned into buying.



    REVIEW STARTS HERE



    UN-BOXING

    I was completely surprised by just how light everything felt. I had my Surface Pro 3 shipped to me and thought for a minute I had been suckered into buying an empty box. I was delighted to find that a Surface Pro 3 and Type Cover was indeed inside the packaging.

    The SP3 packaging extends the wonderfully flat, minimalist design aesthetic that Microsoft has implemented in recent years. The unboxing experience is still just a few half steps behind Apple but it also speaks volumes about the difference between the goals of both companies. If a caricature can be presented for the two companies: Microsoft poorly implements great ideas with a focus on efficiency and productivity whereas Apply excellently implements poor ideas with a focus on flash and entertainment.

    The packaging is just enough to speak about the expensive device within but straight to the point. Slide the box open and the device is presented. The user manual for setting up the pen and tablet is tucked away below and I almost missed the AAA battery below yet the manual. The almost too-minimalist design leaves the power adapter compartment unlabeled. I would’ve missed it as well had I not had a nagging sense of missing another important component of my $1200 device.

    The 1-year warranty is pretty lame. Will I still own this device after 1 year? If Microsoft continues with a Surface Pro 4, probably not…but the principle is more important. Premium devices should come with a premium warranty.


    DESIGN

    I was again surprised by the device’s weight when I picked it up in hand. Knowing that I was holding a full-powered Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Windows 8.1 device in one hand with no problem…well, was and is nothing short of a magical experience. The device is just as beautiful as the press shots display. Just a tad thicker than an iPad, evenly balanced and impressive from any angle. The almost invisible stereo front-facing speakers, the simple windows logo button. This was everything that Microsoft had promised…and had to promise for people to see their vision for a unified desktop and mobile experience.

    The only slight defect that caught my eye (and pretty quickly) was the slight imperfections in the vent holes surrounding the top edges of the device. Apparently manufacturing wasn’t quite up to spec as many of the holes had rough edges clearly visible to the eye. By no means a deal-breaker, but certainly one of those little things that still differentiates manufacturers like Microsoft and Apple. I admit it feels silly to sit here and critique things like this when there are larger issues facing the world but nonetheless, I as the consumer do notice. As Apple has it made clear over and over again, consumers do notice perfection (whether consciously or unconsciously) and it strongly reflects the quality of the company behind the service. The importance is in the ideal.


    WEIGHT

    Microsoft made massive leaps forward with this iteration of the Surface Pro 3. In addition to uniform weight distribution, the Surface Pro 3 is also considerably lighter. Microsoft continues to compare its weight against the Macbook Air but the real question is, is it light enough to hold one-handed as a tablet?

    For me that answer is, yes. But I can see others with frailer ‘physicalities’ also saying ‘no’. The SP3 is on the edge of being an excellent tablet. For those that understand what the SP3 represents, the weight is no problem. For the average consumer that just wants a magical, polished device that does everything they want it to do and perfectly, it will be a compromise. Nevertheless, it’s not often that I hold the device one-handed but that feature is there when I need it and when I need it for those rare (often short) periods of time it works perfectly well.


    HINGE

    Works perfectly. Putting pressure on the tablet when it’s in its fully extended mode, does make me a bit anxious but no problems so far. The stand also flexes a bit when opening it from a single side with one hand.


    TYPE COVER

    The type cover is actually quite heavy. I’ve been using the SP3 for some time now and the lack of weight by just carrying the tablet around is a wonderful (or terrible) difference. How I wish I could ditch it and simply be productive with just a touch screen. The type cover also doesn’t really work well when holding the tablet/cover in one hand. Though key presses are ignored, the weight is far too great for one hand and I always remove the keyboard before trying anything one-handed. (Some people have mentioned connecting the keyboard backwards. Weight is still too much of an issue.)

    That being said, the type cover is an absolute pleasure to use. The first impression is that the key travel is super short. There’s an impending sense of doom that any doubts of a super thin keyboard actually working well will soon be proven true.

