Surface Pro 3: Wear and Tear

Surface Pro 3: Wear and Tear

Seems normal to me, but your mileage will vary

Having now used Surface Pro 3 for some months, and on multiple lengthy trips, I feel like I can begin evaluating Microsoft's durability claims for the device. As owners of previous Surface models can attest, the industrial design of Surface has always been impressive, and certainly Surface Pro 3 follows in that tradition. But some have reported that these devices also seem prone to scratches, cracks, and other issues. That doesn't match what I'm seeing, at least not yet.

Two important points up front.

First, I don't baby any electronics (except Apple products, which I use sparingly and cover heavily with an eye towards reselling them later since they're here for testing purposes only). So the Surface Pro 3 gets tossed unceremoniously in my bag when I travel, is thrown around the house when I'm home, and is generally man-handled. I don't abuse these things as much as, say, my teenage soon would. But I'm not gentle, by design.

Second, the technical accomplishments of Surface Pro 3 cannot be understated: Here is a real PC, with a real Intel Core processor, crammed into a space that is thinner and lighter than a Macbook Air. Folks, that's not impressive, it's magic. That this thing works at all and doesn't spontaneously ignite in a firestorm every time you turn it on is amazing. Yes, it's going to run hot and the fan will churn up when you really push it. But it's a PC, a real PC, and the combination of those inherent PC capabilities with this thin, light and multi-touch form factor is pretty much unprecedented.

But does it get scratched too easily?

I used to joke that Apple products like the iPod and iPhone were so scratch-prone that you could trigger cracks just by looking at one sideways. That joking was based on real world experience: I've had iPods and iPhones scratch simply by placing them gently on a couch or carpet. Literally.

Surface Pro 3 isn't that bad, not even close. After months of use and lots of travel, you can see a few small nicks and scratches, sure. But that seems like normal wear and tear to me.

I did just see one oddity, which is what reminded me that this article is overdue: After flying overnight from Boston the Barcelona recently, I pulled Surface Pro 3 out of my trusty backpack and was surprised by the scuffing I saw: Black smudges that marred the light gray back of the device.

But this damage was easily explained: I had stuck the Surface Pro 3 in my bag next to my normal Ultrabook and they were rubbing on each other, causing the scuffing. More to the point, this damage was also easily fixed: Most of it came off with a quick application of a damp sponge.

The Type Cover is—and will continue to be—more problematic. Its light color—mine is cyan, a very light blue color that I'm sort of not OK with—attracts hair and debris like a magnet, and its felt-like covering is prone to a browning effect that can only be called disconcerting. You can see it most clearly around the edges of the cover, on both sides.

That said, this too seems like normal wear and tear to me. And I need to get a darker Type Cover.

Finally, while some have said that the Pen Loop that come with Type Cover has fallen off easily, mine as stayed secure the whole time I've had it. Microsoft told me that it was surprisingly resilient and that's been my experience thus far.

I've absolutely received reports from readers of rampant damage to some Surface Pro 3s, and I suspect your mileage will vary according to how you use and treat the device, but also according to luck or circumstance, of course. As with any other expensive purchase, it makes sense to monitor its condition over time and baby it if you are worried about damage. But my experience, so far anyway, has been very positive. 

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