Microsoft’s Surface Pro turns 3 with a bigger model

The next run of Intel chips might well be only a couple of months off, but Microsoft isn’t waiting, readying a new breed of Surface Pro for people who want the power of an Ultrabook inside something as easy to use as a tablet.

For the past few years, tablets have generally occupied two sizes in the market: small and big. Small was between 7 and 8 inches, with Android typically having the 7 and 8 inch models, Apple making the 7.9 inch iPad Mini, and Windows 8 and RT running on the 8 inc tablets made by Dell, Toshiba, Acer, and the like.

Then there were the big tablets, and these were the easiest to find, with sizes ranging from 9.7 inches on the Apple iPad and iPad Air, all the way up to the generic 10.1 on Android and 10.6 on Microsoft’s Surface.

But outside of Toshiba’s short lived 13 inch tablets, few companies have considered the world ready for a properly big tablet. Samsung tried it earlier in the year with the Galaxy Note Pro, a tablet that ran Android on a 12.2 inch screen, but that’s more or less been about it.

Microsoft, however, looks set to challenge Samsung for size supremacy with a new tablet announced overnight in America.

Called the Surface Pro 3, it is — as the name suggests — the third incarnation of Microsoft’s Surface Pro computers, and like the previous Surface Pro models, will run Windows 8 properly, not Windows RT (which is what the regular Surface and Surface 2 models runs on).

Running a full version of Windows 8.1 is only one part of the equation, though, as this new tablet has more going for it than being a fully fledged Windows computer.

For starters, there’s a choice of Intel Core processors, allowing you to pick between a Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, with either 64, 128, 256, or 512GB of storage. Wireless is provided by 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 with support for LE, while cameras are catered for with both a 5 megapixel camera on the back and a 1080p Full HD shooter on the front. Connection options include USB 3.0, microSD card reader, mini DisplayPort, Microsoft’s proprietary magnetic cover port, as well as Microsoft’s proprietary charging port.

This all sits in a magnesium shell, just like the older models, with that big aforementioned screen, showing 12 inches of size and a resolution of 2160×1440, bigger than Full HD and potentially clearer than the previous model, which ran Full HD’s 1920×1080 on a 10.6 inch screen, though the pixel clarity is only marginally better (208ppi on the Surface Pro 2’s 10.6 inch screen, and 216ppi on the Surface Pro 3).

The Surface Pro 3 is also thinner than previous models, packing in Ultrabook-level performance in a 9.14mm thickness, with a weight of just under 800 grams.

That’s an impressive weight and size for such a big computer, especially since even the lightest Ultrabook-styled computers are still heavier than this, with LG’s 13 inch ultra-light Ultra PC weighing 940 grams, while Apple’s aluminium-clad 11 inch MacBook Air tips the scales at 1.08 kilograms.

A new kickstand is also here, capable of the regular two positions introduced in the Surface Pro 2, but now tightened and supporting a nearly flat angle, as well as a bunch of angles in between, meaning the Surface Pro 3 can match nearly any angle you’ll want to use it at.

Helping this is the new Type Cover keyboard, which has been redeveloped to match the 12 inch size.

While still an optional purchase, this accessory turns the Surface Pro 3 into something closer to a traditional computer, throwing in a proper button-based mouse, as well as a magnetic hinge to provide a raised typing experience closer to what laptops and desktop keyboards offer.

Also new to the package is a new pen, which Microsoft has equipped with a different technology, new weighting and an aluminium chassis to make it feel more like a pen and less like a plastic stylus, and a pen cap that automatically opens Microsoft OneNote when you need to take notes.

All up, it looks like an impressive little tablet, and possibly one of the best incarnations of Windows 8 on a tablet yet, but the pricing could once again prove to be too much, with a starting price of $979 for the 64GB Intel Core i3, providing only 36GB of available space when you get the tablet. That’s not a small amount of coin for a 64GB machine, but you can always go for bigger with the 128GB Core i5 fetching $1209, 256GB Core i5 for $1549, 256GB Core i7 for $1829, and 512GB Core i7 for $2279.

Interestingly, while we’ve heard rumours the Surface Pro 2 could stick around, Microsoft Australia may have other plans, with this model harder to find on Microsoft’s Australian Store page. It’s there on the front, but go into the Surface screen and you’ll find a choice between Surface 2 (the RT model) and the Surface Pro 3, suggesting that this model could well be totally replacing its 10 inch Pro brother.

We’ll know more soon, and will check with Microsoft in regards to if the Pro 2 is being replaced, but you should be able to find the Surface Pro 3 in stores in August.