By design, Microsoft's flagship tablet PC straddles the line between a standard tablet and a full-sized laptop. While the Surface Pro 3 has its rough spots, the tablet computer balances performance and portability more adeptly than its predecessors.

Internally, the Surface Pro 3 relies on Intel's Core series of processors. These processors, which are typically used in regular laptops, give the Surface Pro 3 a superb performance ceiling. Benchmark testing from our colleagues at Laptop Mag came on a Surface Pro 3 built with a 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U processor and a 256GB solid-state drive. In processing and gaming tests Geekbench 3 and 3DMark, the tablet's scores of 5,665 and 33,614 were much higher than Top Ten Reviews' respective tablet averages of 2,620 and 14,753. In practice, this means that the Surface Pro 3 can handle laptop-level applications like Adobe Photoshop without significant performance limits.

With dimensions of 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.36 inches and a weight of 1.76 pounds, the 12-inch Surface carries more bulk in comparison to competing tablets. Still, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 configurations offer some portability-friendly flexibility. The tablet's models include solid-state drives with capacities up to 512GB and an Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processor.

The Surface's adjustable kickstand and optional keyboard provide additional convertible-like functionality, but the tablet's Type Cover still uses the same design from past Surface covers. In hands-on testing, Laptop found the Type Cover to be more difficult to type on compared to standard laptop keyboards because of its flexibility and 5mm thickness.

The Surface was an average performer in Laptop's battery test, in which a tablet loops through webpages on a constant brightness until it powers down. The tablet's mark of 7 hours and 42 minutes was below Microsoft's rated battery life of up to 9 hours and that of comparable premium tablets, which generally have lifespans of between 9 and 10 hours.

The Pro 3 features a 2160 x 1440 display that is a slight upgrade from past Surface models, though its brightness rating of 298 nits was well below Top Ten Reviews' average measurement of 353 nits. The tablet includes two 5-megapixel cameras on its front and rear; Laptop found image and video quality on both to be slightly above average. Microsoft includes a default one-year warranty on the Surface Pro 3 and offers support via phone, live chat and social media, and an online troubleshooting page. The company also offers in-person tech support at its Microsoft retail stores.

Microsoft Surface Summary:

Is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 a laptop or a tablet?

The strengths and downsides of the Pro 3 depend on how you look at the Pro 3. With its 12-inch display and limited battery life, it's nowhere near as portable as the best tablets on the market, which regularly sport weights well below the Pro 3's 1.76 pounds. But with its Intel Core processor and solid-state drive, the Pro 3 can also handle high-end applications that tablets typically struggle to run. Like its predecessors, the Pro 3 ultimately falls somewhere between these two form factors. While the Pro 3 isn't without its compromises, the tablet's specifications give it an advantage that makes up for some of its issues.

Electronics » Other Electronics » Tablets » Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3's high-end specifications are faster than competing tablets.

With its 12-inch display, the Pro 3 has limited portability.

The Verdict:

The Surface Pro 3 has great performance, but its hybrid design isn't a perfect match between a tablet's portability and a laptop's processing power.