Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 i3 and i7 Arrive in Stores

Microsoft begins shipments of both the entry-level and high-performance versions of the company's Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Surface Pro 3

As promised, Surface Pro 3 tablets are now available with Intel Core i3 and i7 processors, giving buyers in the United States and Canada more performance options at more price points.

When Microsoft debuted the Surface Pro 3 on May 20, the company aimed right for the middle of the price/performance spectrum with an Intel Core i5-powered device. The chip, an Intel i5-4300U processor, boasts a clock speed of 1.9GHz (2.5GHz turbo) and generally delivered brisk, desktoplike performance in eWEEK's review.

The tablet also sports a price tag befitting a premium laptop.

In its initial configuration (Intel Core i5 CPU and 256GB of built-in storage), the Surface Pro 3 rings up at $1,428.99 with the Type Cover. Now, interested buyers can finally pick up a Surface Pro 3, which runs full-fledged Windows 8.1 Pro, for considerably less without sacrificing too much in the performance department, according to Panos Panay, head of Microsoft Surface.

"Starting at just $799 USD, the Core i3 version of Surface Pro 3 gets all the benefit of the work we did to make every Surface Pro 3 thin and light and powerful," he said in an Aug. 1 blog post. Describing the tablet as "the fastest Core i3" device available, he billed the Core i3 model as "a great option for customers who want the versatility of a Surface Pro 3 but who don't run the most demanding applications or workloads."

The starter Surface Pro 3 can run Office and Skype, and can be used to view videos and indulge in some casual gaming. It is therefore aimed at students, Web surfers and avid note-takers. (OneNote is preinstalled and launches automatically with a click of the included Surface Pen.)

The Core i7 model, on the other hand, "is the most powerful Surface we've ever released," said Panay. Echoing the laptop replacement, no-compromise tablet theme of the Surface Pro 3 launch in May, Panay asserted that the hardware is best suited for people who use their devices for resource-intensive Windows tasks such as "photo, video, or music editing."

"It will keep up with you when you're working your hardest, whether that's in the office connected to multiple monitors and peripherals or travelling," said Panay. Naturally, it doubles as a tablet. "It will save you the trouble of carrying a separate tablet when you want to read a magazine, watch a movie, or play a game."

The Core i5 version, available since June 20, is no slouch either. "I personally used the Core i5 Surface Pro 3 as my daily machine for months and it handled everything I could throw at it," said Panay, including "the more graphics-intensive tasks of collaborating with and reviewing the work of our engineering teams."

Surface Pro 3 tablets with Intel Core i7 processors cost $1,549 for the 256GB model and 1,949 for the 521GB version.

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...