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Microsoft Surface Pro 3 vs. Surface Pro 2

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May 20, 2014

Gizmag compares the features and specs of Microsoft's new (and big) Surface Pro 3 with the...

Gizmag compares the features and specs of Microsoft's new (and big) Surface Pro 3 with the Surface Pro 2

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Here we are just eight months after the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 hit store shelves, and, what do you know, we're looking at yet another new model. Let's see how the features and specs of the Surface Pro 3 compare to those of the Surface Pro 2.

Desktop apps

Unlike the Surface RT and Surface 2, both devices run Windows desktop apps

Just to be crystal clear, both of these devices run full Windows, including legacy desktop apps. It's the Windows RT-running Surface RT and Surface 2 that skip the desktop and lock you into the Windows Store.

Speaking of those RT-running devices, I'm not sure if they have much of a future: Microsoft didn't utter a peep about Windows RT today.

Size

The Surface Pro 3 is longer and wider – but also thinner – than the Pro 2

Line these two up, and the first thing you'll notice is how much bigger the new model is. In landscape mode, the Surface Pro 3 is 16 percent taller and 6 percent wider than the Pro 2.

The first two Surface Pros were powerful machines, but they were also much beefier than what most people are going to want from a tablet. Microsoft remedied that with the new model. At 9.1 mm (0.36-in) thick, it's 33 percent thinner than the old model.

The Surface Pro 3's bigger face is going to be great for laptop mode. But is it too big for a tablet? We'll have to wait and see, but its size is in the same ballpark as Samsung's Galaxy Note Pro and Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 – and I wasn't crazy about using those enormous tablets.

Build

Microsoft left the Surfaces' magnesium build alone

No changes here, as we're still looking at a Magnesium build. Though I am thankful that the company dropped its cheesy "VaporMg" description of the Surfaces' magnesium alloy, in favor of the more straightforward "magnesium."

Colors

Only one color option for each Surface

Each Surface locks you into one back color: black on the Pro 2 and silver on the Pro 3.

Kickstand positions

The Pro 3 has a dynamically-adjusting kickstand, compared to the dual-position kickstand i...

The Surface Pro 2's dual-position kickstand was a big improvement over the single-position kickstand in the first Surface Pro. The Pro 3 looks like it's going to improve even more in that area, as you're no longer limited by one or two fixed positions.

Weight

Despite its bigger face, the Surface Pro 3 is 12 percent lighter than the Surface Pro 2

In addition to making the new Surface thinner, Microsoft also shaved 12 percent off of the older model's weight. Considering how much bigger its face is, that's a pretty impressive upgrade from Microsoft's designers and engineers.

Display (size)

The Pro 2 gives you 72 percent as much screen real estate as the new Pro 3

The new Surface's 12-in screen is 38 percent bigger than the 10.6-incher on the Surface Pro 2. It also moves to a less oblong 3:2 aspect ratio, which should make it work better in portrait mode than the older model's 16:9.

But we also don't want to jump into a bigger-is-always-better mentality with this. That 12-in screen is going to make for one ginormous tablet – no matter which way you're holding it.

Display (resolution)

Pixel density is roughly the same in the new Surface

Microsoft's PR department is engaging in a little wordplay by bragging that the Surface Pro 3's display has "50 percent more pixels." While that is a factually accurate statement, don't forget how much bigger the Pro 3's screen is. What that amounts to is a mere 8 extra pixels per inch in the Pro 3. That probably isn't enough extra sharpness for your eyes to notice a difference.

Stylus

The new Surface Pen is upgraded over the plastic pen that comes with the old model

At the Surface Pro 3 launch event, Microsoft said that the Surface Pro 3 uses a pen, not a stylus. I'd take those marketing semantics with a few grains of salt, but I do agree that the new model's stylus is more advanced, with a more premium build, than the old plastic Surface Pen. You can also click a button on the top of the new Surface Pen to instantly open Microsoft's OneNote app. That could be a nice touch, and one that's more than a little reminiscent of Samsung's Galaxy Note series.

Processor

Microsoft is offering Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors in the new Surface

Interesting approach here. Microsoft is splitting up the Surface Pro 3's different pricing tiers by (among other things) which 4th-gen Intel Core processor you get. The entry-level model gets a Core i3, which could be a downgrade from the Core i5 found in the Pro 2. You'll have to spend an extra US$200 to jump up to a Core i5. Want a Core i7? Then you'll be throwing down at least $1,550.

RAM

Both tablets are sold in both 4 GB and 8 GB RAM options (though they're also tied to speci...

The amount of RAM you get in the Pro 3 will also depend on how much you pay. The two lowest tiers give you 4 GB of RAM, while the three highest price points bump that up to 8 GB.

