Wednesday 22 October 2014

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 touches down in Ireland

Published 21/08/2014 | 02:30

Ahead of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 landing in Irish shops next week, The Irish Independent has been given early access to the device. Our initial conclusion is that this is a very attractive machine but one that may still be struggling to find its true niche.

The Surface Pro 3's main calling card is that it is a tablet and laptop in one. The latter function is crucial, as the promise of tablets in the business world has simply not materialised: how often do you default to a tablet as your primary business computer?

In this regard, the Surface Pro 3 has made a couple of changes to its predecessor device.

First, it is bigger. Despite being lighter and thinner than its 10.6-inch predecessor, the 12-inch Surface Pro 3 is actually a third bigger than the Surface Pro 2. That is designed to make standard office tasks more palatable on a regular basis. Microsoft also says that it makes the gadget "more like an A4 sheet of paper" so that users might be inclined to use its magnetic pen to write on it.

This is a shaky hope, in our view. Nevertheless, the technology itself works very well, and integration with OneNote, in particular, is excellent.

The machine has a new standard keyboard (purchased separately for over €100) which is backlit, comes in a number of colours and performs very well. Its stand has also been modified to allow much more flexibility than the Surface Pro 2 or 1.

For those who intend to use it as a main computer, the Surface Pro 3 has a docking station available (for €205) that adds on several USB 3 ports and a gigabit ethernet port. And you can most certainly use this as a main computer: its configuration starts at an Intel i3 processor and 4GB of Ram but rises to an i7 processor, 8GB of Ram and 512GB of storage. That is more powerful than 90pc of laptops out there.

There are also no software limitations compared to other laptops, with Windows 8.1 allowing the exact same functionality as any other machine.

For non-work use, the Surface Pro 3 is superb for multimedia, as long as you do not need to rely on as many apps as you might with an iPad or an Android tablet: Microsoft is still a distant third on this score.

The Surface Pro 3 is unquestionably impressive. It is rightly emphasising its laptop credentials to a business community. The only real question surrounding it is over why it persists with the tablet functionality? The touchscreen functionality, while flawless, is not something business users look for. And there is very little evidence that they are changing their habits.

If you like the sound of a high-end tablet fused with a very slick, light, powerful laptop, the Surface Pro 3 will take some beating. If you can't see a tablet forming part of your crucial business operations, this is still a nice machine but starts to look pricey against some light laptop rivals.

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