Microsoft Surface 3 review

With full Windows 8.1 and a lower price than the Pro version, the new Surface 3 could be the laptop / tablet hybrid you've been searching for. Here's our Surface 3 review.

Microsoft Surface family

Microsoft managed to keep the Surface 3 launch under wraps, so it was a surprise when it was announced at the end of March. Given that the Surface Pro 3 was the first such device we were able to recommend buying, a cheaper version should surely be good news…

The Surface Pro 3 is a great feat of engineering, but not everyone needs the power of a Core i7 for browsing the web, sending emails and creating documents in Office 365. So a Core M-based tablet running full-blown Windows 8.1 (rather than the hamstrung Windows RT) is what we'd been waiting for.

Unfortunately that's not what we got. Instead, there's an Atom x7-Z8700, the first Cherry Trail processor to be seen in a tablet. It's a quad-core part, running at 1.6GHz but capable of boosting up to 2.4GHz when necessary.

This is the only processor on offer, meaning you have a choice of only four models: 64GB Wi-Fi for £419, 128GB Wi-Fi for £499, 64GB Wi-Fi + LTE and 128GB Wi-Fi + LTE. Currently there are no prices for the cellular versions, nor a set release date. The 64GB models have 2GB of RAM, while the 128GB versions have a more suitable allocation of 4GB.

There's also a microSD card slot for adding more storage, but with a full-size USB port, you can easily connect USB flash drives and hard drives for almost unlimited storage.

Surface 3 review

Microsoft Surface 3 review: design and build

One of the great things about the Atom processor is that it doesn’t require a fan for cooling which means the Surface 3 is completely silent. Since that's what we've all come to expect from a modern tablet it's not a unique achievement by any means, but it's still welcome one.

The casing is made from the same magnesium as the Pro version, without the vents around the edge. Microsoft says it could have made the Surface 3 thinner, but chose not to in order to leave enough room for the full-size USB 3 port.

There's also a microUSB port: another welcome feature as it means that you can charge your Surface 3 with any USB charger and microUSB cable. However, you're best off with the bundled power supply which delivers 2.5A (or 13W) and charges the tablet much faster than a phone charger can.

I'm a big fan of the front-mounted stereo speakers which you can hardly see in the screen bezel. They sound better than you'd expect, mainly because they're not shooting sound away from you like most tablets do with rear-facing speakers.

Unfortunately you don't get the same infinite-position kickstand as the Surface Pro 3. The baby Surface clicks into three positions, the first two being the same angles as the Pro 3, and the third giving much more of a lean - ideal for sketching or annotating.

Surface 3 review

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