Surface Pro 3: Too little hardware, too late for too much money

Surface Pro 3: Too little hardware, too late for too much money

Summary: Seriously? Microsoft expects to find buyers for its entry-level Surface Pro 3 and others that will be willing to pay $1,949 for its top-of-the-line model. I don't think so.


Stop drinking the Surface Pro 3 Kool-Aid already! I know one of my ZDNet colleagues is already getting ready to "upgrade" his first generation Surface Pro to a Pro 3, but come on! Have you really looked at what comes in a Surface Pro 3 and its price points?

Surface Pro 3 Weigh In
Sure, it's lighter than a MacBook Air, but does that mean a Surface Pro 3 is better? I doubt high-end buyers will see it that way.

First, the low-price model comes with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GBs of RAM, and 64GBs of storage... for $799. Want a keyboard? The Surface Pro Type Cover is an additional $129.99. So, if you want to use it as a laptop the least you'll spend is just under a grand.

What's this? Over at my local Best Buy store I can buy an HP TouchSmart with an Intel i3, 4GBs of RAM and a 750GB hard drive for, drum-roll please, $399.99. Oh, and that includes a keyboard. Sure, it's nothing like as light as the Surface Pro 3, but it's $600 cheaper.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3: In pictures

Microsoft would argue they're not going after the low-end market. Microsoft's avowed target audience are the people today who buy a MacBook Air and the iPad. Really? Microsoft thinks that the Surface Pro 3 is going to persuade the Apple faithful to move to Windows 8.1?

Come on! If there's any tech audience that's more faithful to their brand than Apple true-believers, I don't know who they are — and I spend most of my time hanging out with the Linux crew.

For that matter, it seems to me that Microsoft isn't that clear on their target audience. Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Surface Computing Panos Panay told Mary Jo Foley that they're still calling the Surface Pro 3 a tablet even though "tablets have not landed" and not really hitting the productivity sweet spot.

Tablets have not landed? You could have fooled Apple and its Android tablet rivals.

And, if tablets haven't "landed" because they're not really helping people be that productive, then why pray tell has Microsoft released Microsoft Office for iPad? A product, which, by the by, we called "the gold standard for tablet productivity."

At the same time, however, Panay said the new Surfaces intended audience is "consumer first, and premium." He added that Microsoft expects the product to do well with students and others interested in note-taking, but the company isn't positioning the Pro 3 as a business device.

Really? The Microsoft press release states, "With the introduction of Surface Pro 3, our commitment to business has never been stronger." So, which is it Microsoft? Pick a branding message and stick with it is a lesson you should have learned in Marketing 101. 

But, wait a second. Microsoft expects consumers, premium (read Apple) buyers, and students to buy a tablet/laptop that starts at a grand? The consumers and students I know aren't paying that kind of money.

Amazon's numbers back me up. The average price of the top ten Amazon laptop sellers is $266.98. What consumers and students are buying in the real world are low-end Windows systems, Chromebooks, and the one high-priced system is — what a surprise! — the MacBook Air at $949. I find it hard to believe this audience is going to spend almost four times that much on a Surface Pro 3.

As for the premium audience, the top-of-the-line Service Pro 3 with its Intel i7, 8GBs of RAM, and 512GBs of storage will list for $1,949... and again that doesn't include a keyboard. The high-end 4th generation Apple iPad with Wi-Fi, 4G, and 64GBs of storage lists for $799 and the MacBook Air with all the trimmings, 1.7GHz i7, 8GBs of RAM and 512GBs of storage, will cost you $1,749. Does anyone really think that anyone willing to spend that kind of money on a best of breed Apple device will spend that much cash on a Surface Pro 3? I just can't see it.

Let's say that businesses are interested in the Surface Pro 3. Honestly, that's the only audience I can see that might be willing to pay these prices. Well, the problem is here, as James Kendrick showed in his 7 good Windows hybrids that rival the Surface Pro 3 gallery most of the already-shipping business-class Windows 8.x tablet/laptops are cheaper.

