Microsoft Surface 3

Smaller and Lower Cost Version of Microsoft's Windows Tablet

Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet with Type Cover and Pen
Surface 3. ©Microsoft

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The Bottom Line

Jun 10 2015 - Microsoft's Surface 3 tablet may have come out wuite late compared to the pro model but it is a good step forward for those wanting a function and well built Windows tablet. The performance may be a bit limited but it offers some surprising features and expansion possibilities that most tablets lack. The biggest flwa is that the price with the accessories will probably drive many people to look at a 2-in-1 laptop instead that offers higher performance albeit slightly less portable.


  • Well Designed
  • Type Cover and Stylus Add Capabilities
  • USB 3.0 and MicroSD Expansion


  • Price With Accessories Adds Up To Low Cost 2-in-1 or Laptop
  • Performance Limited Compare to Pro Models
  • Slow SSD


  • Intel Atom x7-Z8700QC Quad Core Mobile Processor
  • 2GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
  • 64GB Solid State Drive
  • 10.8" WUXGA (1920x1280) Multitouch Display
  • 8 Megapixel Rear and 3.5 Megapixel Front Cameras
  • Intel HD Graphics Integrated Graphics
  • 802.11ac Wireless, Bluetooth
  • One USB 3.0, Mini-DisplayPort, MicroSD Card Reader, 3.5mm Audio Jack
  • 10.52" x 7.36" x 1.37 lbs.
  • Windows 8.1

Review - Microsoft Surface 3

Jun 10 2015 - It has been a long while since Microsoft originally released their Surface Pro 3, and even with the low cost Core i3 version, it still was expensive when compared to dedicated tablets on the market. Now the company has finally released their low cost Surface 3 that provides a more compact design with a much lower price tag.

It tips the scales at 1.37 ponds making it nearly a half pound lighter than the Pro version and a fraction thinner at just .34-inches. It is constructed of the same magnesium alloy construction that gives it a premium feel found in the other Surface products. Unlike the Pro version with its variable adjustment kickstand, this model features a three position similar to the older Surface 2 Pro.

Powering the Microsoft Surface 3 is the brand new Intel Atom x7-8700 quad core mobile processor. This is a lower power alternative to the Core i processors in the Pro tablets. This has several advantages including the ability to be passive cooled which means that the tablet is essentially silent during operation. The downside is that it does not have as much performance meaning that it is more tablet like that laptop like. In fact, the lower price 64GB model only features 2GB of DDR3 memory which means that it is more restricted in the ability to run applications. This is best suited to basic applications like productivity software, media streaming and browsing the web. It can do more than that it will just suffer some big performance drops.

Storage for the Surface Pro 3 comes in two sizes. The base model features 64GB of storage space which is much more manageable than the 32GB many low cost Windows tablets offer. It still is fairly limited compared to most budget Windows laptops. If you need more, you can spend an extra $100 to double both the storage to 128GB and the memory to 4GB. The one downside here is that the solid state drive technology they are using for the Surface 3 is much slower than want you will find in the Surface Pro 3.

In fact, it is much more in common with eMMC storage than SATA or PCI-Express based SSDs. If you need extra space, there are two ways you can go around adding it. First, there is a microSD card slot for use with the popular flash media format. In addition, the tablet also features a full size USB 3.0 port for use with external peripherals. Note that this is not a high powered port so it will only work with drives that do not require beyond the standard voltage for power.

With the smaller size of the Surface 3, the screen is smaller and lower resolution than the Pro model. The 10.8-inch screen offers a 1920x1280 native resolution which also presents a more 3:2 for a more balanced tablet for holding and using than the wider screen versions before it. The resolution and panel means that it does not have as much detail as the Retina display of the Apple iPad Air 2but it does as very fine job and is not too high to make tech difficult to read in legacy Windows applications. In terms of the quality, it is certainly an above average display that works well indoors but the brightness tends to fail to overcome the glare that is generated by the glass coated multitouch surface. Graphics performance from the Intel HD Graphics in the Atom processor are below that of the Surface Pro 3 meaning that this is not really suited for playing 3D games on the tablet. One interesting choice is the inclusion of the mini-DisplayPort for external graphics. That is fine for a corporate environment but not for consumers who are more likely to have HDMI based displays.

Like all the previous versions of the Surface tablet, there is the Type cover that doubles as a keyboard. It is certainly smaller than the Surface 3 Pro's cover but it seems to work just about as well. The only downside is that this really needs to be used on a flat surface. Typing on ones laptop is not really possible. Of course, it is not included with the tablet and is an additional $130. Another feature that is added to the Surface 3 is the support for the N-Trip based digitizer pen. This makes it quick and easy to write notes onto the tablet or be creative with drawing applications. Once again, it is not included with the tablet add goes for $50. There is no place within the tablet to store the digitizer pen when it is not in use so don't lose it.

Microsoft claims that that the internal battery of the Surface 3 can last up to ten hours. In digital video playback tests, the system was able to last for just over nine hours before going into standby mode. This is certainly quite good and better than the more powerful Surface 3 Pro. It is actually one of the longest running of the Windows based tablets on the market. It still falls short of what the Apple iPad Air 2 can achieve in a similar test at eleven hours. It should be noted that the charging is handled by a microUSB port which is far slower at charging than many other methods.

Pricing for the Surface 3 is $499 for the 64GB version and $599 for the 128GB versions. Eventually there will be models that will support 4G LTE wireless in them but no pricing has been mentioned for it. This puts the pricing on par with Apple's iPad Air 2 tablets. If you directly compare the two without the accessories, the Apple offers a lighter and thinner product with a better display. On the other hand, the Surface offers more ports and expansion plus the ability to run Windows applications. The downside is that once you accessories, you are encroaching in on the price of ultrabooks and 2-in-1 laptops which offer a better laptop experience but not as good when it comes to a being a tablet.

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