Surface Pro 3: Play time with Microsoft's laptop killer

It was clear with the launch of the Surface Pro 3 that Microsoft had someone in its sights: Apple.

The MacBook Air and the iPad took the full broadside as Microsoft unveiled the Surface Pro 3, the device that it thinks can replace both, offering a full desktop OS in a format that's highly portable. 

The axe really falls on the Surface Pro 2 however, with the new model providing a 12-inch display that's much more practical for use as a laptop replacement, while also cutting the weight, making it nicer to carry around. 

Pick up the Surface Pro 3 and you'll be instantly struck by how light it is. At 800g it's heavier than most regular tablets, but considerably lighter than your aging Windows PC.

The quality of the build is impressive too. It feels solid in the hand and brings with it a premium finish that you'd expect for the £639 price the Surface Pro 3 starts at.

Aside from the good build and the light weight, the display quality is really impressive. With a resolution of 2160 x 1440 pixels, the 12-inch display looks stunning. There's plenty of detail and the viewing angles are excellent. It's bright and vibrant, making it lovely for watching movies, whilst also having the detail to easily multitask in split screen. 

Adding to the quality, the display is closely bonded to the Gorilla Glass surface, so there's no gap beneath it. It's responsive to the touch and incredibly slick jumping around Windows 8.1. 

That comes down to the powerful hardware within. The Surface Pro 3 will come with Intel Core i3 to i7 options, with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of SSD storage. It's designed to run basically silently and from the time we spent with it in London, it does.

The newly designed kickstand on the rear is also really effective. It's not limited to a couple of positions, but it can be altered to stand it at whatever angle you fancy. 

We tried it on our lap, and although we expected it to be too unstable, we managed to type fast enough on the Surface Pro Type Cover. There are disadvantages over a conventional laptop, but in those moments you do need to work on your lap, you can.

The Surface Pro Type Cover is likely to be one of the more popular accessories. The larger size offers a better keyboard experience. It's backlit and although slim, still offers a good typing experience.

The trackpad has been refined over previous Surfaces, so it's silky smooth and clickable. There's an additional magnetic strip at the rear of the Type Cover that will let you fold it up and stick it to the Surface. This will lift the rear of the keyboard, setting it at a rake for a more comfortable typing action. It's comfortable, yes, but it then feels a little more hollow, so we'd rather have it flat when sitting on a table.

Then there's the Surface Pen. Microsoft is keen to have you replace paper and the Pen feels natural when you scribble on the Surface. There's a button on the end that you can use to launch OneNote, as well as save, and you can also double tap to take a screenshot, which can then be annotated in OneNote. 

It might not be for everybody, but if you're looking to ditch the notepad, then the Surface Pro 3 wants to help you along.

We didn't have the chance to test the outright performance of the Surface Pro 3, or to put the claimed 9 hours of battery life to the test, but first impressions are really good. It's a slim and solidly built device, but light in the hand, with an impressive display.

The Surface Pro 3 has launched in the US and arrives in Japan this week, but isn't due to touchdown in the UK until August, as part of a phased roll-out.

It is available to pre-order now, priced from £639.