The Surface Pro 3 – Ideal Productivity for Web Entrepreneurs

By on October 6, 2014

If you’re looking for a way to boost your productivity tenfold and to enjoy using your computer tons more at the same time, get a Surface Pro 3.

Surface Pro 3 Review

For the last year or so, I’ve been using a Surface Pro 1 and I love it. During the same time period, my productivity and output has increased and it’s no coincidence. The simple matter is, that I enjoyed using the Surface Pro so much and it gave me so many more options for the way I worked, that I ended up accomplishing much more in day.

The Surface Pro 3 meanwhile, has all the benefits of the Surface Pro and tons more. That’s why I’d argue it’s possibly the best laptop/tablet hybrid on the market and especially if you’re a web entrepreneur.

Not convinced? Let me go into a little more detail…

The Concept

The idea behind the Surface Pro line of devices, is to combine a tablet and a laptop into one single machine. Thus they come packaged in a tablet like body (with touchscreen of course), but with the horsepower and operating system of a full Windows PC. The new Surface Pro 3 comes in several configurations, with i3, i5 and i7 processors available and 4 or 8GB of RAM. You can also pick how much hard drive space you need. I went for the i5 processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of memory. I would have liked an i7 with 8GB but… y’know… money. And it seems like the i5 has superior battery and doesn’t run as hot, so at least there’s that! Mine is plenty powerful too – I’m able to play some pretty labour-intensive games including my favourite Sonic Generations on mid-range settings.

To take your tablet from tablet mode to laptop mode, all you have to do is snap on the ‘type cover’ which is a paper-thin keyboard. This idea has been around since the Surface Pro 1, but the 3 has the advantage of an additional magnetic strip that allows you to create a sloped surface to type on which also helps it to sit more sturdily on your lap. The keys have surprising travel for the thin profile and the typing experience is comfortable enough for me to churn out my normal 10,000 words+ daily. Add to that the kickstand which is also upgraded and now able to prop your Surface up at pretty much any angle, and you now have an incredibly versatile machine that’s just as suited to being a laptop on your lap as it is to being a slightly elevated surface for drawing on, or for watching shows in the kitchen while you peel onions.

So basically, when you want a laptop, you add the keyboard and you have a beautiful ultrabook, but when you want a tablet you take the keyboard off and you swipe through Metro apps. It’s ideal as an incredibly slim, light computer to take with you to the coffee shop (if you’re me), but it’s also a perfect device to pick up and read some blogs on too.

Features

Also noteworthy is the screen’s size, aspect ratio and beauty. At 2160 x 1140, the 12-inch screen gives you a 3:2 aspect ratio that almost exactly mimics that of an A4 piece of paper. This makes it feel like a much bigger monitor than the usual widescreen approach you get with laptops and tablets and at ‘2K’ it’s also immensely immersive. This is more than ample room for working and multitasking, even for developers and it’s truly a great experience when you want to get some real work done.

The Surface Pro 3 also comes with a variety of other cool features. Most notable of these is the stylus, which has always been a big selling point of the line. Microsoft opted to swap from a Wacom digitizer to an N-trig one, which means fewer levels of pressure sensitivity (256 I believe?) compared to the old one and marginal delay with tracking. On the plus side though, it’s more precise (particularly around the edges of the screen) and it gives you Bluetooth functions.

For artists, it’s certainly adequate for drawing in Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro (which I use a lot), but its killer app is the ability to click the button on the end and have the Surface automatically launch OneNote – even from sleeping. This means it’s ready to go as soon as you want to take notes, and the A4 size makes it ideal for holding in the crook of your elbow as you do. In a meeting it’s ideal and the look of the thing just makes you want to pick it up and start scribbling. It looks mega-studious.

OneNote by the way is awesome in general. Not only does it organize your notes and share them via the cloud brilliantly, but it also lets you ‘print’ PDFs straight into it for annotation. And another Surface Pro 3-only feature is the ability to double tap the end of the pen to take a screenshot so that you can annotate or share with friends. You can even crop elements from the screen if you just want to share an image or a screenshot from a YouTube film. Microsoft say that an upcoming update will allow you to take a photo with the in-built camera, then share it with OneNote to annotate. This will be handy for me, seeing as I often like to take photos of things rather than writing stuff down when I’m making notes…

It’s pretty smart, like a lot of Microsoft’s Metro apps actually which are beginning to grow in number…

The Experience

For anyone, the Surface Pro 3 is a beautiful device that is incredibly well made. It looks and feels premium and its power-to-weight ratio is second to none. The SSD hard drive makes it incredibly nippy and because it’s Microsoft’s ‘flagship’ product it gets great support with updates. In short, it’s the best experience you can get from Windows 8.1 and soon with 10.

But if you’re someone who works online like me, then you’ll get even more benefit from the form factor of a Surface Pro 3. This is an incredibly light and thin device to drop into a bag that looks awesome on any coffee table next to a mug of coffee. The new kickstand and type cover actually make it more versatile and ‘lapable’ than a regular laptop seeing as it doesn’t get hot on your lap and can be angled to any degree. This is the only device I know that you can use on a beanbag with your knees up – you just hook the kickstand onto your knees and type on the keyboard with it hanging down your legs.

Another bonus of devices with removable keyboards, is that they can be used as ‘mini desktop computers’. I have the Microsoft Wedge Mouse and Keyboard, and what I like to do is put my Surface Pro 3 in the stand that comes with that and then turn it into a small desktop computer. This lets me type on the more ergonomic Wedge Keyboard and use the nice mouse for navigation and when I’m done I can just walk off with the screen. You just can’t do this with a full laptop, because the regular screen gets in the way.

