WATCH: Microsoft Takes Apple to the Mat with Surface Pro 3

The new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet with detachable keyboard and pen for writing on the screen after it was unveiled in New York. (Photo: Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images)
The new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet with detachable keyboard and pen for writing on the screen after it was unveiled in New York. (Photo: Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images)

Microsoft had Apple in the cross hairs when it introduced the Surface Pro 3 tablet last week. Every one of Apple’s tablet rivals has iPad-envy after all. What was unexpected was the degree to which Microsoft hammered its claim that the newest Surface also is meant to duke it out against Apple’s popular MacBook Air laptop as well. Left unsaid was that Surface Pro 3 might also slug it out against any number of Ultrabook computers though Microsoft was understandably reluctant to utter such a thing out loud since Windows software is the lifeblood of Ultrabooks.

There’s hardly a guarantee that Surface Pro 3 will hit big with the productivity-minded customers Microsoft has in mind, but based on my tests it’s a strong tablet that doubles, with some limitations, as a strong laptop alternative. Microsoft has designed a handsomely sleek, business-first Windows 8.1 hybrid that is easy to fall for.

No it isn’t appropriate for all comers. The storage, especially on the entry level $799 Surface Pro 3 model, is limited — 64 GB comes with the system, but only 37GB is available to the user. You can bolster capacity through a hidden microSD card slot or online via Microsoft’s OneDrive.

And good as the optional $129.99 magnetic Surface Pro Type Cover accessory is — the Qwerty keyboard has more “travel” than before, the keys are now backlit, and the touchpad is vastly improved — it is still not quite the same as having a topnotch keyboard built in.

Attention laptop user: the Type Cover is a must. And the fact that it’s still an option is a shame, because a keyboard is a key ingredient for a laptop. Consider $928.99 the true entry price.

Most hybrid computers I’ve seen have been compromised. In tablet mode they don’t generally perform as well as a standalone slate, nor are they superior in laptop mode to a standalone laptop.

Microsoft’s machine holds its own on both counts. Start with the high-resolution (2160 x 1440), 12-inch multitouch display. It’s lovely. There’s plenty of screen real estate for displaying two open Windows simultaneously — Word and Internet Explorer, say — which Windows 8.1 lets you do. Earlier Surface models (still in Microsoft’s lineup) have 10.6-inch screens.

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SOURCE: Edward C. Baig
USA TODAY

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