At its third attempt in the PC/tablet arena, Microsoft finally hits bulls’ eye. As always, Microsoft has been slow getting into the tablet market. When it finally did, with Windows 8 and Steve Ballmer as CEO, it missed the boat hard and had to backtrack. Following the arrival of Satya Nadella as new CEO, Microsoft is coming back into the race. The new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is one of the nicest PC replacement pieces of hardware available today.
Anyone who wants to stay with Microsoft Windows and does not want to learn and migrate to Samsung Android devices or Apple iOS products, to take advantage of the latest technologies, should seriously consider the new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 as a PC replacement machine. Here are the Surface Pro 3 characteristics:
- It is one of the smallest and lightest 12” Windows PC/Tablet available today. Its 12 inch monitor is large and clear enough for serious computing.
- It is a light combination PC/Tablet with a small footprint. This means you can easily carry it everywhere you go or work everywhere you want to work or play: at a desk, on a couch, on the kitchen counter, on the bus, on the plane…
- Available is an attached keyboard that also serves as a cover to protect the screen. This means that it transforms your tablet into a PC that weights just a little more than 2 pounds, which is one of the lightest in the industry.
- It uses 4th generation Intel processors and circuit memory to provide ample PC powers to meet your requirements. I will guide you as to the configuration to buy for a powerful combination as a PC replacement.
- It supports the use of a pen for annotations, notes and handwriting. This can be very useful to eliminate the need for paper notes and sign digitized documents.
- It looks good if you pick the right colors.
Surface Pro 3 as a Tablet
Surface Pro 3 as a laptop PC
Who should buy a Surface Pro 3?
Corporations that use PCs operating under Windows as their corporate platform are the prime candidates. I will repeat myself again: the largest investment everyone makes in computing technologies is the time to learn how to effectively use these technologies. Therefore, a corporation that has fully trained personnel on Windows PC’s should not consider going to any other technology, the last of which Apple which, in my opinion, is the furthest away from Microsoft Windows and therefore requiring the most retraining.
A bit of history:
- The original iPad running iOS was released on April 3, 2010.
- The Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet running Android was released September 2, 2010.
- Windows 8 was released to the general public on October 26, 2012.
- Windows 8.1 was released to the general public on October 17, 2013.
- The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 was released June 20, 2014.
As we can see, it took 3 to 4 years for Microsoft to come up with a viable offering to effectively compete with Apple and Samsung. But that’s water under the bridge. As of today, even though some corporations have started to support iPads or other tablets, if I was the CEO of a corporation that has been running under Windows for years, I would not hesitate, for business reasons, to make the Windows 8.1 tablets a corporate standard. As CIO, the investments that the corporation has in computer security alone would most probably financially justify such decision. Donating the iPads that were bought up to now to schools would also be a good corporate gesture for me to do.
Microsoft Windows business users
Many individuals have been using Microsoft Windows for years to run their business or need to work on Windows computer every day, at the office and/or at home, for their professional, business or personal requirements. These people tend to keep up with the latest versions of Windows and supporting hardware. They often have a desktop computer at home and a laptop for the road. These individuals are prime candidates for the Surface Pro 3. These users need to buy a powerful Surface Pro 3 configuration as proposed below.
Microsoft Windows legacy users
A lot of people have learned to use Microsoft Windows, have been using it for many years, and are still using their PC for ALL their computing needs. They may have a smartphone but often use it only as a cell phone. Many of these individuals have been reluctant to move from Windows XP or 7, to the newer versions of Windows. Many hate when Microsoft comes up with a new Windows version and would prefer not to have to adapt. In other words, they are not trend setters. They keep their older computers for years and don’t want to spend too much on computer hardware. These users should to buy the low cost Surface Pro 3 configuration highlighted later.
Which Surface Pro 3 should you buy?
The Surface Pro 3 comes in 5 versions, from a low cost low end tablet to a powerful high end tablet/PC.
NOTE: if you are not familiar with a computer components and their relative importance, please read the following article by clicking on the following hyperlink: 04.1–What is a computer?-2012/01/16
Surface Pro 3 hardware configurations
Below are the five different Surface Pro 3 configurations with the prices and the CPU benchmark results, which indicate the computing power of the Intel chip.
As you will learn in article 04.1–What is a computer?-2012/01/16, the most important factors in determining the total power of a computer running Windows is: the power of the CPU, the amount of RAM main memory, the speed of the memory, the speed of auxiliary memory access and the width of the channel. In this case, the last two elements are the same for all configurations. The graphic card power becomes important if you play games or watch lots of movies or similar intensive use of the graphics.
For the above reasons, the best price/performance configuration, that I recommend for daily users that want good performance a reasonable price, is the U$1,299 – 8 GB RAM memory / 256GB/Intel i5 version / 4th generation Intel Core i5-4300U 1.90 GHz (3,770 CPU Mark) with Intel HD Graphics 4400. The budget minded user would choose the U$999 configuration. The very basic configuration is not worth the price in my opinion. The U$700 difference for the most powerful configuration is a lot of money for the difference in expected throughput, in my opinion.
