The Microsoft Surface 3 vs. Surface Pro 3

Choose between these two Surface tablet PCs

The Microsoft Surface family has many members, and it's not always easy to tell each one apart. For example, the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3 look identical at a glance but are different devices on the inside. We tested the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 to help you decide which is a better fit for you.

Production of the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 ended in 2016, but these devices can be purchased used or refurbished.

Surface 3 vs Surface Pro 3

Overall Findings

Surface 3
  • 2 GB memory with an option to upgrade to 4 GB.

  • 64 GB storage with an option to upgrade to 128 GB.

  • 10.8-inch display (1920 x 1280).

  • Quad-core Intel Atom x7 processor.

  • Full-size USB 3.0.

  • MicroSD card reader.

  • Mini DisplayPort.

  • Weighs 1.5 pounds.

Surface 3 Pro
  • Up to 8 GB memory.

  • Up to 512 GB storage.

  • 12-inch display (2160 x 1440).

  • Intel Core processor up to i7, 1.7 GHz.

  • Full-size USB 3.0.

  • MicroSD card reader.

  • Mini DisplayPort.

  • Weighs 1.76 pounds.

Both tablets have Windows 8.1 installed. This is unlike the previous Surface RT model, which came with a limited version of Windows. Both tablets can be used with a keyboard cover (with backlit keys), a stylus, and other accessories such as a docking station and wireless display adapter. Aside from different sizes, both devices look the same from the outside. That's where the similarities stop.

The Surface 3 Pros and Cons

  • Less expensive than the Surface 3 Pro.

  • Comes with a 1-year subscription to Office 365 Personal and 1 TB OneDrive storage.

  • Up to 10 hours of battery life.

  • The Surface Pen is sold separately.

  • The kickstand only has 3 positions.

  • Less storage space and processing power than the Surface 3 Pro.

The Surface 3 is the more affordable of the two tablets. It comes with 2 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage, which can be doubled. It has a 10.8-inch display with a 1920 x 1280 resolution. This tablet runs on a Quad-core Intel Atom x7 processor that isn't as powerful as the Intel Core processor on the Surface Pro 3. However, the Surface 3 has a longer battery life (up to 10 hours).

While the Surface 3 is a good competitor for the Apple iPad, it's not meant to replace a regular laptop. The Surface 3 runs the full version of Windows just like a regular laptop, and it has a full-size USB 3.0 port, a microSD card reader, and a Mini DisplayPort. This gives it several advantages over the iPad.

The Surface Pro 3: Similar to MacBook Pro

  • The kickstand has multiple positions.

  • The Surface Pen is included.

  • Up to 9 hours of battery life.

  • Microsoft Office is sold separately.

  • More expensive than the regular Surface 3.

  • Limited USB ports compared to similar devices.

The Surface Pro 3 could be a full laptop and tablet replacement. The 12-inch tablet has a 2160 x 1440 sharp display and comes in many configurations with Intel Core processors. The Surface Pro 3 options include:

  • 64 GB storage, Intel Core i3 (1.5 GHz), 4 GB RAM
  • 128 GB storage, Intel Core i5 (1.9 GHz), 4 GB RAM
  • 256 GB storage, Intel Core i5 (1.9 GHz), 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB storage, Intel Core i7 (1.7 GHz), 8 GB RAM
  • 512 GB storage, Intel Core i7 (1.7 GHz), 8 GB RAM

In terms of performance, the Surface Pro 3 is comparable to a MacBook Pro, but it also functions as a tablet. On the downside, the Surface Pro 3 has the same ports as the Surface 3, which is fewer than a regular laptop should have. The multi-position kickstand is a nice addition since many laptops can't be positioned with such precision.

Final Verdict: Surface Pro 3 for Laptop Replacement

Before choosing any laptop or tablet, consider what you need it to do. The cheaper Surface 3 offers the same Windows 8.1 experience as the Surface Pro, and its small size and less powerful specs make it suitable as a tablet or travel laptop. The Surface Pro 3 makes a better laptop replacement or a desktop PC replacement when docked.