Microsoft is updating its entry-level line of Surface tablets with a new model powered by an Intel Atom processor and the full Windows software experience complete with support for desktop and “Windows Apps.”

The new Surface 3 replaces Microsoft’s line of Windows RT tablets, but it has the same starting price of $499. The Surface 3 is available for pre-order now and it should begin shipping by May 5th.

surface 3

The Surface 3 features a 10.8 inch, 1920 x 1280 pixel display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 Cherry Trail processor, a built-in 3-position kickstand, and support for accessories including Microsoft’s Type Cover keyboard cover and Surface Pen for pressure-sensitive writing or drawing.

Those accessories are sold separately, with pens selling for $50 and keyboard covers running $130. Each will be available in a variety of colors including red, black, and blue.

Note that keyboard covers and docks designed for earlier tablets won’t work with the new Surface 3 since it has a different screen size. On the bright side, digital pens that work on the Surface Pro 3 will also work with the Surface 3.

The $499 entry-level model is a WiFi-only tablet with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. For $599 you can get a model with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Microsoft will also offer models with 4G LTE in the future.

surface 3_02

The tablet is smaller and lighter than the 12 inch Surface Pro 3 and it has a less powerful processor. But it also has a lower starting price, the same 3:2 aspect ratio, and the Surface 3 comes with a 1-year subscription to Office 365 Personal. Unlike earlier non-“pro” Surface tablets, it can do everything the Surface Pro can… just a little less quickly (although it does have one of the highest-performance Intel Atom chips likely to hit the streets in the next year or so).

The Surface 3 features 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, a full-sized USB 3.0 port, mini DisplayPort, a microSd card reader, micro USB port, a stereo speakers, an 8MP rear camera, and a 3.5MP front-facing camera.

It measures 10.5″ x 7.4″ x 0.34″ and weighs about 1.4 pounds. It features a fanless design, and Microsoft promises up to 10 hours of battery life.

The move to a 3:2 aspect ratio also makes tablets like the Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, and Google Nexus 9 a little easier to use in portrait mode than models with 16:9 screens which can be awkward to hold in that orientation.

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49 replies on “Microsoft launches Surface 3 Windows tablet for $499”

  1. I was thinking of picking up a SP3 i3, but this has really got my attention. I’ve already got a Surface 2 but full Windows is the way forward now. I’ll be interested in the price/performance comparisons between the top S3 vs the bottom SP3.

  2. A X7 Z8700 tablet with 2Gb of RAM, is like a Bay Trail-T Z3795 tablet, with 1Gb of RAM..

  3. If you add a keyboard to the top line config it is $30 more expensive than the new entry level XPS 13, which is a far far better machine (i3 vs Atom).

    Yes it’s a tablet vs laptop, but the desktop sucks as a tablet OS & Metro is nowhere close to the level of Android/iOS.

    All Surface really has going for it is appealing to professionals, but professionals would never buy 1 of these over the Pro. This device has no mass appeal.

  4. It looks good. Price seems high for an Atom device, but it depends on how good the x7 is and how much other Atom x7 devices that come out sell at.

    On the other hand the Surface line has never been a budget line. This pricing falls in line with the Surface RT and Surface 2’s original pricing.

    If people are fine with an iPad Air 2 16GB costing $499 I see no issue with the Surface 3 costing the same. If not then there are a lot of lower cost Windows Atom tablets to choose from, but not many are going to have all the features and build quality that the Surface has.

    1. I agree, especially when we compare the Surface 3 to the previous Surface 2 and RT…

      For the first time they’re offering the full desktop, it’s the first time they’re offering up to 4GB of RAM option, it’s the first time they’re offering Display Port instead of HDMI (previously only Pro got it), it’s the first time the non-Pro model also offers a optional Pen, and it’s the first time we’re going to see LTE options… and yet it still has the same starting price as the previous models and we can probably assume the price should similarly drop a bit after launch…

      1. It’s getting a little too close to surface 3 pro pricing though. The i3 is £549 in the UK just now and comes with a pen, the S3 4GB is £499 plus another £40 for the pen and then the delta is only £10. Yes there’s 64GB more in the S3 but Its think the SP3 CPU is far more capable. I want one of them, I just can’t decide what one!