Storage

Storage tiers are identical in both Surfaces

The new model's storage options (which are, of course, also price dependent) are the same as they are with the Surface Pro 2.

USB 3 port

Each Surface gives you one USB 3.0 port

No changes here, as each device gives you one USB 3.0 port.

MicroSD card slot

Both tablets have microSD cards

Nothing new here either, as the new model also has a single microSD slot.

Cellular data

None of the Surface Pros offer cellular data connectivity

Microsoft recently launched a version of the (Windows RT-running) Surface 2 that can use mobile data, but no dice for this Pro series.

Cameras

Both cameras get an upgrade in the new model

The cameras also get an upgrade in the new model. The front-facing shooter will make for some higher-res video chat, but I'm not going to get too excited about the rear camera's upgrade. Would you want to hoist an enormous slab of glass and magnesium for your next family vacation photos? Didn't think so.

Battery

We'll have to wait before having anything definitive to say about the Surface Pro 3's batt...

You never really know what battery life is going to look like until you use a device for extended periods. For what it's worth, though, Microsoft is saying the Pro 3 will see about nine hours of web use – and 10 percent longer uptimes than the Pro 2.

Software

Both tablets run Windows 8.1 Pro

Both devices run Windows 8.1 Pro.

Release

According to Microsoft, the Core i5 versions of the Surface Pro 3 will ship by June 20

At the Surface Pro 3 event, Microsoft said that the device is "launching tomorrow," but that really means pre-orders are about to start. Right now the Microsoft Store lists the Core i5 version of the Pro 3 as shipping "by June 20." If you want a Core i3 SP3, the estimate is "by August 31." Unless those are very conservative estimates, you could be looking at a one- to three-month waiting period before you can get your hands on the new model.

Starting price

The Pro 3 starts at $100 cheaper, but that includes an Intel Core i3 ... the entry-level P...

How does the new model start at a $100 lower price than the old model? Well, that's because Microsoft is throwing that lower-end Core i3 processor in the base model of the Surface Pro 3. As we mentioned earlier, a Core i5-running Pro 3 will set you back at least $1,000.

If you want to read up on the old model, you can check out our full review of the Surface Pro 2. And if you're wondering whether the world's most popular tablet can take its place, you can check out our hands-on comparison of the Surfaces to iPads with keyboard covers.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
7 Comments

12 inch is a standard LCD screen size so it was smart of MS to choose this size since they capitalize on the market volume that all laptops/hybrids etc use today in volume.

Rocky Stefano
21st May, 2014 @ 07:42 am PDT

Starting price in Canada for the cheapest Pro 3 is C$1,050.00.

If you convert US$800.00 to Canadian Dollars it should be about C$875.00 in Canada.

That's just too much of a difference.

robo
21st May, 2014 @ 10:29 am PDT

for the price and because they don't have cellular data makes these a non-starter...not to mention the fact that they use a lobotomized operating system. That's a given!

Ed
21st May, 2014 @ 11:44 am PDT

I like the Surface Pro 3 and the 12 inch display is a step in the right direction ... still need a larger display ... 17 inch would be perfect, then I'd replace my 17 inch laptop!

ecoLogics.ca
22nd May, 2014 @ 08:45 am PDT

I love my Surface Pro. I've been waiting and hoping for a thinner, lighter version with longer battery life. In my case, the size increase is a deal killer. Now I'm wondering if I should grab a Surface Pro 2 while they are still around.

Arnold Newman
22nd May, 2014 @ 12:05 pm PDT

Looks like MSN wins this round. Personally I'd spend more money and buy a new MacBookPro with all the bells and whistles and compute trouble free for at least 6+years.

wahoo
23rd May, 2014 @ 02:35 pm PDT

Got the pro 2 absolutely killed my Mac Air which is collecting dust, had continuous trouble with my Mac which I had to always bring to the repair centre and they have changed it twice and each time loosing my work. So much for reliability! The pro 2 so far has had no problems apart from little bugs which seem to be getting ironed out with updates. People who insist the windows 8 OS is bad is tongue hammering crap because they choose not to try it out or are one sided due to love of a brand. Me its what gives me value for money, experience and versatility for every day use and make no mistake the Surface Pros are for people who are looking for a all in professional experience. I believe the Pro 2 is still the one to buy due to overheating issues with the Pro3. Need to wait for the next few gen's to switch over till the new CPUs are used. The cellular options is a weak whinge people who state they need one, c'mon use your phone hotspot data why have 2 plans. Unless you don't have a mobile phone which is very unlikely.

Joe Filardi
30th August, 2014 @ 05:21 pm PDT
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