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Rising to the Surface
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Rising to the Surface 

The skinny

Released in 2014, the Surface Pro 3 laplet was launched with the claim that it could replace a laptop. And for some, that’s what it did, as it proved to be much lighter and more portable than most types of laptops. However, one of the main issues with the device was its steep price point, which ranged from $799 to $1,949 (USD) if purchased new. The Surface 3 shares many of the same characteristics with the Pro 3, although its retails for far less – between $499 and $699 (USD), on average.

Among the most significant changes from the Pro 3 to the 3 include a slight reduction in size and weight. The Pro 3 weighs in at 1.76 lbs, while the 3 is only 1.37 lbs. Part of the reason why the 3 weighs less is because it lacks the internal fan that the Pro 3 has. Both devices are made from the same magnesium alloy, and feature a kickstand on the back to prop the device up when it is being used as a laptop or laplet. The Pro 3’s kickstand allows it to be set at any angle ranging from 22 to 150 degrees, while the 3’s kickstand is limited to 22, 44 or 66 degrees.

On the hardware side, the Surface 3 is equipped with a 14 nm quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 SoC, as compared to the Surface Pro 3’s fourth-generation Intel Core processor with TPM chip. In terms of memory and processing space, the 3 offers either a 64 or 128 GB solid-state drive and 2 or 4 GB of system memory. This is in contrast to the Pro 3, which offers between 64 and 512 GB of internal storage, along with 4 or 8 GB of RAM.

Included with the Surface 3 is the Surface Pen, which serves multiple functions. Connected to the device using Bluetooth technology, tapping the top button opens OneNote. The same button can also take screenshots that be displayed in OneNote. One of the smaller buttons performs the same right-clicking functions as a mouse, while the other acts as an eraser. The tip of the pen can be used to write or draw within OneNote.

Both devices can run Windows 8.1, and the 3 will be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10 when it becomes available.

Pros

Having spent some time getting acquainted with the Surface 3 and using it to do some of my work, I found it to be quite effective. It is fairly simple to understand and use, and is also very fast. It is capable of running Microsoft Office, and can perform general work-related tasks like word processing, checking email and so on as well an actual laptop.

The keyboard, which also serves a protective screen cover, connects to the device magnetically, and can easily be detached. At 10.8 inches, the device’s screen may seem a bit small to some, but it is fully HD-ready. I also liked the fact that its light weight makes it very portable, and easy to carry around in any kind of storage bag. I have seen people using previous iterations of the Surface on the go, and they like the fact that it can be set up almost anywhere, and immediately be ready to use. The Surface 3 is perfectly optimized for that.

I also enjoyed the Surface Pen as both a complement to and replacement for my regular mouse. When typing up articles, it helped me make some in-text edits. OneNote helps this peripheral into an effective note-taking or drawing apparatus.

Cons

One of the challenges I faced with the Surface 3 was the fact that it only has one dedicated USB 3.0 port on the side. This becomes an issue if you want to connect multiple USB devices to the Surface 3, such as a flash drive or cordless mouse. A possible solution to this problem would be to add a second USB port either below the first one or on the opposite side of the device. Microsoft does offer a port expander for the Surface series, but it must be purchased separately.

Although Microsoft has taken steps to reduce the cost of the Surface 3 as a standalone device, the fact that the keyboard is sold separately does not help this situation very much. Future releases should be sold with the keyboard, and hopefully, Microsoft can come up with a bundle price that will make the Surface an attractive alternative to the traditional laptop computer.

The verdict

The Surface 3 is a great device for people who are always on the go. It works just as well on an office desktop as it does in a café, on an airplane, or even while reclining on the couch at home. Its small size and light weight are indicative of its portability. The Surface Pen adds a new dimension to the Surface, turning it into a note-taking apparatus, and the smaller touch screen doesn’t hinder its capabilities.

Going forward, I hope some kind of compromise can be reached for the creation of a Surface bundle that includes the keyboard and an additional USB port on the device itself. But despite these issues, the Surface 3 is a great device to have in today’s collaborative world.

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