Microsoft’s trying to change the conversation about tablets versus PCs with its new Surface 3 Pro, an extra-large tablet that’s designed to be a true laptop replacement.
Designer Panos Panay noted that three years ago everyone expected tablets to replace laptops. That hasn’t happened because people still need laptops to get work done. He said 96 percent of iPad users also own a laptop, and noted that nearly all the reporters gathered at Microsoft’s New York press conference were using laptops.
The device’s signature hinge is now variable, so it can be tilted farther back, and the snap-on keyboard/cover now has a stronger magnet that more firmly locks onto the tablet when using it on a lap.
The Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch diagonal screen, weighs 1.76 pounds and is 0.36 inches thick. It runs on fourth-generation Intel Core processors, from models i3 to i7. Panay said incorporating the high-end i7 into a thin tablet was the product of a “technical love affair,” even though the two companies have had a rocky relationship in recent years.
Microsoft will begin selling pre-orders of the Surface 3 Pro on Wednesday at prices ranging from $799 to $1,949. Storage ranges from 64 gigabytes to 512 gigabytes. The new Type cover costs $130 and a docking station is $200.
Surprisingly for an enterprise-grade device, LTE wireless capability is not listed in the specifications. Microsoft has taken awhile to add LTE to its devices even though users increasingly expect it to be a built-in capability, especially now that wireless carriers offer plans with pooled data limits that encourage the use of multiple devices. The first Surface was released in 2012 but models with built-in LTE weren’t available until this last March.
Chief Executive Satya Nadella said the company isn’t trying to compete with PC makers with its own devices.
“In fact our goal is to create new categories and spark new demand for our entire ecosystem,” he said.
Perhaps that’s why the company went large rather than small with the Surface. It was expected to announce a tablet with a screen in the 7 to 8 inch range similar to Apple’s iPad mini, but that category is being covered well by PC makers such as Dell, which offers an 8-inch Windows tablet for around $250.
A smaller device is also less useful for work, especially if you need multiple windows open at once.
To demonstrate the Surface 3 Pro’s power, Microsoft brought Adobe on stage to show a new version of Photoshop running on the tablet.
Panay highlighted the weight of the new tablet by showing that it’s lighter than both an Apple laptop and iPad.
Here are tech specs as provided by Microsoft:
4th-generation Intel® Core(TM) i5-4300U (1.6 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost up to 2.90 GHz) with Intel® HD Graphics 4400
4th-generation Intel® Core(TM) i3/i5/i7 Processor