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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?

A typical notebook will rest comfortably on your lap and move with you, and a tablet is at the mercy of your hand. With the Surface 3, I kept grabbing it from the base, causing the display to flop over. It can become unbalanced quickly, which gets annoying when you are trying to use it on your lap or while lying down.

Overtime, I got used to the kickstand and I eventually remembered to grab the Surface 3 by the display, and not the keyboard. But when you compare it to the keyboard on similar Asus Transformerbook hybrids, which offer the clamshell design and stability of a traditional notebook, it's uncertain why Microsoft doesn't offer a similar option.

Overall, the design is sleek, compact and portable. Microsoft keeps adapting the kickstand with every generation of the Surface. It's disappointing, however, that Microsoft didn't use the Surface 3 Pro kickstand design on the Surface 3.

Surface by the numbers

The Surface 3 packs an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 Quad-Core processor under its hood, which delivers speeds of 1.6GHz with Intel Bursts up to 2.4GHz. You can choose from two configurations, one with 64GB of onboard storage and 2GB of RAM and one with 128GB of onboard storage and 4GB of RAM. We reviewed the latter, and the 4GB of RAM makes quite a difference if you are planning to use the Surface as your main computing device.

The Surface 3 is also compatible with the Surface Pen 2. It might come in handy if you are in a crowded area where using the kickstand and keyboard might not be feasible. It's also useful if you want to ditch the keyboard. Because the screen's resolution is so high, using the pen, rather than your finger, allows for better accuracy. Are you going to buy the Surface 3 because of the pen? No, but it's certainly an added perk over competitors, including the iPad Air 2.

Performance and battery life

In terms of performance, you will have a better experience if you go with 4GB of RAM. While I wasn't able to test a 2GB model, I have used other Windows 8.1 devices with only 2GB of RAM, and it can result in a frustrating Web browsing experience. If you plan to use the Surface 3 as a computer, and not just a tablet, go for the 4GB.

Web browsing on the Surface 3 is smooth and speedy, and the device had no trouble balancing a number of open tabs alongside apps and desktop programs. The high resolution makes streaming Netflix a delight, and you won't have any problems watching video content on the go.

 

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