The rumours for today's big Surface event mostly hinted at something Mini, but that's not all Microsoft is rolling out. The Surface Pro is also getting stretched into a larger 12-inch version for its third iteration.
The new stretch to 12 inches diagonal also brings the Surface Pro 3 up to an unusual 3:2 aspect ratio, with a resolution of 2160 x 1440.
The Surface Pro 3 is not only bigger than it's predecessor, it's also thinner at 9mm and lighter at 800g. If that doesn't mean much to you, it's way lighter than the Macbook Air, which Microsoft proved on stage with a gat dang scale.
The Pro 3 is faster as well, running an Intel Core i7 for a brain, a pretty serious feat for a tablet this thin and light. The Pro 3 still packs a fan in there to keep that chip cool, but Microsoft promises that their new, more efficient fan is essentially unnoticeable. We'll see!
The Pro 3 also has a brand new hinge, one that's not limited to the two positions of the previous Surfaces. It's got both classic positions in addition to a very deep "canvas mode" that lets the Surface Pro 3 limbo down real low.
Microsoft is promising that this new hinge is going to do a lot to help "lapability" which is a silly word, but a great thing to shoot for. Also coming to the rescue are new Type Covers, bigger to fit the new, bigger Surface, but also thinner.
These new Type Covers also attach differently than the ones that came before. They still snap into the bottom, but then they also fold up a little at the hinge, so that an entire edge can mag-lock into the tab's bottom bezel. Microsoft promises that this makes a Type Cover-enabled Pro 3 just as steady as a laptop. Here's to hoping.
Microsoft is also teasing some Pro 3-centric software partnerships, and teasing an upcoming touch version of Photoshop that should be great for photogs on the go.
The new 3:2 aspect ratio is intended to make the Pro 3 look and feel kind of like a pad of paper. A handy reference point if you're old enough to have ever done any serious work on a legal pad. Likewise the new Pro 3 stylus is notably pen-inspired, and less less stylus-y.
To aid and encourage stylus use, Microsoft pushing handwriting recognition in its apps, which again, could be a cool trick if it's ubiquitous and works. And to bring the metaphor all the way home, you can just grab the Pro 3 (even if it's sleeping) and start scrawling on it, and it'll work just like a pad of paper. When you click your pen-stylus, the notes even get thrown right into the Cloud. It's a pretty neat trick.
The idea behind the stretch to 12 inches is to try and help the Pro lean into its laptop heritage a little more, making it more attractive as a laptop replacement. It's also got its very own dock, a bigger version of the previous Pro 2 dock, for folks who want to transform their tablet-laptop into a pseudo desktop too.
We'll have to spend some time with it before we can tell if it's going to work, but a change like this is heartening. Thinner and bigger means the Pro 3 should, theoretically, be better as a tablet and better as a laptop. And Microsoft is making some vague promises at multi-day battery life, which would be clutch for a laptop-replacement. We've got our fingers crossed.
The Pro 3 starts at $800 for a Core i3 rig (that's £475 if converted directly -- we're waiting on confirmed UK pricing but expect it to be closer to the Surface Pro 2's £719 entry-level asking price), goes on sale tomorrow, and is available for pre-order now.