Microsoft Surface 3 – Review

Microsoft is very proud of the Microsoft Surface 3, and have been praising its benefits extremely hard in comparison to past releases.

So we put what Microsoft said about the Surface 3 to the test and compared it to how @CharisMcAwesome found the laptop/tablet.

Microsoft

“Surface 3 has the looks and performance to turn heads. With its 10.8-inch screen and thin, light frame, it’s just the right size to slip under your arm or in your purse and take anywhere. Fancy a movie or some late-night gaming? With 10 hours of battery life, stellar sound, and an integrated Kickstand, Surface 3 is perfect for hands-free entertainment wherever you go.”

HashtagME 

There were no turning of heads, in fact nobody looked when I pulled it out of my purse.

And to be honest, I’m not that kinda of girl who walks around comparing sizes,  I’m confident when it comes to screen size. However, the screen size is small enough to be compatible but not big enough to be distracting.  10.8 inches is apparently just the right amount of screen that a person needs 🙂

In regards to portability, you can see its benefits by clicking here  where I trialled this and took photos.  In summary, yes its very portable.

10hrs of battery life… I tested this and agree, this has an amazing battery life.  9hrs all up though of trolling through the web, watching videos and doing documents etc.  I didn’t do the gaming side of it, and find it hard to believe that it could last 10hrs of gaming.  But as I didn’t trial this aspect of it, I can’t say definitively that it does or doesn’t.   One point I do have to make, is the Microsoft Surface 3 lasted longer than my iMacBook doing the exact same stuff.  So in terms of battery life, the Surface 3 outdoes laptops.

The kickstand is a simple basic feature that kinda puts this above the rest of tablets and laptops.  One of my main complaints of tablets is having to hold it while you are watching a movie or typing a document.  The kickstand (which works like a picture frame holder) is just a simple feature for those times when you need it.

The sound, I wouldn’t call stellar.  But it is better than a mobile.  When someone says stellar, I think concert, this is not concert quality sound, but it is good.

Microsoft

“Surface 3 may look like a tablet, but it’s so much more. It’s fast and responsive, so it won’t slow you down when you’re on the go. More importantly, when you need to run Windows desktop software like iTunes or Photoshop Essentials2, it just works. Click in a backlit keyboard3 to type faster than onscreen, and easily connect your accessories with the full-size USB 3.0 port.”

HashtagME

The surface looks like a tablet, but it is actually a laptop.  And this is what makes the Surface 3 so awesome. So this aspect of Microsoft’s bragging is 100% correct.

Most tablets run a mobile operating system, making your average tablet just one giant phone that can’t make phone calls.  The Surface 3 is a laptop that looks a tablet and acts like a laptop.

What makes tablets unique is its portability, size and the ability to write on them with a stylus.  And this is where the Surface 3 has its tablet qualities, enabling you to do all of those things.

But it is the fact that it operates like a laptop that makes it so great and is the real true bonus of this product.

Now it is fast, and extremely responsive considering its price and size.  It’s not as fast or as responsive as the Surface Pro 3, and not as responsive as some laptops I’ve tried.  But for a tablet or laptop, for that price, it’s excellent.

To test the responsiveness, I wrote a 7-page word document using the keyboard and did suffer a slight delay every now and then.  It did correct itself after 1-2 seconds, but there was a slight lag, in saying that the average person can’t type as fast as I can (keyboard warrior right here) so I’m being gracious in that most people probably won’t suffer that lag.  But for those of us who think speed typing should be an Olympic sport, this could get annoying after a while.

The keyboard from what I’m aware, isn’t part of the Surface 3 package.  You have to purchase this separately.  And trust me you will want to.  The keyboard which acts like a screen cover, is one of the reasons you will want this.  The other reason is that when it comes to typing out documents, it’s more comfortable to type with the Surface 3 standing upright (thanks to the kickstand) and typing on the keyboard than it is, typing flat on a table.

The keyboard doesn’t feel like the most expensive, in fact it feels quite replaceable, and not worth the $199 NZD that the surface 3 keyboard is selling at.  But it is light (which probably adds to the cheap feel) however you also don’t want it to feel weighty, after all its the portability and light weight aspect of the tablet that is one of the features.  Adding extra weight counters that.  Still I’m not convinced this is worth $199 NZD.

The USB port, I know this sounds simple, but it is a great great feature.  I charged my phone off this, you have no idea how good that is until you have a tablet that is fully charged but has no USB port.

Microsoft

“There’s just so much you can do with a Surface 3. Windows 8.1 gives you an endless array of options for entertainment and productivity, plus the ability to multitask using two apps side by side. For a limited time, a 1-year subscription to Office 365 Personal is included with Surface 3.4″

HashtagME

There is so much you can do with a Surface 3.  In fact it works exactly like a Windows laptop so it’s kind of right there.