        1. Except for the processor, the £549 translates to $813.82 in US Dollars, which is still over $300 over the $499 starting price, even adding the cost of the pen still leaves over $250 difference and that’s more than the cost difference for the CPU…

          Besides, these devices usually start at a higher price when first released but usually quickly drop… Either via sales, discount offers, or just a straight reduction in the pricing…

          Like the MS Lumia 635 was released at about $150 but now you can get it for just under $50… and all the previous Surface models have gone down as well…

          Though, pretty much everyone agrees the Keyboard Cover should be included and not sold separately for such a high price… but it’s not like MS really wants to compete with their partner OEMs and they’re targeting mainly business users that are used to paying more for business class products…

  5. Nice specs, but too expensive. Since the pen is not included, I’d say
    $349 might have been appropriate for day one, and $100 less a year
    later. A pity also that the resolution is not higher. Displays these
    days should be closer to 300 ppi than 200 ppi. The Surface 3 Pro’s
    resolution on this smaller screen would have done the job.

  6. They just had to f***’it up with the marketing stacking by going with 2 or 4 Gb of RAM, even tho the Z8700 can take 8 Gigs. This way they don’t selfcannibalize the Pro, and pozition themselves in the $499 price point, (iPad territory) with something sporting half the RAM of my 2013 phone, in 2015.
    These should have been 4 or 8 Gb for the money. It’s such a slap in the face to purposely cripple the design like this. They try to distinguish themselves from Apple, and then they go in the magnesium machining business, making bespoke ceramic coated cases, which eat a double digit percentage from the manufacture cost, and then they withhold $12 wort of RAM to incentivise, *ehem* “EXTORT” you, in to the $1000 price point. Nice one…

    1. What 2013 phone had 4-8 GB RAM?

      The only phone with 4GB RAM is the recently released 2015 Asus Zenfone. I’m not aware of any tablets with 4-8GB except other Windows ones. And Apple phones/tablets have less RAM than anyone.

      What prices are you quoting? Even laptop memory is typically more expensive than that judging from a quick Google. And they’re presumably using something smaller in the Surface.

      1. Yes, Bay Trail T only supported up to 4GB of RAM max! Only the Celeron/Pentium models supported up to 8GB for anything released last year…

        Cherry Trail is the first to offer support for up to 8GB for the mobile SoCs but people seem to not understand the RAM choices are also determined by the rest of the market and up till now they simply didn’t mass product anything higher than 2GB LP-DDR3 for any mobile device… Samsung only started producing 4GB in the last part of last year and thus why we’re only seeing a very small number of products offering it yet… Even some of the high cost Pro models from last year didn’t always offer 4GB because of this…

        While the real push to higher capacities won’t happen until they start making the switch from LP-DDR3 to LP-DDR4 RAM… which lets them double capacity in the same size chip and still use less power than the LP-DDR3 RAM…

        Mind, that brings up another reason RAM hasn’t increased much in mobile devices for so long is because more RAM usually means more power usage and that kills battery life, which are usually the priority for most mobile devices and thus not just a matter of cost… Though, the rarity of higher capacity chips does mean they cost more until more of the market starts using them and they get mass produced in higher numbers…

        While it’s also a factor that they usually don’t stack chips in mobile devices, you usually get one of everything… even ports… So, it probably doesn’t help that there are no single chip 8GB modules for mobile devices…

        One of the reasons eMMC is slower than SSD is because eMMC is a single chip storage solution, for example… Unlike a SSD that can have multiple chips working together… but the eMMC is very power efficient and takes up very little space, which is both ideal for mobile devices…

        1. Samsung has been making 8Gb LP-DDR3 chips since July 2013, They already make 8Gb LP-DDR4 since December 2014, and will start manufacture of 16Gb LP-DDR4 chips by the end of this year.

          1. Out of proper context, you’re talking about announcement that don’t translate into them being in products until like a year later or longer!

            Like Samsung boasted about being the first to get 4Gb LPDDR3 chips en mass a year ago, last April… Do you see more than a select few devices offering them yet? No… then that’s the point!

