Microsoft Surface 3: Australian Hands On

The Surface Pro 3 was great, so what could be wrong with shrinking it down for a cute tablet version? Pretty much nothing, if my initial experience is anything to go by.

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It’s powered by a 1.6GHz quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor and packs in either 64GB or 128GB of solid state storage. That power-sipping processor means that the Surface 3 doesn't need a fan, which reduces the weight and the thickness of the device considerably. The best thing about the Surface 2 was that it was truly thin and light, and now we have that dream on a device you can actually use.

The Surface 3 also has a slightly smaller display than the Pro 3, measuring in at 10.8-inch. It has a resolution of 1920×1280 and a 3:2 aspect ratio. Other goodies include an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with auto-focus and Wi-Fi 802.11ac. It's still big enough to snap a few windows and get your work done when you need to, and unless you're putting it side-by-side with the Pro 3, you won't really notice the screen size difference as you work on it.

The battery is one of the more curious aspects. Microsoft listened to the fact that the Surface Pro 3’s battery was disappointing at best, and replaced it with a cell that can reportedly handle up to 10 hours of video playback. I love that Microsoft listens to the gripes of its users after a product comes out and fixes it. The battery life was always a problem on the Surface Pro 3, so Microsoft made it a priority in the follow-up. It's a smart way to develop products.

Another power complaint was the changing of the charger. Microsoft decided to just make it easy for everyone this time around and will allow you to charge the device via a microUSB port. So. Freaking. Handy.

The legendary infinite kickstand we loved on the Surface Pro 3 has been replaced on the Surface 3. Instead of infinite bend-back you’ll get three default kick positions. The OG Surface kick position, the Surface 2 kick position and one that’s as near as makes no difference as far back as the Surface Pro 3 goes. Most of the time you won't notice the fact that the kickstand doesn't fold practically flat onto the table like it's Neo in The Matrix, but that one time you need it to will probably stick with you. I understand it's a cost cutting measure to get it down to that $679 price tag, but still.

You also get a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 bundled in with your purchase of the Surface 3, which is something the Pro 3 was sorely missing.

Despite the kickstand and the low-powered processor, I think Microsoft is onto a winner with the Surface 3, simply because it's a tablet with the same build quality, accessory range and stunning good looks as its older brother.

Just on the accessories for a sec: the Type Cover is back for another go 'round on the Surface 3, but Microsoft heard from its customers that the keyboard was waaaay too loud. It was something I never noticed nor thought to complain about in my review, but Microsoft took this tiny little gripe on board and out a sound dampener on each of the keys for the Surface 3 Type Cover to make it stealthier. Come on! That's great!

Whereas the Surface Pro 3 was pitched as the tablet that can replace your laptop, the Surface 3 is designed to be the tablet that can do the things other tablets can’t. Microsoft wants you to use it primarily as a tablet, but also wants to give you the specs and software you need to use it as a laptop so you don’t have to switch when it comes time to work.

Personally, I think that’s underselling it a bit. The Surface 3 is a proper crack at the thin-and-light, 2-in-1 tablet market. Plus the fact that there's an LTE model coming speaks volumes about how committed Microsoft is to getting this little tablet off the ground.

The success of the Surface 3 comes down to whether or not the processor can stand up to the day-to-day productivity tasks we have in mind for it. It's never going to be as powerful as the Core i5/i7 processors in the Surface Pro 3, but if it can do just enough to keep you productive on the go, it's a slam dunk.

We'll bring you a full review of the Surface 3 soon!

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