Microsoft Surfaces A Third Time

May 20, 2014
Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 moves to a larger form factor and packs in an Intel Core i7 processor into its latest tablet.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 (Fig. 1) has just arrived and it looks like a winner. It runs Windows 8.1 (see “Windows 8 Changes Are More Than Skin Deep”). It has a 12-in multitouch screen that uses N-Trig's touch and pen technology (see “The Year Of The Digital Pen”). Microsoft is looking for a better stylus integration by enhancing handwriting recognition and providing better application support. The Palm Block technology allows you to use the pen on the screen while resting your palm on another part of the screen. The more natural feel of the pressure sensitive pen (256 levels) and its use will definitely help increase pen usage.

Figure 1. Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 can run Windows 8.1 on an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7.

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The Surface Pro 3 weighs in at 1.76 pounds which is not bad for a 12-in tablet. The overall dimensions are 7.93- by 11.5- by 0.36-in. The 2K color-calibrated LCD screen has a 2160 by 1440 pixel resolution with a 3:2 aspect ratio. This is a bit different from the 16:9 aspect ratio of the Surface Pro 2 that has a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The Surface Pro 3 can play hi-def video but it will be letterboxed. Older LCD and CRT displays had a 4:3 aspect ratio. The Surface Pro 3 is more akin to a 8.5 by 11 piece of paper.

The tablet has a Mini DisplayPort connection as well as a full-size USB 3.0 port. It can drive a 4K display. 802.11ac WiFi support is built in and an external Ethernet adapter is available for 1 Gbit wired connections. There are front and rear facing 5 Mpixel cameras with 1080p recording capabilities.

Audio is better this time around and the speakers are front facing. They are 45% louder.

The processor inside is Intel and it can be a Core i3, i5 and i7. The base frequency is 1.9 GHz with a turbo mode running at 2.9 GHz. The tablet has a fan but it is not always needed. It can have up to 8 Gbytes of DDR3 RAM and 512 Gbytes of flash memory. It also has an SD slot for expansion.

The rear kickstand now provides more positioning options (Fig. 2). This should make it eaiser to use in tight spaces as well as providing a low angle for combined keyboard and stylus operation.

Figure 2. The Surface Pro 3's rear stand allows it to sit at many different angles

The tablet works with a matching Surface Pro Type Cover. These multicolor keyboards have a hinged magnetic lock that allows the tablet to snap onto the cover.

The Surface Pro 3 has a 42 Wh battery. It provides up to 9 hours of continuous operation. The Core i3 version with 4 Gbytes of RAM and 64 Gbytes of storage starts at $799. The top end model is $1949.

We will see if Microsoft's third iteration is a winner. That was the case for Windows long, long ago.

About the Author

William G. Wong | Senior Content Director - Electronic Design and Microwaves & RF

I am Editor of Electronic Design focusing on embedded, software, and systems. As Senior Content Director, I also manage Microwaves & RF and I work with a great team of editors to provide engineers, programmers, developers and technical managers with interesting and useful articles and videos on a regular basis. Check out our free newsletters to see the latest content.

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I earned a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Masters in Computer Science from Rutgers University. I still do a bit of programming using everything from C and C++ to Rust and Ada/SPARK. I do a bit of PHP programming for Drupal websites. I have posted a few Drupal modules.  

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