Microsoft has just announced a new member of the Surface family, and it’s aimed to be a big successor to the Surface 2 but it’s actually a lot more like the Surface Pro 3. Surface 3 is basically a low cost Surface Pro 3 which brings Microsoft’s mantra of productivity to a much wider audience and is aimed to effectively replace your laptop.
A Lower cost Surface Pro 3
When you first lay your eyes on this device, it looks nearly identical to the Surface Pro 3, with the 3:2 screen aspect ratio, Windows logo on the right side of the device (in portrait mode) and a magnetic strip at the base of the keyboard giving it that sturdiness when using it to type on your lap that we’ve come to love about the Surface Pro 3. There’s also an addition of a Surface Pen and a new track-pad which look identical to that of the Surface Pro 3 offering.
So What’s Different?
Upon a closer look, you’ll begin to see where it loses its “PRO” title. First off, the screen is much smaller coming in a 10.8” when comparing to the Surface Pro 3’s 12-inch display, and tops out at 1920×1280 (3:2) which puts it at 214PPI. In comparison, the Surface Pro 3 sports a 2160×1440 display which is much sharper, but due to being larger at 12-inches its pixel density is nearly identical at 216PPI. Both use the same Clear-Type technology in their respective displays, so you know the color output will be fantastic.
The 3:2 aspect ratio is a good departure from the 16:9 aspect ratio on the Surface 2 which made it backward to use in portrait mode.
Surface 3 will have a 3.5 megapixel 1080p front-facing camera and an 8.0 megapixel 1080p rear-facing camera with auto-focus.
Surface 3 has some notable improvements compared to the Surface 2, one of them is the kickstand which gets better with every iteration of the Surface devices. Surface RT had one kickstand position, Surface 2 had two positions, and Surface 3 has…wait for it….three! The third position will angle it pretty low and is probably more than enough for a device in its class. We have to say that we’re surprised Microsoft didn’t build the same kickstand technology in the Surface Pro 3 – but this is where the cost cutting comes into effect.
Surface 3 has a shiny new steel looking logo. Yes, and it’s not a Surface logo, it’s a Microsoft logo. This is an important shift for the company going forward as it begins to consolidate all of its brands under One “roof”, further enforcing the “One Microsoft” vision and it’s a vital step in building the Microsoft brand. This is something that will be happening with more devices from Microsoft.
Looking at Surface 3 more closely reveals an important factor, and that’s the absence of the air vents around the device due to it being fanless, and because of this, it officially earns the title of being the thinnest and lightest Surface model ever made at 8.7mm and 622grams (1.37lbs). Surface 2 measured in at 8.89mm thick and weighed 676 grams.
The absence of a cooling fan in the Surface 3 is due to a new chip-set which is a first of its design and the latest mobile system on a chip (SoC), the “Cherry Trail” Atom x7. Don’t be alarmed that it’s an Atom-bases processor because this chip-set is supposed to offer great performance.
Microsoft chose to opt-out of using the Core-M processor which many ultra-portable machines are starting to use these days and they say it’s for a good reason. According to Thurrot.com, this new chip-set offers much better battery performance than its Core-M counterpart and because it’s so tiny, the device can be even thinner and lighter than what’s possible with Core-M.
This area is pretty much the same as the Surface Pro 3 which features all of the essential ports you’d expect on an Ultrabook PC. It comes with a full-sized USB 3.0 slot, a mini DisplayPort for Video Out, a headset jack, and of course a micro SD card slot under the kickstand.
However, this time around the power jack uses a micro-USB type connector for which plugs in to the device. This is a really big change because you can now use pretty much any micro-USB charger to charge the device if you forget to bring the official Surface version. One thing to note is that the one Microsoft provides with the Surface 3 will be more powerful than your typical charger, but they’ll still get the job done…just a little slower.
There will be a new Type cover keyboard, obviously now that the aspect ratio is different and for improvement reasons. This new type cover will support the dual positions with the use of the magnetic strip at the base of the keyboard just like the Surface Pro 3’s keyboard. The track-pad is also vastly improved when comparing to the Surface 2’s Type cover track-pad and will be made out of the same material as the one on the Surface Pro 3. It’s also supposed to be more accurate than the one on the Surface Pro 3, which is intriguing.
For those of you curious, yes, older Surface keyboards will work with the Surface 3 and even the larger type covers used on the Surface Pro 3 will too. However, they won’t be as aesthetically pleasing to the eye with a size difference.
Color options are as always fantastic, as this time around there will be an extra two colors to choose from. Light blue and light orange are the new colors and there will of course be the traditional options such as black, cyan, red and purple.
Oh, and a Type cover keyboard will as usual come at a separate cost of $129.99. Nothing new here.
Microsoft is doing something new with this line of non-pro Surface devices, and that including the functionality of a Surface Pen and of course giving you the option to buy one separately for an additional $49.99.
Although they will come in different colors to match the new type cover keyboards, it’s identically the same pen that’s included with the purchase of the Surface Pro 3.
As if that isn’t enough, Microsoft will also have a new docking station ready build specifically for this device. It looks pretty much identical to the one for the Surface Pro 3 and will give you an extra mini Display Port, an Ethernet port and four USB ports (two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0). It’l also charge the Surface 3 continuously with a 48W wall charger. Microsoft hasn’t mentioned the price for the docking station but we expect it to cost the same as the one for the Surface Pro 3 which goes for $199.99.
Surface 3 is currently available for pre-order in 26 markets with shipping dates slated for May 5th at microsoftstore.com. Additionally, on April 1st all Microsoft retail stores will have Surface 3 devices on hand to try out.
- $499: 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage
- $599: 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage
- $599: 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage with LTE
- $699: 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage with LTE
Type Cover $129.99
Surface Pen $49.99
Should you buy a Surface 3?
The Surface Line of devices are how Microsoft wants to represent Windows and are what they consider the perfect blend of hardware and software. When it comes to hardware and design, there’s no question about it, these line of devices have proven time and time again to excel in build quality and have become design icons. Nothing has changed in this regard, which is a good thing. Microsoft is committed to Surface and has been incredible at supporting them, which is something that that you get when you buy from the mother-ship.
These are the things you can expect when you buy a Surface device, and if you choose to do so, the pricing can get a little tricky. If you go all out and buy the top of the line version with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage with the LTE option, a keyboard and Pen, it would cost you $880. Choosing to opt out of the LTE feature will drop the price to $780. When you consider this, it’s actually very close to the price of an entry level Surface Pro 3 which will give you a more powerful CPU, and a larger screen. It’s definitely something to consider.
Either way, Surface 3 has a place in the market and we definitely think it’s a smart move on Microsoft’s part to pitch it as a laptop replacement and offer it at lower price points than the Pro models. This opens up the doors to a much wider audience. A new lower spec’d Surface can be a hit amongst students and people not willing to drop $1,000 on a laptop, while retaining the iconic design and build quality associated with the Surface line of devices. This is what the Surface 2 should have been, but it took three tries to get it right with Surface Pro, so why not three tries with its younger brother.