Responding to feedback from its business customers, Microsoft on Tuesday announced a larger and thinner new Surface Pro 3, which it says can replace both a tablet and a laptop. But the firm mysteriously delayed its long-awaited Surface mini for a second time, disappointing those who were looking forward to a smaller device focused on note-taking.
"Surface Pro 3 is the tablet that can replace your laptop," Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay claims. "It is the most powerful, thinnest, and lightest Surface Pro yet. It is a full PC and a brilliant tablet."
According to Panay, almost all tablet users also carry a laptop as well, giving lie to the belief that tablets would eventually replace PCs. But with Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has made a device that it says can bridge both worlds and, as important, one that doesn't compete head to head with PC maker partner devices.
So Surface Pro 3 is both bigger than its predecessor, with a 12-inch screen, but also thinner. It eschews the 16:9 form factor that has become so common in the PC world and uses instead a 3:2 screen, which runs at a "pixel free" resolution of 2160 x 1440 that doesn't look ridiculous when used in portrait mode.
As with previous Surface Pro devices, the Pro 3 supports a high-quality electromagnetic stylus, which it bundles with the device. A new line of colorful Type Cover 3 keyboards are separate however, but now work better than before and enable a new laptop mode in which the keyboard is angled against the machine in use, making it more stable. And the new glass-like trackpad on Type Cover 3 isn't just good, it's fantastic: The previous versions were unusable.
At every step, you see improvements. The Pro 3 uses a magnetic power cable latching mechanism as before, but now it's an insertable plug that connects more easily and stays connected. The vaunted Surface kickstand has been improved dramatically with a new friction-free design that enables not just two viewing angles, but a broad range of angles, like a real laptop. And the battery life easily surpasses that of its predecessor: Microsoft claims all-day battery life of 9 hours.
As a true Pro device, Surface Pro 3 will be made available in a range of Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processors, the first time such a choice has been offered. The price range for the devices, which can be preordered now to arrive on June 20, range from $799 for a base Core i3 version with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD storage to a whopping $1949 for a version with a Core i7, 8 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD.
As for Surface mini, an executive leadership team nixed the device at the last minute—literally, I caught word of this when it happened late last week—because it wasn't differentiated enough from other mini-tablets that are currently sold by other PC makers. To be clear, however, Surface mini hasn't been canceled, it's been delayed, and the Surface team intends to revamp the design and try again.
(So why didn't I report on the cancellation previously? The Surface team has been trying to catch leaks, and I was worried about highlighting a source, whether the news was real or not.)
Since the Surface mini was delayed again, here's what you're missing out on: A 3:2 device with an 8-inch screen that almost perfectly mimics the iPad mini, multiple color choices, the same deep OneNote integration and electromagnetic pen that Microsoft has built into Surface Pro 3, and a click-in cover with a kickstand, but no keyboard.
I've already written a quick preview of Surface Pro 3 on the SuperSite for Windows, but I'll be writing a lot more about this intriguing device today and in the days ahead, so stay tuned.