The "1-Minute" Review
- Keyboard attachment sold separately
- Unable to handle heavy multi-tasking and 3D games
- In tablet mode not touch-screen friendly
- Track pad on keyboard too small
Despite losing nearly a billion dollars on the Surface RT, Microsoft continues to refined and tweak the hybrid tablet/laptop device. The Microsoft Surface 3 is a downgraded version of the Surface Pro 3, the most obvious change being its size. It measures 12 inches x 7.4 x 0.4 inches and weighs 622grams without the keyboard attachment. Like its predecessors it comes with a magnesium alloy casing and beveled sides giving it what experts call an industrial aesthetic. The included kickstand now also comes with three positions instead of two and it comes equipped with a full USB 3.0 port.
Across the bottom is the magnetic connector where the keyboard attaches. In order to accommodate the smaller size of the Surface 3 Microsoft has also shrunk down the size of the attachment. While critics found it a bit narrow they add that it feels good to type on as the keys are responsive with a good "bounce." The downside, however, is the small trackpad. Forbes states, "…you're better off using touch to navigate around the interface." Besides the keyboard, the Surface 3 now offers stylus support. The functionality is identical to the larger Surface Pro 3. Reviewers found it fairly accurate and natural to write with though they wish Microsoft had included a dedicated location to stow it. Unfortunately, both the stylus and the keyboard are both sold separately, which upset critics. While the stylus might be optional, they add the keyboard is a necessity especially for those who actually want to use it as a true hybrid device.
The 10.8 inch display offers a quad HD resolution of 1920 x 1280 pixels for a pixel density of 213ppi. While this doesn't land it in the Retina category, experts still found it quite sharp, especially at the distance laptops are normally viewed. They also add the excellent contrast, bright back light and accurate colors make up for the slight lack of resolution. Digital Trends states, "The Surface 3's screen is incredible given its…base price." For those who plan on watching videos, experts describe the speakers as "strong" and "robust" with maximum volume loud with barely any distortion.
Although a hybrid device, many reviewers found it failed as a tablet. While the inclusion of a full Windows operating system makes is useful in laptop mode, they discovered it often was unwieldy when utilizing touch screen. They often found windows would open, close, minimize or maximize for no apparent reason. And of course, when compared to Android or iOS platforms, the Windows app store still lacks apps.
Armed with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom quad-core processor and 4GB of RAM, the Surface 3 did not blow experts away with its speed. While they found it acceptable during light tasks such as typing and browsing the web, once they began heavily multi-tasking they noticed significant lag and hitches. They also add applications often loaded very slowly and most 3D games were practically unplayable. Still CNET adds, "…as a secondary or travel computer, it's certainly more than fast enough." Battery life is a bit better than the Surface Pro 3 with experts able to get around almost two day so life during light to medium usage.
Reviewers have mixed feelings on the Surface 3 as it offers good ideas with not so great execution. Wired states, "On one hand, the Surface 3 is a triumph. It tries to do a great many things, and does them serviceably…But…you can do better than the middle ground." Giz Mag adds, "While the Surface 3's power and screen size are merely "good enough" for a laptop, it balances things out with the most portable and tablet-friendly package we've seen in a Surface."