- Very basic: U$799 – 4 GB RAM memory / 64 GB / Intel i3 4th generation Intel Core i3-4020Y 1.50 GHz (2,257 CPU Mark) with Intel HD Graphics 4200.
- Basic: U$999 – 4 GB RAM memory / 128 GB / Intel i5 4th generation Intel Core i5-4300U 1.90 GHz (3,770 CPU Mark) with Intel HD Graphics 4400
- Best price performance: U$1,299 – 8 GB RAM memory / 256 GB/Intel i5 4th generation Intel Core i5-4300U 1.90 GHz (3,770 CPU Mark) with Intel HD Graphics 4400
- Faster processor & graphic card: U$1,599 – 8 GB RAM memory / 256 GB / Intel i7 4th generation Intel Core i7-4650U 1.70 GHz (4,195 CPU Mark) with Intel HD Graphics 5000
- Faster processor & graphic card, plus largest auxiliary memory: U$1,949 – 8 GB RAM memory / 512 GB / Intel i7 4th generation Intel Core i7-4650U 1.70 GHz (4,195 CPU Mark) with Intel HD Graphics 5000
NOTE: 256 GB of auxiliary circuit memory (replacing a hard drive) is quite reasonable in terms of space and should meet most users’ requirements. More so, if you use the Cloud as auxiliary storage and an external hard drive for backups. You can also add 64 GB with a micro SD card, plus use USB flash drives that connect into the USB 3 port. As an example: even though I store all my working files locally, including quite a bit of photos and music, I currently am using a total of only 150 GB, out of the 209 GB of usable space with a 256 GB circuit memory board: half for my files and half for system’s files (Windows operating system’s files, programs & utilities).
- The Surface Pro 3 comes with the pen: a very powerful tool!
- The Surface Pro 3 Type Cover with keyboard, for U$129.99, needs to be purchased for using the Surface Pro 3 as a PC replacement, doing any amount a business type work or any serious typing. It is also useful to protect the Surface Pro 3 screen while carrying it around. You have a choice of 5 colors.
- The Surface Pro 3 Docking Station, for U$199.99, can be useful if you plan to use you Surface Pro 3 as a desktop replacement PC and/or connect several devices that require more ports (USB or others) then available on the Surface Pro 3. Remember, the Surface Pro 3 comes with the following ports: Full-size USB 3.0 + microSD card reader + Headphone jack + Mini DisplayPort + Cover port + Charging port. Personally, I would buy a Sabent 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub for $14.99 0n Amazon to convert my USB 3 port into four USB 3.0 ports and connect all my devices (printer, Ethernet entry, mouse,…) to such hub.
- A Bluetooth Microsoft mouse or USB mouse.
- A large monitor. If you plan to use your Surface Pro 3 as a desktop and/or laptop replacement, the use of an additional large monitor is very useful, in my case indispensable, for any serious work where you use several open windows simultaneously. Use one of the large monitor you already have or buy a good quality 22 to 27 inches monitor. You don’t need a touch screen since you can use the Surface Pro 3 touch screen monitor or the mouse to navigate. A touch screen might not be a bad idea either if you have to buy a new monitor and can afford it.
A powerful Windows 8.1 PC replacement configuration
If you combine all the above accessories with the recommended Surface Pro 3 configuration, you will own a fairly powerful PC replacement configuration that could replace most of your current hardware. By doing so you would have:
- an easy to carry around tablet/PC with incorporated keyboard,
- a replacement for your desktop and/or laptop PCs at home and/or at work,
- a travel full function tablet/PC to work in airports and hotels,
- one operating system to deal with: Windows 8.1.
I personally have done such a move a year ago when I purchased my Samsung ATIV 6 laptop. Read the following article to learn more: 11.5 – Powerful/Portable 2014 Windows 8.1 Personal Computing Environment-Updated-2013-12-15. I have since replaced two desktops and one laptop with this powerful Windows 8.1 Samsung ATIV laptop. If the Microsoft Surface Pro had been available at that time, with what I know today, I would have seriously considered purchasing a Surface Pro 3 instead of the ATIV 6 with circuit memory.
The power of new Intel chips that generate little heat, compared with those available just a few years ago, has made possible the manufacturing of the powerful tablet size PCs that are now available. Why not take advantage of the latest technology developments to renew your personal computing environment with new products such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Go visit a BestBuy store in which most large hardware manufacturers have exhibits of their latest products to see what’s available. I went to one last week (October 2014) and was impressed by the variety and the quality of the available hardware.
Just off the press, as of November 6, 2014: one of the first Windows Ultrabook tablet/PC, using the latest low power consumption Intel Broadwell processor, has just been released. It is the new Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. Its configuration includes: 8 GB RAM memory / 256 GB of auxiliary circuit memory/Intel Core M 5Y70 1.10 GHz (CPU Mark not available yet) with Intel HD Graphics 5300 / 13.3 inch display. It is very thin at ½ inch and weighs 2.6 pounds, including the attached keyboard. Not having benchmark data we cannot compare performance, but it will surely be one of the many Surface Pro 3 direct competitor. NOTE: I have since been able to compare power and prices and the Surface Pro 3 recommended above is a better buy.