Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Surface Pro 3 Update

My SP3 has seen some upgrades. The launch of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book last year saw the release of new peripherals as well. A new type cover for the SP4 and a new pen for both SP4 and Surface Book brought improvements. After a bit of dilly-dallying, I finally gave in an ordered both to replace the SP3 versions.

I had been able to try out the new type cover in-store so I knew that the typing experience has been greatly improved. But I was not able to try out the new pen, especially the new tips that allow the stylus feel to be customized. But I was glad that I did get it as the writing experience is now much more like that of pen and paper, the friction is a lot better leading to less overshoot.

One thing that I am getting used to is the revised button arrangement on the pen. The SP3 pen had two buttons near the tip accessible when holding it to write, and a third button on the top to activate OneNote. The two lower buttons were for erase and right-click respectively. On the SP4 pen, the right click button is still near the writing end, but erase functionality has been moved to the top of the pen (like an old-school eraser pencil) which retains its OneNote activation duties but also can call up Cortana on a long press. The change of the erase functionality is arguably slower and less precise than the old pen. It takes a lot longer to flip the pen, even if I don't change my grip (though it is an awkward rotation on the wrist), than to press a button that is already at one's fingertip. Apart from this, the rest of the pen usage is improved over the old pen.

I'll wait until I've used the type cover a bit more before I come to any definitive conclusions but so far it is a more positive experience than the old one. The SP3 type cover was perfectly usable but I can't say I enjoyed it. The new one feels a lot less flimsy and the key action is more stable. But time will tell how it fares with lots of text. The trackpad seems to be less slippery, it will take a little getting used to, but I won't say it's necessarily better or worse.

But overall, the new typecover and pen have noticeably transformed the Surface Pro 3 to the extent that it feels as if I have a new computer. The upgrade investment is looking to be a good one.