It is the advent of Surface Pro 4, so I went and bought myself an SP3 - I got an offer even the most hard core Linux guy could not resist. I am wriring this on the Surface Pro 3.
A few words about the device
The SP3 has been review by every possible IT-media, so it makes little sense to write an extensive review, especially with the SP4 just around the corner. Still I think it is worth mentioning that Microsoft has really done a good job with the hardware. From hardware perspective the device is very usable as tablet or an ultra portable laptop. The Type Cover keyboard is a very positive surprise, as the keyboard has decent travel and provides genuine feedback - it is better than what you find in cheap laptops. Also the touch pad is one of the better ones I’ve ever seen. I am a bit worried though how much the soft fabric-like material on the cover will collect dirt and grease over time. Also the kick stand is excellent, solving the eternal tablet issue of holding it in your hard (instead of letting it stand on your lap or on the table).
My version is the i5/4GB/128GB SSD. It seems to provide seriously good performance, but I would trade some of the SSD capacity for additional RAM - you cannot add more later and 4GB is so-so for more intensive use cases, which the CPU and display could easily support (for example raw photo editing).
The Achilles heel of Surface Pro 3 is Windows 10, which is still premature. It is not as robust as competing mobile operating systems, which can run for months without a reboot. You have the cumbersome update mechanism, anti-virus dragging your performance and an app store that still is a digital grave yard. These limit the possibilities of the device as a tablet, ie. content consumption device. As an isolated example, the WIndows 10 does not even have a decent Twitter application available, so you’ll end up using the Tweetdeck on the browser, just like with any regular laptop. Therefore I would see the SP3 more like an alternative to Macbook Air, with an added possibility to use it without a keyboard, rather than the iPad. But as an ultra portable laptop the Surface Pro 3 is extremely capable.
Clean installing Windows 10
- Create USB installation media with the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool
- Get Surface Pro 3 drivers from Microsoft
- Boot your SP3 from the USB, run through the Windows 10 installation procedure.
- Install the additional drivers.
Now this was one big factor in my purchasing decision - I have high hopes that in about 6 months time I can run Linux on this device without major issues. Based on various online sources, a lot of code commits have been submitted to the Linux kernel, in order to support Surface Pro 3 out of the box. As of today the support is not 100% yet. I briefly tested this by booting Ubuntu 15.10 Beta 2 from USB - it boots to the desktop successfully and many things work, but there were still glitches here and there. We’ll get back to this once the 15.10 release is officially out. Whether it works or note, I have faith that by next spring (Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) the support would be in place, and the dream of a high quality Linux tablet/convertible would finally come true.
The Linux scenario is what I will be reporting about in this thread. I would also love to see some input from you guys and what are your findings. Of course all Surface Pro 3 discussion is welcome, regardless of the operating system - I will support you where ever i can.