Almost 10 months after Surface Pro 3 was first revealed to the world, Microsoft has decided to unleash yet another Surface tablet last month in the form of Surface 3. In many ways, it can be seen as a more affordable version of Surface Pro 3; just like how Surface RT and Surface 2 were to Surface Pro 1 and Surface Pro 2 respectively.
Instead of running Windows RT which has been discontinued for good, the Surface 3 runs on full-blown Windows 8.1 which means users are able to install proper desktop applications on it alongside Windows 8-style apps. Read on further to have a closer look at the latest addition to Microsoft’s family of Surface tablets.
One of the most interesting aspect of Surface 3 is the fact that it is powered by an x86-based Intel Atom processor rather than the ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra processors on Surface RT and Surface 2. Specifically, the Surface 3 is equipped with the newly announced 1.6GHz Intel Atom x7-Z8700 quad-core processor which is the most powerful processor within the Intel Cherry Trail family at this moment.
In terms of memory, the 64GB variant comes with 2GB of RAM while the 128GB model features 4GB of RAM. This particular unit that we briefly tested came with 2GB RAM and it seems to be working fine without significant lags despite the amount of RAM. Frankly speaking though, it was quite hard to judge its performances properly since our time with the tablet was only around 30 minutes or so. For users that require more storage space, they are able to do so by utilizing the microSD card slot that is located underneath Surface 3’s kickstand.
At 10.8-inch, the Surface 3’s display is noticeably smaller than Surface Pro 3 which has a 12-inch display but still bigger than any of previous generation Surface tablets which were all equipped with 10.6-inch display. Microsoft has also retained the same 3:2 aspect ratio that it used on Surface Pro 3 for Surface 3.
While the 10.8-inch ClearType display on Surface 3 has a lower resolution than Surface Pro 3 at 1920 x 1280 but the display is still quite bright together with crisp output that almost able to match it’s more powerful and bigger sibling. At the same time, we also found that the display generally responds well with the Surface Pen which is the same N-trig powered digitizer used for Surface Pro 3.
As if Surface Pro 3 is not lightweight enough at 800 grams, the new Surface 3 is even lighter at only 622 grams. In terms of design, the 8.7mm-thin Surface 3 surely looks like a slightly shrunken version of Surface Pro 3 although that is not really a surprise given the fact that the Surface 3 also features silver-coloured magnesium-based VaporMg chassis just like Surface Pro 3.
That being said, Surface 3 is equipped with a different kickstand than Surface Pro 3 which is limited to three pre-determined positions (shown below) as opposed to the latter’s free flowing kickstand that can be extended up to 150-degrees. Nevertheless, Surface 3 kickstand does extends slightly further than what the first and second generation of Surface tablets were able to do.
At the same time, Microsoft also used a different logo on Surface 3’s kickstand in the form of the company’s quad square symbol instead of the “Surface” sentence as per Surface Pro 3 and Surface 2. The locations of ports and buttons on Surface 3 are also different from those on Surface Pro 3.
For example, the volume rocker for Surface 3 is located on the top part of the tablet, next to the power/screen lock button. In addition to that, Surface 3’s 3.5mm combo audio port is located on the bottom right of the tablet. Microsoft has also switches the proprietary charging connectors that the company has used for previous Surface tablets with Micro USB port for Surface 3.
The change is certainly an interesting move by Microsoft since it allows the Surface 3 to be charged using a common Micro USB smartphone charger. Not to forget, it is cheaper to be replaced as well. In fact, users actually able to charge Surface 3 using a power bank as shown above. In case you wondering if one is able to create a “power loop” or “infinite power” as many of us like to call it simply by hooking the Surface 3’s USB 3.0 port to the Micro USB, the answer is no.
Meanwhile, the Surface 3 is also equipped with brand new camera sensors which include 8-megapixels sensor for the rear and 3.5-megapixels for the front. Just like Surface Pro 3, users are able to hook up Surface 3 to external displays using the tablet’s Mini DisplayPort although it able to support only one external display at a time.
Let’s move on to the Surface 3’s Type Cover which is an optional snap-on tactile keyboard for the tablet. In terms of general experience, it is pretty much identical to Surface Pro 3’s Type Cover since the keyboard still features backlit keys and foldable magnetic front that allows it to be slightly angled for more comfortable typing position.
We do noticed that several buttons from Surface Pro 3’s Type Cover were absent from Surface 3’s Type Cover such as Search, Share, Devices, and Settings. That being said, the keyboard now features dedicated Print Screen button which make it easier to grab screenshot on the tablet, alongside the Insert button. However, the Track Pad on Surface 3’s Type Cover is smaller than its equivalent for Surface Pro 3.
All in all, Surface 3 has pretty much meet our initial expectations as far as our brief initial experience goes: a solid Windows 8.1 tablet in terms of build quality and design just like its bigger, more powerful, and more expensive sibling, the Surface Pro 3. But as mentioned earlier, 30 minutes is hardly enough time to check out Surface 3 thoroughly especially in terms of performances and daily usages.
We hope to answer all these remaining questions and more once there is an opportunity for us (hopefully) to do a full review in the near future. So, stay tuned.
Microsoft Surface 3 will be released in Malaysia on 5 May with a price tag of RM 1,989 for 64GB model and RM 2,389 for 128GB model. Not inclusive of the Type Cover which is available separately for RM 479 or Surface Pen which costs RM 189. GST is already included in all of these prices.