On September 1, 2014, I picked up a box wrapped in two layers of bubble wrap and wrapped in white paper from the office of a transport company, inside of which was a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. And I still use it.
What for? Why?
I needed a compact laptop, one that is convenient to carry with you. I did not consider devices on Atom – I had one and slowed down mercilessly, and it seemed too plump. Therefore, I began to look towards full-fledged, but small devices.
At that time I was a student and studied circuit engineering, and even planned to make a career in this area. It requires specialized software, and the one I was working with was published exclusively on the Windows platform.
I didn’t even look in the direction of the Macbook – I didn’t want to mess with virtual machines, and in order to show off the apple, as I thought, there was simply no money.
At the same time, I love to poke my finger at the screens since 2007. Normal people got their first iPhone this year, but I became the owner of a strange device Motorola Ming A1200, similar to a Star Trek communicator, which instilled in me a tender feeling for touch interfaces.
At one time I drooled over convertibles from HP and wanted something like that, even though Vista with the “seven” was not optimized for fingers at all.
And so, at some point, Microsoft decided to combine a laptop and a tablet in one device and launched the Surface line. To devices-combines of type all in one I also have a strange love, so I watched the line with interest.
As usual with Microsoft, at first everything was somewhat idiotic – two different versions of Windows, one full and the other stripped down, overheating, platform unoptimization, expensive mandatory accessories, and so on, but anyway, the first Surface turned out to be pretty and even promising in my Windows opinion .
A couple of years passed, and Redmond announced Pro 3. In terms of parameters, the device at that time corresponded to the level of good ultrabooks, cost the same, but offered two competitive advantages – a touch screen and a detachable (albeit paid) keyboard. Plus, the device itself was produced by Microsoft, which means that it will have almost a lifetime of system support.
Thinking that for two generations of devices, the developers have already managed to fill all conceivable bumps, I decided that I should take it. I read reviews of foreign sites, cautiously looked at the growing dollar exchange rate, clicked reviews on Youtube, and as a result, a month after the official release, I ordered it.
In 2014, everything was simple – you go to a mail forwarder, get an address, buy a device in the USA to that address and wait for it to be sent to you.
However, later, due to the tightening of the political situation and the conditional closure of borders, customs officers began to look much more zealously at the presence of FSB notifications on devices, and now mail forwarders do not send devices without notification.
Notification is the permission of the FSB of Russia to import electronic equipment containing encryption modules. In simple terms, all devices that have at least Wi-Fi or Bluetooth must be approved by the brave FSB for use in Russia.
If the device was not officially delivered to Russia, then the likelihood of it having a notification is reduced to zero – and Surface Pro 3 and older fall into the category of such devices.
Devices without notification are simply wrapped at customs. Some magicians, using special street magic, managed to convince the customs officers that the goods were imported for personal use, but few can boast of success. Therefore, now such a device can reach Russia only practically by smuggling.
Some mail forwarders have services like “courier to Russia”: a special person periodically dangles, for example, from New York to Moscow and, in addition to his own things, also carries other people’s things.
Typically, such couriers carry jewelry, because their declared value often exceeds the legal limit of 1000 euros and it is impossible, and scary, to send them by mail or regular courier service without paying a customs duty.
Such a courier can also bring devices without notification – just in a backpack, as a personal product. And you can, for example, ask friends. If they exist, of course.
On September 1, 2014, I picked up a box wrapped in two layers of bubble wrap and wrapped in white paper from the office of a transport company, inside which lay a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I took the penultimate version – with a Core i5, 4 GB of memory and a 128 GB hard drive.
They said about the Core i7 that it often overheats, plus at that moment I thought that a small amount of memory would be enough for my tasks, so I didn’t even look at the version with i5, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD (but bought it in eventually at the end of 2016), as well as the Core i3 version.
The device itself was purchased for 969 US dollars, which at that rate (end of August 2014) was approximately 37,000 rubles. But this is Microsoft – the keyboard for it was sold separately and cost $ 129, that is, about another 5,000 rubles.
Well, at least the stylus came with the keyboard. As a result, with the services of a mail forwarder, almost the simplest Surface Pro 3 with a keyboard cost 45 000 rubles.
