Microsoft's 12-inch Surface Pro 3 was well received. As a fully featured tablet with digital ink support and with enough power to replace a laptop for work and play the only thing that could make it a miss was the price tag - not a bad one for a full laptop but many still looked at it as a tablet and for that it was a bit expensive.
with the new Surface 3, Microsoft has introduced a new device that while smaller and more accessible brings some new features and still with enough power to replace tablets and small notebook devices.
The first thing to notice is obviously its size: it's got a 10.8" HD screen with 1920 x 1280 pixels - compared to the larger 12" 2160 x 1440 from the Pro version. Also the famous multi-position kickstand from the Surface Pro 3 version is now a 3-position kickstand.
This is obviously justified by its smaller frame. At only 622 grams its size and weight are big features. Add to this a free upgrade to the upcoming Windows 10 and an included one year subscription for Office 365 Personal and you might be talking about a perfect note-taking tablet, full featured laptop for students and content consumers all around.
Unfortunately the great Surface Pen is not included in the package, but you can still purchase it separately. If you experience the stylus with OneNote or other note taking apps you will appreciate it. It feels like writing on paper (yes, you can rest your wrist on the screen) and it allows you to draw and write with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity as well as automatically start OneNote with a click of a button.
We all know about the good built quality of previous Surface models and the Surface 3 is no different. The sharp edges are there, the quality magnesium case, the quiet operation and crispy display still present. A very impressive piece of engineering.
Microsoft says you can get up to ten hours of battery life with this new model and, depending of your use, you can actually go through a full day without having to get the charger out of the bag. Gone is the proprietary charging plug: a new micro USB charging port allows you to use any (good) charger to keep it running in case you need.
A (sad) thing to note: the free USB charger that was part of the power adapter with the Surface Pro 3 is not standard on this model anymore.
This extended battery life comes thanks to Microsoft using Intel Atom processors on its new device. And you have two options to select: a 2GB RAM model with 64GB SSD and a 4GB RAM model with a 128GB SSD. Even though the Intel Atom doesn't give it a high PassMark (the 4GB model comes out with a 752 rating) it is still very responsive for what it really seems to be designed for: a mid-level laptop replacement with great tablet features.
Ports aren't a problem: with a USB 3, microSD card reader and mini Display Port you can easily connect multiple sources and output options to the Surface 3. The (extra) Microsoft Surface Typing Cover keyboard uses its own special magnetic clip/connector so you won't be using any of these ports for it - alternatively you can always use a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse if you feel like something bigger.
The Surface Typing Cover keyboard comes with good sized square keys with good travel and mechanical feedback. The trackpad has a good feel and supports gestures such as one finger tap, two finger tap, tap and drag, scroll and pinch for resizing. It also has a "magnetic strip" that allows it to be used in two positions (flat or slight slant) - the slant position uses a bit less space making it easier to work if you rather use the Surface 3 as a laptop and have limited space.
Running Windows 8.1 out of the box means you get to chose between desktop or modern apps - whatever you need or feel more comfortable with. Modern apps are very specialised and usually (like apps in other platforms) pretty good at specific tasks. For example you can either use the Mail, Calendar and People apps or just go for the Office 365 subscription.
You can select to use the classic Skype for Desktop or the Skype for Windwos 8.1 modern app. And so on - you will find apps such as Remote Desktop, Netflix, Here Maps, New Zealand Herald, Metservice, Twitter, Facebook are all available from the Store. You can even find Adobe Photoshop Express or other photo editors if you fancy performing light photo editing tasks on your Surface 3.
This means unless you have very specific requirements then you could live exclusively on the modern apps world and forego the keyboard - if you decide to get the Surface for note taking I'd strongly recommend getting at least the Surface Pen. And yes from what we've seen lately from conferences such as Microsoft Build 2015 getting a pen will be a good bet for use with Microsoft Edge, the new web browser coming with Windows 10.
Even though this is a device for mobility first, again we see the lack of a 4G-enabled version available in New Zealand. The advantages in terms of work on the go are clear - and no using a smartphone device as a hotspot only serves to run down battery on two devices instead of one.
Either way, this is certainly a device to consider if you are a student or have a need for constant travels but can't leave the office behind.