Microsoft is hoping that three is the magic number after unveiling the latest addition to its Surface family of devices: the Surface Pro 3. We've gone hands on with the tablet, which impresses thanks to its sharper screen, bigger dimensions and great stylus support.
The company has gone all out by making it the biggest, most powerful and feature-packed Surface yet, and many would argue that it needed to.
Satya Nadella, Ballmer's replacement, has already made progress in evolving Microsoft's mobile and cloud computing strategies (hardly a surprise considering his former position), but the ex-Sun Microsystems engineer still has to earn his hardware stripes.
It was expected that the Surface Pro 3 would be unveiled alongside a Surface Mini, or even a Surface 3, but neither materialized. Instead, it basked in the limelight alone when Microsoft corporate VP Panos Panay took to the stage to show it off to the world.
Surface Pro 3 release date
You can order the Surface Pro 3 now from the Microsoft Store, Microsoft-branded retail outlets and select third-party retailers. However, it won't ship until June 20 in Canada and the US.
Those in the UK and Australia will have to wait until the "end of August" to get their hands on the device. Along with a host of new accessories, it'll ship that month in 26 additional markets.
Surface Pro 3 review
Not only do we know when you can get your hands on a Surface Pro 3, we can tell you whether it's worth getting your hands on it. As it turns out, you totally should! As Joe Osborne puts it in his full review:
"The Surface Pro 3 is not only Microsoft's most striking and versatile device to date, but the most convincing poster child for the hybrid category yet. It might not be perfect, but this is far and wide the brightest shining example of a potential tablet takeover."
Read the full Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review for even more in-depth information, observations and insights on the Redmond firm's most attractive and capable device yet.
Surface Pro 3 design
The Surface Pro 3 an evolution, rather than revolution over the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 in terms of design - it's still a touchscreen tablet featuring an industrial design, with sharp lines, wrapped in a magnesium alloy case with a detachable keyboard.
However, Microsoft claims to have done much more work around the Surface Pro 3's fan this time around. At the product launch, Panos Panay said that it's the quietest Surface device yet - and that you wouldn't be able to see, hear or feel its fan thanks to its new custom designed blades.
Surface Pro 3 specs
Microsoft is pitching the Surface Pro 3 as a full-on laptop killer that's large enough to give you the desktop real estate required to be productive while remaining thin and light enough to be portable.
At 12 inches, its display is the largest on any Surface tablet, and it crams in more pixels than ever. With a pixel resolution of 2160 x 1440, it bests the 1080p panels found on the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 and, according to Microsoft, provides 6% more content than devices with 13-inch displays due to its 3:2 aspect ratio.
Microsoft also claims that the display is "optically bonded with the highest contrast ratios in the industry", making us keen to take the Surface Pro 3 for a spin outdoors to test outdoor readability.
Weighing in at 800g (1.76lbs), the Surface Pro 3 is light compared to similar-sized laptops, such as Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air (2.96lbs) and even the 11-inch variant (2.38lbs). It's also 100g (or 0.2lbs) lighter than the Surface Pro 2, and at 0.35 inches thick, it's thinner too (versus 0.53 inches).
It isn't quite as light as other tablets on the market, such as Apple's iPad Air (1lb) or Sony's Xperia Tablet Z (1.09lbs), which isn't surprising considering its larger size and more powerful components. However, it's only slightly heavier than the 12-inch, Android-powered Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, which weighs 1.66lb.
Microsoft claims that the Surface Pro 3 is 10 per cent faster than the Surface Pro 2. Under the hood, it's being offered with an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 Haswell processor depending on the level of power you're looking to harness (and the size of the hole you're willing to punch into your sobbing wallet).
For better or worse, Microsoft's Surface tablets have always stood out for their multiple position kickstands, and the Surface Pro 3's has enjoyed a similar evolution. It now sports a 'friction hinge', which allows it to recline to any position up to 150 degrees, which Microsoft calls "Canvas Mode" due to its suitability for drawing.
We may still only be in the pre-order stage when it comes to the Surface Pro 3, but Microsoft has already set about improving various aspects of the device - a few of which are related to its drawing capabilities.
In a blog post, Penny Arcade artist Gabe detailed a flaw in the Surface Pro 3 that means the Home button (Windows flag) on its right-hand bezel can be accidentally activated while drawing, despite there being palm rejection and guard sensors to prevent inadvertent hits. In response, Microsoft worked with Gabe to fix the issue via an update that disables the home button when the pen comes into contact with the screen.
Microsoft is also working on other issues highlighted by Gabe, including stylus sensitivity and lag, but it's unclear whether a fix will be delivered in time for the Surface Pro 3's general release.
Surface Pro 3 pen
You'll be doing that using the new Surface Pro 3 pen, which powers on the device and launches OneNote when pressed to the screen.
