Get started with Surface 3 review

Microsoft presented in March a new hybrid machine designed for the general public. The Surface 3 has been with me for a week now and the time has come to take a quick look at the operation.

But before going any further, maybe it's best to put things in context. The very first Surface was presented in June 2012 and at the time it was available in two distinct versions: the Surface Pro for professionals and the Surface RT for the general public.

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The Surface 3 with its Type Cover.

If the two slates did not share the same data sheet, they were also each entitled to their own operating system. The second was thus powered by Windows RT and therefore by a light version (limited?) Of Windows 8.

Microsoft kept the same strategy the following year with the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2, but everything changed with the Surface Pro 3 and the Surface 3. The two tablets actually come with the same operating system, and therefore with Windows 8.1

Technical characteristics

If you are around a lot then you must start to know the song. To start, we'll take a look at the tablet's spec sheet.

The Surface 3 is a little more compact than its big sister and is therefore equipped with a 10.8-inch ClearType Full HD screen. The panel can display 1920 × 1280 (3: 2 aspect ratio), for a pixel density of 213 ppi. It is also compatible with the Surface Pen and luck does it well because it comes with a stylus.

On the processor side, it will be necessary to rely on an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 chip composed of four cores clocked at 1.6 GHz, with an Intel Burst that can reach 2.4 GHz to quickly solve the most complex calculations.

The amount of on-board RAM depends on the model chosen. Microsoft offers two major variants: one with 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, another with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.

This is the second model that was given to me during this week of testing.

Connectivity is no exception. If the tablet has an 802.11ac WiFi chip and a Bluetooth 4.0 chip, there are also two models equipped with a 4G modem. Behind, the beautiful embeds a USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort, a micro SD card reader, a Micro USB port, a headphone jack and a magnetic connector for the keyboard cover.

But what about the photo part? There, we have a main sensor of 8 million pixels and a front camera of 3.5 million pixels. Frankly, I would have preferred the opposite for videoconferencing.

The battery capacity is not mentioned on the slate's spec sheet, but Microsoft says it can last 10 hours of video playback. We will obviously have the opportunity to address this point a little later in this grip.

Finally, note that the Surface 3 is quite compact (267 x 187 x 8.7 mm), for a weight set at 622 grams. It incorporates a battery of sensors, and more specifically an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer.

Its price will depend mainly on the model chosen: 599 euros for the 64 GB Surface 3 or 719 euros for the 128 GB Surface 3. The 4G models are not yet available for pre-order, unfortunately. It should also be noted that the Type Cover is not included in the sale price.

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The Type Cover plays the backlighting card.

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Surface 3 side view.

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The foot of Surface 3. Three possible positions.

Packaging, Design & Ergonomics

The box of the Surface 3 is deliberately stripped. No visuals, no technical characteristics, Microsoft has opted for a very minimalist approach.

The same goes for its content, which does not bother with superfluous accessories. In addition to the tablet, we are going to find a power adapter and a quick start guide.

Microsoft, however, was kind enough to slip a Surface Pen and Type Cover into the box so I could make the most of the slate. A very wise choice.

The Surface 3 feels good in the hand. Its magnesium case is soft to the touch and the finishes are admirable. The beauty is a million miles from what most hybrid machines on the market offer and she really impressed me.

Its lines are obviously very reminiscent of those of the Surface Pro 3 but the two machines are not identical either. The foot of the small slate can thus take only three positions.

All ports are placed on the right edge. From top to bottom, we will find the Mini DisplayPort, the USB 3.0 port, the port for micro SD cards and the headphone jack.

The power button and the two volume control buttons are on the top border.

Microsoft has also placed a sensitive button on the right of the screen to allow us to quickly return to the reception of Windows 8.1. The ergonomics of the tablet are therefore very close to that of the Pro 3.

I know that not everyone thinks like me, but I give a very important place to the design and the ergonomics of the products which pass me under the hands. For me, it is a criterion as important as the screen, the power or the autonomy.

The Surface 3 did not disappoint me at all and quite the opposite. It is beautiful and above all it is very pleasant to take in hand.

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All the physical buttons are placed on the top edge.

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The micro SD port is located under the foot of the slate.

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The connectivity of the tablet. Complete.

Screen, Power & Autonomy

It is not a mystery, the positioning of the Surface 3 is not the same as that of the Pro 3. The new tablet from Microsoft is intended primarily for mobile users and all those who are looking for 'a flexible and versatile solution to support them in the slightest of their trips.

Its screen does not exceed 10.8 inches and we are finally on a format very close to that of the iPad. As a direct consequence, our workspace is quite narrow. The good side of the thing, however, is that the company has opted for a 3: 2 format with a resolution reaching 1920 × 1280. We therefore have a lot of space in height.

However, if you are used to placing multiple windows side by side then you might feel a little tight. On the bright side, you'll still be able to plug the tablet into an external display by leaning on its Mini DisplayPort.

Now let's move on to the computing power of the tablet.

As indicated above, this is the second model that was given to me, the one with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The processor does not change and it is therefore an Atom chip clocked at 1.6 GHz.

I'm not going to lie to you, the Surface 3 won't let you play the latest Call of Duty. Too bad, eh? Certainly, and it will quickly show its limits on 3D Studio Max, Maya and all these particularly greedy software solutions.

This being the case, it will be quite able to run your favorite browser and its dozens of tabs, or even your Office 365. Moreover, this is good because Microsoft offers a free year of subscription to all those who will buy a slate.

I won't hide it from you, for lack of time, I was not able to carry out very extensive tests. However, I have taken the time to install two software programs that I use almost every day: Photoshop and Lightroom. I expected the worst but … the beauty did very well.

So of course, if you're working with multi-gigabyte PSDs, you'll be better off going your way and heading towards the Surface Pro 3. On the other hand, for quick touch-ups, the Surface 3 will be more than enough.

And this also goes for large RAWs, like those on my Nikon D810.

According to the Microsoft site, the Surface 3 would be able to last no less than 10 hours with a single charge, and therefore a big day of work. It will all depend on how you use it, of course, but you have to admit that it really holds up well.

With the brightness pushed to the limit, WiFi, Bluetooth, ten tabs open in Chrome and Photoshop behind, the battery loses about 5% of its capacity every hour. It would therefore take five hours to completely empty itself.

By reducing the screen brightness and disabling unnecessary services while paying attention to open applications, you can last about 8 hours on a single charge. That's not bad, especially since I haven't had the Surface 3 long enough for the battery to break in.

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The tablet in profile.

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The tablet is light, you can hold it with one hand without any problem.

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The Microsoft logo, of course.

First Impressions

The Surface 3 is a surprising device in more ways than one. It is pretty to look at, with extremely neat finishes. Microsoft has not looked at the expense and the small tablet easily compares with the Surface Pro 3.

In reality, they are as elegant as the other and it is all the more impressive that we are talking here about a product offered under the bar of 600 euros for its basic version.

But the best asset of the tablet, ultimately, is its operating system. Thanks to Windows 8.1, you will be able to run all your usual applications without difficulty. Finally, on condition that you are not too greedy, of course.

In short, if you are looking for a portable and versatile device, then you can head down to the Surface 3 .

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