Monday, July 27, 2015

Microsoft Surface Pro 3



Thinner, lighter, quieter, cheaper…

Some might say it’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 3. A tough act to follow, it remains one of the best 2-in-1 devices and sets a high standard for the Surface 3 – the newest member of the Surface family – to follow.

However, if you’re expecting an all-singing, all-dancing upgrade, you might be disappointed and you’ll likely have to wait for the Surface Pro 4 to launch along with Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft has effectively made a smaller, less powerful and cheaper Surface Pro 3. It features a 10.8-inch touchscreen display housed in an attractive magnesium-alloy body, this time attached to a three-position kickstand. A magnetically reinforced Type Cover keyboard and numerous other accessories can be picked up for it – but you’ll have to cough up for it.

Despite the lack of a "Pro" in the title, and the fact it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Surface 2 (it’s almost exactly the same size and weight), the Surface 3 has killed off Windows RT and instead runs full-fat Windows 8.1. It can run most Windows programs out there and is ready for a free upgrade to Windows 10 when Microsoft’s new OS launches later this year.

It’s what’s inside...

One of the differences between the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3 isn’t visible from the outside. On the inside, Microsoft has opted for an Intel Cherry Trail Atom CPU, which allows the device to run silently in the absence of a fan while generating barely any heat.

It’s the first Cherry Trail processor to feature in a tablet, but despite being faster than Intel’s previous Bay Trail Atom chip, it’s a step back from the more powerful Core-series i3, i5 and i7 processors used in the Surface Pro 3.

However, it’s worth remembering that while this is a tablet that can replace your laptop, power-hungry computer users should note it’s all about price, battery life, portability and quiet operation this time around – not converting video files several gigabytes in size.

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At 662g, the Surface 3 is lighter than the Surface Pro 3, which comes in at 798g. It is also comfy to hold thanks to the Type Cover’s soft material. We browsed the net on a sunny day, and while it’s difficult to read the screen in direct sunlight (the glossy IPS display doesn’t help), it’s bright enough even in slight shade. The IPS panel also provides excellent viewing angles. Even at a smaller 10.8-inches in size, its 1,920x1,200 pixel-resolution allowed us to comfortably fit two screens side-by-side, making it great for productivity on the go.

The display supports 10-point multi-touch, which is fast and responsive – although it’s easier to pick out toolbars and menus using the Surface Pen if you have scaling set to a low percentage.

The Surface 3 has plenty of ports, including a MiniDisplay port, microSD card reader, headset jack, cover port and micro-USB charging port. There is also a full-size USB 3.0 port on the right-hand side. The power button and volume rocker, are easily accessible and can be pressed without having them in your line of sight. On the underside is a magnetic strip that latches the Type Cover in place.

As with the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 can be used with a docking station to connect monitors, mice, keyboards and other peripherals. However, you can’t chop and change between the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3 as the latter won’t fit. It provides access to most ports missing on the device, adding two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, a miniDisplay Port and a headphone jack.

A micro-USB connection is used to charge the Surface 3, so you can power it using the same cable as your smartphone. The caveat is that if you’re not using the supplied mains converter, you’ll need to use a device with sufficient output to charge the tablet. The cable inserts into the right-hand side of the tablet and lights up a white LED to indicate that it’s charging.

Bundled software

The Surface 3 is free of bloatware, shipping with a few key applications in addition to the standard array of weather, calendar and mail apps that come with Windows 8.1. It also comes with:
Microsoft Office 365 Personal (one-year’s subscription),
OneNote,
OneDrive,
Fresh Paint,
Skype,
Internet Explorer,
Drawboard PDF,
and Photos,

among others.

We managed basic image-editing in Photoshop CC 2014, while YouTube streamed 1080p video in the background with two browsers open without a hitch.

The Surface 3 has two webcams – an 8MP rear-facing camera with autofocus and a front-facing 3.5MP snapper. The rear camera takes well-composed and clear shots that are full of colors, and the front-facing camera is more than adequate for Skype and other online communications.

The Surface 3’s speaker, on the other hand, is nothing to shout about. The sound comes out of the top strip along the rear of the tablet and is lacking in mid-range and bass frequencies. The keyboard here is narrower than the Pro’s. This accommodates the Surface 3’s smaller display, but it works in much the same manner.

The Surface Pen has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity that lets you press harder on the display to make strokes of different thickness. There is a slight lag when the pen gets into use. It’s fast enough to jot notes at a leisurely pace but the response isn’t razor-sharp.


Verdict

The Surface 3 isn’t the full-on laptop replacement that the Surface Pro 3 set out to be, but unless you spend most of your day converting video files or undertaking other CPU-intensive tasks, it’ll do what you need it to in a stylish and versatile manner.

If you want a cheap tablet for lightweight computing tasks, the Surface 3 fits the bill.

Specifications

Manufacturer: Microsoft
Operating system Windows 8.1
Processor: Quad Core Intel Atom x7-78700 processor (2MB Cache, 1.6GHz turbo boost to 2.4GHz) Storage 128GB flash memory
RAM: 4GB Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics
Connectivity: Full-size USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, MicroSD card reader, Micro USB charging port, headset jack, cover port
Networking: Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac); Bluetooth 4.0
Interface: 1 x Combo audio jack, 1 x micro SUB , 1 x HDMI, 1 x SD card reader, 1 x AC adapter plug, 1 x volume up/down
Weight: 622g
Screen size: Camera: 3.5 megapixel front-facing camera; 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera with autofocus
Battery: Up to 10 hours of video playback
Dimensions: 267mm x 187mm x 8.7mm


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