By clicking the pen you can save your doodles directly to OneDrive's cloud storage, and double clicking it with the camera open will take a photo that can then be scribbled on in the app.
The Surface Mini was widely expected to be a killer note-taking device, a role that, for the time being, appears to have been assigned to the Surface Pro 3.
According to Microsoft, the Surface Pro 3's optical stack (the LCD screen and digitiser) is the thinnest yet, measuring 0.7mm. This means that when you used the Surface Pro 3's pen, it's more akin to writing on paper than a display as the virtual "ink" practically touches the pen tip when the two interact.
In a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA), the Surface team said that it's working on allowing you to launch the desktop version of the OneNote app by pressing the top button on the Surface Pen, rather than the Metro-style version.
The Surface Pro 3's pen and form factor has already won it a few converts. In June, UPMC, a healthcare delivery and financing system in the US, decided to to deploy 2,000 Surface Pro 3 devices over Apple's iPad. According to a post on Microsoft's Surface blog, UPMC was looking for a device that healthcare workers could carry around instead of laptops and iPads.
In an interview with TechRadar, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Surface Panos Panay said that the Surface Pro 3 is "made for people ... not businesses". However, that hasn't stopped a number of enterprises lining up as early adopters - including BMW, Coca Cola, Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy and Avande.
Surface Pro 3 battery life and connectivity
Microsoft claims that the Surface Pro 3 has a battery life of up to nine hours. In the Reddit AMA, the Surface team acknowledged that battery life would be the same across all of the models (i3, i5 and i7), adding that benchmark scores will be around 15 - 20 per cent better on the i7 model than the i5.
The company also confirmed the Surface Pro 3's status as a Connected Standby model, meaning it will wake up in half a second when interacted with. However, should you leave it for longer than four hours, it'll slip into hibernation and will then take a similar amount of time to wake up as the Surface Pro 2.
It also moved to dispel any concerns around how many times you can charge the device before it loses its fizz: charge the device daily (meaning five times a week) for over 4.5 years and it will still maintain 80 per cent capacity.
Microsoft encountered an early charging-related problem when review units were sent out to review. Several journalists reported that their Surface Pro 3 was refusing to charge despite being plugged in. A member of Microsoft's PR team acknowledged the issue in a tweet and assured that the problem would be fixed before devices hit the shelves.
If the battery fails during the warranty period, Microsoft confirmed that it will replace it for free. Outside of the warranty period, you'll need to contact Microsoft support and arrange for the battery to be replaced, along with paying a US$200 (around £119) replacement fee.
In terms of connectivity options, the Surface Pro 3 has 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, USB 3.0 and a TPM 2.0 chip. Its front-facing speakers are 45 per cent louder than previous generations, and front and rear-facing cameras are capable of shooting 1080p video and taking 5-Megapixel photos.
Sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and an ambient light sensor. It's lacking GPS and 4G, however, both of which made an appearance in the last Surface device outed, the Surface 2 4G.
Price, covers and accessories
Surface Pro 3 price
The Surface Pro 3 comes in three configurations, starting at $799 in the US for the Core i3 model with 64GB of internal storage and 4GB RAM. There's no word on UK or AUS pricing just yet, but a rough conversion would put that price at £474 and $865 respectively.
Moving up the ladder, the first Core i5 version comes in at $999 (128GB storage, 4GB RAM), the second Core i5 version at $1,299 (256GB, 8GB), the first Core i7 version at $1,549 (256GB, 8GB) and the second Core i7 version at $1,949 (512GB, 8GB).
Surface Pro 3 Type Cover and accessories
Keeping in tradition with previous Surface tablets, the Surface Pro 3 arrives with its own selection of covers and accessories.
First up, the new Type cover has a 68 per cent larger touchpad than the oft-bemoaned ones on the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2's covers and 78 per cent less friction. Unfortunately, you'll have to cough up $120 (£110) for the cover on top of paying for the device.
Microsoft said that it once again decided not to bundle a cover in with the price of the Surface Pro 3 as people may want to buy it and then pick up a different colored cover separately.
In the Reddit AMA the company confirmed that it's no longer offering the Surface Music kit that was outed along with the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, but it hasn't abandoned the idea of providing additional functionality through new covers either.
Arriving in a variety of colors, the new covers now feature a magnetic hinge that attaches to the Surface Pro 2's bottom bezel. This apparently makes it sturdier and provides an even more laptop-like experience when sat in your lap (something that Microsoft describes as "lappability" - seriously), allowing you to shift the device around to find the best viewing angles without excessive wobbling.
Microsoft hasn't forgotten desk workers either - the Surface Pro 3 gets its own dock that can drive a 4K monitor through Mini DisplayPort, providing a dual display setup for apps such as Photoshop or Illustrator.