The letters “Pro” in the name mean that it has Windows 8 Professional version installed. Unlike the slightly stripped-down One Language that I have on another laptop, it gives more freedom in terms of settings and some other ephemeral goodies, which, to be honest, I didn’t feel.
But it was updated regularly, and bugs were fixed quickly – after all, for Microsoft it was a flagship product for some time and was closely monitored.
The device itself weighs 800 grams, which is very little for a laptop of those years with a similar configuration. The keyboard adds another 300 grams of weight to it, but even with it, the Surface Pro 3 fits well into the shaky boundaries of the ultrabook category. It was convenient to carry it with you everywhere and everywhere just because it did not weigh so much, and the size was very close to a pack of A4 sheets. I practically did not part with him.
It has become a device for both work and entertainment. Crawling on the Internet in full-fledged browsers with uncut functionality and at the same time in landscape orientation is still wildly convenient. You can quickly switch from reading comics to working in specialized software, then to the third “Heroes”, then open a serious image editor and draw and collage something – and all in one device.
Of course, it cannot be said that Microsoft, trying to cram the functionality of a tablet and a laptop into one device, did not make compromises. But Windows 8 (and later Windows 10) at least offered a finger-friendly interface, and for that they should be commended.
I got the hang of the pen right away. If earlier I riveted all sorts of banners and other things with the mouse, then with the stylus, which you drive not on the surface somewhere on the side, but right on the screen, life has become noticeably easier.
I even lectured them—wryly, but legible nonetheless. The Surface Pro 3 battery was almost enough for two pairs of non-stop scribbles (okay, with periodic viewing of Youtube) at a brightness of 25-50% – that’s about four hours. In the mode of working with texts and web surfing, the device lives eight hours away from the outlet.
The color reproduction of the screen, according to the tests, almost falls into DCI-P3. The screen itself is 12-inch with an aspect ratio of 3:2 and a resolution of 2160×1440 pixels. Not the most standard solution, but for life, as it turned out, incredibly convenient.
Watching movies – yes, a little dumb: black stripes come out from above and below. But on the other hand, text in landscape orientation fits more, and in portrait interfaces of sites, for example, they expand and look less crowded. Again, due to this format, the device is comparable in size to an A4 sheet and can, for example, be placed in all sorts of folders for papers or even serve as this folder.
Of course, it cannot be called gaming, and I believe that consoles are needed for games, because it is very difficult to optimize applications for thousands of different configurations and the likelihood of lags and problems in PC gaming is unnecessarily high.
However, on the Surface Pro 3, I spent sleepless nights playing third Heroes on the queen, flirting with This War of Mine, having nightmares in Sunless Sea, and spoiling my karma with other casual games. From my last guild pool, he ran Sonic Mania and even the super unoptimized Sonic Forces (albeit at low settings at 1280×720 in windowed mode at 30 fps).
The specialized software that I needed for my studies played a cruel joke on me: it was developed at a time when the resolution of 1024×768 seemed like a horse, and therefore, on my screen, the interfaces of these windows looked ridiculous. But the programs, nevertheless, worked and allowed me to quickly make laboratory ones, calculate and calculate the parameters for them, and also edit reports on the spot, which sometimes was almost more important than all of the above.
While classmates tried to fit huge 17-inch gaming MSI and Dell on their desks and could not tear themselves away from the outlet, I calmly sat down wherever I worked. This feeling of freedom, that he, no matter how clichéd it may sound, is always ready to help, perhaps the main reason why I still use Surface.
It just works. He does what I need, when and how I need it. Excluding updates, of course.
Not everything is so rosy
I believe that ideal devices in a vacuum simply do not exist. Each user has his own set of parameters and criteria that the device must meet in order to be considered fit. There is also a list of side chips that seem to be not very important, but they affect the overall impression.
In my case, the Surface Pro 3 met the basic parameters – it was light, super multifunctional and, damn it, it looked cool and futuristic, and in principle it was a rarity for Russia. And I, as it turned out a little later, still like to show off.
But there are a few things that I, as the owner, had to put up with.
Active cooling: you need to be on the alert
He has a fan. Air vents are located all around the case, but the heat actually escapes in the upper right corner. This same corner is heated the most.
