Redmond rumble: Microsoft’s Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 go head-to-head

surface
Microsoft Press
Despite the losses the it incurred at first, Microsoft is dedicated to forwarding the Surface line, with the Surface Pro 3 in early 2014, and the new Surface 3 for early 2015. The former is an upgraded version of the old convertible laptop and tablet that runs full Windows 8.1; the latter is the successor to the Surface 2 and Surface RT, devices that previously ran Windows RT, but with the third version, has upgraded to Windows 8.1 as well.

Their form factors may be similar, but their performance and specs are quite different. If you can’t decide which is the right one for you, this is a great place to start.

Microsoft Surface 3

Microsoft Surface 3 hero

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Size 10.52 x 7.36 x .34 (in) 11.5 x 7.93 x .36 (in)
Weight 1.37 lbs 1.76 lbs
Screen 10.8-inch multitouch 12-inch multitouch
Resolution 1920 x 1280 pixels 2160 x 1440 pixels
OS Windows 8.1 Windows 8.1
Storage 64/128GB 64/128/256/512GB
SD Card Slot MicroSD MicroSD
Processor Quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 Intel Core i3/i5/i7
Base/Turbo clock 1.6/2.4GHz 1.5/1.9/1.7GHz
RAM 2/4GB 4/8GB
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi, LTE (optional) 802.11ac Wi-Fi, LTE (optional)
Camera Front 3.5MP, Rear 8.0MP 5MP front and rear
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.0 Yes, version 4.0
Sensors Ambient light, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer Ambient light, accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer
Ports USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm headset USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm headset
Battery 10 hours quoted 9 hours quoted
Charger Micro USB Proprietary
Marketplace Windows Store Windows Store
Ave. Price $500 $800
DT Review 3.5 out of 5 stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

Design

They’re both from the same family, and they both have the same issues when it comes to design.

Compared to other tablets, both the Surface and Surface Pro 3 are a bit heavier, coming in at 1.37 and 1.76 lbs respectively. A lot of tablets come in at under a pound, including the iPad Air line and the Lenova Yoga Tablet 2.

Microsoft Surface 3 stand back angle

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Battery life is a bit lacking too, when you compare them to other competing tablets. The Surface 3 gets about six hours and 30 minutes on a single charge, and the Surface Pro 3 comes in around eight or nine hours. That’s pretty decent for a laptop, but we’ve come to expect our tablets to take us a bit further before running out of juice.

Winner: Tie

Performance

Performance is still a bit lacking, and especially on the Surface 3, multi-tasking can drag the system down. When you compare it to other notebooks in its price range, like the Asus T300 Chi, the Surface 3 lags way behind in terms of raw speed and power. You’ll want to make sure to get the version of the Surface 3 with four gigabytes of RAM if that’s the device you’re leaning towards, as two gigabytes really isn’t enough for Windows 8.1.

Microsoft SURFACE Pro 3 front angle

The Surface Pro 3 is a bit speedier than the regular Surface 3, but it still doesn’t quite match the performance of a dedicated laptop. Multi-tasking is much improved. 3D games, on the other hand, remain too much for the Pro to handle.

Winner: Surface Pro 3

Display

Beautiful displays are a strength of the third generation of Surface devices. The Surface 3’s screen is a 10.8″ 1920×1280 display, which gives it a decent pixel density of 213 ppi. It’s bright though, and has accurate color representation that makes it really enjoyable to use as a laptop.

Microsoft Surface 3 screen detail

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Surface Pro 3’s 12″ display has an even higher resolution of 2,160 x 1,440, putting it at 216 ppi, just slightly higher than the 3. Both devices have a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Multi-touch support is essential on the Surface and Surface Pro 3, since the tablet functionality is a big part of the appeal. The stylus available for both devices is a highlight, with 256 levels of sensitivity and handwriting recognition.

Microsoft SURFACE Pro 3 stylus cap

Winner: Tie

Price

For both the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 devices, price is a big sticking point. the Surface 3 starts at $500, but we highly recommend the upgrade to the $600 version with twice the RAM and storage. The Pro version starts at $800, but the step up to an Intel Core i5 with more RAM and storage can easily get you over $1000. That’s not a particularly steep price, but the extras are going to cost you.

