The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 has been on the market for barely several weeks, but is making a very bold statement with its unique features. The popular technology website Engadget.com published an article on July 24, 2014 about what people are saying about real world experiences with the new tablet. Marketing is often just hype, but it does appear that the Surface Pro 3 is a significant move forward for productivity. Students consume information, but more importantly, create content. A device properly aligned to the needs of students must consider both consumption and productivity. Other tablets based on the Android platform and the Apple iPad suffer from the lack of productivity options.
The Engadget.com article offers many insightful comments from users. Perhaps the most resonating comments were about writing on screen using a stylus; “The star of the show was the Surface Pro 3's pen input, which is like writing on a sheet of paper… and it’s so good for note taking that I no longer carry paper in class…” The ability to write notes is a key function for students, and the natural writing functionality of the Surface Pro 3 is undoubtedly a tremendous feature to augment learning.
The ability the write extends beyond the classic note taking function. Students write within printed text as part of active learning. Annotating, underlining, writing in margins (marginalia), shapes, diagrams, and other coding schema are integral to understanding comprehensive material. The smooth and efficient writing functionality will enable students to interact with digital text more effectively. As more and more text content, including textbooks, are being offered in digital form, the efficient writing functionality of the Surface Pro 3 becomes an essential tool for students. Few other tablets offer any kind of writing experience that one could use efficiently or for any kind of extended use.
Other user comments focused on the full version of the Windows 8 operating system, which enables users to install PC software. Users are not limited to apps. The often heard criticism that there are fewer apps available for Windows when compared to iOS is a hollow argument. Users won’t nearly as often want to use apps when they can run full versions of software. Apps are handy, fun, and sometimes very useful, but usually for very limited tasks. Apps were born of low processing power and the inability to install software. The SP3 remedies that limitation.
The option to attach a mouse to the device was also mentioned in many reader comments. The Surface Pro 3 can be used much like a laptop where peripheral devices can be added through a USB port or Bluetooth wireless connection. The flexibility of the Surface Pro 3 can meet a wide range of user input demands, as well as output to a connected printer.
While no device is perfect, or meets all needs, the Surface Pro 3 does a good job of meeting the learning needs of students in ways that no other tablet can. However, the 12 inch screen remains a compromise from traditional sized laptops that have 15 or 17 inch screens. But as most students prefer during extended periods of use, they plug in an external monitor. This is possible with the Surface Pro 3, so the small screen becomes a non-issue for some.
The biggest downside, as expected, is price. There is no getting around the price barrier. The least expensive model, which is arguably more than sufficient for most student needs, is nearly $1000 when the touch type cover is included. That’s too expensive for most students. If this device was half the price, it would possibly be selling faster than iPads in K-12 schools. There are few qualms about the device per se, but in the end, price matters. Students and schools might desire this device, but will have to compromise with lower priced device options until the price becomes more affordable.
The one thing that does seem apparent is that once students look at this device compared to all other tablet choices, they recognize the Surface Pro 3 as a device more closely aligned to their learning needs. There is no solution to the high price other than to pay it, or wait until it drops. For those who can afford the price point, they will have a great device that is much better aligned to learning needs when compared to any other tablet on the market.