Surface Pro 3 - Initial Impressions
I went out and bought a Surface Pro 3. I bought the i7 8 gig RAM 256 gig storage version. It was paid for with my own money and there were no discounts. It's been a while since I had a high-powered laptop that was my own, not my employers, so I was mostly happy to spend the money. I bought the "Microsoft Complete" plan that covers accidental damage, even from drops.
I was a big fan of the size of the the Surface RT and the Surface 2. Those were the tiny thin ARM-based Surfaces. I used them all the time for email, Videos, browsing. I have an iPad Air, but used the Surfaces for their keyboard and their split screen abilities. Sitting on a plane with an 8 hour battery life device doing email and watching a movie at the same time is killer. If my iPad could do split screen that would be something.
I was NOT a fan of the Surface Pro 2. I have a lot of friends who have some but it was just so thick and heavy. The differential between the thickness of the keyboard and the thickness of the device itself was near comical. I wasn't going to try a Pro until it was as thin as a Surface 2.
And the Surface Pro 3 is thin. It's crazy thin. It's 9.1mm thick and about 800grams. That's about 1.8 lbs.
Now, I'm never going to be able to do a review like Paul Thurrott or AnandTech so I'd encourage you to read those uber-reviews. Instead, I'm going to cut through the specs and get to the questions and answers that matter to me.
Oh, and this is random as I'm not a sticker person. I have no stickers on any of my laptops but this Decal from DecalGirl was too awesome so I went all in.
My new Surface Pro 3 skin from @DecalGirl, now installed! pic.twitter.com/qkBTB4rjOL— Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) August 14, 2014
What IS this device? The Obvious Comparisons
The difference between my Lenovo X1 Carbon and my iPad Air is clear. One's a powerhouse laptop and one is a lightweight tablet. I do work on the X1 and I surf and relax with the Air. I throw them both in my bag and go. I'll do a little light email on the iPad but it's largely my media and gaming device. They are separate and their difference makes sense to me.
After carrying the Surface Pro 3 around for a week, two interesting things happened. The screen on my iPad now feels small and the screen on my X1 seems HUGE. The Surface is basically the size and weight of a large magazine or a stack of papers.
The Surface occupies a space in my brain like a real hybrid. I want to throw the Surface on the couch with abandon like I do my iPad, but somehow I carry it with more reverence. That's likely because I didn't get the cheapest Surface. My subconscious knows it's a non-trivially-priced laptop rather than a tablet.
I truly love my iPad Air. It works, it turns on, it runs one app at a time, and runs them well. I play games like Modern Combat with my Steelseries Stratus bluetooth controller and am amazed.
But then I plug the Surface Pro into my 30" monitor, add a keyboard, mouse, or an Xbox controller and play a Steam Game, and I realize this is an i7 PC. It's a weird shift that has taken me the week to get my head around.
From a consumers point of view (and in this context, that's me) it seems there are a lot of updates coming down for the Surface. Just yesterday an update came in that gave me more control over the touchpad and its right-click behavior. I hope that the updates continue. According to the Penny Arcade review they are looking at updates to improve the pen and other little details.
Can it run Visual Studio? Sure. I have been using it full time for a week and it's been fine. I wish it had 12 gigs of RAM, but I wish everything did.
The Type Cover 3 is WAY better than the Type Cover 2, and that one was pretty good. I thought the fold-up extra magnet was a gimmick but it's not. It does more than change the angle of the keyboard, it adds lateral stability to the device and makes it feel more like a laptop and less like a tablet with a keyboard attached.
The screen is fantastic. I mean, truly awesome. It's "retina" in that I can't see individual pixels and it's super bright and clear. The resolution on devices like the Yoga 2 Pro are so high that they can be overwhelming. The Surface Pro 3's 2160x1400 is such that I can run it at 100% (no scaling) and find it usable. I am running at 125% right now and am not having any of the high-dpi issues that happen when you scale out to 200%. It's also worth noting that you can scale the desktop and full-screen apps separately.
There is a micro-SD card slot hidden under the stand. I popped it a 64-gig card and told Windows to store videos there. Easy expansion and my movies take up no space on my main drive.
NOTE: Having a USB3 port is awesome, so I got a 3 port USB3 hub with Ethernet and it works great. I added a tiny Smart Card reader and a 3-in-1 mini DVI video adapter (DVI/HDMI/VGA) and got my bag of adapters down to just these three.
Noting that I have an i7 version, and not the i3 or i5, I have noticed both fan noise and heat when the Surface Pro 3 is working hard. By working hard, I mean sustained CPU over 50-60% plus hard drive access plus wireless. So, playing Steam Games, installing Visual Studio, running Handbrake.
I was initially really disappointed that there was a fan at all. But again, after a week, I realized that the laws of physics are what they are and I'm carrying around an i7 the size of a paper notebook. I also went back to my X1 Carbon Touch and installed Visual Studio 2013.3 and noticed that the fan turned on noted it was hot too. In fact, hotter than I remembered.
So, is there a fan and will it blow when needed? Yes. I'm cool with it, because 90% of the time, it's off. It did take a mental adjustment.
I'm 90% happy with the Surface Pro 3. It's small and it's fast. It's not my desktop but it's definitely as fast as my beloved Lenovos when doing regular stuff. Right now I've got Outlook, Chrome, Firefox, and IE all open. I've got 20+ tabs going, Windows Live Writer and an instance of Visual Studio. I've ordered the Docking Station and will report back when I've hooked it up.
Do any of you have a Surface Pro 3? What are your thoughts?
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