Hands-On Review: Video Editing on the Microsoft Surface Pro 3


The marketing behind Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 claims it’s a tablet that can replace your laptop. With a fast solid-state hard drive, the option of an Intel® Core™ i7 processor, and a full Windows operating system, we can expect it to perform well for a most tasks. But how does it perform when it comes to video editing using professional software, such as Adobe Premiere Pro? This is the question I sought to answer, and after spending some hands-on time with the Surface, I was more than surprised by just how well the tablet performed. This article will summarize my experience using it and attempt to shed light on when and why you would want to edit video on the Surface Pro 3.

First, let’s look at the hardware. The Surface Pro 3 I was given to test had one of the top-end configurations, which includes a dual-core Intel Core i7-4650U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of solid-state memory. The only higher configuration available expands the storage to 512GB. At only 1.76 pounds and 0.36" thick, it amazes me that Microsoft was able to pack a 4th-generation Haswell Intel Core i7 processor into this tablet. The processor’s dual cores reach a standard speed of 1.7 GHz, but can be over-clocked up to 3.3 GHz using Intel’s Turbo Boost technology.

On paper, the i7 processor combined with 8GB of RAM should perform well when running professional editing software, so I was eager to fire up Adobe Premiere Pro CC and see for myself. What struck me first was how fast the software booted up—much faster than my current laptop with a spinning hard-disk drive. The next thing I noticed, after creating a 1080p video timeline, was that Premiere’s editing interface displayed quite well on the Surface’s 12" screen. I was worried that the screen size, along with the high 2160 x 1440 resolution, would make the interface appear cramped and with small text, but I found it more than usable. Premiere Pro CC’s clean, uncluttered interface may have helped. The Surface does have a Mini DisplayPort that lets you extend the screen to a second monitor up to Ultra HD resolution. For my purposes, I see the Surface Pro 3 as more of a mobile editing device, but the option to use a second monitor is always good to have.

To accompany the Surface Pro 3, I had the stylus that comes with that tablet and the optional black Type Cover, which present the two distinct ways of interacting with the Surface—touch and keyboard. The pen is an incredibly useful tool that makes operating software via the touchscreen easier and more precise. Whether you’re traveling and have the Surface resting on your lap, or simply lounging on the couch at home with it in your palm, I found that you can navigate easily around Premiere Pro, drag clips, and make cuts using the pen. I enjoyed using the pen to work with clips on the timeline. However, for a more serious editing session, it is still faster to use a keyboard, and this is where the Type Cover comes in.


I consider the Type Cover a mandatory accessory for the Surface Pro 3. Not only does it provide you with a keyboard when you need one, it also protects the screen when the tablet isn’t in use. A magnetic locking system allows the keyboard to rest at an angle when used at table or desk, which improves the ergonomics for longer typing sessions. The Type Cover, combined with the continuously adjustable kickstand, make the Surface nearly as comfortable to use on a desk—or even in your lap—as a laptop. In terms of editing video, having a keyboard is crucial when you want to edit faster, as it gives you access to the software’s keyboard shortcuts, including “undo” and “redo,” which any editor knows are crucial. More than the editing shortcuts, these are the commands that make using the keyboard so important.

To judge the performance of Adobe Premiere Pro CC on the Surface Pro 3, I compared it against my current laptop which is, admittedly, a few years old at this point. The laptop has as an older-generation, but 2.20 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-2670QM  processor, 16GB of RAM, and an NVIDIDA GeForce GTX 560M graphics card. This is what I do all of my Full HD video editing and color grading on, so I felt it would be a good benchmark against which to judge the Surface.

On both the laptop and the Surface Pro 3, I imported 1080p X-AVC S footage (shot on a Sony a7S) from an attached USB 3.0 RAID storage drive into Premiere. The Pro 3 only has one USB 3.0 port, so if you want to use any other USB peripheral, like a mouse, you will need a USB hub. My storage drive has two additional USB 3.0 ports on it, so this wasn’t an issue for me. You can also consider the optional Docking Station which adds three USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as an Ethernet port.

After dragging the same one-and-a-half-minute clip into identical 1080p23.976, I was ready to put the Surface to the task. My first test was to see how the Surface handled video playback. I was pleasantly surprised that, like the laptop, the Surface had no problem playing back the X-AVC S clips in full resolution without any drop in frame rate. My next test was to see how it responded when you start adding more effect layers to the video. I applied some basic three-way color correction and then an unsharp mask on top of that, which takes a bit more processing power. While neither the laptop nor the Surface could do extended full-resolution playback (the laptop providing a slightly higher frame rate), both could play back at full frame rate when dropping the playback window to half-resolution, which is usually what I have it set to anyway, when I edit. From these results, I don’t see any problem cutting together 1080p footage on the Surface.

