My friend Mr Arash Babayan from Microsoft managed to drop by the office today with a pre-production demo unit of the Surface Pro 3. There’s only 3 units in Australia at the moment with the official Australian launch not till August, so I was pretty excited to have a play and see what they’ve been up to at Redmond.
Can’t really do an in-depth review after playing with it for a few minutes, but here are my initial impressions.
The form factor
The 3:2 aspect ratio removes that awkward long shape and finally makes this feel like something you would use as a notepad. More screen real estate and less squinting. I like.
Coming from a 2kg+ Toshiba M200 and a 1.9kg Lenovo ThinkPad X200, the Surface Pro 2 weighs in at just over 900g, and feels light to me. I carry it all around and have no problems using it in meetings. The Surface Pro 3 is even lighter (at 800g), and the weight is well distributed across the larger body.
I was already a fan of the Type 2 keyboard, but the new, larger keyboard is all kinds of nice. Throw in the stabilizing magnetic strip and this thing is rock solid. It’s not going to fall off your lap on the train. Unless you’re falling. Then it will fall off. With you.
I don’t mind the kickstand on the Surface Pro 2, but the new, up-to-150 degrees full-friction kickstand on the Surface Pro 3 is just magic. On your lap? No problem. Lying in bed? No problem. Sitting in awkward angles just to prove it works? No problem. It’s good.
Let’s face it – the trackpad on the Type 2 keyboard took a step backwards and was … well … terrible. I occasionally use it when I don’t have a proper mouse or touching the screen isn’t right, but it causes lots of frustration. The new trackpad fixes all that. It’s smooth and silky and just … good.
The new N-Trig digitizer
I’ve been a Wacom fan for over a decade. Their active digitizer technology was always noticeably better than N-Trig’s, and somehow I just didn’t like the laggy inking experience with the battery-based pen. This was probably one of the biggest reasons I stayed away from the Dell Venue 10 Pro. The new generation N-Trig digitizer on the Surface Pro 3 … now this is something different. A paper-like inking experience with almost no lag and just enough drag to make it feel like you’re writing on paper with a pen. The thinner screen makes the parallax almost negligible. Consider me converted.
The click the pen to turn it on
You had me at “click”. I mean, it looked awesome in the video, but I had some reservations. I mean what about security? If all it takes to get in is clicking the pen, that might be a problem. But no, clicking the pen wakes up the Surface and loads a locked OneNote page which you can write on. To unlock the computer, you still have to login. Sold.
The power connector
It’s plastic, magnetic and slides into the power slot. No more scratches to your shiny black Surface Pro while you try to connect power.
All new accessories
The power supplies, pens and protective sleeves no longer fit. This means I’ll have to buy new stuff. Oh well.
Still no biometric login
Yeah, it has the pin and the picture password, but nothing makes you feel warm, fuzzy and secure as swiping a finger over the biometric reader to log into your tablet.
I’ve been using tablet devices for ten years waiting for the hardware to catch up. We’re almost there, but I’ll take the Surface Pro 3 any day.