I haven’t had my hands on Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3 (announced yesterday) just yet, so I’m going to reserve judgement for now. I am also going to suggest a number of things to think about before you decide to buy it.(The Surface Pro can be pre-ordered today, and will actually be on sale June 20.)
First and foremost, do not buy the Surface Pro 3 online. It’s a pricey device that’s so different than anything you’re used to, you need to get your hands on it before you purchase. It will be available at Best Buy and at Microsoft’s stores, so head down to one and keep your credit card in your wallet for a bit.
Try typing with the optional keyboard. Microsoft says the Surface Pro 3 is “the tablet that can replace a laptop.” Fine. What do most people do on a laptop that they don’t do nearly as much of on a tablet? Type, of course. You have to pay $130 extra for the keyboard (which doubles as a cover) that’s made for the Surface Pro 3. If you like it and don’t mind paying for it, that’s a point in favor of buying it. If you don’t like it, that’s a problem. You could, of course, buy a keyboard from another company. It wouldn’t dock in the same way Microsoft’s keyboard does, but it might be OK. Still you wouldn’t know if you like it until you bought it and paid for it with the Surface Pro 3.
Put it on your lap. One of the more interesting developments in Surfaceland is Microsoft’s decision to equip the tablets with some very powerful processors, including the top-of-the-line, fourth-generation i7 – you can also buy units with the cheaper i3 and i5 chips. But these processors, particularly the i7, generate a fair amount of heat. I’m sure Microsoft and Intel, the maker of the processors, have given this some thought, but there are laptops out there that get so warm you don’t want them on your lap for very long. So go off in a corner of the store, if you can, and mess with the new Surface Pro 3 for a bit to see how warm it gets. If you’re comfortable, that’s another point in favor of buying the Surface Pro 3.
Remember, it comes with Windows 8.1. If you’ve already decided (as many people have) that you don’t want to use Windows 8.1, stop reading right now, because the Surface Pro 3 ships with this OS. Assuming the demo models on the shelves are usable, pick one up and see what Windows 8.1 is all about. I don’t like it, but you might.
Think about price. This pup isn’t cheap; it starts at $799 for a model with 64GB of storage space, 4GB of system RAM and an Intel Core i3 processor. As you move up to the faster processors and add RAM and storage the price goes up, of course. If you opt for the i7, which comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid state storage you’re going to spend $1549 – plus tax. You could also just buy a Windows laptop with a beefier configuration. But, of course, they weigh more and are bulkier.
Wait just a bit. New devices sometimes ship with hair-raising bugs that require software patches. And sometimes serious hardware glitches emerge. Give it a month or so; by then reviewers will have had a chance to put the Surface Pro 3 through the paces, and any obvious bugs or flaws should have, well, surfaced.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.