Microsoft hopes the third time is the charm for the Surface 3. This time around, Microsoft brings to the table an Intel Atom X7 chip capable of running a full-on 64-bit version of Windows 8.1. Essentially, the Surface 3 is tablet that functions just like a laptop, with a little less under the hood than a Surface Pro 3, and a budget-friendly price tag. The anticipated retail price will be $499 when it becomes available May 6.
Here are the notable specs for the Surface 3:
Display: 10.8 inches at 1080-pixel resolution
Storage: 64 GB solid-state drive (SSD)
Battery Life: 10 hours, charged by microUSB cable
Weight: 1.37 pounds
Cameras: 8-megapixel rear camera; 3.5 megapixel front camera.
CPU: Intel Atom X7
RAM: 2 GB
Microsoft intends Surface 3 to be a business machine. It supports Windows 8.1 Professional, and the capability to run a full version of Office is a nod to business users. But note to get a true production user experience, the Surface 3 requires a separate purchase of a $130 Type Cover. The stylus pen will run another $50. When it comes down to it, using a Surface 3 in a legitimate at-work capacity costs about $680.
Additionally, the base-level 2 GB of RAM will be fine for web browsing, but a beefier app like Photoshop may stagger along slowly. It might also struggle to multi-task if running a memory-hungry program like Skype. Getting a pricier 4 GB Surface 3 is probably advisable in most cases.
Apples to Apples? Try Windows to Windows
The initial buzz for Surface 3 has it rivaling Apple’s iPad Air 2, a fair enough observation given the similar price points and computing power. I think a more apt comparison—one that gives a better look at the devices the Surface 3 is really designed to compete against—are other Windows 8 tablets and convertibles in the price range. Let’s take a look at the field and see how Surface 3 will match up.
Lenovo Miix 2
The 3-in-1 Lenovo Miix 2 offers serious processing power for a $700 price point, which includes a keyboard. The Intel Core i5 model packs 4 GB of RAM, and a 128 GB SSD gives users plenty of room to store data as well. The marketing for the Lenovo Miix 2 is directed at gamers on the go, business users that do real production stand to utilize the computing power just the same.
Note that the Miix 2 is heavier than the Surface 3 at 1.76 pounds in tablet form. Pro reviews recommend a cooling pad if you plan to do compute intensive tasks like 3D rendering. Check the product page for full specs.
Dell Venue 11 Pro
The Dell Venue 11 Pro mirrors many Surface 3 specs. It has the same 10.8-inch screen size and 1920 x 1080 resolution. It has an Intel Atom processor, and the base model has 2 GB of RAM with 64 GB of SSD storage. It is ever so slightly heavier that the Surface 3 at 1.57 pounds. Pro reviewers like its removable back panel for easy switching of batteries for periods of extended use. Check the product page for full specs and details.
The Dell Venue 11 retails for $597. You will need to purchase a Dell tablet keyboard with a Dell Venue 11 Pro to use it as a 2-in-1.
HP Pro Tablet
Users complain that it can take four hours to completely charge. It is hard to argue with the retail price that is in the $560 range. The HP Pro does not support a keyboard attachment, but will work with a wireless keyboard. Check the product page for full specs and details.
Lenovo ThinkPad 10 Tablet
At the higher end of Windows 8.1 tablets class is the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 Tablet. It ships with 4 GB of RAM and roomy storage—a 128 GB SSD. It is powered by an Intel Atom CPU. With the slightly higher price point (in the high $700s) you get a light (1.27 pounds) durable black-painted aluminum chassis, and a sharp 1,920 by 1,200 resolution on a 10-inch display. It is rated for more than 12 hours of battery life.
This product shown here is sold with the detachable keyboard included and Windows 8.1 Pro installed.
This sums up the tablets the Microsoft Surface 3 will be up against on anticipated May 6 release day. Let us know in the comments—what features are you looking for in a Windows 8.1 tablet, and are you considering a Microsoft Surface 3?