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Customer Review

704 of 756 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surface Pro 3 is the Future, June 19, 2014
By 
This review is from: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 8GB/256GB - PS2-00001 (Personal Computers)
I currently own Surface 2, MacBook PRO 15 inch, and an iPhone 5 so I am not bias to either side (replacing the MacBook Pro/S2 with the SP3). Choose the product that is best featured, not best brand - this drives competition and consumer quality. I am going to list PROs and CONs organized into significant and common. Significant PROs/CONs is a term for uniqueness or high-end / setback or low-end. Common is a term for similar features or specifications amongst its peers. Most comparisons are between the SP3 12" to MacBook Air 11.6" (2013) model (due to its public familiarity, size, and prestige). The MacBook Air 11.6" (2014) model improves with a slight faster CPU clock (0.1 GHz) and PCIe SSD almost making it the same MacBook Air - refer to TechnoBuffalo (2014) for technical specifications of the MacBook Air 11.6" 2014 model, thus it is safe to compare SP3 with the MacBook Air 2013 model. Everything will be cited (loosely APA format) for viewers to check credibility.

Significant PROs:
i. Resolution: 2160x1440 (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air 1366x768 (Apple, 6/19/2014)
ii. Display Panel: 12" IPS (Engadget, 5/25/2014) - MacBook Air 11.6" TN (Anandtech, 6/24/2013) - IPS panel has better viewing angels as well as color saturation versus a TN panel. IPS panels are also more expensive.
iii. Kickstand - Variable degrees, can also be open from both sides now!
iv. Performance: Top performer in its PC category with PCMARK7 5,024 and 3DMARK06 5,053 (Engadget, 5/25/2014)
v. SSD Speed: Top performer in its PC category with 555 MB/s read and 252 MB/s write (Engadget, 5/25/2014) - Note, MacBook Air (2014) read/write speeds are significantly higher compared to SP3 Flash memory with its PCIe interface (very expensive) averaging in the 700MB/s.
vi. Camera: 5.0 megapixel 1080p front-and-rear facing (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air 720p front facing only (Apple, 6/19/2014)
vii. Power Supply - The magnet for the Surface 2 took precision and accuracy to get it connected to charge. The SP3 slides in without any actual effort. Microsoft also hinted that it is also possibly a thunderbolt type connection (able to transmit data). Another cool thing that pertains to travelers especially is the brick on the power supply contains a USB 2.0 port so you can charge your phones (possibly transmit data?) while charging the SP3 - I say to them, "GENIUS!"
viii. Graphics: Intel HD 4400 (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air (2013/2014) Intel HD 5000 (Apple, 6/19/2014) - Cinebench OpenGL: SP3 had 20.55 FPS (HotHardware, 2014) versus MacBook Air (2014) 18.28 FPS (LaptopMag, 2014) - Higher is better.

Common PROs:
i. Physical Size WxDxH: 11.5"x7.93"x0.55"[0.36" + 0.19" Type Cover] (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air 11.8"x7.56"x0.68" (Apple, 6/19/2014)
ii. Physical Weight: 2.42 lbs [Type Cover included] (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air 2.38 lbs (Apple, 6/19/2014)
iii. Network: 802.11ac - For more information regarding 802.11ac, refer to TrustedReviews (2013). (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air 802.11ac (Apple, 6/24/2013) - Side note, both run Bluetooth 4.0
a. Many ask, why this isn't LTE? Cheaper alternative is to turn on your hotspot on your phone. Don't have LTE on your phone? Then why are you asking for LTE on this if you don't even plan on getting it. Adding more data to the plan is cheaper than adding another service line.
iv. Intel 4th generation (Haswell)
v. Pen - pressure sensitivity downgraded from 1,024 degrees to 256 degrees, but when tested, user never actuates the full 256 degrees, refer to PennyArcade (2014) for more details. The Pen made improvements over its predecessors, but lag is what is holding it back. (PennyArcade, 6/13/2014)
vi. App Market - Microsoft Market is still small in comparison to Android and iTunes, but you know what is amazing about a real 64-bit computer? The ability to install any programs you want and one of those programs is called the Android Market. You can download and install Android onto your SP3 and take advantage of the full ecosystem of the Android market while having a 64-bit operating system. [...] by Sean Ong
vii. Battery Life: SP3 real 7 hours and 8 minutes (Engadget, 2014), theoretical 9 hours web browsing (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air theoretical 9 hours web browsing (Apple, 6/19/2014)
viii. Type Cover - In my personal view, I view this as a PRO due to its innovation, but the overwhelming public believes this should be a CON because it should be included or much cheaper. Take this into consideration before coming to conclusion. The Type Cover is a mechanical keyboard that is backlit, portable, and also a cover. You want Microsoft to have it included with the SP3? Downgrade the resolution, the display panel, the camera while removing the rear facing, remove the kickstand, make it a little fatter, and remove the pen feature so it is now on the same level as a MacBook Air - sure we will add a Type Cover for free. :/
ix. Metal encasing
x. Ports: microSD, headphone jack, and mini display port

