Microsoft unveiled the third generation of its Surface tablet line, focusing on productivity as a differentiator from Apple’s market-leading iPad line, and billing it as “the tablet that can replace your laptop”.
While there had been speculation that the company would offer a smaller device in the line, in fact it has gone the other way, increasing the screen size to 12-inches diagonally.
Unveiling the Surface Pro 3, Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate VP with responsibility for Surface, said that this was ““critical if we want to help people do more.”
The core premise is that owners of current tablets are also by-and-large laptop owners, due to the fact that tablets are essentially designed from a content consumption standpoint. But offering a device that straddles both categories is a challenge, with Panay noting that “it’s not that simple, or else it would have been done already”.
The company has worked to keep the form factor in check: it weighs 800 grams to keep it in-line with previous Surface devices, and at 9.1 millimetres is said to be the “thinnest Intel Core product ever made”.
Much was made of the stylus support, a feature which has previously been something of a differentiator for Samsung’s Note-brand product line. Microsoft has made some enhancements to make the experience closer to that of a traditional pen, including offering a more realistic feel, and a “palmblock” feature which enables users to rest on the screen while writing.
It also supports features such as the tablet waking or saving notes to the cloud when the pen button is clicked. Close integration with Microsoft’s OneNote app was also positioned as a significant selling point, enabling images and documents to be captured, annotated and synchronised across devices.
Surface Pro 3 also has a redesigned “continuous” kick-stand, which in addition to supporting a standard tablet-viewing mode, can be used to hold it at various angles closer to horizontal. The keypad cover has also been redesigned with an improved trackpad, and it features a new attaching mechanism which makes it feel more solid when used on a lap, akin to a laptop – “the stability is unbelievable”, Panay said.
Surface Pro 3 will be available for pre-order from tomorrow, initially in the US and Canada, with prices starting at $799. It will be available in multiple configurations, with Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors, 64GB to 512GB of storage, and 4GB or 8GB of RAM.
By the end of August, the device and accessories will be available in 26 additional markets across Europe and Asia.
While $799 is a competitive price for the basic model, for more capable products with all of the supporting accessories necessary to meet Microsoft’s claims of being a true laptop replacement, it is likely to be a costly alternative.
The top-end Surface Pro 3 with Core i7 processor, 512GB of ROM and 8GB of RAM costs $1,949, plus $129.99 for a type cover and $199.99 for a docking station – a not inconsiderable $2279.