Edward Swift - Hands on: Microsoft Surface 3

Publish Date
Tuesday, 23 June 2015, 5:24PM
By Edward Swift

It seems like it’s been quite a while since we got our hands on the last Surface 3. In fact it’s been around 9 months since we reviewed the Surface Pro 3. So I was puzzled when I suddenly got sent a Surface 3 to review so long after the Pro’s release. I would’ve thought the two models would’ve come out at the same time. I would’ve thought that the 3 would be running Windows RT like its predecessors. I would’ve thought that by comparison, I would’ve been disappointed by the Surface 3.  So when I opened up the box and gave it go, I was pleasantly surprised.

The first big advantage this laptop-cum-tablet has is that Microsoft has ditched Windows RT and put a full copy of Windows 8.1 on it. The problem with Windows RT is you could only install and run apps available through the Windows Store, and because there aren’t as many apps available there as Apple and Android, you were instantly restricted. But alas, they’ve broken the shackles and allowed users to install whatever apps they want. Whether it’s a specific third-party app you need for work or even something as day-to-day like Google Chrome, there are now no restrictions on what you can run.

Of course it isn’t as heavy duty as its older brother. The processor isn’t as good, you can only get up to 4GB of RAM, and the hard drive is relatively small. You wouldn’t be able to run a full version of Photoshop but it has no issues with basic day-to-day functions such as documents, presentations, surfing the web, using Skype, etc. It also comes with Microsoft Office 365 free for a year, which the Surface Pro still doesn’t come bundled with.

As I’ve stated many times, tablet devices shouldn’t be used for taking photos so the camera specs will never be as good as a phone. However they have stepped it up here, with an 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera – much better than the 5.0 megapixel on the Pro. The front facing camera isn’t as great, but at 3.5 megapixels is fine for doing a video webcall or taking a few selfies.

Its kickstand is nothing spectacular as well with only 3 set positions. I was hoping that they’d bring the 'full friction' kick stand across from the Pro 3, allowing you to have the tablet at any angle. On top of that, keeping the attachable keyboard and Surface pen as additional purchase is a bit annoying.

One of the annoying things about having a range of devices is all the different chargers you need. It seemed I needed a different cable for my phone, my tablet and my smartwatch (depending on the brand of course), just to name a few. Well Microsoft have finally stopped fighting the trend and decided to make the Surface # charge port a Micro-USB. That means if you’ve already got any Android devices, it likely that you’ll already have a few spare charging cables around and won’t need to buy more spare chargers.

At the end of the day, Surface 3 is still closer to a tablet than a full PC. It won’t replace the home computer or the Surface Pro range, but it will certainly make users more mobile. It’s light and easy to use, and offers users the full functionality of a PC. If you’re looking for a new tablet or standard computers, it’s worth a look at the Surface 3.

Microsoft Surface 3

  • Size - 267mm x 187mm x 8.7mm
  • Weight - 622 grams
  • Screen -  10.8” ClearType Full HD Plus Display, 2160 x 1440 resolution
  • Battery Life - Up to 10 hours of video playback
  • Storage/RAM - 64GB with 2GB RAM, 128GB storage with 4GB RAM
  • Processor - Quad Core Intel® Atom™ x7-Z8700 processor
  • Network - Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth® 4.0
  • Ports - Full-size USB 3.0, microSD™ card reader, Micro USB charging port, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Cover port
  • Software - Windows 8.1, 1-year of Office 365 Personal with OneDrive cloud storage
  • Cameras -3.5 megapixel front-facing camera, 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera with autofocus

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