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Why the Surface Pro 3 has quietly replaced my work PC

Mark Hachman | Oct. 16, 2014
The Surface Pro 3 review unit Mark Hachman has been long-term testing delivers more compelling hardware with comparable performance, strong battery life, Windows compatibility, a good keyboard, and even better mobility.

surface pro 3

About two weeks ago, I unplugged my Lenovo ThinkPad Twist laptop and set it aside. I replaced it with the Surface Pro 3, connected my peripherals to Microsoft's docking station, and powered everything up. 

For the first time in my life, I'm working from a Windows tablet. Full time. For work and play.

Think about the significance of that. Unless you fed punch cards into a mainframe, your first experience with a computer was likely a desktop PC. Over time, you embraced notebooks--maybe reluctantly at first, but eventually with enthusiasm. We're negotiating a similar transition today, as notebooks cede ground to mobile devices as the primary computing engines of people's lives. 

So for now, I've benched my Twist. The Surface Pro 3 review unit I've been long-term testing delivers more compelling hardware with comparable performance, strong battery life, Windows compatibility, a good keyboard, and even better mobility. Microsoft's tablet ticks off all the important boxes, so I'm at a loss for any reason to switch back.

The power of a notebook, just thinner
Simply put, the Surface Pro 3 feels like a full-fledged PC, not a tablet. Connect a Bluetooth keyboard to an older tablet, and chances are you'll notice a brief but discernible delay as your keystrokes take time to register. Switching between apps can also be sluggish. But with an Intel Core i5 4300U and 8GB of memory inside it, I've never experienced anything of the sort with the Surface Pro 3, nor would I expect to.

The real surprises emerge when you use Microsoft's tablet to play games. When I "log off" at night, I can fire up Steam and play titles like Batman: Arkham City or even the Thief reboot on the Surface Pro 3 at acceptable quality levels. Sure, because of space and cooling requirements, you're never going to have a tablet that can offer all of the performance of a notebook, let alone a powerful desktop. But I've been surprised by how well the Surface Pro 3 performs as a PC gaming machine.

Could I have made this argument a year ago? Perhaps--although less convincingly. When Acer released the Iconia W3 8-inch Windows tablet in the summer of 2013, I was intrigued by its potential, but less impressed by what it actually offered at the time. Then there's Microsoft's older Surface Pro 2, which measures up much more closely to a PC, but falls slightly short in terms of battery life and the general usability of the keyboard, kickstand and display. Nonetheless, both Surfaces include a fourth-generation Core chip inside, which trumps the third-generation Core chip (the i7-3517U) inside my Twist laptop in terms of performance and battery life.

 

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