The multitasking using two apps side by side thing, I discovered by accident.  Basically, it works like a split screen.  As the screen is only 10.8 inches having it split into 2x 5.4inch screens doesn’t really (for me at least) seem like that much of a bonus, and I couldn’t find any real decent use for it in terms of work-related or study related uses as I ended up having to click on the screen to make it larger so I could see.   But for playing music while I’m looking for lyrics…fantastic

The office 365 is a definite for windows even if you didn’t have the surface 3.  Not having Office 365 is like going to the loo and not having toilet paper…Office 365 is just one of those must haves for Windows OS.

Microsoft

“Giving you the most natural writing experience on a tablet, Surface Pen6 is responsive and precise. Surface Pen feels like an actual pen, not a flimsy stylus. And with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, it’s easy to draw, takes notes, or write music. It’s the digital writing experience you’ve dreamed about.”

Out of all the tablets with writing capabilities, the Surface Pen is okay.  The Surface Pen does feel like a pen, which does make it feel more natural, however it isn’t exactly as natural as Microsoft would like you to believe.

The pens responsiveness for taking notes is delayed, a slight lag, and I got frustrated after about 20 seconds. So for long notes I found it was easier to use the keyboard.

For artistic purposes though and highlighting, making quick notes or just straight-up doodling, I must admit the Surface Pen does come into its own.  The pressure sensitivity is more noticeable when drawing rather than note taking and it is an improvement on the digital writing experience.

Downsides, there is nowhere to store the pen on the Surface 3, meaning you are more likely to lose the pen at some stage….which I did.

Conclusion

Quite frankly this tablet is the best tablet out there for the $792 NZ  price and while I was going to buy my sons laptops for school, I have decided to go for the Microsoft Surface 3 instead.  Its portability means it won’t weigh down their school bags, and it operates like a laptop meaning they have access to all the necessary features.    My sister is also looking for a reasonably priced laptop for her tertiary study and I will be recommending for her the Microsoft Surface 3 as well.

So if you are looking for a laptop for study or general every day to day uses that don’t require heavy software programs like Adobe, get the Microsoft Surface 3.

At the time of writing this Harvey Norman had the cheapest 64GB Surface 3 at only $792 NZD.  Click here to buy this little beauty now.

TECHNICAL SPECS INTERPRETED

Size

10.52 x 7.36 x 0.34 in (267 x 187 x 8.7 mm) – Basically its the size of an A4 Book

Weight

1.37 lbs (622 g) – Very very light you will hardly notice it. 

Display

10.8” ClearType Full HD Plus Display • Resolution: 1920 x 1280 • Aspect ratio: 3:2 • Touch: 10 point multi-touch • Surface Pen support – Its clear so you can see it in daylight or night.  You won’t need to close your drapes in order to see the screen during the day, and the touch screen is very nice, working similar to your phone.  The pen you will lose so find a nice place to keep it safe.

Battery Life1

Up to 10 hours – Going hard out watching movies, doing study and surfing the web around 9hrs 

Storage/RAM8

64GB storage with 2GB RAM • 128GB storage with 4GB RAM – So for 64gb you can store around 15 x 90min movies in HD, or 8,000 mp3s or 7000 images.   128GB is around double that.

Processor

Quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor (2MB Cache, 1.6GHz with Intel Burst technology up to 2.4GHz). Surface 3 offers more than 80% of the performance of Surface Pro 3 with Intel Core i3 processor (according to PCMark 8 Creative Conventional test9). – Its fast and responsive, and wont chew up your battery as fast as the Surface 3 Pro does

Network (Wireless and Cellular)

Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) • Bluetooth 4.0 – It will connect to your wifi, and the bluetooth when turned on wont chew up your battery as its ‘low energy bluetooth’.  In other words more energy efficient for your battery.

Ports

Full-size USB 3.0 • Mini DisplayPort • microSD card reader • Micro USB charging port • Headset jack • Cover port- All quite normal for a laptop, these are considered ‘additional’ features on a tablet.  The USB is actually standard meaning it will charge your phone as well (as long as its not an apple product)

Software

Windows 8.1 • 1-year of Office 365 Personal with OneDrive cloud storage – Office 365 is only offered for a year, so after that you will need to pay.  The one drive cloud storage is a bonus meaning you can save your word docs, excels to the cloud and access from your phone or another computer and saves memory space on your tablet for movies instead.  

Cameras, video and audio

3.5 megapixel front-facing camera • 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera with autofocus • Microphone • Stereo speakers with Dolby audio – Probably as good a quality as your phone. 

Sensors

Ambient light sensor • Proximity sensor • Accelerometer • Gyroscope • Magnetometer – This is how your tablet knows which way to face.  Have it lengthwise, the tablet will correct itself.  Actually very good in terms of responsiveness.  If you’ve ever been in bed and be reading at that awkward angle when your phone goes and flips the content?  The Surface 3 won’t do that, but will flip when you need it to…its freakishly good like that.

Warranty

1-year limited hardware warranty – Chances are by the end of year, you’ll want to upgrade anyway making this warranty standard. 

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Charis McAwesome

Charis McAwesome is a social media client project manager to companies including Microsoft, Intel, Lenovo, Deloitte, banks and many more on behalf of Digivizer. By day, she provides digital strategy and big data analysis, by night she may provide news on the podcast & when she doesn't, makes up for it by writing articles instead.