            There’s a big difference from the announcement and when we can actually start seeing them and they didn’t really ramp up production of the 4GB units until the last part of last year… despite announcing them far earlier…

            Also, they can’t really mass produce until the OEMs start buying them in bulk, which they won’t do until they’re in high demand but factors like Battery life being effected keeps them from doing so right away… So factor that it’s only fairly recently that real interest has finally put pressure to increase the RAM capacities offered…

            Thus why they started to do things like upgrade to 64bit to help pave the way…

            While the 8GB LP-DDR4 is easy… I already pointed out that LP-DDR4 can have double the capacity in the same size chip and still uses less power than the LP-DDR3…

            Problem is the lower power consumption and lower space usage makes them far more likely for OEMs to use and thus LP-DDR3 is basically on its way out and we’ll have to wait for the LP-DDR4’s to really come out in mass before we really see a shift beyond 4GB of RAM being offered on most portable devices… but that should all start by the end of this year on through next year…

            The next gen Broxton ATOM update is due out by end of this year to early next year and it will support LP-DDR4…

      2. The $499 has 2Gb, my old LG G2 has 3Gb, not to mention the LG Optimus had 2Gb in 2012. And I know of at least two tablets with 4Gb from last year : The z3795 Lenovo 8″ and the $350 Chinese VOYO A15. And don’t compare the price of retail DIMMs with the volume BGA LP-DDR3 chips. Samsung has been making 8Gb LP-DDR3 chips since July 2013! and is already making 8Gb LP-DDR4 since December 2014 and they’re not the only ones at it. And yes, the difference between 4Gb and 8Gb LP-DDR3, realy is $12.

        1. 8Gb or 8GB?

          2-4GB is in line with arm/atom phones and tablets being produced in 2015. In 2013 2GB was high end and 4GB was unheard of, now 2GB is lower end, with 4GB becoming available (with the asus phone and the surface 3 being one of the first such devices). If you want to complain about the lack of 8GB devices, all platforms and manufacturers are at fault.

          1. In 2013 2Gb was the high end because the Bay Trail-T Atoms were limited to 2Gb or even 1Gb, and the 95/85/70 etc that weren’t, weren’t subsidized, and as a result they are harder to find than fairy dust or unicorn feathers. To clarify things… the Z8700 is the new Z3795. Have you ever seen anything with the Z3795 and only 2 of the 4 gigs of RAM it can take ? It’s just not done. But to put the Z8700 in a design with half or an unbelievable quarter of it’s designed memory… is just flagrant, asenine strategy, to limit uptake and cuts in to the i3/i5 Pro 3 sales.

          2. Your understanding of the Intel ATOM is very flawed… First, the Z3795 was never the only one to support up to 4GB of RAM, it was just the one that was most likely put into a premium range device that would be more likely offered with premium priced parts!

            The Z3740 in the original release of the Asus Transformer Book T100 specifically supported up to 4GB of RAM, for example, as did it’s replacement the Z3775… Only certain budget offerings like the Z3740D were limited to only 2GB and just as few models were limited to 1GB, specifically for the very low end intended for the $99-$149 or less device range…

            So stop confusing budget design limits with what the SoCs were actually capable of being configured for and stop confusing the specs with what the market dynamics force OEMs to use!

            Besides, Intel only made up a small fraction of the whole mobile market! So blaming Intel for the whole market makes absolutely no sense and your assertion that they’re trying to undercut the Pro sales falls pretty flat as well!

            You don’t even seem to understand a $12 price difference is huge for a mobile device because they have to be mass produced and that $12 translates into millions more costs for the OEM to make the device!

            Especially, when compared to the pricing for the normally configured RAM is usually less than $5… meaning you just nearly tripled the cost of RAM for the device and that doesn’t even count the fact the higher RAM capacities also tend to reduce battery life and means the OEM either has to add a larger battery, which also adds to the cost of the device and could further cut into their profits, or keep the same size battery and hope their customers don’t complain about the significantly less battery life!

            OEMs will largely wait for big improvements in power efficiency before they start making those compromises and the costs won’t go down until most of the market starts using those higher capacity chips, which gives them more reason to delay their adoption… thus why I pointed out in a previous post that they are largely going to wait for LP-DDR4 to become widely available and just start phasing out LP-DDR3…

            These and other realities of the market are what you have to understand before trying to make the conclusions you have!

    1. MS positions their hardware as premium on the level of Apple. Of course Apple can command that price premium and MS is more aspiring to it at this point. With the SP3 it’s probably justified as that’s a serious productivity machine. This is basically an SP3 mini. It’s for people who love the SP3 but just not the 12.5″ size.

