Microsoft Surface 3 Review: Capability And Compromises

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Introduction and Specifications

Microsoft's third iteration of the Surface Pro was a monumental improvement over the first two incarnations. For many, the third time really was the charm. It was powerful enough to replace most laptops, and versatile enough to serve as two device types without major compromises on either side. A year later now, and Microsoft presents us with the third iteration of the standard Surface. You know, the one without the "Pro" dangling from the end. It's cheaper, slimmer, and toned down, but it's also aimed at a broader swath of consumers.
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The base Surface 3 checks in at an alluring $499, but that's probably not the machine you'll want. The upgraded spec, which gets 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, goes for $599. Plus, you'll probably want a Type Cover, which is another $130. Before you know it, it's pretty easy to push what seems like an entry-level machine into mid-range territory north of $700. At any rate, let's look at what's inside.

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But before you dive into the specs and our detailed analysis, let's take you on a quick guided tour of the Surface 3 in action...

Microsoft Surface 3
Specifications & Features

Model Surface 3
Processor Intel Atom x7 Z8700 (1.6GHz; 2MB cache)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit
Display 10.8-inch Full HD (1920x1020) Touch Panel
Camera 3MP front-facing camera; 8MP rear-facing camera
Memory & Storage 2GB or 4GB of RAM (DDR3-1600)
64GB or 128GB eMMC Flash storage
microSD card slot
I/O Ports 1 x Full-size USB 3.0
1 x Mini Display port
Headset jack
microUSB charging port
Wireless 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
Battery Up to 10 hours
Weight 1.37 pounds (without Type Cover)
MSRP Base Price: $500 / As Tested: $730

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The Surface 3 is no doubt super light, and very versatile, with it's convertible approach and stylus pen support, but there's a premium placed on these features. Microsoft knows that you can save money by buying a single device rather than two, and its pricing does bare that out. Still, there are indeed niceties and conveniences that come with consolidating your computing usage onto one ultra-mobile device. The question is, is the Surface 3 the device to do it? Let's find out in the pages ahead.

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