Quick test on Manjaro Linux
Manjaro Linux is a rolling release, based on Arch. It has a number features that make it a lot more user friendly than Arch itself and it is anoter good option for using Linux on the Surface Pro 3. The official versions come in KDE and Xfce variants, and community builds are available for just about every desktop available.
I did a quick test on Manjaro, using KDE 5.8 as the desktop and Linux 4.9 kernel. Manjaro as a super neat feature for quickly instaling and switchin in between kernel version. 4.9 is the new LTS kernel release, and Manjaro 17.01 will be based on that (now in beta). So I did a quick test on this beta release, but your results should be the same by installing the previous stable (16.10) and switching to kernel 4.9 - after all the core components here are the same (KDE version, Linux kernel)
Quick test results: Manjaro 17.01 beta1
- Type Cover: Keyboard and mouse features work. Advanced touchpad gestures do not (scrolling etc.). There are mixed reports whether this requires a patched kernel or just some configuration tweaks to get it right.
- Hardware keys: Works fine.
- Camera: Works fine
- Touch screen: Seems to work fine - I was able to scroll and pinch-zoom with the QupZilla browser, that comes pre-installed with the beta. I have not tested with Firefox or Gnome yet.
General tips for installing Manjaro
- Secure boot needs to be disabled.
- Installation of Powertop and launching it on boot is recommended for a better battery life.
- KDE does not automatically scale to the UHD display resolution of the SP3, but there is a scaling setting where you can do this manually. Scale factor around 2x should work OK. KDE is also very flexible in customization, so you can size the desktop elements (panels, icons, widgets..) to your liking.
Other than that, it is pretty straight forward. Unfortunately the browser are still ignoring the possibility of on-screen keyboards, which cripples the usage of this device without the keyboard, as a tablet.
Now the cool thing is that since Manjaro is a rolling release, and comes with tools for easy switching of the kernel, one can very easily take advantage of the upcoming Linux 4.10 or any version after that. So if there are any Surface related improvements coming to the kernel (there are reports of added Surface 3 (non-pro) support in 4.10), you can immediately take them into good use.
Overall my quick test impression on Manjaro was so positive that I am now quite sure that I will install it to my SP3 permanently, replacing the previously installed Ubuntu Gnome + Tigerite's patched kernel.
If someone has already figured out a tweak to enable gestures on the touchpad, please share them here!