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Lenovo ThinkPad 10 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Which is Better for Business?

Lenovo ThinkPad 10 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Which is Better for Business?
The Surface Pro 3 (left) boasts a bigger display than the ThinkPad 10 (right). / Credit: Microsoft/Lenovo

Lenovo's new ThinkPad 10 is decked out with fresh features for business users, including a large display, a stylus and tons of connectivity options. But how does it stack up to Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, one of the biggest, fastest business slates on the market? With a keyboard dock attached, both of these slates have the potential to replace your laptop as your primary business device. But there are big differences in terms of performance and price. Read on for a head-to-head comparison of the ThinkPad 10 and Surface Pro 3.

ThinkPad 10: The ThinkPad 10 sports a bright, sharp 10.1-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. That puts it on the upper end of the tablet spectrum in terms of size, and gives most business users plenty of space for basic productivity tasks. The ThinkPad 10 is still significantly smaller than the average laptop, though, so it could feel a bit cramped for screen-intensive tasks such as editing a document or spreadsheet.

Surface Pro 3: The Surface Pro 3's huge 12-inch display sets it apart from most other business slates. The large screen is about as big as the display on a 13-ich laptop like Apple's MacBook Air, and it strikes a very good balance between portability and productivity. The Surface Pro 3's display is extremely bright and sharp, with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels.

Winner: The Surface Pro 3 wins with a bigger, sharper display than the ThinkPad 10. Still, users who want a more portable device might prefer Lenovo's tablet.

ThinkPad 10: The ThinkPad 10 is faster than its predecessor, thanks to a relatively speedy quad-core processor with 4GB of RAM. It offers pretty good performance and smooth multitasking for basic computing tasks like managing your email inbox and browsing the Web, but it won't blow you away. Users who need to perform processor-intensive tasks like heavy spreadsheet computation should look elsewhere.

Surface Pro 3: The Surface Pro 3 blows away the ThinkPad 10 when it comes to speed and performance and  stacks up well against speedy laptops such as Apple's MacBook Air, even in its most affordable configuration. The entry-level model has an Intel Core i3 processor with 4GB of RAM, giving you tons of power for work. Demanding users can upgrade to a pricier model that packs a Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM, and an even more powerful Core i7 version will launch in August.

Winner:  With its powerful hardware, the Surface Pro 3 runs away with this category.

ThinkPad 10: The ThinkPad 10 stands out as one of the few tablets that includes a stylus out of the box. That's a big perk for business users, since the 5.5-inch pen makes taking notes and drawing charts easy.  The ThinkPad 10 stylus is about as big and hefty as an actual ink pen, and it features a pressure-sensitive tip to make handwriting feel more natural. There's no place to stow your stylus on the tablet, but the keyboard dock (sold separately) has a stylus slot, as do both of Lenovo's cases for the tablet.

Surface Pro 3: The Surface Pro 3 also ships with a handy pen, which turns the large tablet into a note-taking machine. Instead of including a stylus with a pressure-sensitive tip, the Surface Pro 3's entire display can detect pressure, making handwriting smooth and accurate. And Microsoft's slate has handy pen functionality built in, like the ability to turn the display on and launch a note-taking app by pressing a button on the side of the stylus. Like the Thinkpad 10, there's nowhere to stick your stylus on the tablet itself, but the optional Type Cover keyboard accessory has a fabric loop that can hold it when not in use.

Winner: Both tablets ship with serviceable styluses, but the Surface Pro 3 wins due to useful software features that make the pen more useful.

ThinkPad 10: Business users can attach Lenovo's beefy keyboard dock for extended typing sessions. The accessory, sold separately for $119, connects via a hardwired connection instead of Bluetooth, making it reliable and easy to use. It also features a touchpad for more precise pointing for tasks such as browsing the Web or editing a document. The keyboard doesn't have a hinge, however, so you can't adjust the viewing angle of your tablet's display.

Surface Pro 3: The new Type Cover keyboard for the Surface Pro 3 is much slimmer than the ThinkPad 10's keyboard dock, but the slim profile comes with some tradeoffs. For starters, the shallow design significantly limits key travel, which makes typing feel stiff. On the bright side, the Type Cover has a large, responsive touchpad, and snaps firmly onto the Surface Pro 3 with the help of magnets. And thanks to the kickstand built into the tablet, you can adjust the display to any angle you want during typing sessions.

Winner: The ThinkPad 10 boasts a better keyboard dock. It's not as thin as the Surface Pro 3 type cover, but it does offer a more comfortable typing experience.

ThinkPad 10: With Lenovo's desktop tablet dock, you can use the ThinkPad 10 as a desktop PC at your work desk. The dock, which is sold separately for $129, props up the tablet, charges it, and adds a bunch of extra ports, including three USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI out port, and an Ethernet port. It's a pricey accessory, but it does add tons of versatility to Lenovo's tablet, letting you connect a monitor, keyboard, mouse or external hard drive. And though it's not as powerful as the average desktop computer, the ThinkPad 10 should suffice for business users with basic computing needs.

Surface Pro 3: A desktop dock is also available for the Surface Pro 3, letting you use the tablet as a desktop computer. The dock packs three USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port and a Mini DisplayPort. And because the Surface Pro 3 packs Ultrabook-level specs, it's faster and more reliable as a desktop work machine than the Surface Pro 3.

Winner: Both docks add tons of extra functionality, but the Surface Pro 3 is more powerful on the desktop.

ThinkPad 10: The Surface Pro 3 offers faster hardware and more features, but at the end of the day the ThinkPad 10 is far more affordable. Lenovo's tablet starts at just $599 with an Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, making it a good pick for budget-minded small business owners in the market for a capable and affordable work machine.

Surface Pro 3: The Surface Pro 3 is a premium device at a premium price. It starts at $799 with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The $999 model includes an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB and a 128GB SSD, and several high-end variants are also available, including a $1,949 model with an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

Winner: The ThinkPad 10's midrange price tag is a better bargain for most business users.

The ThinkPad 10 and Surface Pro 3 have a lot in common. Both are stylus-equipped Windows 8.1 tablets with large displays, keyboards and optional desktop docks. The Surface Pro 3 is the more premium device, but you'll pay for its high-end features. Meanwhile, the ThinkPad 10 is a featured-packed business slate with slower performance but a more affordable price tag.

BUY Lenovo ThinkPad 10>>>

BUY Microsoft Surface Pro 3>>>

Brett Nuckles

Brett Nuckles has been a working journalist since 2009. He got his start in local newspapers covering community news, local government, education and more before he joined the Business News Daily staff in 2013. He graduated from Ohio University, where he studied Journalism and English. Follow him on Twitter @BrettNuckles.