Microsoft is promising professionals its new Surface Pro 3 will offer them the power and capabilities of a full-blown Windows laptop or Macbook Air, but in a tablet form factor that weighs less than its predecessor and boasts better battery life.
During the launch event for the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft played up the fact that tablets had been hyped as the device that would replace the laptop, yet many people wind up carrying both devices because they have different strengths.
"The reason for that is that tablets, they're designed for you to sit back and watch movies, they're designed to read books, they're made for browsing the web. Laptops are not designed that way - there're designed to help you get stuff done," said Panos Panay, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Surface Computing.
The Surface Pro 3 is intended to "take the conflict away", according to Panay. It boasts a Core i7 processor and a claimed 10 percent performance improvement over the Surface Pro 2, but is just 9.1mm thick and weighs just 800g.
It also features a larger 12in display that supports a high resolution 2160x1440 pixels, but more importantly, introduces a new 3x2 aspect ratio that makes more space for running serious applications, Microsoft claimed.
This high definition screen and the new aspect ratio also makes input with a digital stylus feel as familiar as writing on a piece of paper, according to the firm.
However, while some rumours had indicated that Microsoft may release an ultrabook-style Surface, the Surface Pro 3 is essentially an upgraded Surface Pro 2 that still requires a snap-on keyboard, just like the existing Surface devices.
This Type Cover itself is also improved, according to Microsoft, with a larger touchpad and a hinge design that allows it to magnetically snap to the tablet so that the keyboard forms a more comfortable typing angle against it. However, it is still an extra item, and may not please those who still long for a proper laptop keyboard.
Nevertheless, given the enthusiastic reception that greeted the Surface Pro 2, the new device will likely please existing fans, especially as Microsoft claims the new model also has a 10 percent better battery life than its predecessor, at nine hours.
With a choice of Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors with 4GB or 8GB of memory, plus 64GB up to 512GB solid state storage, the Surface Pro 3 can match most laptops on specifications. It just remains to see whether it really can match the user experience as well.
There is a caveat, though, and this is pricing. While the entry-level model starts at $799 in the US, the top-end Core i7 model costs $1,949. This is unlikely to translate into anything under £1,000 for the UK market, and may prove a stumbling block for many potential buyers.
Ultimately, given that the Surface range of devices has yet to turned a profit for Microsoft - it recently admitted to losses of $45m from sales - the Surface Pro 3 has a lot to do to improve Microsoft's fortunes in the market - tablet or laptop.
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