Review: Microsoft Surface 3


The Microsoft Surface 3 arrived in Singapore this May – 9 months after its ‘Pro 3’ predecessor surfaced. Microsoft boldly dubbed them “the tablet that can replace your laptop”. We grant them that for sure, except we would rather coin it “the laptop that can serve as your tablet”.


Better as a Laptop

The Surface 3 ($798) is run on Intel’s new Atom x7-Z8700 processor released in March, a quad-core SoC (system on chip) that has a maximum burst speed of 2.4GHz, the most powerful among the Cherry Trail family. An aspect ratio of 3:2 accompanies the 1,920 x 1,280 resolution and 10.8 inch ClearType Full HD Plus Display, only slightly smaller than the Pro 3.

You’ll be surprised by the image quality. It plays 1080p videos with stunning detail and its audio quality isn’t too shabby either considering its compact nature.

It also includes a full-sized USB 3.0 Port, Mini DisplayPort, and even a microSD cardreader. The Surface 3 also comes with a kickstand at the back that allows to you alternate between 3 different angles depending on your preferred viewing position.


It’s better off as a laptop for another primary reason: It feels uncomfortable as a tablet. It’s heavy-ish. The Surface 3 weighs 622g, almost 200g more than other tablet competitors such as the iPad Air 2 and HTC Nexus 9. It also feels awkward to carry around due to its ergonomic trapezium profile, which means it doesn’t fit into your hand with as much ease as the standard tablets with rounded curves.

Enter the Type Cover ($199), and suddenly it becomes clear. It is immensely light as a laptop. The cover’s magnetic stability feature allows it to be easy to slap onto the Surface, doubling as a keyboard and well, its cover. Available in black, red and blue, it looks surprisingly sexy.

At first glance, it looks like it lacks key space. However, there isn’t any typing difficulty as there’s more than enough space, except its touchpad isn’t as big as we would have wanted. You may encounter difficulty with scrolling a couple of times, but you’ll realise using the touchscreen to do so makes it much more convenient.


Still Functional as a Tablet

Here’s a mini pet peeve with the Surface 3, however. When we flip the Type Cover backwards to start using the tablet – our supporting palms inevitably presses against the buttons rather hard, and it feels strangely awkward. Of course, removing the cover, flipping it around, and attaching it back again would solve this picky problem.


What impresses us in using the tablet mostly comes with the use of another accessory, the Surface Pen ($73), which is pretty sensitive and intuitive with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity.

You can experience the full capabilities of the pen in pre-loaded apps like Drawboard PDF and FreshPaint. By pressing 1 of 3 buttons located on the pen, you can erase, select and move, and even open OneNote to take urgent notes while still on sleep mode (the Surface, not you). However, accidentally pressing the erase button while writing can cause some inconvenience.

But unlike the Type Cover, this accessory really is optional unless you intend to use the Surface 3 to draw and take notes regularly. Otherwise, using your fingers to write will suffice.


Great for the Casual Traveller

The 3.5MP front and 8MP back cameras are also clear with autofocus functionality, which we immediately tested by making a Skype video call.

We were at first confused by how slowly it took the camera app to snap a photo, until we figured out why. Upon capturing the image, the app allows you to choose which of the 8 different frames it took within that 2-second pause period, before saving it in your camera roll. Cool but unnecessary feature, unless you’re creating gifs.


Eventually, or rather hopefully, we’ll live in a future where Wi-Fi is everywhere and free. And if personal robots haven’t been invented by then, the Surface 3 would be our companion – as it essentially eliminates the trouble of bringing anything else around.


Caress Whisper

The Type Cover really makes the Surface 3 what it is. Render it ‘optional’ as Microsoft has, and you’re better off buying another tablet. It lives up to its promise being more than capable of replacing your laptop and UrbanWire certainly agrees.


Light, quick, efficient – it’s not without its flaws, but we can hope (with good reason) to expect more with the Surface Pro 4 rumoured to be released in August 2015. It will come with the new Windows 10 OS, which Surface 3 users can upgrade for free when it launches on July 29 later this year.

We’re not sure what material the outer layer of the Type Cover is made of, but (excuse the easily misinterpreted description) it’s extremely satisfying to caress. That’s a plus point we had to include.


Photos courtesy of Microsoft 

Have you had a chance to try the Surface 3? Tell us what you think of it in the comments below!