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Digital Life

Why Microsoft's new Surface Pro 3 tablet could be worth waiting for

Published on May 21, 2014 5:47 AM

SINGAPORE - If you are looking for a new ultra portable laptop, the Surface Pro 3 should definitely on your list of options.

Microsoft's announcement of its latest slate PC at a low-key press event in New York on Tuesday came as a surprise to most tech watchers. Most were expecting the unveiling of a smaller version of the 10.6-inch Surface Pro 2, a slate PC that runs full Windows and weighs just 907g. Instead, a "mega" version of that was announced.

The third in Microsoft's fledging line of tablet-laptop hybrids offers a larger, 12-inch screen with a higher resolution of 2160 by 1440 pixels, up from 1920 by 1080 pixels. The line's signature kickstand -- a built-in stand that flips out from the back of the slate -- is also more flexible now, bending to a maximum angle of 150 degrees so you can get the right viewing angle for any occasion.

It weighs just 800g -- 100g less than its predecessor -- while shaving off 4mm in  thickness. In comparison, the latest 11-inch MacBook Air weighs 1.08kg.

This is probably the most exciting Windows laptop announcement since the first-generation Surface Pro back in 2012.

The introduction of the touch-driven Windows 8 has spawned a range of experimental form factors over the past two years. Lenovo and Panasonic went with screens that folded backwards by 360 degrees; Sony and Toshiba stepped up with their slider laptops; Asus tested the market with its unique dual-screen Taichi laptop. But amidst the myriad options out there, the Surface Pro with its unique detachable keyboard and robust build quality is arguably the most elegant solution out there.

I have used a first-gen Surface Pro for work in the past few months, and the portability has been a life-saver. Given that I almost always carry my work machine out even on my days off (and I don't have a car), the typical office laptop would have given my shoulders and back some real grief. The Surface Pro is also small enough to slip into a sling bag, so I don't even need to carry a backpack just to accommodate it.

It runs everything I need it to -- Lotus Notes, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Microsoft Office -- and the built-in digitiser has come in handy occasionally for image editing. The touchscreen means I can sometimes detach the keyboard and use the slate on its own like an iPad.

In fact, my iPad has seen little use in the office since I started using the Surface Pro because it can be used for demonstrations and presentations (where iPads typically shine) in addition to day-to-day content creation.

The upcoming Surface Pro 3 addresses the main issue many users, including me, have with its predecessor -- the small screen size. The new 12-inch screen will be much more comfortable on the eyes and will be useful for small-group discussions when a shared screen is needed.

Microsoft's confidence in its latest product can perhaps be seen from its early confirmation of the release dates, as well as the widest range of configuration options available for the series so far.

The good news for Singapore consumers? The Surface Pro 3 will arrive here by the end of August, according to the official press release. The Surface Pro 2, which went on sale in select markets last October, has not even arrived in Singapore yet.

Just as well, since the latest Surface Pro may well be the best ultra portable Windows laptop to be released this year!


UPDATE: The Microsoft Singapore online store has started taking pre-orders for the Surface Pro 3. More details here