The fan starts to make noise in the first second after turning on and does not shut up. Sometimes it howls a little stronger, sometimes a little weaker, but it works almost without interruption. There are several features associated with this cooling system.
Firstly, in portrait orientation, the device has to be rotated with the Windows logo not to the belly, as logic suggests, but to the ceiling – because the belly will be uncomfortable hot, and Surface Pro 3 will not receive proper air outflow and will overheat.
In fairness, I only encountered overheating when I plugged the exhaust holes – so the ventilation system works well for it, although, as is customary with Microsoft, it is not user-friendly enough.
Secondly, this upper right corner during a load slightly above average cannot be rested on anything at all. Once I started playing This War of Mine and, without noticing, tucked the side of my laptop into a blanket. After some time, the device squeaked, turned off, after showing me the thermometer, and cooled down for about ten minutes. Fortunately, progress has been made.
The first time I cracked the screen six months after the purchase. A small piece of glass, half a centimeter in size, broke off from the lower left corner, not reaching the screen itself. Fortunately, it did not crack, so this annoying nuisance only affected the appearance of the device and did not affect the operation of the screen and sensor.
The second time I cracked the screen six months later. I was very unkindly slammed into a marble wall on the subway, and just that day I used a backpack without a dedicated laptop compartment. As a result, a crack started from the piece that had broken off earlier.
The crack captured the active area of the screen, because of which the sensor began to catch parasitic clicks at the site of damage. At first, I spit on everything and turned off the touch screen altogether, using the Surface Pro 3 just like a laptop with a detachable keyboard. He lived like this for six months, without complaining about anything – nevertheless, due to the full-fledged laptop filling, he coped with all everyday tasks, and the ability to poke at the screen, to be honest, was a pleasant entertainment, but not a necessity.
But at some point I wanted to draw. In 2016, the cost of replacing the screen was 33,000 rubles. The folks at iFixIt voted the Surface Pro 3 one of the least repairable devices out there, hence the hefty price tag. At that moment I was still a student and therefore went to the Internet to look for ways to get rid of parasitic clicks for free.
As a result, the calibration program that Sony offered for its touching Vaio helped me – with it, the screen stopped recognizing hysteria in the beaten area and simply began to ignore any pressing at a distance of one and a half centimeters from the left edge.
Everything to the right worked properly – the rest of the screen obeyed both the fingers and the stylus. I’m lucky that Windows still places the window close buttons on the right instead of the left by default – otherwise it would be less convenient to live with such an inferior screen.
My happiness lasted until the fall of 2016, when I shattered the screen for the third time, once again hitting the unfriendly marble of the metropolitan metro with a backpack not designed to carry laptops. This time the crack was serious – it stretched over two thirds of the screen, and after that only the right seven centimeters reacted to pressing.
Repair prices didn’t drop, I was busy graduating, and my Surface Pro 3 went back to laptop mode for a while.
The funny thing is that the broken protective glass did not affect the image in any way. The largest crack can only be seen from a certain angle. Yes, the web in the lower left part gives the device a kind of ghetto flair, but, again, it does not affect its performance as a laptop.
Moreover, the remnants of even such a broken screen made it possible, for example, to conveniently scroll through comics in landscape orientation, so that some tablet functionality of the Surface Pro 3 was preserved even in this state.
Now that these laptops-tablets-computers have already ceased to be produced, screen replacement in Moscow costs 26,000 rubles. I can afford it, but I did it differently – at the end of 2016 I bought myself a second Surface Pro 3, a little more powerful.
I still plan to fix the old Surface and use it as some kind of media center or additional computer, or maybe even give it to relatives. Time will tell.
This system has its own characteristics. Not everyone is ready to put up with it. For example, I think that the current “top ten” is wildly similar to modern Ubuntu in terms of interfaces and attitude to the user, which, in general, is not bad. But there is also a typical small software obligation in it.
For example, the device is updated when it wants, and reboots according to the same schedule. Sometimes he takes into account the requirements of the user and does his business at a time when he is not being used – and as a result, the user meets an unlogged laptop in the morning, which is not always pleasant. Of course, digging into the Internet, you can get rid of this inconvenience – in principle, the only one that bothers me in everyday life.
