Third time’s the charm with Microsoft’s Surface

Michael Lasky

Is the Surface tablet the best platform for Windows 8? Or is Win8.1 the ideal platform for a powerful and fully functional tablet?

This chicken-or-egg question came to mind while I was reviewing the new Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3. And the answer to both questions is — yes!

On the third try, MS gets its tablet right

Anyone who has worked with Microsoft products for a long time knows the old saw: It takes the company three tries to get it right. That would certainly seem to apply to the Surface tablets, which got off to a very slow and rough start. If you still own an original Surface, my condolences.

The second-generation Surface tablets were an improvement but still failed to gain widespread acceptance. But on its third try, Microsoft might have finally gotten a Windows-based tablet right. The Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 still have a few glitches, but they should please many Windows users. I found both devices to be fluid and functional — and I say that as an unrepentant Windows 8 critic of long standing.

Microsoft boasts that the third-generation Surface is “the tablet that can replace your laptop.” Both models make excellent tablets, but replacing a notebook is a harder sell — especially the Surface 3, which has only a 10.8-inch HD display and a maximum storage of 128GB. The Surface Pro 3 sports a 12-inch HD display and up to 512GB of storage.

Starting prices for the Surface 3 are U.S. $499, and $799 for the Pro version. But a laptop replacement needs a physical keyboard. Adding Microsoft’s optional Surface 3 Type Cover, which doubles as a keyboard and screen protector, will set you back another $129.

Surface Pro 3

Figure 1. Using either model of the Surface 3 as a laptop replacement requires purchasing an optional keyboard.

One important note: Surface 3 effectively marks the end of Windows RT, the much-maligned OS that would not run classic Windows apps — causing no end of confusion for Windows-tablet buyers. The Surface 3 and Surface 3 Pro come with full editions of Windows 8.1. They’ll also run Windows 10 (no surprise there) when it’s released in late July. Previews of the new OS suggest that you’ll get an even better tablet/laptop experience once you upgrade.

Surface as tablet: More than iPad with Windows

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2015-06-03:

Michael Lasky

About Michael Lasky

WS contributing editor Michael Lasky is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California, who has 20 years of computer-magazine experience, most recently as senior editor at PC World.