      My two cents: I would like to see it distinguished in size even a bit more for portability sake from the SP3: nine inch screen. And priced more like $500 including the pen and kb. And of course the pen stows in the body like my 8″ Galaxy Note has no problem with and every other Samsung stylus for that matter. Come on MS drill a freaking hole in that thing.

        1. On the Pro, this is the first time it’s offered for the non-Pro model so that hasn’t been confirmed yet… but some people prefer the slot because the magnet isn’t super strong and the pen can easily be knocked loose and still be lost…

          The Keyboard Cover will likely get the same clip slot for the pen as the Pro 3 has on its cover but not everyone likes that solution either…

      1. If they use the same Pen as the Pro 3 then no… N-Trig means the pen needs batteries and that means it can’t be made very thin and thus won’t fit into an already very thin tablet…

        It would only be a option if they use the more expensive WACOM digitizer… as that means the pens don’t require batteries and can thus be made very thin and small…

        Besides, not everyone likes the very thin pens as they tend to be harder to hold and easier to lose…

  7. I like the hardware but it’s not priced competitively. The cost of entry for 2GB RAM and 64GB of storage is $630 with a keyboard. There are a lot of choices, though with different form factors, at this price point which will get you a non-Atom CPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD. To be appealing to more than just the Surface-philes, this should be $500 (or less) with the keyboard.

    1. I agree, everything about the hardware looks great (shame no USB-C), but it’s priced at least $50-100 too high. $450 + $100 keyboard would be competitive I think.

      1. I read elsewhere that the Surface 3 charges via microUSB – presumably being Atom based makes this lower power, so it can charge from existing USB standard without USB C or a proprietary power connector. (And thankfully they have a separate USB port for charging.) And Display Port manages the display anyway. True long term USB C will be the way to go for standardisation and faster transfer rates,but I’d say the most important benefit of USB C isn’t needed here.

    2. there’s nothing with the same feature set (the closest thing is Lenovo Thinkpad 10 and Toshiba Encore 2 Write ) but I think the Surface3 offer the best value for 499$

      1. It’s the divide between people who have a use for a digitizer, and people who don’t – those who don’t just don’t understand the value of having one built in. For anyone curious, I can attest that the N-Trig digitizer used in the SP3 line is quite good. My Acer R7 572 has the exact same digitizer, and for digital art and design work, the pressure sensitivity and tracking accuracy are superb. N-Trig even has WInTab drivers available now, so even Adobe products support pen pressure. I was hesitant to move to N-Trig from Wacom, but they’ve really got their stuff sorted out these days.

        1. exactly , in my family my brother , my parents and me all of use have devices with active pens and see it as an essential feature for any tablet that we think about buying (2 years ago non of us would even think about pens, the SP3 convinced us )

      2. I got the Thinkpad 10 Wacom, 4gb of ram 128gb ssd all for $400 and sill better than this new comp I found a case and a cheap keyboard made for a 7″ tablet to pair

          1. yeah $600 was way too much on the Thinkpad 10 the price for the Surface 3 is just about at that threshold too considering they want to charge $50 just for the pen.. hopefully it reaches Cowboom and discount stores once the initial hype dies down..

          2. I got Surface RT for 199$ after 8 months of it’s release , I’m sure this one will be discounted at least 100$ by the fall .

    3. What non-Atom 2-in-1/tablets are you comparing to?

      True there are cheaper atom devices (e.g., the t100), but ms should be building a premium product, not competing with their own OEMs. If ppl see the news about surface, but go and buy a different windows machine, it’s still a win for ms. Also this is one of the first cherry trail devices, so is bound to be more expensive than bay trail devices.

  8. $729 for 4GB RAM and 128GB of storage (with a keyboard)? Not anything close to a compelling value proposition.

  9. Sounds like Microsoft is finally getting it right, but for that price the keyboard and pen should be part of the package.

        1. I know it’s not that bad. But it’s definitely not entry level if you consider some of the screen resolutions and features of some cheaper Chinese tablets and like I said, other Windows tablets and laptops in its price range. Further more. I love tacos.

          1. true if you only compare the CPU , Ram and SSD (which is wrong , there’s a lot more factors that make a device a better value)

  10. Very nice, Microsoft. Wasn’t the rule of thumb with Microsoft always that it took 3 versions to get things right.

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