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Microsoft Surface 3 Review




Announced just this April, Microsoft’s Surface 3 is another attempt to strike a better balance between a tablet and a laptop at a price category of a typical netbook. Check out our full review of the Microsoft Surface 3 after the break.

Not to be confused with the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 is a smaller and toned down version of the family with a more conservative configuration. And while the Surface 3 is smaller and lighter, they share almost the same design and build quality which, to the untrained eye, might be easily mistaken with one another.

For the purpose of this review, we got the Surface 3 with 64GB storage and 2GB of RAM (which we bought from Best Buy during our recent trip to the US) while higher variants come with 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage.

Design and Build Quality.

This time around, I think Microsoft has gotten it right. With a 10.8-inch full HD display, the Surface 3 is poised to fill that narrow gap between a netbook and ultrabook laptop, all the while maintaining a tablet form factor.

You get the same build quality as the Surface Pro 3 with magnesium alloy material in a thin and light body. The integrated kickstand at the rear side is adjustable as it allows for several fixed angle of view. It comes with a full-sized USB 3.0 port, a mini Display Port and microSD card reader for transferring large files or adding extra space to the rather inadequate internal storage.

While in the landscape position and the kickstand straighten out, the power button and volume controls are found at the top left corner. The right side is where you can find the mini Display Port, a USB 3.0 port, 3.5mm audio port and the micro USB charging port.

Nevertheless, with a thin and light Windows 8.1 tablet like the Surface 3, Microsoft has finally gotten a good and affordable productivity tablet on the table. It reminded us of Surface RT when they first introduced it several years ago but the performance of the Tegra chip and limited capability of Windows RT resulted into low market acceptance.

The keyboard cover has been greatly improved as well. The chiclet-type keys are generous with enough travel for a comfortable touch-typing. It didn’t add much weight nor girth to the over-all size of the tablet and you can pick from a selection of bright colors as well.

The trackpad is a bit cramped but very usable. You won’t really ache to plug in an external mouse and we found that most of the time, the trackpad is more than enough. If it were a bit larger, we would have been very satisfied with it.

We also found the kickstand to be very functional and makes a lot of sense. The ability to lock it a varying angles works best depending on your position, distance and the placement of the tablet.

Display and Multimedia.

The 10.8-inch IPS display might not be enough screen real estate for many people but for the sake of portability, it strikes a balance between comfort and usefulness. It’s like lugging around an older iPad that runs Windows and can be as productive as a regular laptop without any significant compromise.

This makes more sense if you travel or move around a lot and have basic needs in terms of productivity tools and workload.

Nevertheless, the full HD display is really good especially with browsing and watching videos. Microsoft’s ClearType Plus technology allows the display to render texts and fonts clearly and smoothly (although, as a compromise, it reduces the color accuracy/quality).


Sample text in ClearType [orange dot present] and standard anti-aliasing. This display tweak works bets if you are using Microsoft Word.

The Windows logo is now placed on the right side of the bezel rather than the bottom corner where it used to be. This is an indication that normal use-case is to hold the tablet in the portrait orientation.

The speakers are inconspicuously hidden along the left and right bezels with a small slit cutting the glass panel just before the metal frame. Though not that obvious, audio quality is good and volume range is pretty loud.

Operating System.


The Surface 3 runs Windows 8.1 right out of the box with a few freebies thrown in, like Office 365. The Metro UI really makes more sense with a tablet interface because it provides you with a useful and practical access to the most commonly used apps and websites.

The Live Tiles offer a glimpse of some of the content pulled from sites and service like the weather or recent emails.

The OS footprint is light enough for the tablet that still leaves room for the 2GB of memory to manage. And while we prefer navigation using a mouse, the touchscreen offers a user interface that is best with certain actions — like scrolling, flipping thru pages or photos or even zooming in and out of an image or map.

Performance.

This is also the first time we saw Intel’s new Atom x7 quad-core processor. You have the option for a 2GB memory and 64GB storage or 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage. The latter configuration will cost you an additional $100 but I think the 2GB and 64GB combo should do just fine if you will use it for light work like MS Office and Photoshop.