I could talk about how Windows 8.x still isn't a first-class desktop or tablet operating system, I can concede that the Surface Pro 3 is remarkably light, but at day's end this device just doesn't give you enough hardware goodness at a price point where I can't see many buying one.

Even if you love Windows 8 and the marriage of tablets and laptops, there are just too many other devices such as the Asus Transformer Book X300, HP Spectre x2, and Lenovo ThinkPad 10 that offer better value for way less money.

Related Stories:

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Tablets, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8

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  • Why I won't buy a Surface Pro 3

    The only reason I (probably) won't buy a Surface Pro 3 is because I already have an original Surface Pro that does more than everything I need it to do. I also have a high end quad core i7 touch screen laptop that handles heavier lifting. Both are running the latest updates of Windows 8.1, which is the most complete, fully featured, trouble free OS with the largest ecosystem of software available today. I do real work (LOB application software development) as well as non-work on both and can't imagine using anything as limited as Linux or MacOS, much less Android or iOS.
    Sir Name
    • Probably not

      It's a nice bit of kit, but personally for $2000, I think I'd prefer a dedicated ultrabook, and a tablet.
      The weight of those 2 combined isn't excessive in a bag, and I (personally) prefer the devices to be separate.

      Knew if was a SJVN article just from the headline in Feedly..........
      • Exactly. That's the kicker.

        You can buy both a better-supported tablet and a great ultrabook for less money than a Surface Pro 3. Plus, the SP3 likely wouldn't keep up with the ultrabook in graphics performance. Personally, if I still needed a laptop, I'd go with an ultrabook to get a better keyboard. Doesn't matter, though, since I haven't touched my two laptops or my netbook since getting an iPad a few years ago. In fact, I'm using one of the laptops as a monitor "stand" to raise an extra 27" monitor a couple inches off of the desk.
        • Sure can..

          You can buy an entry level iPod Air and a Yoga 13 with a core i7 for right at that $2000 mark. You have to carry them both though to enjoy them both. If your preference is a MacBook Pro, your cost just went up.

          The Surface Pro 3 is not overpriced. The iPad is overpriced. You have to compare the device to it's completion, the 13 inch MacBook Air/Pro. Spec out a 13 inch Pro to the level of the top SP3 and you come to 2 grand.
          • Not true.

            a 13" MacBook Air is $1.2K with 256GB SSD, and an Air is $829 with 64GB and Cellular. Slightly less than an S3 with typecover ($2.15K)

            All due respect to the S3 but as with many "tweener" products, I'd rather have a real laptop and a real tablet. When I'm traveling the laptop stays in the checked-in bag, and the tablet is on the plane - which means I don't need a security inspection. The idea of using a 12" tablet on a plane defeats the purpose of it for me. Not portable enough, particularly as I would need the pen to operate it.
          • Cutting the umbilical cord to Windows is essential action...

            ... every clever and honest people should to sooner or later. I recommend sooner. There is no need to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (or money-to-Redmond's pocket) to company who have so many years fooled mankind with such a terrible insecury, unstable, expensive and non-cost-effective OS.

            I moved to Linux over 7 years ago and have never since that day missed Microsoft and Windows. Let the Neanderthal Of IT die.
            Napoleon XIV
          • Unrealistic.

            For people more concerned with being productive than pursuing a blind vendetta against a corporation, there's nothing wrong with Windows. With 3 years between versions, at a cost of about $120, Windows costs about $40 a year - hardly expensive and hardly characterizeable as giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. To suggest as much is to be so overly dramatic as to call into question the credibility of your entire argument.

            Linux is great, I like it, I use it, but for many tasks and for the majority of people, Windows is the clear, better and only choice. There's no way around the fact that, for many industries, Windows is the only platform that offers the necessary tools.

            Open source has advantages and disadvantages just like closed source, you're simply trading one set of advantages for another, and accepting one set of disadvantages over another.