    The opposite is thankfully true. The keyboard is fantastic and the shallow travel makes typing even faster (or it at least feels that way). I have no complaints…about the typing experience. I do have suggestions for the keys provided. I really do miss the ‘menu’ options key. I also wish there were volume controls and media controls (the play/pause button is not enough). I could definitely do without the charms buttons.

    The trackpad is just as well implemented as the keyboard. Except for a few times when two-finger scrolling stops working on certain pages/apps, I have no complaints.

    Did I mention that the keyboard is also back-lit? It also has three levels of adjustment which I was surprised to find. Backlit is certainly a premium feature and a nice touch (though, again, not a deal breaker). Again the Type Cover cost $129 so maybe I should be harsher in my criticism (I received the keyboard for free).

    **I am writing this review on the SP3 Type Cover.


    POWER ADAPTER

    The power adapter is just about the right size (though smaller is always better). The cord length from wall to the brick is a tad short but from brick to tablet is fine and the USB charging port available on the brick has been used extensively. Since it charges faster than plugging into a PC, it not only frees up the only USB port on the tablet but also provides a much better charging solution.

    The charging indicator, magnetic attachment, and ability to put it in backwards or forwards is simply delightful considering all the ways the tablet can be oriented. I dream of the day when all connectors and plugs are unified in magnetic glory.


    EXPANDABILITY

    I have to admit, I was more than a bit anxious giving up my Folio 13’s plethora (for an Ultrabook) of ports for the skimpy options on the Surface Pro 3. Having used the SP3 for some time now, I can see that all those worries were, far and away, completely unjustifiable.

    Charging a device? The power brick’s built-in USB covers that (and fantastically, as mentioned above).

    Need Ethernet? Combined USB 3.0 hubs + Ethernet adapters take care of that. Wi-Fi is nearly everywhere regardless. I haven’t plugged in my Unitek adapter in weeks.

    Need more USB? See above. I purchased a Bluetooth mouse and Bluetooth external keyboard and the single USB port has sat empty 80% of the time save for a flash drive or external hard drive every couple of days.

    Having a lack of ports is actually a good thing. It means I can pick up the SP3 at any time without disconnecting a whole mesh of wires (which also discourages me from taking my device places).

    To dock the device at home, I just have to slip in the magnetic power adapter, plug in an external monitor though DisplayPort and start working.

    Depending on your needs, the SP3 is an excellent desktop replacement and I imagine that a dock would only make this experience even better. At $200 though, I can’t really recommend Microsoft’s official solution. If the Microsoft SP3 dock had an included external graphics card though, I think a large number of people would be very quick to replace their clunky rigs and embrace the future. I would happily put down $200-$300 for such a magical (although incredibly simple) thing.


    PEN EXPERIENCE

    Wacom to N-Trig. I can’t really comment on this transition. What I can say is that the pen experience is hands-down the best experience I have had with a digitizer in any recent memory. With a matte screen protector on the screen, it’s about as close to writing on paper as I can imagine. I will be putting the pen through its paces later this year when I start again at university. My hope is to replace all of my notebooks, scratch paper, and journals with a single digital archive.

    The pen itself is weighted nicely and its size is far better than the small styli that come with Samsung’s Galaxy Note line. The erase button placement still doesn’t make much sense and I wish the top of the pen would complete that function instead. I often find myself accidently erasing things if I’m not careful to position the pen correctly in my hand. The dedicated OneNote button works and works well. Being able to launch the Surface Pro 3 from sleep to OneNote is handy but sadly it doesn’t work with hibernation (as expected).

    Having used the tablet for on the fly calculations (EE grad here), brainstorming, and for online-tutoring, the experience is wonderful. I usually snap OneNote to a third or half of the screen and seamlessly transition between work and a scratchpad. (A 13.3" Surface Pro 3 would be amazing in this regard.) The pen works fantastically. Though Microsoft is heads and tails above the competition with the SP3, I do often wish I could scribble things just a little bit smaller. Pen accuracy still isn't exactly equal with pen and paper and I often end up writing in slightly larger font than normal.