I ended up becoming a journalist rather than a circuit engineer, and my day-to-day work tasks involve a browser with Google Docs and a ton of tabs, a couple of chats and an image editor, rather than some specialized resource-intensive software. And any operating system can handle such a set of programs.
Some complain about the lack of touch-oriented apps in the Windows Store. I immediately found myself a book reader and a comic book reader that perfectly work out pressing and gestures, and I don’t suffer. The same Firefox in the latest update has learned to recognize: I poke my finger into the tabs or the mouse cursor, and adapt the size of the buttons.
The system works flawlessly, does not crash into a BSOD, does not surprise with sudden shutdowns, and works out well when launching applications in compatibility mode. Updates sometimes bring unexpected changes to the interface, but here it remains only to understand and forgive. And then get used to it.
But I am loyal to Microsoft and have been using their products almost all my life, despite years of working with Ubuntu and CentOS. For some, the very presence of Windows is a serious minus.
The built-in DAC on the Surface Pro 3 isn’t exactly audiophile. According to the Realtek driver information, it is capable of processing signals in 24-bit/48 kHz format, not higher. That is, even the classic Hi-Res format 24/96 does not make sense to listen to it – there will be a downgrade.
It is not clear, however, whether the DAC itself is so limited or whether it is Windows that does not allow it to open up. On the other hand, the graphs, which the craftsmen took at one time, indicate the absence of clipping in the test signals at 100% volume at 0 dB and the ideal channel balance, and in general they behave quite well.
It is better to connect high-sensitivity headphones to Surface Pro 3, not high-resistance ones – there is not enough power to rock big mugs. For example, with Oppo PM3, in my opinion, he made good friends, but for the Sennheiser HD600 he lacked the strength.
So if your soul does not require high-res and heavy headphones, the Surface Pro 3’s audio power will be enough, but for more audiophile you will have to look at external DAC amplifiers.
A very controversial decision is the rear leg. So, on the table, a device with an unfolded keyboard takes up more space than a regular laptop of the same size, one and a half times – after all, you also need to put the leg on something. Therefore, cozy small coffee shops disappear as workplaces, since it is very difficult to place this Surface, a cup of coffee and a plate of cheesecakes on a small table at the same time.
The leg backlash after several thousand openings and closings. Backlash is not strong, the set angle of inclination keeps in accordance with the laws of gravity. At the same time, it closes with a pleasant cotton, which, with due diligence, can wake up the household.
The leg also has a leg – a strip with two small protrusions, glued into the groove. I accidentally ripped it off one side on an old Surface. Somehow straightened and filled with superglue. It seems to be holding up.
No matter what anyone says, magnesium alloy is still soft. Okay, maybe I’m such a curmudgeon, but Surface Pro 3 is quite willing to overgrow with dents, scratches and other scuffs. The old device does look like it came back from the battlefield.
True, this is noticeable only at a certain angle – a slightly inhomogeneous surface texture hides damage well. Those who care about the appearance of the device can either carry the device in a bag or buy vinyl stickers, which are a wagon and a small cart on the English-speaking Internet.
The mice didn’t even cry or prick
But I have adapted to all these features and shortcomings. I know that you should not grab the upper right corner, that the glass is flimsy and the Brownian movement of the rush hour does not withstand, that the leg is material and requires space, that the sound could be better.
But the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 satisfies my basic requirements. And at least I like the way it looks.
Like I said, it just works and doesn’t let me down. It performs all the tasks assigned to it and for me it really became a 2-in-1 device – I don’t feel the need for a separate tablet, for example.
Microsoft themselves unofficially positioned the Surface line as a replacement for the combination of iPad and Macbook – even for an external display, Mini DisplayPort is provided, which was once installed in Macbook, and the charger mount is magnetic. All so that poppy owners move to the Redmonds’ creation with maximum physical comfort. Unless the Surface had at least one, but a full-fledged USB port.
At the same time, I don’t know a single person who would switch from a bunch of Macbook + iPad to Surface – most likely due to the fact that they are still not officially sold in Russia. And I don’t have world statistics in my pocket.
But I, personally, am happy. And I don’t need more.
It still works. Checkmate, haters.
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