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Microsoft Addresses Surface Pro 3 Battery Issues in AMA Session

The Microsoft team behind the Surface Pro 3 fielded questions about the new device in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) discussion on Tuesday.

Designed to combine the functions of a tablet and a full-powered computer, the Surface Pro 3 is being positioned by Microsoft as a laptop replacement. At last week's New York City launch event, Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Surface group, emphasized the Surface Pro 3's new optional Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM, which makes it powerful enough to run the Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop. Panay also placed the Surface Pro 3 and an Apple MacBook Pro on a scale to show that the MacBook Pro weighs more.

However, the Surface Pro 3 also shares one of the more undesirable features of the latest crop of high-end MacBook Pros: a factory-sealed battery that cannot be replaced by the user. For both devices, the cost of changing out the batteries after their extended warranties expire is $200.

The battery issue was one of the more popular topics that came up during the AMA discussion, moderated by Panay. Reddit member Caliber asked why it costs $450 to replace the battery on older Surface models. According to a response by a Surface team member, battery replacements are free for Surface devices that are still under warranty, and $200 after the warranty expires.

I called the Microsoft Store to verify the $450 amount that Caliber cited. While the Microsoft Store representative did not give me a price, she said it would be cheaper to replace the Surface than to send it back for a new battery (the same goes for replacing the display if it cracks, she said).

It's also possible that the cost of replacement batteries could decline in four-and-a-half years -- the amount of time Microsoft said it would take for a user to notice any deterioration of the battery. If the Surface Pro 3 is charged five times per day over that period, it should still maintain 80 percent of its battery capacity.

Responding to questions regarding the difference in battery life between systems developed with Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, Microsoft said they will offer the same performance. When it comes to compute performance, however, "the i7 will see benchmark scores approximately 15 to 20 percent better than the SP3 i5."

In addition to the battery-related questions, the AMA participants also wanted to know when a Surface Mini is coming. "Please for the love of God give us some more concrete info on Surface mini," wrote Reddit member swanlee597. "I was really disappointed in the lack of a reveal. Is it real? Is it coming out this year? Should I just buy an OEM 8-inch Win 8 tablet instead of waiting for Surface mini?"

As for the future of Windows RT offered on the Surface, Surface 2 and some Nokia tablets, the Surface team said that "Windows on ARM continues to be an important part of the Windows strategy."

Participants also asked why isn't there an i5-based Surface Pro 3 with a 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. Microsoft launched one with a 128GB drive and 4GB of RAM for $999, but the next step up is $300 more for a 256GB unit with 8GB of RAM. That question remained unanswered.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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