Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Surface Pro 3

This third attempt at a “professional” Surface model is vastly improved over previous attempts. The biggest thing of note is the display: it’s now twelve inches but, more importantly, is presented at a 3:2 aspect ratio, not 16:9. That means a lot of extra working space and, critically, something to distinguish it from the standard Surface.

It’s also a high-resolution, touch-sensitive display that includes a stylus, so you can write on it. For those who use OneNote and really like writing with their hand, this is probably going to be great, but I don’t think that’s the killer application of this feature. Microsoft announced that Adobe is working on an optimized version of Photoshop CC for the Surface, so that’s something to look forward to.

I think the Surface makes a lot more sense if you think of it as a laptop with a detachable keyboard and a touchscreen. Microsoft certainly sees it that way — they compared it throughout their webcast to the MacBook Air,1 and even left one onstage for the majority of the presentation.2

But this iteration seems to have many of the same problems as the original Surface Pro did a year ago: it’s not really a laptop, insomuch as all of the weight is behind the display, so, despite the changes to the kickstand and covers, it’s still not great on your lap. And it still (unbelievably) doesn’t come with Office, unlike the “junior” Surface.

  1. The webcast keeps cutting out for me and it’s like watching a supercut of buzzwords. ↩︎

  2. Weird webcast, too. Panos Panay is a solid presenter, but he spent a full minute in a self-deprecating bit about how he and his wife are terrible parents (his words, not mine). Lots of banter with Joanna Stern, too, even giving her a Surface to hold onto and use during the presentation. But there was an awkward bit near the end of the presentation where the Surface Panay was using was supposed to sync with Stern’s, and they cut to a shot of her shaking her head and mouthing “I don’t have anything”. Smooth. ↩︎