The most standout feature of the Surface line is the ability to attach a keyboard and use it as a laptop, but in order to do so, you need to buy the keyboard. Regardless of which version you go with, the keyboard is going to run you $130. It acts as a cover too, but that doesn’t warrant such a high price tag.

Winner: Surface 3

Conclusion

Ultimately, the scalability of these systems means that your needs are going to determine which you go with. However, both systems suffer from similar issues – lackluster performance and short battery life. Unless the convertible form factor and the convenience of only carrying around one device is really important to you, neither device warrants the high price tag.

Microsoft Surface 3 main front

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

That’s why the Surface 3 comes away with the win. Even when you upgrade the internals and pick up a keyboard case, it’s about the same price as a lower-end laptop and a budget Android tablet. The Surface Pro 3’s price point is just too high. For what you pay, you could easily buy a decent laptop and an iPad.

Winner: Surface 3

Product Review

Mediocre battery and a big notch slight Google's otherwise perfect Pixel phone

Google’s Pixel 3 XL has two big flaws: The gigantic notch on the front, and mediocre battery life. That being said, this is the best Android experience you can find in a smartphone today.
Mobile

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are now available for purchase

Google's latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are now official and we have all the details from the October 9 event in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Product Review

Google’s Pixel 3 is a hair away from pocket-sized perfection

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is the best Android phone you can buy. It doesn’t have the best looks or the best hardware, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better software and unique A.I. functionalities.
Computing

Is the new Surface Pro 6 worth the extra money or is the Surface Go good enough?

Each of Microsoft’s Surface devices are great, but with the recent addition of the Surface Pro 6, you might be wondering how it stacks up against the Surface Go. In this comparison piece, we’ve put the two devices up against each other…
Computing

Google Chrome 70 is finally getting a picture-in-picture mode

Picture-in-picture mode is finally coming to Google Chrome 70 on Mac, Linux, and Windows. The feature not only applies to YouTube but also any other website where developers have chosen to implement it.
Computing

Intel's 9th-gen chips could power your next rig. Here's what you need to know

The Intel Core i9-9900K processor was the star of the show for consumers, but a powerful 28-core Xeon processor also led announcements. Here's everything you need to know about the latest Intel chipsets.
Computing

Despite serious security flaws, D-Link will (again) not patch some routers

D-Link revealed that it won't patch six router models despite warnings raised by a security researcher. The manufacturer, for the second time in a span of about a year, cited end-of-life policies for its decision to not act.
Computing

Core i9s and Threadrippers are all powerful, but should you go AMD or Intel?

The battle for the top prosumer CPUs in the world is on. In this head to head, we pit the Core i9 versus the Threadripper to see which is the best when it comes to maximizing multi-core performance on a single chip.
Computing

Apple’s latest feature ensures MacOS apps are safer than ever

MacOS is mythically known for being more immune to viruses than Windows, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to make it safer. Apple is using an app notarization feature to protect users from downloading malicious apps.
Computing

There’s now proof that quantum computing is superior to the classical variety

For the first time in computer science history, researchers have tangibly demonstrated how a quantum computer is better than a classical computer. A quantum computer was able to solve a math problem that a classical PC cannot.
Computing

In 2018, the rivalry between AMD and Intel has become more interesting than ever

When it comes to selecting a CPU for your PC, there's no shortage of chips for you to choose from. With Ryzen, Threadripper, and Core i9 CPUs though, the AMD vs. Intel argument is muddier than ever.
Computing

Will Apple introduce a new MacBook at its Oct. 30 event? Here's everything we know

Whether it's called the MacBook Air or just the MacBook, Apple is highly rumored to introduce a new, affordable laptop in 2018. We discuss reports about upgrading displays, processors, sign-in features, and more.
Computing

Apple CEO demands Bloomberg retract its Chinese surveillance story

Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling on Bloomberg to retract a story alleging that Apple had purchased compromised servers that allowed the Chinese government to spy on Apple. Apple's investigation found no truth to the story.
Product Review

Dell’s G3 Gaming laptop knows what gamers want, and what they can live without

Compromise and budget gaming laptops go hand-in-hand, but with the G3, Dell has figured out how to balance what gamers want with what they can live without.