    PERFORMANCE

    With a Core i5 (up to i7), 8GB of RAM, and solid state storage, you would expect this device to be quite snappy. While the Intel chips in this device and other ultraportables are not the same class of processor found in beefier desktops, the SP3 has no problem handling every task thrown its way. Save for heavy video gaming, video editing, and hefty simulation software, the SP3 does it all.


    GAMING

    I am an intermittent gamer. I occasionally boot up Trackmania, some retro emulators, and recently installed Team Fortress 2 just for fun. As you can expect, the SP3 like any modern mobile device isn’t able to run the latest and greatest at 4k resolution and in high detail.

    Plan to run light games at 1080p with low-medium detail on an external monitor? No problems. Team Fortress 2 puts quite a strain on the SP3 as expected but it runs decently at 720p and low detail.

    Running games on the Surface Pro 3’s 2k-ish screen does present some weird problem. Because the SP3 has an odd 3:2 aspect ratio, most games run with black bars to keep a 16:9, 16:10, or 4:3 resolution.


    HEAT

    OK, so the SP3 can do gaming and handle heavy applications, but what about heat and noise?

    As Microsoft pointed out, the SP3 uses over 100 custom parts in order to fit the heat dissipation system into a device this thin and light. The wonderful thing about the SP3 is that the fan noise and heat are completely nonexistent save for cases of heavy use and gaming. I often forget that this device does in fact have those components.

    But when you do want the device to perform, the fan kicks in and does an excellent job of keeping things cool. The noise isn’t excessive by any means but it’s there. I don’t think anyone seriously expects a device this small to magically do everything without running into real world physics problems like heat.

    One of the wonderful things about the design is that the chassis distributes heat across the entire back surface and if the device is on the lap, the heat never comes in contact with the legs but instead radiates out the back into open air.

    The SP3 also throttles performance if the device heats up too much. The device is never too hot to handle as a result and the fan never gets very loud. Again, a dock with some built-in graphics power would handily solve this problem for a large majority of the situations.


    WIRELESS ISSUES

    This has gotten quite a bit of attention from the early adopters. It’s August and from what I can tell, it’s still an issue. Putting the device to sleep disconnects from Wi-Fi. You need to disconnect and reconnect to the network in order for things to resolve.

    Bluetooth also cuts out in the same fashion and I have to reset the connection every few days in order to keep things working.

    More important than this problem is the lack of updates addressing this issue. I’m sure that this will push several people from wanting to deal with another Microsoft product ever again.

    I deal with it because the SP3 is the best there is. Again, compromise shouldn’t be the standard just because most companies are lazy and consumers are desperate.


    SPEAKERS/AUDIO

    The front-facing speakers are wonderful. I do wish at times that some of the frequency bands were more distinguishable but for the majority of cases it is full-stereo, front-facing goodness. More manufacturers need to adopt this feature.

    The sound quality through he headphone jack is standard. Realtek hardware and drivers from what I can tell. For a premium device, it’s a bit sad to see such standard quality components and software. Audio usually switches between headphones and speakers effortlessly, but…depending on what program is running. I would love to see iOS and Android level audio control here: Audio level memory for headphones and speakers. Guaranteed, seamless transition when headphones are plugged in, lock screen controls, music playback during sleep (or screen-off), and so on.


    BATTERY

    Microsoft promises 9-hours of battery. I get around 6-7 doing just about whatever. I get probably an hour less watching video. Seeing as most people don’t use their laptop at lowest brightness and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off, 6-7hrs is a much more reasonable estimate. I’d love to have 11hrs of battery life like the Macbook Air but Windows is considerably more resource intensive (and productive for what I need). The SP3 is also lighter, smaller, and thinner for what it’s worth.


    SCREEN SIZE/FORMAT

    The SP3 presents a unique aspect ratio for a mobile device, 3:2. Using it as a laptop, it feels a bit taller and using it as a book, it feels more natural than 16:9. I am a big fan of the aspect ratio and would love to see more devices with this feature. Editing documents (this review for example) is so much more pleasant with a taller screen.

    At just 12.0”, the 3:2 aspect ratio provides just enough screen to be productive but it also thin, light, and portable. Reading web pages, comic books (and manga), and watching movies is a pleasure on the high density screen.

    Speaking of high-density, the SP3 features a 2160x1440 screen. This should be a great thing but Windows and the PC still hasn’t entirely caught up. Updates seem to have fixed most of the issues here but the Windows Desktop took a while to look normal on the SP3. Many apps still don’t support high-density displays and buttons, text, and images end up being waay too small. The bookmark icons in Firefox’s toolbar still look blurry, for example. Switching between the Surface screen and an external non-high-density monitor only sometimes auto-adjusts leaving things looking pretty funny. On the other hand, native desktop Windows applications look amazing such as Office 2013 on the SP3’s screen.

    Everything else (the other half of Windows 8.1) presents fantastically. The Start Menu and Metro apps all look great. Overall, Microsoft made the right choice in going with a high density display. Software developers and hardware manufacturers are forced to keep up and push the PC platform ahead.


    WINDOWS 8.1

    It’s only fair to write at least a small critique of Windows 8.1 as the SP3 is the prototype device for the touch-first platform that Microsoft is currently trying to push. The news isn’t really great here. Even with a touch enabled device like the Surface Pro 3, I hardly venture into the Metro world. 99.9% of my time is spent in desktop Windows.

    Community support for Windows 8 is pretty small and the one time I did try to download and install a Windows Store app, I was presented with an error and told to try again later. It’s been months and I still haven’t tried to download a Metro App since. This is really Microsoft’s biggest weakness right now.

    On the flipside, the Metro design is absolutely wonderful. The keyboard to the lockscreen to the native Windows desktop apps. Microsoft is not credited enough with pushing the flat design that is now creeping into iOS and Android’s new Material Design initiative.

    Unfortunately, the lack of a desktop start menu and the presence of the Charms bar is another large blunder on Microsoft’s part. I really, truly do loathe both and writing it down makes me realize it even more. Swiping in from the left and right and top and bottom isn’t particularly intuitive either; nor is the settings menu which presents different options if inside or outside an app.

    Microsoft touts Windows 8 as a touch-first operating system but that experience obviously only applies to the Metro side of things. While it is possible to access almost every part of the desktop environment using just the touch screen, it feels just like the type cover, a legacy part of Windows that is being thrown a life line. Hover gestures usually performed by the mouse cursor is replaced by hovering the pen. There is no hover gesture for the fingers rendering a few desktop apps and functions useless (auto-hide taskbar!!).

    Despite touch navigation being a chore in desktop, it does still work and there is nothing cooler than pulling up .mkv movies and TV shows in Media Player Classic, archiving and expanding files through Winrar, or browsing a web page and having all the content available. This is full Windows all accessible by touch! It really doesn’t get more amazing than that. Web browsers allow scrolling by touch, windows can be resized and dragged easily. Files can be browsed, selected, copied, and pasted. Both Metro and desktop auto-rotate for easy transition between laptop and one-handed surfing.

    The desktop needs a massive revamp with Metro being integrated with rather than separated by a start menu. Windows 9 seems to be heading in this direction but Microsoft is a $350 billion company. Doesn’t progress seem to be lacking if not at best, slow?

    One really frustrating aspect of the touch interface is the QWERTY keyboard. Despite its wonderful design, it never appears in desktop automatically. The program must be resized manually so that the keyboard overlay doesn’t cover it up. Unlocking BitLocker’ed devices is impossible. When the keyboard icon is touched, the password dialog box disappears and nothing can be done about it (except by attaching a physical keyboard of some sort).



