My thoughts on the Microsoft Surface 3

MS Surface Pro 3

Soon (at least in the US) the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 will be available to purchase, from what I can gather it won’t be available in the UK until August; however you can pre-order the device now. I have to admit that this is the first Surface that I wouldn’t mind owning. We are entering the 3rd generation of Windows 8.x based devices and it hasn’t been until now that some good designs are being released.

You can read more about the device at Microsoft’s product detail web pages which can be found here. You can also pre-order the device by going to their store here.

One of the best reviews so far is at Neowin, their excellent and comprehensive review can be found here.

With that out of the way what do I think?
Well the specifications of the device are about right and frankly the only one I’m really interested in is the i7 – 8GB Ram – 512GB storage device; I always like as much on board storage as possible. However you will note that this isn’t cheap.

MS Surface Pro 3-2

The table below summarises the UK price for each model with and without the touch cover (which costs £109.99):

Processor Wireless Memory Storage Price Price with TC
Intel i3 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 64GB £639.00 £748.99
Intel i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 128GB £849.00 £958.99
Intel i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 256GB £1,109.00 £1,218.99
Intel i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 256GB £1,339.00 £1,448.99
Intel i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 512GB £1,649.00 £1,758.99

Note: All of the models have the latest wireless 802.11 protocols and Bluetooth 4.0, they have up to 9 hours battery life and all have a with 12″ (2160 x 1440) screen

As you can see the top specification model is £1649 or £1758.99 if you want a touch cover. I have two problems; the main one is the price – this isn’t a cheap device and when compared to the competition could seem to be overpriced (I’ll come back to that in a minute), the second is that it might not have quite enough power to properly handle Photoshop, Lightroom or Premiere (elements) which are probably the most intensive programs I use.

Once the device is released in the wild we will see some reports about what the device is and is not capable so this will become a known quantity over the next couple of months. I would like a working pro photographer to give their views on the device.

Is the device overpriced? The problem is that in isolation the Surface pro 3 could be seen as a tablet that can do PC stuff or a PC that can be used as a tablet. The fact that Windows 8 can be used in either mode muddies the waters a bit so it is hard to compare this to the best of the competition out there. I think that the best and nearest are Apple iPad Air and the Apple Macbook Air.

The iPad Air prices are as follows:
iPad-Air

Processor Wireless Memory Storage Price
Apple A7 (64bit) WiFi only 1GB 16GB £399.00
Apple A7 (64bit) WiFi and 4G 1GB 16GB £499.00
Apple A7 (64bit) WiFi only 1GB 32GB £479.00
Apple A7 (64bit) WiFi and 4G 1GB 32GB £579.00
Apple A7 (64bit) WiFi only 1GB 64GB £559.00
Apple A7 (64bit) WiFi and 4G 1GB 64GB £659.00
Apple A7 (64bit) WiFi only 1GB 128GB £639.00
Apple A7 (64bit) WiFi and 4G 1GB 128GB £739.00

If all you need is a tablet (that cannot do PC stuff) then an iPad Air is much cheaper however you will be limited to iOS based software and no matter how good this is it isn’t as good as the PC (or Mac) based software out there. It is said that devices such as the iPad Air are more for consumption of data as opposed to a creator of data. I don’t think it is as black and white as this but I would rather have a full copy of Lightroom on a PC/Mac instead of the iOS version that we have today.

Apple Macbook Air:
Macbook-Air-11-13

The Macbook Air screen doesn’t come with a 12″ screen (yet?) so is a little harder to compare; the 11″ screen has a resolution of: 1366×768, whilst the 13″ device has a resolution of: 1440×900, for that reason I have had to list all of the price configuration possibilities:

Processor Wireless Memory Storage Price
11″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 128GB £749.00
11″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 128GB £829.00
11″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 128GB £869.00
11″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 128GB £949.00
11″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 256GB £899.00
11″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 256GB £979.00
11″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 256GB £1029.00
11″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 256GB £1,109.00
11″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 512GB £1,139.00
11″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 512GB £1,219.00
11″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 512GB £1,269.00
11″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 512GB £1,349.00
13″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 128GB £849.00
13″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 128GB £929.00
13″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 128GB £969.00
13″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 128GB £1,049.00
13″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 256GB £999.00
13″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 256GB £1,079.00
13″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 256GB £1,129.00
13″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 256GB £1,209.00
13″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 512GB £1,239.00
13″ 1.4GHz i5 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 512GB £1,319.00
13″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 4GB 512GB £1,369.00
13″ 1.7GHz i7 (4th Gen) WiFi only 8GB 512GB £1,449.00

Again we can see that the Apple Macbook Air computers are much cheaper than the comparable Surface Pro 3 whether you choose the 11″ or 13″ screen. The processors on both the Microsoft and Apple devices are intel 4th generation so support the latest on-board graphics and give very good power to energy efficiency ratios. They all support the latest wireless technologies and they both have very good battery life but this is where the similarities start to end.

The surface has a much higher resolution than either Macbook Air, has a 2 year warranty and is much lighter, if you want to go even lighter you can detach the keyboard too.

So you can save money by going for an iPad Air or a Macbook Air (even though they are not 100% comparable to the Surface Pro 3 devices), but if you need to have both an iPad AND a laptop suddenly the Surface Pro3 becomes cheaper as it can be both of your devices in one model and has the added benefit of having the data on one device with no sharing. I do need to point out that the Windows 8 App store does not have the same breadth of applications that the Apple does but as it is a PC this does not matter as much if you have a standard windows application that performs the same task.

MS Pen

The final point that I will make out is that the Surface Pro 3 comes with a “Pen” (it’s a stylus but MS call it a Pen). This is integrated with MS OneNote on the Surface, click the top button on the pen and MS OneNOte launches, if the screen is off and the device is in sleep mode it will wake up, turn on the screen and open OneNote. The built-in digitiser works really well with the pen and the possibility to create hand written notes is no longer a poorly executed nice try but is almost a killer feature – I could see me using this in work meetings. If you watch the MS Surface Launch event for the Surface 3 they shown even more ways to use the pen.

You can watch the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Launch Event (recorded at NYC May 20, 2014) here: