Microsoft unveils Surface Pro 3, making a new pitch to replace laptops

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Microsoft just unveiled the third generation of its Surface Pro tablet on stage in New York City, making a new pitch to replace laptops with a hybrid device. Check out an initial image above, from a video shown at the event.

SurfacePro3The Surface Pro 3 will start at $799, coming in three configurations, with Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors. It will be available for pre-order starting tonight, and will be released in stores on June 20 in the U.S. and Canada.

The most noticeable change, at first glance, is the position of the Windows home button on the side of the device when held horizontally, suggesting that Microsoft is making the device easier to use with a vertical orientation.

The Surface Pro 3 has a 3:2 aspect ratio, compared with a 16:9 aspect ratio for the Surface Pro 2. That makes the new tablet shorter and wider when held in portrait mode — addressing a major criticism of past Surface devices, and making the new tablets easier to use to take notes as if on a pad of paper.

Microsoft says the Surface Pro 3′s screen is 38 percent bigger than the Surface Pro 2, with a screen resolution of 2160x 1440.

Panos Panay, the executive who leads Microsoft’s Surface team, says the company worked closely with Intel to build the Surface 3 with a Core i7 processor, while still making it thin and light, at 1.76 pounds, with a 12-inch screen.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opened the event by saying that the company is aiming to give users the best of laptops and tablets in a single device. He referenced a famous quote by Apple’s Tim Cook about the compromises that often come along with combining those different form factors.

“We clearly are not interested in building refrigerator and toasters,” said Nadella. “We want to build experiences that bring together all the capabilities of our company” to focus on mobile-first productivity scenarios.

During the demo, Adobe took the stage to demonstrate a new version of Photoshop CC optimized for touch on the Surface Pro 3.

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The new Surface Pro 3 “continuous kickstand” has a full friction hinge that provides more positions for users, including a new Canvas Mode that takes it down to 150 degrees, shown below.

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Here’s a Microsoft image showing off the different positions.

The new Type Cover keyboard for the Surface 3 can be tucked up to click into the screen, as shown in the image below. Combined with the new kickstand, it’s part of a broader effort by Microsoft to make the device more stable in the lap.

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Panay is now showing the new Surface 3 pen, saying that the company wants to rival the traditional pen and paper. One of the features — the ability to click the pen to open OneNote instantly, and wirelessly.

Here’s a Vine video showing how the pen feature works.

Follow-up: Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3 priced from $799 to $1,949, with 5 configurations

  • Lawrence Lam

    The Windows logo might be on the side, but it is oriented to be right side up with the wide side down, so this doesn’t immediately imply Portrait-mode optimization.

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Good point — thanks, Lawrence. Will be interesting to see how they explain the repositioning.

      • Just a thought

        It’s clearly so it’s not impeded by the upnotched keyboard fold.

        • GioviB

          Yes, and I think actually works better. I use my IPad mostly in landscape and the button is perfect there. On my Surface 2, which I prefer to the iPad, I don’t like it so much on the bottom. So, I think I’ll like this change.

    • GioviB

      I always thought the new Windows logo was designed in a way that could be positioned or oriented in any direction and look fine. On my iPad, I use it typically in landscape mode and the button touch works great. I think it will work better than on the bottom.

  • Kary

    A few years ago I was hoping my next new desktop would be an advanced smartphone and I really liked the Asus Transformer type devices which were available at that time. Now I don’t think I want so much of my electronic life tied up in one device in case one breaks (or gets lost/stolen). At this point I doubt my next desktop will be anything more advanced than a notebook with touch display. And it will seldom move from my desk.

    • lan

      Backing up/sync’ing to the cloud provides an easy answer to your fears.

      • Kary

        Not really–I already use Dropbox and backup to Amazon S3.

        My concern is more over having hardware available. Last year I had to get by for a short time using a netbook while I replaced the power supply on my desktop. That’s the type of concern I have. More hardware is better for duplication. Another example is my owning both a multi-function mono-printer and a color printer. I’ll never replace them both with a multi-function color printer.

        So anyway, my desire for hardware backup is making these more functional tablets less appealing than what I thought they would be.

  • Salty_Swede

    Darn, no mini. Oh well, maybe next year

  • Observer

    As someone who has greatly disliked the previous Surface models, I have to say that this one seems like a good device. Finally 3:2 aspect ratio! Lapable kickstand, too. I still wish W8 metro was less hideous and the tablet design had a bit more rounded edges, but I guess those would fall under personal preference. MS is steadily moving in the right direction.

  • Shellswallow

    Hopefully they can actually sell this one, but I still doubt it.

  • Abbie Clarrk

    Very good for Photoshop CC. Drawing something on it might be very interesting. Although Microsoft have come up with a unique piece of hardware the Chinese government have banned a certain entity which is going to greatly influence the budgets of Microsoft. http://bit.ly/1gLx7Dr