From the last four weeks that we used the Surface 3 with the usual office productivity, web browsing and a bit of photo editing we noticed that the quad-core Atom processor and 2GB of RAM was able to manage sufficiently.

The Z8700 is based on the newer Cherry Trail 14nm generation of SoC that succeeded Bay Trail (22nm), the processor that was used with the likes of the T100. It has a quad core processor with a base clock speed of 1.6GHz that can boost up to 2.4GHz.

The biggest advantage of Cherry Trail is that it supports dual-channel RAM of up to 8GB compared to the 2GB maximum of Bay Trail. The Scenario Design Power (SDP) is also slightly lower at 2W. However, the Intel HD Graphics of the Z8700 is clocked a little lower at 200Mhz (max 600MHz) compared to 313MHz (max 688Mhz) on the previous Atom chip.

Battery Life.

Microsoft promises an extra long battery life which can last up to 10 hours on a single full charge. That’s pretty much all the time you need for the entire day’s work.

During our 28 hours flight back from the US, it feels like the Surface 3 performed pretty close to 9.5 hours of continuous use on a single full charge.

Once we ran out of juice, we just plugged the tablet to a powerbank via its microUSB charging port. This is perhaps one of the biggest advantage in terms of portability and battery life for the Surface 3.

The Surface 3 operated at a very comfortable temperature level with the aluminum back efficiently dissipating the heat across the entire rear section.

Conclusion.

The Surface 3 is not a laptop replacement, that one we are sure of. However, those who have been more attracted to the netbook for its affordability and portability will find the Surface 3 a welcome upgrade or replacement. It matches the performance, battery life and even the price.

Microsoft has been experiment with the tablet-laptop hybrid and we think the Surface 3, along with the Surface Pro 3, has finally found the right mix between form, functionality and price.

The Surface 3 has a starting price of $499 and while it is not yet officially released in the Philippines, you can order it online via Galleon.ph {see listing here}.

Microsoft Surface 3 specs:
10.8-inch ClearType Plus full HD Display @ 1920 x 1280 pixels
10 point multi-touch, Surface Pen support
Intel Atom x7-Z8700 1.6GHz quad-core processor
Intel HD Graphics
2GB RAM with 64GB storage
4GB RAM with 128GB storage
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0
USB 3.0
Mini DisplayPort
microSD card reader
8 megapixel AF rear camera with microphone
3.5 megapixel front camera
Stereo speakers with Dolby audio
Windows 8.1 OS (free upgrade to Windows 10)
1-year of Office 365 Personal with 1TB OneDrive cloud storage
267 x 187 x 8.7mm (dimensions)
622 grams (weight)

What we liked about it:
* Great design and build quality
* Long battery life
* Can be charged using a standard powerbank
* Good keyboard cover with back-light feature
* Very good display quality
* Ample amount of ports

What we did not like:
* A little under-powered
* Low internal storage
* Expensive keyboard



Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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6 Responses

  1. yoga text says:

    maganda sana e kaso mahal din keyboard. kapresyo na ng ibang murang i5 na laptop.

    giveaway nlng po yan yugatech :D

  2. ha says:

    Ha? @galleon.ph: 31.2 w/ only 2 gRam/32gb + 2k shipping fee?

    pero sa villman: http://www.villman.com/Product-Detail/Microsoft_Surface3_128GB 4gb RAM/128 @ 35k ONLY???

    LOL. tubong lugaw sa galleon amp.. siguro galing lang sa villman yung binebenta nila, tapos pinapatungan na lang .. ahahaha

  3. windowsphoneOS says:

    “The Windows logo is now placed on the right side of the bezel rather than the bottom corner where it used to be. This is an indication that normal use-case is to hold the tablet in the portrait orientation.”

    I think its designed to be used more in a landscaped orientation. Take note of the webcam. Its on top when in landscape mode. The logo is on the right side para di matakpan nung keyboard when it folds up magnetically onto the bottom bezel of the tablet.

  4. rcv says:

    35k @ villman for the 128ssd

  5. Nox says:

    Hi! My Surface 3 was bought from the US and i just want to know if i need to use a voltage transformer to be able to charge it safely here in the Philippines? Are voltage transformers still a thing? Lol.

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