How the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is going to replace your laptop

Microsoft has unveiled its latest tablet in the Surface Pro 3, which promises to be the best yet. Microsoft has made it clear at the launch event that this is the tablet that will replace your laptop.

In fact Microsoft went further and squarely attacked Apple's MacBook and iPad, saying that most people own both. It says the Surface Pro 3 is the single device solution. How?

Screen

The 12-inch ClearType screen, at 2160 x 1440 resolution, 216ppi, is optimised by Windows to show 6 per cent more content than on the 13-inch screen on the MacBook thanks to a 3:2 ratio. It also has the highest contrast ratio in the industry, claims Microsoft.

Design

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, which has Apple in its sights, is lighter than the current MacBook Pro 11-inch. But without a keyboard on the Surface Pro 3 that's not a huge surprise.

Microsoft has taken a leaf out of Apple's book and really focused on design, or design talk at the presentation at least. All Surface Pro 3 units are optically measured and machined down before pressurising the cavity to build a 0.75mm thin stack. This also means the digitiser pen should be more accurate than others as the layers of the screen are so tightly packed. One up on laptops there then, for those that like or need digital pens.

Thanks to the build quality this tablet can be dropped from head height, which was done on the live demo. But this was on a soft carpet so we'll reserve judgement.

Kickstand and keyboard

The kickstand has been improved from the original 22-degree angle. Canvas mode has been added to allow users to move the tablet to any angle up to 160-degrees without needing to lock it in place. The stand will automatically lock it in place thanks to the friction hold which should keep it there even when being leaned on by the digitser pen, claims Microsoft. So, like a laptop then.

A very subtle change is the ability to lock the keyboard case so that the keyboard and screen are held together. That means working on a lap is now possible without the wobble of the previous models, claims Microsoft.

Power

The Surface Pro 3 will be powered by fourth-gen Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processors. RAM varies between 4GB or 8GB options while storage stretches from 64GB to 512GB with SD card expansion too. These are crammed into the Pro 3 giving it 10 per cent better performance than the Surface 2.

The Surface 3 has a fan that's 30 per cent more efficient than the last effort allowing it to be thinner, quieter and to offer better battery performance. Users won't hear it or see it says Microsoft. In fairness the MacBook range already sets the bar really high with a pretty much always silent running.

Software

Adobe has redesigned its Photoshop CC program to be accessed with tablet touch controls easily. This should allow for pinch to zoom and image manipulation with hand controls. It will also take advantage of the pen to set it ahead of the laptop version in that way. Adobe says there will be plenty more to come in the future too.

Digitiser pen

The 12-inch screen was designed with paper pads in mind, apparently. The digitser pen with the Surface Pro 3 should be as natural as a real pen, it's claimed. Part of that is the ability to translate handwriting to digital letters, which works in a crossword app shown at the introduction presentation. Whether that works across all software isn't clear.

This also works for annotating documents and uses palm block to allow users to rest a hand on the page while writing. Also the pen tip is right where the "ink" appears as Microsoft has crammed the screen layers together to get rid of parallax that otherwise makes them look separate.

The pen can also be used as a remote control. Take a photo pointing the tablet's camera then double tap the pen to open One Note for editing with the pen. This is a great idea but whether users will be able to set that double click to different actions isn't clear. That could be very useful.

Price

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 will start at $799. This will likely be the price for the i3 model with base specs of 64GB storage and 4GB RAM. It's an expensive tablet. It's even an expensive laptop. But when bought as a replacement for both, or looking at Apple price tags, it's not actually too bad.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 can be pre-ordered from 21 May.