Where the Surface begins to show its limitations is when applying effects and plug-ins that can take advantage of GPU-acceleration. The Surface Pro 3 uses an integrated Intel HD 5000 graphics card, compared to the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 560M card found in my laptop, which offers 2GB of dedicated memory. This isn’t to say that the integrated Intel card is poor quality—far from it. For example, the card is sufficient enough to run the graphic-intensive game Skyrim (albeit set to 720p resolution and lower graphic settings), so it’s no slouch, especially for a tablet. But it can’t replace a decent dedicated GPU. The Surface isn’t really suited to performing motion-graphics work or color-grading footage in DaVinci Resolve, for example. But these aren’t really tasks that you would expect to perform on a 12" tablet or laptop anyway, so it’s difficult to criticize the Surface in this regard.

GPU acceleration aside, my final test for the Surface Pro 3 was to render and export the one-and-a-half-minute clip (with minor color correction and an unsharp mask applied) and compare how long it took each computer to export. The laptop clocked in at approximately 4 minutes and 30 seconds, with the Surface expectedly behind at approximately 7 minutes and 15 seconds. Not too shabby, if you ask me, especially considering that the laptop has a quad-core processor and double the RAM. After about a minute of exporting, the internal fan on the Surface kicked on. Even with the fan going, the back panel got pretty warm to the touch where the processor is located, but it cooled down quickly once exporting was completed.

So, can you edit video using the Surface Pro 3? My answer: Absolutely. Now, to answer the questions I mentioned at the start of this article—when and why you would want to edit video on a Surface Pro 3. In regard to when, I see the Surface being used when you’re traveling after a job and want to get a jumpstart on your editing, when you’re on vacation and want to cut your action-camera footage together to share with family and friends, or even lounging around the house casually editing home movies. While I wouldn’t call the Surface a video-editing workstation, for the majority of HD editing, it can get the job done.

To answer the why question, I simply say why not?! The Surface is equally comfortable as a tablet and as a laptop. You can use the pen to draw graphics, storyboard, or even take notes right on PDF files, or attach an optional Type Cover and use the kickstand to act as a laptop. It can use apps but also has a full Windows operating system, so you can run all the software you’re to which you’re accustomed, or even play games off Stream.

The point I’m trying to make is that the Surface Pro 3 is a versatile and compact device that you’ll probably have on you or in your bag most places you go, so the fact that the Surface is a capable video-editing device is just icing on the cake. For me, the best computer for editing is the one that I have on me at the time. If I’m at home and I have a mobile or desktop workstation, then I would certainly likely edit on that. But if I’m out of the house and need to cut HD footage together or simply need to do some casual editing in the living room, then I wouldn’t hesitate to reach into my bag and grab the Surface Pro 3.


Hi Justin! I currently make tutorials on YouTube (crafts, makeup, DIY). I try to edit my videos down to at least 15 min or less using an older computer and Adobe Premiere. Would the surface be able to handle something like that? Thanks!


Do you have experience with any other programs for editing on SP3? I have not edited video before on any device and I'm looking for where to start. I am surprised to see I may have to spend hundreds to get a program that can do it! What do you think is the best buy? Are there free apps that will do it?

Thank you!


Hi Allison  -

The Surface Pro 3 uses a full Windows OS - so it will not accept app based programs.  I can recommend lower priced video editing software that is still versatile and very functional without breaking the bank.

The DVD version of Adobe Premiere Elements 13 for Mac and Windows is a versatile and intuitive editing and organizing program for managing a complete digital video workflow. Beginning with a wide range of editing and enhancement capabilities, Elements 13 presents a breadth of unique tools and effects for automatically optimizing the look and feel of videos, as well as the sequencing and sharing of finalized movies. Favorite Moments provides the ability to create a movie simply by selecting those "favorite" moments from a given video clip, Guided Edits can be used to both learn and accomplish specific editing techniques while simultaneously using video tutorials, and Video Story's selectable themes help to more quickly start a project and tell the desired story. FilmLooks enable you to replicate the appearance of Hollywood effects and editing techniques and Auto Smart Tone works to efficiently adjust the colors and tones of videos based on learned personal preferences. More than 50 musical scores and over 250 sound effects can be applied to movies and smart automated options can help to correct for shaky footage, color and lighting issues, audio balancing, and removing unwanted footage from clips. Color balance can be easily adjusted using an intuitive slider system and highlights, shadows, and mid-tones can be independently controlled to create a refined, personal feel.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]

This is not an accurate answer. Windows 10 has an app store and there are more basic video editing apps, there.

Hi Justin, thanks for your informative review on video editing on the surface pro 3. I am busy investigating purchasing the SP3 i7/256GB/8GIG and want to use it to to create videos and edit them. My question is, in your review you talk about a video that is only 90secs long. I am wanting to create videos of say approx 2hours each complrising of photos, videos and music. Do you think in your opinion this device would handle something so large?

Thanks for your help in advance



Editing a 2 hour movie on a tablet like the Surface may not be ideal, however the tablet would be able to do so providing you have sufficient external storage attached to handle that amount of media.