7 Things You Didn’t Know About Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3
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Taken at face value, Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3 is hard to categorize. It’s a big tablet, but includes a channel specifically designed for the click-in optional keyboard, a pen for note-taking and the ability to run everything a traditional Windows 8 PC can handle.
Perhaps it’s a laptop in tablet’s clothing. But whatever the Surface Pro 3 is or isn’t, it’s an intriguing new product entry with a few intriguing features you may have missed.
In conversations with Microsoft execs, Mashable got the lowdown on a handful of key aspects that help the productivity-oriented product stand out.
1. The screen is made up of just two layers.
During the Surface Pro 3 unveiling on Tuesday, Microsoft Corporate VP Panos Panay talked extensively about the quality of the 12-inch screen. Microsoft has been working for years on decreasing the parallax effect you get from the multiple layers necessary to create a modern touch screen. The Surface Pro 3 is the apex of this effort with just two layers: the LCD and the glass on top of it. While Microsoft would not reveal who makes the ultra-thin optical glass, Microsoft distinguished scientist Steven Bathiche said that the glass is coated with indium tin oxide or ITO, which adds the touch sensitivity.
2. The new charger doubles as a high-speed data port.
Microsoft’s Surface Tablets have always had proprietary chargers, none of which have been very good. The new one, however, found only on the Surface Pro 3, is a new propriety design that actually works. Unlike the purely magnetic connector for the previous Surface models, this one slides inside a magnetized slot, which also doubles as a data port. It’s only used that way, however, when the Surface is placed in its docking station (sold separately for $199.99). When you dock the tablet, it connects the dock’s data ports to the Surface Pro through the dual-purpose charging port.
3. It uses an active capacitive pen.
The Surface Pro 3’s pen lets you take notes, wake the tablet with a push of a button and draw like da Vinci (if you have the talent). Unlike a stylus you might use on, say, an iPad, this Bluetooth pen is “active.” According to Bathiche, the battery-powered pen emits an electrostatic field. As a result, you can hover the pen over and control a cursor on screen without actually touching the pen to the screen. The extra technology also gives the pen its 256 levels of pressure sensitivity.
4. The speakers are on the front.
Microsoft has hidden the Surface Pro 3’s stereo speakers on the front of the device, but they’re so cleverly integrated that you might miss them. On the right- and left-hand sides, roughly a half inch from the top edge of the tablet, are two 1-inch cutouts in the glass, and if you look closely, you can see the narrow speaker grills.
5. Surface Pro 3 scales the desktop resolution.
The tablet’s 2,160 x 1,440 high-resolution screen is fantastic for drawing, watching videos and playing games in the Windows Modern UI, but it might be overkill for the familiar Windows Desktop interface. So Microsoft automatically scales up the desktop to 1.5x — an effective resolution of 1,440 x 960. It’s an option Apple also offers for its high-resolution MacBook Air Retina displays and, in the case of Surface Pro 3, will make all those Windows icons and menu options much easier to see and select.
6. Both cameras are 5 megapixels.
Here’s another way you know the Surface Pro 3 is about productivity and not on-the-go fun: Both the front and back cameras max out at 5 megapixels. They’ll take decent — but not spectacular — photos. They both also have the ability to shoot 1080p video, though we suspect that’s more about videoconferencing than about shooting your next great film.
7. Sorry, no LTE for now.
The Surface Pro 3 will need Wi-Fi for connectivity. Even though Microsoft finally delivered an LTE Surface 2 model in March, the business-oriented Surface Pro 3 didn’t launch with an LTE option and no one at Microsoft is saying when (or if) that might happen. On the other hand, Microsoft is selling an external Ethernet Jack ($39.99) which plugs into the device’s USB 3.0 port. If you think of Surface Pro 3 as a laptop replacement, this all makes perfect sense.