Significant CONs:
i. USB 3.0: 1 (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air 2 (Apple, 6/19/2014)

Common CONs:
*Keep in mind, Apple has discounted $100 on the 2013 models to clear out for the 2014. Essentially, the 2014 model may actually be the same price and specifications as the SP3.
i. SSD Storage: i5 128GB, 4GB RAM cost $999 / i5 256GB, 8GB RAM cost $1,299 (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air i5 128GB, 4GB RAM cost $899 / MacBook Air i5 256GB, 8GB RAM cost $1,199 (Apple, 6/19/2014)
a. Another cool thing about SP is the ability to add microSD cards increasing storage.
ii. RAM: i5 128GB model contains 4GB DDR3 1600 cost $999 (Microsoft, 6/19/2014) - MacBook Air i5 128GB model [configured] contains 8GB DDR3 1600 cost $999 (Apple, 6/19/2014).
a. Those that want the SP3 8GB model must purchase the 256GB or 512GB storage SSDs. In my opinion, 4GB is sufficient for EVERYTHING besides a few things. 8GB model is only necessary if Photoshop or any other graphic intensive program is used [Facebook, Android, or any APP games do not count] (Due to the nature of the integrated graphics sharing memory with the RAM, increasing the memory will increase performance).

Nor PRO/CON
i. Audio - unable to judge fairly - I do not own a MacBook Air 11.6" model. SP3 sound is a large improvement over its predecessors though - they are now Dolby Audio stereo front facing.
ii. Windows 8.1 - Many users don't want to adopt the new OS and is the main reason why they don't upgrade. Windows 8.1 can actually be transformed into a Windows 7 with a start menu app and setting desktop view as default. Why not just keep Windows 7? Windows 8.1 is optimized by the latest generation of Intel and SSDs (Perfect example is found in section viii under Significant PRO, where SP3 Intel HD 4400 out performs MacBook Air's Intel HD 5000). Performance gain is huge in comparison to Windows 7. One defined example is Battlefield 4 where users found an FPS increase up to 50-100 FPS. Boot times shortened up to 15 seconds on SSDs! If you are a performance hog, Windows 8.1 is a must.

Overall - Much of the downfall of the SP3 that many reviewers say is in actuality, are on par or better than the MacBook Air 11.6" (2013/2014). Bias tech reviews purposely mislead readers that the SP3 battery life is terrible in comparison to the MacBook Air 13.3" (2013) model since it can pull real 12 hours and 51 minutes of life, but most don't question that the 13.3" model is larger, heavier, and has more space to fit a larger battery. Microsoft also does this at its presentation stating the SP3 and Type Cover is lighter than the MacBook Air 13.3" model, but hides the fact that it is slightly heavier (0.04 lbs) than the 11.6" model. You will notice many Apple Bias tech reviewers such as Engadget, Gizmodo especially, and TechRadar purposely mislead the consumer downgrading a product that in actuality is a fantastic product. I solely believe SP is the future of computing and All-In-One, but it's up to the consumer to buy products by features and not by brand or an Apple logo. Consumers need to think more critically when reading tech reviews. Laptops cannot get any thinner in the near future than the SP3 without the keyboard (or else you will soon be sacrificing the USB port). The physical size and weight is at its peak. The future is about performance, display, and battery life. I rather let the engineers and developers of the SP3 finish my review of the SP3.

I said to them "listen, I am an edge case. I don't use this machine the way most of your users will use it. I understand this thing isn't going to do everything for everyone." Their answer was basically "why not?" -Gabe (PennyArcade, 6/13/2014)

I rarely do reviews, but give credit where credit is due. SP3 is a work of art. Please comment if there is anything else I should add that I missed or didn't explain well enough.

References
AnandTech - Retrieved 6/19/2014. [...]
Apple - Retrieved 6/19/2014. [...]
HotHardware - Retrieved 6/19/2014. [...]
LaptopMag - Retrieved 6/19/2014. [...]
Microsoft - Retrieved 6/19/2014. [...]
PennyArcade - Retrieved 6/19/2014. [...]
TechnoBuffalo - Retrieved 6/19/2014. [...]
TrustedReviews - Retrieved 6/19/2014. [...]

----------<UPDATE>----------

Type cover Issue
-When the keyboard is in its upward/slanted position. Icons on the toolbar and taskbar becomes very difficult to press, requiring the pen to press or having the keyboard laying flat.

USB 2.0
-USB 2.0 on the charger does not connect to the SP3, it only serves as a charging port.

Sound
-The sound is astonishingly brilliant. It will surprise many customers at the depth it can produce between the two small slits.

