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Review: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 will bite Apple where it counts

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On Friday, the Surface Pro 3 arrived at Microsoft and Best Buy stores all over the nation. In most cases, it is a device that has greatly improved on the already excellent Surface Pro 2. Most importantly, the Surface Pro 3 is a game changer for Microsoft, who now has a device that will cut into Apple's profits. The unit comes in different flavors, but we are going to specifically review the mid-range unit that has an Intel i5 processor with 128GB of internal memory.

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LA Gadgets Examiner Rating: A-

Basic Specs

  • 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches (292 x 201 x 9 mm)
  • 1.7 pounds (without Type Cover)
  • 12-inch 3:2 aspect ratio IPS display with 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution
  • 4GB RAM, 128GB internal memory, microSD card slot for up to 128GB extra memory
  • Intel Core i5 processor (1.9GHz with Turbo Burst up to 2.9GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • Windows 8.1 64-Bit operating system
  • One USB-3 port, one micro-HDMI port

Build and design

Microsoft deserves an award for building such a powerful system behind such a thin device. The Surface Pro 3 isn't as thin as--let's say--the iPad Air, but that's perfectly okay given what's behind the glass. The best thing that can be said about the build of the Surface Pro 3 is that it actually feels like a tablet when detached from the Type Cover. The Surface Pro 2 felt like a heavy slab of a brick.

The "Home" button, which was put on the side instead of at the bottom, is definitely a distraction in that it is easy to accidentally press, especially when using OneNote. You can always turn the unit in a different direction, but you shouldn't have to. We love the new kickstand, which is flexible and can be set to tilt as much or as little as you want.

The hidden stereo speakers, which we already liked on the Surface Pro 2, are even louder and richer in sound on the Surface Pro 3. They won't replace your Bose home theater system, but are perfect for watching movies and showing off multimedia clips to friends or coworkers.

Screen

Microsoft hits a near home run with the Surface Pro 3 screen. The 3:2 aspect ratio of the screen provides the perfect balance between taking notes in Portrait mode and watching movies in Landscape mode. The iPad's 4:3 aspect ratio is too wide and the Surface Pro 2's 16:9 aspect ratio is too narrow. You can bet that--at least after the success of the Surface Pro 3--most tablet screens will have a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Besides improving the color saturation and contrast levels from the Surface Pro 2, the Surface Pro 3 increases it's resolution to 2160 x 1440. That's 216 pixels-per-inch and even though it is impressive, it doesn't compare to the MacBook Pro 13" Retina's 2560 x 1600 (227 ppi) screen. Still, most consumers (at least the ones who are not pixel-obsessed) won't notice the difference.

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