Let’s get this out of the way first. Taking cost out of the equation, the Surface Pro 3 is better than the still-excellent Surface 3 by any reasonable measure. Both devices have similar designs and features, but you can just do more with a Pro 3, owing to its more powerful processor.
All things being equal, the Surface Pro 3 wins, hands down. In fact, even one year since launching, the Surface Pro 3 beats nearly every other general computing device on market.
But all things aren’t equal, particularly price tags. The Surface 3 costs considerably less than the Surface Pro 3. Granted, this doesn’t matter for some users. They need a machine that can handle pro-level image editing or complex professional software. For these users, the Pro 3 is it. For everyone else, the Joes and Janes that need an everyday computer for work, school and play, the question is whether the differences justify the dollars.
Build and Design
The Surface 3 and Pro 3 look nearly identical, and have similar design features… for the most part. The Surface 3 is about 10% smaller, and about 0.4 pounds lighter, which is about the weight of an average smartphone.
Both devices look great, and sport the same magnesium build that we love so much. The Surface 3 and Pro 3 are two of the best-built devices on the market, no doubt.
Between the two, the Surface 3 marginally edges out the Pro 3, however. In our reviews of this tablets, we pointed out that the Pro 3’s large size can be “a bit unwieldy” at times, while the Surface 3’s slightly smaller build “never feels as small as its size,” later adding, “a cluttered desktop or busy spreadsheet never gets claustrophobic.”
Display and Speakers
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch display, while the Surface 3 has a 10.8-inch display. Both have a 3:2 aspect ratio, while the Pro 3 has 216 pixels per inch, and the Surface 3 has 213 pixels per inch. Both displays support the same N-Trig pen and up to 10 touch points.
These are very similar displays, and both are very good. The Pro 3 is slightly better at cutting through glare, and tends toward yellow. For its part, the Surface 3 tends toward a more magenta hue, which is a bit more pleasing on the eyes.
Buttons and Ports
Both these tablets have a power button on the top, while the Surface 3 has a volume rocker there as well. The Pro 3 volume rocker is on the left landscape side.
Each has a kickstand, and while the Pro 3’s is continuous and opens fluidly, the Surface 3’s kicks out to three different stops (well, four if you count the failsafe). Both have a microSD card slot hidden underneath.
They have the same magnetic keyboard cover receptacle on the bottom, as well as a USB 3.0 port and mini DisplayPort on the right landscape side. The Surface 3 also has a 3.5mm audio jack there, while the Pro 3’s audio jack is on the left side, above the volume rocker.
The Surface Pro 3 has an elegant and proprietary magnetic charging receptacle, also on the right landscape side, while the Surface 3 has a micro-USB charging input in the same respective spot.
The volume rocker is better placed on the Surface 3 as well, because, as we found when reviewing this device, “pushing the left-sided volume rocker [on the Pro 3] too often shifts the tablet to the right.”
We also prefer the micro-USB charger to the Pro 3’s magnetic input. Micro-USB simply has more utility owing to its ubiquity. As a bonus, the micro-USB input also functions as a USB host for accessories, though most of these will require a micro-to-full USB adapter.
For its part, the Pro 3 has the better kickstand, but that’s not enough to sway the decision. As we stated in the Surface 3 review, “we found three stops to be plenty of 99% of use cases.”
Don’t stop now; Page 2 has a comparison of the performance of these two tablets.
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