    PORTABILITY

    Everyone’s life presents its own unique set of challenges and ‘lapability’ is not one for me. But, considering Microsoft made a big deal about this made-up word, I thought I would go ahead and spend a few sentences on it. This device is perfectly ‘lap-able’. The stand doesn’t cut into the legs (unless you are wearing shorts) and the keyboard improvement makes it an easy typing experience as I sit here in my dining room. Moving vehicles may be another challenge…that I’ve yet to face.

    In terms of opening the device up, there is the extra step of opening the kickstand in addition to opening up the Type Cover. It’s just a tad more work than a laptop and, yep, I notice it every time. But considering I wasn’t even carrying my laptop with me most places before, it’s a fair compromise.

    I know, I know. Compromise has become an untouchable word in the tech industry as of late. Sadly, the glaring lack of innovation has never made ‘compromise’ sound more alluring. I, as a consumer, am desperate for solutions to the problems we have been bearing for years (and for no reason). Consumer Electronics Companies: you have glaring areas where you can be differentiating yourself from the competition.

    As a portable, always-there companion device, there are a few things that iOS and Android devices are still doing better. Notification LED and magnetic sensor for the Type Cover are at the top of the list. The proximity sensor for turning the SP3 off with the cover closed is just bad implementation. I know Hibernation saves my battery life but I loathe the three seconds it takes to wake up with notifications not updated. I almost always grab my phone instead even if it takes longer to get things done on the tiny screen.

    I have noticed an interesting little problem. If I want to move my laptop from one room to the next, it’s somewhat of an awkward affair. I can choose to flip the cover up, close the kickstand, and go or just try and pick it up like I would a laptop. Instinctively I go for the latter, easier (or so I think) option. It’s an awkward bundle to carry. The keyboard hangs limply and swings back and forth. The open kickstand forces me to hold only the top of the tablet and then manage to cradle the Bluetooth mouse and sleeve case with whatever remaining arm and fingers I can manage.

    This might seem like a completely innocuous problem but it speaks much about what the SP3 represents. It’s a wonderful transition step between the mobile PC and the tablet. It’s brings everything from the future to the PC but also drags all the relics of the PC (like keyboard and touchpad) to the future. The type cover is the metaphoric days of PC barely hanging on by a magnetic hinge. It swings uselessly and cumbersomely, slowing me down, as I try to take my mobile device from one place to the next. Just imagine a tablet that requires no keyboard or touchpad to be used effectively…it solves every compromise that has to be made with the SP3.


    CONCLUSION

    The SP3 presents an alternative for productive computing. It’s not PC and it’s not post-PC. It’s a little of both and the opportunity for consuming and creating content is finally presented in a single device.

    One of the most striking realizations using the SP3 is just how powerful touch and the tablet form factor can be. If you haven’t realized already by this time in the review, the SP3 makes the keyboard and mouse seem ancient and, more prominently, in the way. Having a touch screen device that easily transforms into a singular tablet makes it obvious just how much having a keyboard and mouse get in between the user and the content that is being consumed/created. I want to touch what I am working on and directly interact with it.

    Nothing but pure innovation will resolve this issue. Typing and navigation needs to be adapted to the touch screen. On-screen QWERTY isn’t cutting it. And the desktop OS needs to be entirely reimagined for whatever form this touch text input and navigation form takes.

    And whatever form factor the OS takes, fingers and styli, are going to be fundamental (dexterity and precision). The Surface Pro line would benefit exponentially from larger form factors. I imagine 15.6” and 18” very thin and very light tablets being extremely successful for workstation-type productivity while also being able to slip into backpacks and briefcases.

    Having access to local video content and playing it through Media Player Classic makes it so apparent how far online providers are behind the curve. Users want high quality video. Users want subtitles (in multiple languages), offline content, and non-buffered, non-laggy video. It’s 2014 and online content is still being delivered by default at 480p. Netflix and Hulu won’t be getting my money anytime soon. Now that I have a hardware format (tablet) to optimize content consumption, this lack of quality is just glaringly obvious and the endless user customization presented by win32 apps is still unmatched by ARM tablets.

