I sat in a nearly empty Microsoft Store this morning and played with the Surface Pro 3. I wanted to see how it felt in use, specifically as a laptop, but I ended up learning about some other quirks I wanted to share, and get some feedback on:
1. The SP3 works decently on my lap, believe it or not. It's not quite as sturdy as a traditional, solid laptop feels on my legs, but I was able to use it on my lap just fine for a brief period. It does have to sit somewhat high on the thigh in order for the kickstand to work, but guess what: I compared it right next to real laptops, and I ended up using them in the same place to be comfortable. Overall I say that the Surface 3 can work on a lap if you need it, but it requires more balance and tweaking than a regular laptop, so you probably shouldn't get one if you end up using your lap as a desk on a regular basis. Microsoft needs to engineer a better solution to truly make the Surface a laptop replacement.
2. The biggest drawback of laptop functionality is the keyboard's feel. The keys are very tough to hit right compared with more traditional laptops at the MS Store. I could probably lower my error rate on the Type Cover 3 with some practice, but there's no way I could use it full time.
3. The trackpad isn't as good as Apple's, but it's passable. It is cramped for the vertical space. Overall an improvement over the last iteration.
4. The Windows/Home button is on the side instead of the bottom, and it's not an actual push-button, but a pressure-sensitive button. It sits right where I grab the screen to adjust it or hold it. Every couple of minutes I was jolted back to the Start Screen and it took me a while to realize it was because I was accidentally pressing the Home button. Sometimes my hand would naturally hit it as part of touching the screen. Alt-Tab is the only saving grace. This problem was annoying enough in the 40 minutes I used the SP3 that I won't buy the device unless there's some way to disable it (the store staff said there wasn't, but there'll probably be a hack for it).
5. I preferred the previous iteration pen interface, but this one works fine. The pen buttons weren't working right, and the store staff told me this was because there was a problem with Bluetooth in the store. Sounds fishy, and I hope MS can work out whatever problem there is with the new pen system. There's also no place to store the pen. The salesman said you can let it stick to the magnetic power connector mount, but this isn't really secure and still dangles off the side. How the heck are you supposed to carry the pen around without breaking it?
6. The touchscreen doesn't work correctly, and I'm surprised none of the reviews mentioned this. If you use your finger to, say, band select a bunch of things on the screen, the screen will randomly think I've lifted your finger even when I haven't, which means my selection gets messed up. This problem does not exist when using the pen to band select, only my finger. It is repeatable and very annoying.
7. Related to (6), the screen doesn't always register swipes properly, especially on the 'shut down' screen. The store staff blamed this on a bad demo image, and I hope they're right.
8. There are too few ports for this to be a laptop replacement. I'd like to see 3xUSB and 1xmDP at the very least.
9. My takeaway is that the SP3 gets so much right that I can't understand how the above issues made it through to the final release. I went into the store thinking the only problem was with lap balance, but that ended up not being an issue. The issues instead are the touch input anomalies and the annoyingly-placed Home button. Either one of them would make me think twice about buying the SP3, but together they made my experience so full of annoyance that I won't buy one based on them.
Has anyone else played with the Surface Pro 3 and care to weigh in on these notes?
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