Surface Pro 3: Portability

Surface Pro 3: Portability

An incredibly portable road companion

Well, we got the bigger Surface Pro we were all clamoring for. But how does the larger form factor impact the size and weight of this device? Will it be a beast in your bag, or is it something you can happily carry without worrying about injuring yourself?

I've only had the Surface Pro 3 for a few days, of course, but I've reviewed enough laptops, Ultrabooks, tablets and other portable computing devices to feel comfortable making a few upfront observations about the portability of this device. As I've noted in the past, one of my big goals while traveling with technology is to hit the right balance between usability and weight, and I'm always looking to lighten the load. Presumably, Surface Pro 3 was designed just for me. Or for people like me. Or something.

Last week, I surmised that if you "squashed" a Surface Pro 2, you could make it both bigger and thinner. And oddly enough, that was pretty much the approach Microsoft took with Surface Pro 3. Where Surface Pro 2 is 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53 inches thick, Surface Pro 3 is 11.5 x 7.93 inches and is just 0.3 inches thick. That thinness is almost exactly half that of the Surface Pro 2, which one might charitably call both thick and slab-like. But it's also a hair thinner than the Surface 2, which is just .35 inches thick. Folks, that is amazing.

Surface Pro (top), Surface Pro 3 (bottom)

As surprising, perhaps, is that Surface Pro 3 is also lighter than its predecessor. At 1.76 pounds (800 grams), the bigger Surface Pro 3 is noticeably lighter than the Surface Pro 2, at 2 pounds (907 grams). And since the new Surface Pro Type Cover is a bit lighter than its predecessor, the Type Cover 2, well, you get the idea. The whole kit and caboodle is lighter ... despite being bigger.

Surface Pro (top), Surface Pro 3 (bottom)

Apple would have a field day marketing such a device. For now, let's consider how this impacts the portability of this device. After all, it is bigger. Is more unwieldy?

No. In fact, it's less unwieldy than its smaller predecessor. As with certain Nokia devices—like the Lumia 920, which was infamous for this—the Surface Pro 2 is an incredibly dense device, packing more weight into a smaller (but thicker) package. Surface Pro 3, by comparison, seems airier, and better proportioned. It's both lighter and more portable. Despite being "bigger."

Surface Pro (top), Surface Pro 3 (bottom)

Having carted around a Lenovo Yoga Pro 2, ThinkPad X1 Carbon and Lenovo Yoga 2 13-inch (non-Pro) on recent trips, I can say that the Surface Pro 3 is among the most portable of the bunch. This would be a wonderful device to travel with, and I'm looking forward to my first cross-country trip with the Pro 3 in early June to determine whether this impression really holds up. But in comparing these devices here at home, I'm comfortable that it will. It's the type of thing you can slip in a bag and forget about.

One concern with the bigger device, of course, is whether it will be usable on a plane or in other tight quarters. In tablet mode, of course, that won't be an issue. But the bigger size and Surface Pro Type Cover combine to make this device both taller and longer, front to back, than the Surface Pro 2.

Surface Pro (left), Surface Pro 3 (right)

You can of course use the frictionless kickstand to find a lower top position for the device, but in this mode it's even longer front-to-back. So it's not clear how well this would work on a plane.

Surface Pro (left), Surface Pro 3 (right)

But here's the kicker. When you place the kickstand on both Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3 at the first position, and then use the magnetic stability strip on the new Surface Pro Type Cover to attach to the front of that device, the Surface Pro 3 is actually shorter from front to back. That is, it would fit better in a cramped airplane seat, at least assuming that the seat in front of you wasn't jacked back all the way.

Surface Pro 3 (top), Surface Pro (bottom)

Basically, it's pretty clear that Microsoft achieved something pretty special in the portability department: This device is bigger top to bottom and left to right, but is thinner and lighter than its predecessor. And the versatility of its new kickstand and Type Cover suggests that you may have an easier time of getting work done in tight travel situations.

I can't wait to take Surface Pro 3 on the road.

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