First look: Microsoft Surface 3

First look: Microsoft Surface 3

Microsoft announced a more affordable Surface tablet yesterday.

The new Surface 3 is targeted at mainstream consumers, such as students, who may not need the processing power of the existing Surface Pro 3 tablet.

The Surface 3 will be available from May 5, but can be pre-ordered online at the Microsoft Store from tomorrow. There are two retail versions: a 64GB model with 2GB RAM at $748 and a 128GB model with 4GB of RAM at $898.

Ports and connectivity

The arrangement of ports is the same as the Pro 3's - full-size USB 3.0, mini-DisplayPort and audio jack. The Surface 3 also has a microUSB port for charging. A 2.5A USB wall charger is bundled.

Besides a standard Wi-Fi model (with 802.11ac support), there will also be a 4G LTE Surface 3 that uses a Nano-SIM card. But Microsoft did not confirm if this model will be sold here.

Design

The Surface 3 is like the Pro model, from its matte grey magnesium chassis to its built-in kickstand, except that the kickstand has only three fixed positions. The Surface 3 is smaller (622g, the Apple iPad 3's weight) and lighter than the Pro 3 (800g).

Processor

Intel's new Atom x7-Z8700 processor powers this device. Part of Intel's Cherry Trail family, this quad-core CPU is built on a 14nm manufacturing process, like Intel's fifth-generation Core processors.

It consumes less power than the Core M chip in the latest Windows convertibles (and Apple MacBook), but is probably not as fast. Microsoft says the Surface 3 has up to 10 hours of battery life while playing videos.

My initial impression: It is fine for Web browsing and office productivity.

Storage

The base model has 64GB of internal storage, but it supports a microSD card up to 128GB.

Screen

The 10.8-inch screen has the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the Pro 3 with a respectable screen resolution of 1,920 x 1,280 pixels, and great viewing angles and colours.

Software

The Surface 3 runs Windows 8.1, which is due for an upgrade to Windows 10 later this year. It comes with a year's subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal. Included with the subscription is free OneDrive cloud storage (1TB).

Accessories

Turn this tablet into a laptop with the Surface 3 Type Cover, a thin and backlit keyboard that will surprise you with its key travel. Neither the keyboard nor the Surface Pen are included with the device.


This article was first published on April 1, 2015.
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