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Can Microsoft's new Surface 3 replace your notebook?

By Sarah K. White | May 4, 2015
Microsoft wants you to abandon your preconceived notions of a laptop and embrace the Surface as more than just a tablet. In fact, Microsoft wants you to ditch your cumbersome notebook and one-dimensional tablet -- presumably your iPad -- and replace them with one device: the Surface 3. But even with an adjustable kickstand and full Windows 8.1, can the Surface 3 compete with a traditional notebook, or tablet for that matter?

Microsoft wants you to abandon your preconceived notions of a laptop and embrace the Surface as more than just a tablet. In fact, Microsoft wants you to ditch your cumbersome notebook and one-dimensional tablet — presumably your iPad — and replace them with one device: the Surface 3. But even with an adjustable kickstand and full Windows 8.1, can the Surface 3 compete with a traditional notebook, or tablet for that matter?

In 2012, the answer would have been — and often was — a resounding "No." However, the Surface line has come a long way in delivering the performance and usability you would need in order to dump your notebook. And Microsoft is not alone in its hybrid efforts. The trend is for notebook and tablet manufacturers to throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. As a result, the hybrid market is booming, and we've seen a slew of tablets that do a great impression of a notebook, and vice versa.

Surface design principles

Microsoft has stayed true to the design of the Surface tablet, which means the Surface 3 looks a lot like the Surface 2. It maintains the same rectangular shape, which — as with past models — makes it awkward to hold in portrait mode. Landscape mode is comfortable, largely because the device weighs in at just 1.37 pounds without the keyboard. It's light and easy to hold in one hand while navigating the device with your other.

The 10.8 inch display feels roomier than expected and the 1920x1280 Full HD resolution offers a great visual experience. It measures 10.52 x 7.36 x .34 inches and boasts a full USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader, MicroUSB charging port and headphone port. All of which — with the exception of the headphone jack — you won't find on an iPad.

The Surface 3 also features a 3.5-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, which will suffice for video chatting or snapping a photo in a pinch. The device also features optional 4G LTE connectivity, which means the Surface 3 can really become a device that will let you be productive on the go, even away from Wi-Fi.

Microsoft ditched the proprietary charger found on past Surface models in favor of a standard microUSB charger. This is attributed to the device's quad-core 1.6Ghz Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor, which is less power hungry than past processors. It's a convenient change, and one less charger you'll need to throw in your bag.

You'll find the famous — or infamous — kickstand on the Surface 3, a feature that has followed every iteration since the first Surface. The Surface Pro 3 has a kickstand that will adjust to any available angle, but the kickstand on the Surface 3 has only three different angles. The limited angles become frustrating fast. I found myself regularly thinking "If only I could tilt it back just a little bit more."

 

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