Surface Pro 3 sales begin Friday, but is it a MacBook Air replacement?

The Surface Pro 3 will finally land at stores on Friday. It's being marketed as a MacBook Air replacement. Is that smart?

surface-pro-3-microsoft-store-edit-small.jpg
The Century City Los Angeles Microsoft Store's Surface Pro 3 display. Note the MacBook Air comparisons. Brooke Crothers/CNET

Surface Pro 3 sales will finally launch on Friday. But should Microsoft be marketing it as a MacBook Air replacement?

Consumers who preordered the Core i5 model (starting at $999) can pick it up at Microsoft stores on Friday. (The entry-level Core i3 models and to-of-the-line Core i7 models won't be available until August).

The nearly 100 Microsoft store locations on Friday will be primarily stocking preorders, though walk-in purchases should be possible, depending on the store. (Update: the Microsoft Store at Century City in Los Angeles was taking walk-in purchases as of Friday afternoon.)

Best Buy will also launch sales on Friday. And the chances of a walk-in buy may be better there. A representatives at a Best Buy store in Los Angeles said the store expects to get "a lot" of units on Friday, making a walk-in purchase probable.

Better than a MacBook Air?

Microsoft has been persistent in marketing the laptop-tablet hybrid as a better MacBook Air (see photo at top). Its online Surface Pro 3 store page even offers a chart that tries to show why -- saying that it's thinner and lighter than the Air and has a touch display and detachable keyboard (the latter two being features the Air does not have).

And Microsoft made a similar better-than-a-MacBook-Air case to reviewers. Problem is, Microsoft has been getting some serious push-back, as ZDNet pointed out on Thursday.

In short, more than a few reviewers don't think it can replace a MacBook Air, including CNET's Dan Ackerman.

"Does the Surface Pro 3 really do something so different than its predecessors that it will replace the sea of glowing MacBook Airs seen in the audience during Microsoft's NYC launch event? No, it's still the same basic concept: a Core i-series slate, coupled with a very good keyboard accessory," wrote Ackerman.

But the Pro 3 does compare favorably to the two previous versions of the Pro. Despite having a larger display (12 inches versus the Pro 2's 10.6-inches), it's thinner, lighter than the Pro 2 and sports a higher-resolution screen.

Will consumers notice? The next couple of months should tell.

(Note: I will be offering my own opinion on the subject after I pick up my preorder on Friday and use it over the weekend.)

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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