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Pick up the new Microsoft Surface Pro 3, and you’ll find it hard not to think of it first as a laptop. A really cool-looking laptop, in fact, especially when you add one of the brightly colored keyboards Microsoft offers as an option. Prices for the Surface Pro 3 range from $800 for a Core i3-based model with 64GB of storage to $1,950 for a Core i7 version with 512GB of storage.
It is a tablet, of course. You can remove the keyboard and hold it on your lap. You can use the pen that Microsoft is now including, or swipe and tap on it like a tablet.
But in so many ways, it’s more like a laptop. Here’s why.
The 12-inch display is bright, crisp—and big. There’s plenty of display space for working on spreadsheets, presentations, and other jobs. The 3:2, squarish aspect ratio makes it great for looking at photos.
The Surface Pro 3 weighs in at 1.8 pounds without the keyboard (2.4 pounds with keyboard). That’s heavy for a tablet, but very light for a laptop. In fact, it weighs about the same as or less than many smaller 11-inch laptops, including the Surface Pro 2.
The Surface Pro 3 offers lots of options, and they all involve Intel Core processors. You can choose from the Core i3, i5, and i7. Putting that kind of processing power into a tablet usually means portability is sacrificed. But Microsoft did a good job here, fitting the Core processors into a device that’s just 0.3 inches thick. Microsoft says that’s the thinnest Intel Core device yet. By comparison, the Surface Pro 2, which is powered by a Core i5 processor, is 0.53 inches thick.
The Type Cover keyboard (a $130 option) is pleasant and comfortable to type on. But what sets this Surface Pro apart from prior models is the stand. The stand on the first Surface had only one position. The second had two. This one is pretty much unlimited, and that makes it easy to use this model on a desk and on your lap.
Our preliminary tests showed the Surface Pro 3 gets about 10 hours of battery life. That’s about the same battery life of the best detachable and convertible laptops.
The Surface Pro runs on Windows 8.1, so it’s the full version of Windows and allows you to run all the programs you use on any Windows computer. Unlike with the Windows RT version, however, Office is not included.
If you’re looking for a super-portable Windows laptop that you can use without a keyboard, the Surface Pro could work for you. But if you’re in the market for a true tablet experience in Windows, you should consider something smaller and lighter, like the 8-inch Acer Iconia W4-820-2466.
Look for the results of our lab tests of the Surface Pro 3 soon.