The new Surface Pro 3 could replace your work laptop. At least, that's what Microsoft is hoping for with the release of a new Surface tablet that features a huge 12-inch display, powerful hardware and an improved design. But those features come at a price; Microsoft's new Windows 8 tablet starts at $799, with more-powerful configurations costing considerably more than that.
It's pricier than the average tablet, but the Surface Pro 3 is more like an Ultrabook, especially when paired with the optional snap-on Type Cover keyboard. And, of course, the Surface Pro 3 can stand alone as a tablet, so it's better for running mobile apps and taking notes with the new pen accessory.
The Surface Pro 3 is available to preorder starting May 21. Read on for five features that make it good for business.
The centerpiece of the Surface Pro 3 is its huge, 12-inch display. In comparison, the Surface Pro 2 has a 10.6-inch screen, while the iPad Air's display measures 9.7 inches. That translates into a lot more digital real estate on the Surface Pro for screen-intensive tasks, and almost as much space as on 13-inch laptops like Apple's MacBook Air. Screen space is especially important for business users who want to do real work on their tablets, and even everyday tasks like checking email and browsing the Web are more comfortable on a larger display. The Surface Pro 3's screen is sharp as well as large, with an eye-popping 2560 x 1600-pixel resolution.
But Microsoft didn't sacrifice too much portability. In fact, the Surface Pro 3 is slightly thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 2. And even with the keyboard attached, the newest Surface Pro is significantly lighter than the MacBook Air. That makes it a good pick for commuters and frequent travelers who want to pack light.
The kickstand on the original Microsoft Surface Pro tablet had only a single position, while the Surface Pro 2 let you pick between two different angles. The Surface Pro 3 vastly improves upon that design with a kickstand that can be adjusted to any angle you want. That means you can put the screen in just the right position, just like on your laptop computer. You can even push the tablet back a full 150 degree so it's almost flat, which makes a better angle for taking notes or drawing with the pen stylus.
The Surface Pro 2's optional Type Cover keyboard accessory was already one of the best tablet keyboards available. With the release of the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft is also launching a bigger, better Type Cover. For starters, the keyboard features a better trackpad that's more responsive and 68 percent bigger. That's an important detail for business users. After all, a touch screen is good for navigating mobile apps, but you'll need more-precise pointing for serious productivity tasks like editing documents or spreadsheets.
The other major change to the Type Cover makes the Surface Pro 3 easier to use when you're away from a desk. With the help of magnets, the keyboard can now be attached more securely to the tablet, so it wobbles around less when sitting in your lap. As a bonus, the Type Cover serves as a screen cover when the tablet isn't in use.
The Surface Pro 3 doesn't come with the keyboard, however. You'll have to drop an extra $130 to pick it up.
The Surface Pro 3 has the potential to replace your desktop computer as well as your laptop. Alongside the new tablet, Microsoft launched a new desktop dock; just snap in your Surface and get working. The dock packs three USB. 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port and an audio jack, and the dock can export video at 4K resolution through its Mini DisplayPort.
This dock could give serious business users a boost, since it lets you connect a range of accessories to your Surface, including a mouse, keyboard and large external monitor. In other words, it lets the Surface Pro 3 function as a desktop workstation as well as a portable consumption device. The dock sells separately for $200.
Better pen support
The Surface Pro 3 includes a redesigned pen to boost the tablet's note-taking potential. The pen is weightier and larger than the average tablet stylus, so it's more comfortable in the hand. And since the tablet includes a pressure-sensitive display, writing feels much more precise and natural than on the average tablet screen.
New software tweaks for the Surface Pro 3 make the pen even more functional. For example, one press of the button located on the side of the pen automatically turns the display on and launches a note-taking application, so you can start writing in a hurry. And since Microsoft's OneNote app comes free with the tablet, you can automatically sync your notes to the cloud with just a few taps. The tablet also features improved handwriting-recognition software, so it's better at taking your handwritten notes and transcribing them into digital text.
One downside is that the Surface Pro 3 lacks a slot to stow the pen when it's not in use, so you'll have to find another place to keep this tool. The Type Cover does, however, feature a fabric loop that can hold the pen, if you opt to purchase that keyboard accessory.