Hands On: Surface Pro 3

Surface Pro 3
Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. (Image: Microsoft)

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20 August 2014 | 0

Since its début in May of this year, the Surface Pro 3 (SPro3) has made the greatest argument yet for a tablet that replaces a laptop. While the Surface Pro 2 most certainly is capable of doing so too, the SPro3, offering as it does various permutations of Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, 4 or 8GB of RAM and various solid state drive (SSD) options 64GB right up to 512GB, can easily exceed the specifications of many ultrabooks currently on the market.

However, a criticism of previous claims for a Surface Pro to replace a laptop was that the accessory list was lacking and users who wished to use one of these devices as a primary machine, this reporter included, had to mix and match a range of third party options, from USB hubs to screens and input devices, to allow the core functionality of the device to be fully exploited. For example, the rather excellent Surface Pro/Pro 2 compatible docking station, which cost a reasonable €150 or so, was never officially available in Ireland, though was in certain parts of Europe. Even so, it was some time after general availability of the SPro2 that the docking station was made available at all. While third party docking stations were available, including some that had their own USB 3 driven video controllers, they tended be quite expensive and somewhat generic.

Getting it right
This time, Microsoft has seen the light and a far more comprehensive accessory list, including the docking station and some third party items, are available either immediately or within a few weeks. For example, here, the SPro3 will be available to business and retail on 28 August, with the docking station available later in September. The docking station is now a slightly salty €204.99, but it does now offer 4 additional USB ports (2 x USB 3), as well as Ethernet, MiniDisplay Port, sound and power, while leaving the on-device USB and MiniDisplay Ports free for use too. This means that when docked, the SPro3 can run dual screens easily, while allowing different screen scaling on the device and the attached screen — a major omission from previous models.

Another critical element in replacing a laptop is support. Patrick Ward, Windows and Surface Lead at Microsoft Ireland, confirmed that the SPro3 will have business support schemes, including extended warranties that will facilitate the device’s adoption in business fleets. This is just another Windows 8.1 Pro PC, said Ward, making it easy and familiar to manage.

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