Then if you want to show something to a client, or take hand-written notes, you can treat it entirely as a tablet. It’s also a great multimedia device – when I’m cooking or washing up in the kitchen I can angle the screen perfectly to face me and watch hours of YouTube and Netflix (videos look as incredible as you’d expect with the 2K resolution). It’s also the perfect dimensions to be used as a comic book reader (I run the Marvel Unlimited app through an Android emulator).

In short, the form factor and sheer power of the Surface Pro 3 makes it a truly awesome machine for a range of uses, but particularly for those road warriors and entrepreneurs who want to be able to work wherever they please, carry something relatively light but not be limited by power constraints. And the fact that it can play Sonic Generations is just the icing on the cake.

The Drawbacks

This wouldn’t be a very balanced review though if I didn’t mention the few drawbacks of the Surface Pro 3 – of which there are a couple. For starters, the body scratches pretty easily so you’ll want to get a protective case ASAP. The screen, although beautiful, does have a little light bleeding when it’s showing a black display, and it’s also very sensitive to ‘burn marks’. My device has got a very slight yellow line on the left hand side. It’s so slight as to be almost invisible and it only shows up on some colours… but it is there and it’s a bit upsetting for such an expensive device. Why don’t I just take it back? Well apparently this is a problem with quality control at Microsoft and a large proportion of devices have the same issue. It’s a shame, but do bear in mind that it’s also a common problem reported with certain MacBooks, iPads and a range of other high resolution devices. It’s not a deal breaker by any means.

Another drawback is that a couple of features are steps backwards from the original Surface Pro. The pen is great and I love the Bluetooth functions, but I do miss the marginally faster tracking of the old Wacom stylus. Likewise, the keyboard is a revelation in many ways, but no longer flips backwards so easily around the device when you’re holding it like a tablet (in my opinion – though it is somewhat better if you flip the keyboard over and reattach it first so that the keys face inwards). Some people complained about the positioning of the Windows button on the side of the screen, saying it got in the way when they were drawing. Solution? Turn the device upside down… that literally immediately solves that issue.

Similarly, some people were concerned that when the keyboard magnet was docked, you could no longer swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the menus. Again, there’s an easy solution: swipe from the top, it does the same thing. The pen ‘loop’ as a storage option is a little cheap, but it works better if you attach it to the side of the device itself rather than the keyboard.

Another issue some people had was with programs scaling to fit the high resolution of their displays, but personally I haven’t found this too much of a problem. Everything looks pretty crisp to me and is all large enough to be legible and controllable – perhaps I just have good eyesight. Either way, any software that isn’t scaling properly should do in future iterations as soon every device is going to be sporting a resolution at least this high. That’s the price you pay for being an early adopter.

And the Surface line is a line of devices for early adopters. With a surface you have a thin slice of technology that’s as powerful as many desktop PCs. A lot of the ‘issues’ people have with it are really to do with adapting to a new way of working, rather than real ‘problems’. It’s beautifully made and it puts you right at the cutting edge. If you’re an online entrepreneur then you’re already a pioneer of technology… you and this device were made for each other!

Video Review

The Best Software, Apps and Accessories for the Surface Pro 3

Desktop Software

  • Blue Stacks – The Android emulator that gives you access to all the apps you use on your smartphone
  • AndyRoid – Another Android emulator, this one is slightly better for games because it has more settings
  • Sketchbook Pro – Absolutely perfect for sketching with the SP3
  • Steam – For access to all your games. Noice.

Apps

  • OneNote – It comes free, but just to reiterate… this software is excellent
  • Evernote – If you prefer
  • NextGen Reader – A beautiful and easy to use feed reader
  • Genstalgia – A Genesis emulator
  • Snestalgia – A SNES emulator
  • Remote Desktop – If you have another computer, then you can use Remote Desktop to stream it live to your device. Thus you can access your desktop PC from the comfort of your bed… There’s also TeamViewer Touch.
  • Comixology – While the Marvel Unlimited App has yet to come to the Windows 8 store, Comixology will let you purchase and read comics on the go.
  • Skype – For chatting to friends on the John
  • BallStrike – An augmented reality fitness game that gets you to punch balls as they come up onto the screen using the front-facing camera. A very intuitive and fun use of the tech!
  • PhotoShop Express – PhotoShop Express is PhotoShop, only free and more intuitive for touch controls. Of course it’s not as feature-rich as the real thing (like, at all), but if you just want to do some cropping and add some filters then it’s quick and fun.
  • Text-O-Matic – A ‘typeographic’ design app. A little pricey, but neat and time-saving
  • Project Siena – I’ve yet to have a proper play with this, but this is an app from Microsoft that’s supposed to make it easy to build your own Windows 8 apps. I’ll be toying around with it and see if I can’t make some kind of workout tracker…
  • Project Spark – Project Spark is an app/game that lets you build games and play games built by other people. It’s free for the Surface and essentially provides you with unlimited free gaming content. It does run a little slowly on the i5 though…
  • Surface Hub – This app allows you to adjust the pressure sensitivity of your stylus, which makes a big difference actually

Accessories

  • Type Keyboard – This keyboard sadly doesn’t come bundled with the SP3… a little pricey, but well worth it
  • The Microsoft Wedge Keyboard and Mouse – For turning your SP3 into a mini desktop computer
  • Xbox One controller – Yup, it works!
  • The Freedom Case – You don’t really need a case that doubles as a stand for this device, but if you’re going to get one this is the one you want!
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About Adam Sinicki

Hi there! My name is Adam Sinicki, I'm an entrepreneur, psychology graduate and amateur bodybuilder interested in fitness, self improvement, technology and transhumanism. I run an online business (NQR Productions) which allows me to live the lifestyle I want: getting time to hit the gym and to work on my projects and apps. Stick around and I'll be sharing my experiments and adventures in brain training, bodybuilding, productivity, business and technology.