• Today is: Monday, May 4, 2015

Microsoft unveils a thinner, smaller, lighter tablet- Surface 3

April01/ 2015

Microsoft is expanding its Surface tablet line in an effort to rope in a new, more price-sensitive audience. The newest Microsoft tablet, the Surface 3, is a $499 the successor to the Surface 2 and the first non-Pro tablet to run an Intel CPU. Thus endeth Microsoft’s ARM/Windows RT experiment.

It’s a smart move and the timing, perhaps, couldn’t be better.

Ever since Microsoft started positioning its Surface tablet as a laptop replacement, it’s started to make sense. The strategic shift coincided with the release of the powerful Surface Pro 3, which, with an Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU, and optional keyboard, is essentially a laptop in tablet’s clothing.

The company made some progress in the early days of Microsoft’s first built-from-the-ground up tablet, “but [it was] not until Surface [Pro] 3 that we hit our stride and started to connect with customers,” said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft Corporate VP Devices and Studios Marketing.

It can run Microsoft Word as well as any standard PC and it can handle Adobe Photoshop CS5 without a hiccup. It’s also “a premium product at a premium price,” said Mehdi.

With a $129 Type Cover keyboard, the Surface Pro 3 package runs you $928 and that’s only if you buy the entry-level Core i3 model. Even so, it’s been a winning combination for Microsoft, which has reported strong Surface Pro 3 sales.

Surface Pro 3, however, has mostly been adopted in commercial and business operations. Consumers looking for a do-everything, yet highly portable and affordable laptop have probably not been looking at the Surface.

The Surface 3 is designed to change that.




While the new Surface 3 has Intel inside, it still has more in common with the Surface 2 than its big brother, the Surface Pro 3. At 10.51 in. by 7.36 in by just .34 in thick, it’s slightly smaller and thinner than the Surface 2. At 1.37 lbs, it’s also Microsoft’s lightest tablet.

Under the hood is a fanless design with Intel’s just announced quad core Atom X7 CPU, which includes the peppier Broadwell GPU. Mehdi told me the Intel Atom chip can burst up to 2.4GHz. It’s a fairly powerful mobile CPU, though not in the same class as Intel’s Core i series. Of course this product is designed for people “willing to give up some power to get better price point,” said Mehdi.

Surface 3 has the same magnesium chassis as all other Surface tablets, including the kickstand, though Surface 2’s eschews continuous adjustment for a few preset positions.

One place where Surface 3 beats all other Surfaces, though, is the camera. Surface 3 is the first Microsoft tablet to feature an 8-megapixel camera. The front camera is 3.5 MP.

Oddly, Microsoft also dumped its proprietary power port for micro USB. Bad news if you have a legacy Surface 2 charger but good news for anyone who wants to charge up the tablet with any USB adapter and wall wart they have lying around. Speaking of power, Microsoft is promising 10 hours of video playback. That should be welcome news to those who were wondering about the kind of power consumption they should expect from Intel’s latest Atom line. Other ports include a slot for a microSD card storage upgrade, one USB 3.0 port, audio and a DisplayPort. The power button is on the top right corner (long edge) and right next to it is the volume rocker — moved from the short edge.

This will also be the first new Surface tablet to come 4G LTE-ready. So far, Microsoft has announced support for Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile.

At $499, for the 2GB RAM and 64GB storage model ($599 for 4GB RAM and 128GB storage), the Surface 3 could attract students who may be less interested in power than in price, portability and battery life. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t make any adjustments in the Type Cover price. It’s still $129. So if you really want a laptop replacement, you’ll start at $628. Add in another $49 if you want the Surface Pen. On the bright side: For a limited time, Microsoft is including a year of free Office 365 (which means you get Word, Excel and PowerPoint for free).

Hands on

Even so, $677 for a solidly performing, touchscreen laptop is pretty good. I spent a little bit of time with the new device and was impressed. While smaller than my Surface Pro 3, the keyboard didn’t feel cramped. Microsoft managed to cut away excess bevel around the Type Keyboard for the larger tablets and produced a considerably smaller one for the Surface 3 with a very nearly full-sized keyboard. They also updated the typing action and you can feel it.

As for the tablet, it feels very light and pretty thin, when you compare it to a laptop, but do not compare it to an iPad Air. The screen, which is 1,920 x 1,080, looks fantastic. Microsoft says they’ve improved the screen technology a bit and it did look a little crisper. The Surface 3 also, in my brief time with it, performed well. I opened Microsoft Word, drew in OneNote and didn’t see it a bit of sluggishness. It was also, thanks to the lack of a fan, very, very quiet.

The system I saw and the ones that go on sale shortly are running Windows 8.1. That fact may displease some who were never fans of Windows 8’s fractured interface, which includes a standard desktop and the Windows Design (nee Metro) interface. Microsoft’s Mehdi told me that Surface 3 is designed and ready for Windows 10.

Surface on goes on sale starting May 5.

Tags: #Surface3, #TechNews, Microsoft