            Finally, we've been hearing how bad Microsoft is, and how great Linux is for what, two decades now? And the reality is that Linux is hardly any closer to providing as foolproof an experience as necessary to realistically serve the general public's needs.
          • OS war is over and Linux has already won it

            These statistics of new devices of Q1 2014 are telling the core of message:

            1) about 63% of new devices with internet connection are using Linux
            2) only about 15% devices are using Windows operation system
            3) 85% of servers are using Linux
            4) 81% of smartphones are using Linux
            5) 66% of tablets are using Linux

            PC has been marginalized and so has been Windows too.
          • You should lay off the drugs.

            63% with an internet connection use Linux??

            Ha. Ya. So what. Lets go with another restrictor on the statistics.

            barely over 1% of the desktops/laptops in use today and for 2 decades use Linux.

            Buddy, you have to get a life. Do you think people are idiots who fall for your nonsense??
          • Playing with words

            Your 4 and 5 are just break down of 1, and 2 is just reflection of one with Mac OSs in the picture, but why not show the percentage of laptops and desktops, "devices" that can actually do serious work like full office capability, full adobe CAD, and coding etc. that case Linux would only have 1.62% of market share. I know Linux has its perks, but it's far from consumer friendly when you try to do day to day work with it unless you are a programmer, or an IT.
            Din Jao
          • What a facist comment

            Troll much? Just because you don't find value in the platform does not mean it doesn't have value. Your life experience is not everyone else's. Just like mine is not yours. I am clever and honest and I use Windows. You are just a troll. Actually, you are a Neanderthal in this case because you fail to recognize the variety of needs of modern humans and instead focus on a single-minded view of the world that only a pre-historic human would understand.
          • Pen not required. use for sketching. And 256G vs 512G

            It has a touch interface the pen gives you digitizer like capability.

            Note though the Mac Air only has a 256 GB and you are comparing to the SP3 with 512GB. Drop down to 256GB and you are now more expensive.
          • What versions?

            SP3 w/ 256GB and 8GB RAM plus Type Cover is $1,430. Not $2,150. What versions are you comparing?
          • MacBook Air i5, 256GB w/ 8GB RAM

            is $1,299
          • Disengenuous

            "a 13" MacBook Air is $1.2K with 256GB SSD, and an Air is $829 with 64GB and Cellular. Slightly less than an S3 with typecover ($2.15K)"

            You're clearly being disingenuous with your comparison when comparable Surface Pro 3 exists, but you instead choose the most expensive one. The $1950 model has a 512 gig SSD, where your Macbook has a 256. The 256 version of the Surface is $400 less.

            And with all due respect, that you happen to prefer separate devices doesn't mean everyone else does, all it means is that a "tweener" product is not right for you. I happen to hate carrying around multiple devices and have absolutely no use for a mobile OS based tablet that can't do anything beyond the most simplistic of tasks. For me, the Surface Pro (I bought a 2 last year) is the perfect, single, mobile device. It's a tablet for when I only want to do "tablet things", and it's a real notebook for when I need to get real work done.

            Your criticisms are entirely subjective, which is fine, but all they prove is that it's not the right device for you.
          • Compare with the right specs

            Surface pro 3 with similar specs: 256gb SSD and i5 processor would cost 1299, then 130 for the cover, so 1429, less than the combo you provided above, even if we change processor to i7 it's 1549+130, still alot less and get a digital stylus with high precision with none of the 2 devices described above offers, and you do not need a pen to operate it, it's the whole point of windows 8, being touch friendly.

            And say someone goes out thinking he only needed a tablet and took that, but half way through he wants to use software that he can only install on his laptop, then what? he has to wait until he gets home, or bring them both which is very heavy, with him, you can say they don't feel as heavy, but let's face it, MacAir along is heavier than the pro.
            Din Jao
        • Don't forget the SSD and weight

          Given this is a 1.6 lb device with the potential of an i7 and 512Gb SSD. You have a tablet and laptop power with sufficient horsepower to run very demanding apps: Photoshop, SolidWorks, 3DMax. Ivy bridge graphics are pretty good.

          Your iPad can't do these things.
    • Geez....

      You MS trolls aren't even trying anymore.
      • As opposed to you trolls, JustCallMeBC?

        At least when SJVN trolls, he doesn't try and hide it by using any real facts, or anything. :)
        • For whom the troll tolls

          It trolls for thee, but not for me.