Microsoft Surface 3 in-depth review - An ace Surface

 Microsoft Surface 3 Review - An ace Surface

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/21/2015 12:50:35 PM


out of 10



out of 5

Look and feel


out of 5

Ease of use


out of 5



out of 5

Battery life


Memory expandable to 128GB | 1TB One Drive free storage | Build quality robust enough for a few knocks | Packs full version of Windows | Stylus a great bonus | full USB port


Keyboard an extra | Quad-core processor still not the best

Microsoft's Surface 3 Pro last year was a powerhouse hybrid- it straddled the worlds of both laptops and tablets while juggling a million tasks and made it look super easy and smooth.

However, there were a couple of niggles: a) it was very expensive b) it was large and cumbersome.

Enter the all-new Microsoft Surface 3

Leaner, almost as powerful and in a more handbag friendly size and wallet friendly price, it is a great device for those who hate typing on a tablet and wished they could take thwir desktop computer along wherever they went.

Microsoft Surface 3: Look and feel

For those of you who have never used a Surface device, it is very similar to a full-sized Apple iPad, magnesium body, 10.8-inch display and a reassuring weight to it. 

For those of you who are familiar with last year's Surface Pro 3, it is a slightly smaller and lighter version.

The dinky keyboard/cover attaches onto the tablet magnetically and unlike the very flimsy jobs on covers elsewhere, this one is robust enough not to come off unless you yank it off with force.

At 8.7mm thick and weighing in at 662g, it isnt the lightest or smallest tablet out there, but we need to remember, it isn't really a tablet. It is a hybrid device.

It does everything your laptop can, while being portable enough to be carried around.  

It has a 3:2 aspect ratio, a lot better than the 4:3 of an iPad or 16:10 of a Macbook Pro and packs a full-scale USB 3.0 port, mini DisplayPort (for when you want to hook it up to your telly),  microSD card reader (takes upto 128GB cards) and a Micro USB charging port. 

And the bag of tricks doesn't run out there- the tablet comes with a kickstand and three positions that you can rest it at for the viewing angle that suits you the best. I found the middle position the best, whether you are working at your desk or watching Netflix in bed. 

Microsoft Surface 3: Keyboard and Stylus

I wouldn't usually mention accessories that are separately within my review but to get the most out of your tablet, you need to invest in these two accessories. Not the cheapest, the keyboard costs about £109.99 and the Stylus retails at £44.99, they help the Surface 3 catapult itself from a massive group of also rans to top of the league.

The keyboard is light and bright- doesnt need Bluetooth to work (always an advantage when you are travelling) and is full sized so none of the hit-n-miss that small keyboards come with. You can in fact use any of Microsoft's older keyboards, just that they wouldnt be the same size as the tablet...

The Surface Pen, on the other hand, makes note-taking a breeze. With an aluminium build and available in four colours, it connects wirelessly with the Surface 3 and two clicks on the top button of the pen and the tablet opens up a OneNote document, similarly click a button on the side of the pen to erase what you have just written down. Microsoft have packed in something called 'palm block technology', very handy when you are writing on the tablet so the screen doesnt think your hand is a part of the pen.

Responsive and accurate with excellent workability, it takes working on-the-go to another level. Instead of carrying around a laptop, a tablet and a notebook, Surface 3 tries to be a hybrid device that does the job of everything else that you might have in your handbag/rucksack.

Microsoft Surface 3:  Screen quality, performance and camera

Because of its size, the Surface 3 goes up against Apple's iPad Air 2 the most. And with a pixel density of 212ppi as opposed to the 264 of the iPad Air- it loses the battle at the first hurdle.

However, that does not matter. The screen has a full HD display of 1920 x 1280 and i thought the display was sharp and vibrant. Whether it was watching videos off Youtube or Netflix or just browsing through pictures, never did I get a feeling of not getting my full money's worth as far as image clarity was concerned. Also, with the ambient light sensor, it is easy enough to read excel sheets on the train while the Sun streams in through the window.

Performance-wise, I tested the 4GB RAM with 128GB storage version and one that is the inaugural vehicle for Intel's Atom x7-Z8700. A hybrid device is oviously going to come off worse for wear after a pow wow with a laptop  and same is the case here. 

Intel's Atom processors have never been powerhouses but with the one in the Surface 3, it is just right. 


Microsoft Surface 3: Verdict

The Surface 3 occupies a very curious space in the gamut of smartphones, tablets, phablets and smartwatches. It is the srt of hybrid device that negates the need for atleast 3-4 gadgets from your bag in one clean swipe.

Is it powerful enough? For day to day computing, using it as your go-to device aka laptop replacement, it does a great job but it is not a gaming device and nor is it one to use when designing a magazine on InDesign- a Mac should still be your choice for that.


But if you dont work as a graphic designer/ a games developer, it is perfect for you. If you deal with excel sheets, emails and do a lot of note-taking through the day, you will be very happy with the Surface 3. 

Yes, the accessories that make it a well-rounded product are expensive but as a trade-off you get loads of cloud storage for free, students get 10 percent discount and it has expandable storage. 

Microsoft's Surface 3 has its limits, but at £499 plus £109.99 (keyboard) plus £44.99 (Surface pen) you get a device that is a laptop, a tablet, a notebook and an e-reader and not just that- you get to take them along with you everywhere you go without breaking your back. How's that for a bargain?