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

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.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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