Microsoft today took the wraps off the Surface 3, a 10.8-inch tablet that, unlike its Windows RT predecessors, runs the full x86 version of Windows 8.1 like its 12-inch stablemate, last year's Surface Pro 3. Unlike the WiFi-only Surface Pro 3, however, the Surface 3 will be available with 4G cellular connectivity.
Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft Surface, called the device "the thinnest and lightest Surface we've ever shipped" in a March 31 announcement. The magnesium-encased device weighs 1.37 pounds, or 622 grams. By comparison, the Surface Pro 3 weighs 1.76 pounds.
"It runs full Windows, including desktop applications. It includes a one-year subscription to Office 365 to help you really get down to work. And it starts at just $499," Panay said.
The Surface 3 tablet carries over the Pro's 3:2 aspect ratio on a 10.8-inch touch screen with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,280. It also supports the Surface Pen stylus (sold separately), which integrates with the company's OneNote app for jotting down notes directly on-screen. The Surface Pen is now available in blue, red and black, along with the original silver model.
Microsoft's continuous kickstand, which features a "friction hinge" that supports a wide variety of angles, remains exclusive to the Surface Pro 3, however. The Surface 3's "kickstand has three preset positions—a narrow angle that's great for working at a traditional desk, an intermediate angle that is designed for sitting on the couch or using the device on your lap, and a wide angle that provides a natural writing or drawing canvas," said Panay. A promotional YouTube video provided by Microsoft shows the kickstand clicking into its three positions.
Notably, it's the first non-Pro Surface to ditch the ARM-based microarchitectures of the past, enabling the device to tap into Windows' vast desktop software ecosystem. "Surface 3 runs full 64-bit Windows 8.1 and will be available with Windows Pro for business customers. It will be upgradable to Windows 10 for free when it's available."
The Surface 3 is powered by a four-core, 1.6GHz (2.4GHz "Burst") Intel Atom x7 processor, and can be preordered with 2GB of memory and 64GB of storage ($499) or with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage ($599). Shipments are expected to start by May 5. The 4G LTE versions are expected to ship by late June ($599 and $699, respectively).
Video conferencing is enabled by a 3.5-megapixel, front-facing camera and a microphone. The tablet's 8MP rear shooter features auto-focus for sharper images. Dolby Audio stereo speakers pump out the sounds.
Connections include a full-size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, a microSD card reader, a standard 3.5mm audio jack, a nano-SIM card slot for the 4G LTE model and a cover port for adding a Surface 3 Type Cover. A Bluetooth 4.0 radio supports low-power wireless accessories. Batteries are charged with an included 13-watt power supply, which passes power through the Surface 3's micro USB port. Battery life is rated at up to 10 hours.