Microsoft's Slimmer Surface 3 Tablet Goes on Sale in U.S.

The Surface Pro 3's little brother is now available in the U.S. and other select countries, with Europe to follow suit soon.

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft's Surface 3, the company's more portable follow-up to last year's business-friendly Surface Pro 3 tablet, is now available in the United States, the company announced today. Prices start at $499.

In addition to the U.S., buyers can also pick up a Surface 3 in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. "And starting May 7, Surface 3 will be available to even more people in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom," said Brian Hall, general manager of Microsoft Surface, in a statement.

Unlike its "Pro" sibling, the Surface Pro 3 will be available with 4G LTE connectivity. Currently, Microsoft's online store is only offering the WiFi models (64GB and 128GB). The 4G-equipped versions are "coming soon," according to the site.

Compared with the 1.76-pound Surface Pro 3, Microsoft's svelte new Surface weighs considerably less, at 1.37 pounds. Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft Surface, said the tablet is "the thinnest and lightest Surface we've ever shipped" in a March 31 announcement.

It features a 10.8-inch screen versus 12 inches for the larger version, and it carries over the Pro's distinctive, productivity-focused 3:2 aspect ratio, but with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,280 pixels, compared with 2,160 by 1,440 pixels on the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pen, the stylus included with the Surface Pro 3, is sold separately on the Surface 3.

The Surface 3 took a major detour from its predecessors, the Surface RT and Surface 2. Whereas those tablets were powered by ARM-based processors and a version of Windows that sacrificed x86 compatibility—most Windows software is coded for x86 chips—the new tablet uses a quad-core, 1.6GHz) Intel Atom chip (2.4GHz in Intel Burst mode), effectively closing the book on ARM-based Windows tablets from Microsoft.

The Surface 3 ships with full 64-bit Windows 8.1 and can be upgraded to Windows 10 for free when the new operating system is released later this summer. It also includes a free, one-year subscription to Office 365.

Microsoft wants to make it easier for some early Surface supporters to upgrade with a new promotion. "To celebrate the arrival of Surface 3, we're introducing a limited-time offer to thank our Surface fans: In Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico: trade in your working Surface RT or Surface 2 and get up to $150 towards a new Surface 3," stated Hall.

Microsoft's bet that tablets can rival laptops in terms of performance has already helped the company make some major enterprise mobility inroads. Surface Pro 3 tablets have been deployed at BMW and Coca-Cola, noted Hall. And some companies are already lining up for the new tablet.

"BASF, Prada, and Emirates Airlines have already chosen Surface 3 and we're excited at the early interest from many others," Hall said. Some educational customers have taken the tablet for a spin as well, he revealed.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...