Microsoft Surface 3 Vs Surface Pro 3: What’s The Difference? – Forbes

The new Surface 3 is a great surprise. Unlike most high profile devices these days, Microsoft Microsoft got the smaller, lighter and cheaper version of its excellent Surface Pro 3 out of the door without a single leak. But given the two machines look virtually identical, what exactly are the differences between them?

Let’s break it down:

DisplayThe most obvious place to start is size. The Surface 3 has a 10.8-inch display compared to a larger 12-inch display in the Pro 3. The Pro 3 also has a higher resolution (2,160 x 1,440 vs 1920 x 1280 pixels) though the Surface 3 has still more than enough pixels to compete with most tablets and 11-inch laptops – especially in its price range (more later).

The Surface 3 also packs support for 10-point multi-touch input and the same 3:2 ‘squarer’ aspect ratio which makes the Surface Pro 3 so good for web surfing.

Surface 3 looks identical, but is smaller than the Surface Pro 3 - image credit Microsoft

Surface 3 looks identical, but is smaller than the Surface Pro 3 – image credit Microsoft

Size – With a smaller display, the Surface 3 is also smaller overall:

  • Surface 3 – 267 x 187 x 8.7mm (10.51 x 7.36 x 0.34 inches) and 622g (1.37 lbs)
  • Surface Pro 3 – 292 x 201 x 9.1mm (11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches) and 790g (1.76 lbs)

Design – Despite being the little brother of the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 can stand mostly stand toe-to-toe with it when it comes to design and build materials. Both models have magnesium alloy chassis and premium ceramic finishes that are as good as anything on the market.

The only catch: the Surface 3 kickstand has only three positions, whereas the Pro 3 is infinitely adjustable.

Surface Pro 3 is infinitely adjustable, the Surface 3 only has 3 positions - image credit Microsoft

Surface Pro 3 is infinitely adjustable, the Surface 3 only has 3 positions – image credit Microsoft

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Hardware ­– Changes up to now largely come down to user preference, but where these two really break from one another is performance. While the Surface Pro 3 offers the latest cutting edge Intel Intel i3, i5 and i7 chipsets with up to 8GB of RAM, the Surface 3 is limited to the slower quad core 1.6GHz Intel Atom x70Z8700 CPU and 2GB or 4GB of RAM.

Similarly the Surface 3 only offers 64GB or 128GB SSDs while the Surface Pro 3 has additional 256GB and 512GB options. Still, even if it is lower powered, the Surface 3 should be fast enough for most tasks.

Surface Pro 3 is designed for more demanding applications - image credit Microsoft

Surface Pro 3 is designed for more demanding applications – image credit Microsoft

Connectivity - Despite the drop in power, the Surface 3 actually packs better connectivity than the Surface Pro 3. The key differentiator is a 4G (LTE) option that isn’t available in the Pro 3 models and could be a crucial difference for road warriors.

On  top of this the Surface 3 matches the Pro 3’s 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (LE), full size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort and microSD card reader. Furthermore the Surface 3 ditches the Pro 3’s proprietary power connector for micro USB letting you use existing cables from any (non-Apple Apple) smartphone or tablet.

Operating System – Technically the Surface 3’s predecessor was the Surface RT – a fine hybrid spoilt by running the restrictive and now defunct Windows RT. This time the Surface 3 has OS parity with the Pro 3 as both run Windows 8.1 and Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 (which technically is free for all for one year) when it launches in the summer.

Microsoft Surface 3: premium build materials - image credit Microsoft

Microsoft Surface 3: premium build materials – image credit Microsoft

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Cameras – Microsoft has responded to demand for better mobile cameras in mobile devices by giving the Surface 3 8MP rear and 3.5MP front cameras. This compares well with the dual 5MP cameras in the Surface Pro 3, though the Pro’s more premium front facing camera is likely to be a key differentiator with video calls more likely than photography with these devices.

Battery Life – While the Surface 3 may be smaller than the Surface Pro 3, its lower power hardware means it still offers the same ‘up to 9 hours’ claim as its bigger brother. Having used a Pro 3 for some time that typically translates to around 7 hours of real world usage, which doesn’t match up to the longest latest Windows laptops or MacBooks but it should be enough for most.

Next Next page: Software, Pricing and Bottom Line

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