Eight years ago, Microsoft released the era-defining Surface Pro 3

When it comes to the Surface Pro line, the Surface Pro 3 is arguably the one that let Surface find its place. Previous versions of the Surface Pro relied on a typical 16:9 10.8-inch full HD, whereas Surface Pro 3 jumped to the now-familiar 3:2 aspect (while also bumping the size to 12-inches at 2160 x 1440).

Announced on May 20 in New York City at a private press event, the Surface Pro 3 also swapped Wacom for N-trig pen technology, a color change to platinum, optional Core i7, lighter chassis, Connected Standby, and dual 5MP cameras. It is, in other words, a massive upgrade from Surface Pro 2. Even the Type Cover improved with a 60% larger new glass trackpad with a mechanical click.

And Microsoft later bought N-trig because it liked it so much.

(Image credit: Source: @_Melbourneer_)

Interestingly, the Surface Pro 3 online manual even confirmed the existence of Surface Mini, a device we'd review five years later. There were also funny anecdotes like CNN's Jake Tapper hiding an iPad behind Surface Pro 3 (Tapper later explained the fake controversy) and Microsoft having to teach the NFL that Surface wasn't an iPad.

I also distinctly remember this day as it was the first Surface event Windows Central was invited to, and it kicked off what became an almost annual announcement and review cycle for the Surface Pro line.

Later, in January 2015, it was revealed the Surface division, for the first time, brought in $1.1 billion in revenue, driven by Surface Pro 3 holiday sales. It later hit $2 billion in 2021, primarily due to a much more diversified lineup.

Surface Pro 3

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Surface Pro 4 was released 17 months later and delivered what we now call the 'classic' Surface Pro design featuring a larger 12.3-inch 2763 x 1824 screen, improved cameras, Windows Hello for the first time, and other modest changes. I said in 2015 that it was the first Surface to be taken seriously:

Surface Pro 4 is the first Surface to be reviewed as itself as opposed to the concept behind it. Most of the Surface Pro 3 reviews relentlessly questioned the need for the Surface and whether the category could even succeed for Microsoft instead of being some wacky experiment.

In late 2019, I called Surface Pro the most important PC of the 2010s. I stick with that.

Surface Pro 8 now carries on the legacy of the Surface Pro series. Released in October 2021, the device comes with an all-new design, updated processors, a 120Hz display, and the long-awaited inclusion of Thunderbolt 4.

We don't know what comes next for the Surface Pro series, but we can't wait to find out. 

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.