    But, yes, this device has replaced my desktop, laptop, and whatever little benefits and attributes I liked about owning a tablet. I’m sure it will also replace the usual stack of papers that litter my desk and backpack. For that, I would almost pay any price, even if the implementation isn’t perfect. The Surface Pro 3 is a fantastic offering and I’m rooting for Microsoft to be successful this time around and to come back with a Surface Pro 4 next year that is even better.


    MUST-HAVE ACCESSORIES

    Combined USB Hub and Ethernet Adapter

    ArmorShield Full-Body Protector (Avoid the screen protector though!)

    PNY DisplayPort HDMI Adapter

    Logitech M555b Bluetooth Mouse

    HP L2201x 21.5 1080p DisplayPort Monitor
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2014
  2. ctitanic

    ctitanic Well-Known Member

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    Excellent review. One point, I'm streaming 1080p from Netflix.
    The video quality in a Sp3 is just breath taking.

     
  3. mmoran27

    mmoran27 Member

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    The Netflix app may stream in 1080p but does not look like it. Video quality is much better on my galaxy tab s and iPad air.

    If you are in the metro app Netlfix does not use the full screen. It only shows 3 rows of icons in landscape mode with a large empty area below.

    The app is not optimized for the SP3. Metro apps seem to have trouble streaming video.

    Even the plex app has buffering issues streaming from my Plex server. Using the desktop Plex client resolves this but again this just shows how metro apps have issues.
     
  4. ctitanic

    ctitanic Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I which I could do a Screenshot of Netflix. I do not have any problems streaming and the 1080p quality is the best. The whole app design is not the best but it's not that bad either.
     
  5. ctitanic

    ctitanic Well-Known Member

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    What router are you using and what's your ISP download speed?
     
  6. malberttoo

    malberttoo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    @gemini , nice review, very broad and covered a lot of ground.
     
  7. BillJ

    BillJ Active Member

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    Thank you for this thoughtful and perceptive essay. It is refreshing to hear about your experience with the SP3 with a clear perspective on the evolution of human interaction with electronics. As we become more "connected" electronically, the more we will demand that our devices not interfere with our interactions; paradoxically, the devices themselves will become far less relevant than the information that they convey.

    With that in mind, the SP3 and Windows 8.1 are worthy of support as they represent important steps in our progression toward a world in which we have immediate access to all information.
     
  8. nnthemperor

    nnthemperor Member

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    Beautifully written essay. Great ideas too and I would say I agree with mist of it.
     
  9. PaleRyder

    PaleRyder New Member

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    Ok what a great review, I know who to hire if I need a review done my goodness man
     
    gemini likes this.
  10. joga

    joga Member

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    well done and thx for sharing.

    joga
     
  11. fonzman78

    fonzman78 Active Member

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    Nice review but it left me confused perhaps? Between the compliments and slight jabs, I didn't really get a feel for whether or not purchase one.

    You guys must be smarter folks than I am. :)
     
  12. Len J

    Len J Active Member

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    I think the purchase decision is pretty easy once you really define what it is you need.

    For me, I spend 60% of my time out of the office giving presentations, proposals, taking notes and modifying documents. The other 40% is spent doing on line research, contact management or spreadsheets. Outside of that I'm a photographer, which is the only question I have...... if the download and processing speeds are adequate in lightroom and PS, then it fits my needs perfectly. Add the docking station w a link to a large monitor and other office stiff & I'm good to go. I'm replacing a laptop that was 6 pounds w charger and had about 3 hours of battery life fwiw.

    If I was a big gamer, or needed high processed time continuously, and or was desk bound, it would be hard to justify.

    Its not perfect for everything. Name your needs and line them up.

    IME

    Len
     

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