Pen
-for the unlucky ones, you may have to purchase a micro screwdriver (size #00) to change the 319 batteries if the button fails to work.

Battery Life
-The battery life will surprise many people as well. The battery life was underestimated by Microsoft (suppose low expectations?). I didn't officially time it, but during my 5 hour lecture, I had ~55% remaining with the brightness at 75. I can easily go for a 9-10 hour note taking/web surfing (5 hour lecture leads me to boredom).

Misc.
-Scrolling anything upwards (flicking the page up), it lags using Adobe Reader XI, and I don't really understand why. The reader that came preinstalled works perfectly fine.
-Headphone jack is in an awkward position, it is a hanging wire when in use.
-The Pen holder that comes with the type cover will get snagged several times in use, so be careful. I ultimately stopped using it and placed the pen in the bag.
-clear type needs to be adjusted.

OneNote 2013 Pen Feature
The unlucky few (including me). It took me a several hours from researching SP forums, Windows forums, Microsoft technical support. I manage to figure it out on my own.
Having the Pen open OneNote 2013 instead of OneNote Modern. If you have it installed, check under options>advanced section [default OnteNote Application] is there; it is below section [Pen] and above [Email sent from OneNote]. If its not there, go to Account and section [Office Update] right above [About OneNote]. If that is not there, run Windows Update and repeat previous steps. If failed, go to OneNote website (Free), and the button [Free Download] is the 32-bit OneNote (download if you installed 32-bit), if you installed 64-bit, at the bottom of the page there is a link [Other download options] for the 64-bit. Download and install (there is no need to uninstall previous OneNote). Go to options>advanced and under [Default OneNote Application], check 'Make OneNote 2013 (desktop) the default.' Close, and restart the system. When opening OneNote 2013 for the first time, it will go through 2 steps asking which default OneNote program you want to use, select OneNote (desktop) and then select the two button pen (unless you are using a different pen than the one provided). Finished!

Update 9/10/14
-Multiple software related to SP3 and not Windows 8.1 - cross tested with desktop Windows 8.1 PRO and SP3 Windows 8.1 PRO - issue still persist though expected since its still young. Microsoft can only control software by their development and not others.
-WiFi fixed is confirmed on other models sold after the of i5 models (my friend recently bought i3 model and updated firmware is now stable)
-Text is still blurry in several applications and some software. Cleartype does not fix the situation (This is my only major flaw I've had so far)
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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 20, 2014 5:32:18 AM PDT
NoWhereMan says:
The SP 3 , is the future.

Posted on Jun 20, 2014 9:28:57 AM PDT
JJ says:
Very informative, thank you!

Posted on Jun 21, 2014 2:08:46 PM PDT
Very nicely written. One thing, I am photographer and use Adobe Creative Suites. The pen makes it totally breathtaking to work on the RAW photos. Just loving it.

Posted on Jun 23, 2014 2:44:14 PM PDT
Thanks, I love it when someone takes the time to thoroughly review a product!!!

Posted on Jul 2, 2014 7:44:59 AM PDT
M. Alarcon says:
Placing my purchase this week, thanks in part, to your in-depth non-biased review. Thanks so much!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 2, 2014 8:30:53 AM PDT
GoldenLover says:
Hi, As you are a photographer, do you have the 4G version or the 8G? I want to work with photos a lot, so was wondering which model to get. Would the 4G be okay, or should I go with the 8G? Please advise. Thanks a million.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2014 2:12:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2014 2:13:13 PM PDT
C. vu says:
I recommend an 8GB version due to the fact that integrated graphics still struggle with graphic intensive programs. If you are using like Adobe Photoshop (they are making one uniquely for SP3). I have the 256GB/8GB and I see it struggle here and there on some of the programs, so I can imagine the 4GB struggle much more.

Posted on Jul 8, 2014 11:07:29 AM PDT
Thanks for your thorough review!

Posted on Jul 22, 2014 8:58:34 PM PDT
raddan says:
I have read very few reviews as thoroughly thought out and detailed as your! You did an excellent job of delivering an unbiased comparison with Apple's products. I have been exploring the possibility of buying the SP3 for the last month and am now ready to do so. Again, my thanks!

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 8:43:21 AM PDT
Down8ve says:
Don't mean to be snide at all, but a 5-hour lecture? Wow! Perhaps it was a discussion or hands-on training seminar.. my style is not good enough to hold my student's attention for more than 90 minutes! Your battery life was far better than mine. Regular productivity in the morning and early afternoon required plugging it in around 4:00. Around 6 hours of Word, email, some online research. And I realize that for some of us it was simply because the device could fail to sleep when closing the type cover.

I've written a review stating that I'm returning the device due to quality control issues, mainly involving software. It is perhaps the most amazing computer hardware ever made, but the blue screens at inopportune moments jaded me a bit. I'm waiting for the OS to improve before trying this again. BTW, the wife's original Surface Pro has never given her any problems.
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