Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 Comes Close, But Can't Win Over Its Critics

Microsoft's latest Surface tablet may be its best device yet, but it still doesn't compare to Apple's Macbook Air.

Jun 28, 2014 at 5:32PM

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface Pro 3 is a dramatic improvement over its prior Surface Pro models -- unfortunately, that's still not good enough. Although critics generally agree that Microsoft continues to make great strides in improving the laptop/tablet hybrid form-factor, most believe that the Surface Pro 3 still comes up short.

To make matters worse, Microsoft's decision to market the device as a direct alternative to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Macbook Air seems to have only exacerbated the problem.

Microsoft continues to iterate on its vision
Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 embodies, better than any other device, Microsoft's vision for personal computing. With a 12-inch touch-screen and optional keyboard that doubles as a protective cover, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 may be the first device that can truly claim to double as both a laptop and a tablet, and make use of the hybrid nature of Windows 8.

The Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 also tried to accomplish this feat, but were hamstrung by a number of limitations. Although they were capable of running just about any piece of software written for Microsoft's Windows operating system, they weren't ideal tablets -- too thick and too heavy, with bad battery life and few mobile apps. They didn't make for the best laptops, either, as their 10.6-inch wide screens were too small for productive work, and their kickstands required the use of a solid surface like a table or desk.

Microsoft's latest Surface Pro fixes many of these problems, with a larger display, thinner and lighter design, and better kickstand. Reviewers have almost unanimously praised these improvements.

"Writing on the Surface Pro 3 [is] easy," wrote the LA Times' Salvador Rodriguez. "[It] was more comfortable to use on my lap than any laptop I've tried."

PCWorld's Mark Hachman is a fan of the new form factor, claiming that the "slimmed-down Surface Pro 3 feels like a proper modern-day tablet."

Too many trade-offs
But in spite of the improvements, many reviewers remain wary of recommending the device, particularly when compared to Apple's Macbook Air. Microsoft itself is responsible for the comparison, going so far as to offer owners of Apple's laptop credit toward a Surface Pro 3 when they trade in their device.

"Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Doesn't Stand Up to MacBook Air" declared Re/code's Katherine Boehret. Although Boehret agreed that the device could, in theory, replace both a laptop and a tablet, she found it to be lacking on both fronts. As a tablet, Boehret found fault with the over-sized screen, and as a laptop, she took issue with its awkward top-heavy build and "flimsy keyboard."

AnandTech's Anand Lai Shimpi was more favorable in his review, but ultimately came to a similar conclusion, stating that he would "rather carry a good notebook and a lightweight tablet."

The New York Times' Farhad Manjoo called the Surface Pro 3's flaws "damning" and characterized the device as nearly worthless for intensive work. Rather than compare it to Apple's Macbook Air, Manjoo thought it more similar to Apple's iPad -- a much cheaper, far more portable device.

Microsoft's hardware ambitions
In so far as consumers use reviews to make gadget purchasing decisions, it doesn't appear that Microsoft's latest Surface Pro will be a runaway success. Holding the device up against what's arguably the best Ultrabook on the market, Apple's Macbook Air, hasn't resulted in many favorable comparisons.

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning, it may shock you)
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Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

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This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

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KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

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That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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