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 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.
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.