Microsoft Surprises with Surface 3

Last week Microsoft watcher site WinBeta put up a post talking about a successor to the Surface 2 called the Surface 3. Unlike the previous non-Pro Surfaces the 3 would run on an Intel chip and thus run Windows 8.1 and not Windows RT (the ARM version of Windows). It would be a smaller device that was essentially a smaller model of the Surface Pro 3 (Pen enabled and using a 3:2 screen ratio). The WinBeta article described the new tablet coming out before Windows 10 for a lower price point.

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Now I was getting ready to write up something on the Surface 3 when Microsoft up and decided to unveil the Surface 3 with a quiet un-announcement. Instead of holding an event, gathering the press and presenting the Surface 3, Microsoft launched quietly with a few YouTube videos and interviews. Today has been filled with the obvious headlines about the death of Windows RT and a few articles on the $900 million write down on the original Surface tablet. There were even the occasional pieces written by Apple watchers.

The Surface 3 is exactly what I thought Microsoft would do and honestly what I wanted to see. While I’d love to see Microsoft keep an ARM option, the move to an Intel chip is logical. The market has responded to Intel Windows tablets and thus Microsoft has to answer. Moving to Intel means running the x86 version of Windows which removes the issue of app availability. The big question will be around Microsoft’s choosing the new Intel Atom x7 chip over the more powerful Core M. Core M is closer to the full power Core i-Series of chips and will be on the upcoming Apple MacBook; basically it gives you major computing power but allows for a fan-less design. Personally I think the new Atom was chosen because it’s a purer mobile chip, price, and Core M’s marginal benefits (battery and heat).

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So the Surface 3 is the Surface Pro 3 shrunk and without a fan. Like the third iteration of the Pro model the Surface 3 uses a 3:2 aspect ratio packed in a 10.8 inch frame. The screen size is about .4 inches bigger than the Surface 2 but also smaller (taller) than the 2 because of the aspect ratio. The 3:2 ratio makes the new Surface easier to use as a tablet in portrait while still keeping it laptop friendly. The Surface 3 has a resolution of 1920×1280 on a Full HD Plus ClearType display (means it’ll be a good screen).

The new Surface will sport a new charging port and accessories. The Surface 3 will be charged by Micro USB, commonly used by smartphones and other devices. The port can also be used for data. The move ends the use of the proprietary plugs use in the previous Surfaces. Some have been upset that the device isn’t using USB-C but in my opinion this makes more sense.

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With a change in screen size the Surface 3 will have a new TypeCover to match. The new cover will be the same as the one used on the Surface Pro 3; it has the extra strip of magnets that lifts the keyboard and makes the Cover stiffer for typing. You can still use older TypeCovers but they won’t close and fold up to fit. One new thing with the Cover is it ditches buttons used to access the Charms bar which will be going away in Windows 10. The Surface 3 will be the first non-Pro model to use a pen, however the pen won’t be included. The Pen is the same N-Trig one used on the Pro but now it comes in multiple colors (Silver, Black, Blue, and Red). The Pen will be sold for $50 and the keyboard $130 (price w/tax). There will also be a $200 Dock available.

The Surface 3 will come in four models: 2GB Ram/ 64GB storage (WiFi) (3g/LTE) and  4GB Ram/ 128GB storage (WiFi) (3g/LTE). The LTE version will be launching a month after the initial May release with Verizon and T-Mobile as the first mobile partners. The WiFi models will go on sale May 5 and will go for $499 or $500 with tax for the base model. As of now you can go to local Microsoft Stores and check the device out.

images: Microsoft

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