May 6, 2015
Microsoft just released the Surface 3, which greatly advances their low-end Surface RT tablet line. Don’t get this confused with the older Surface Pro 3, which is much different.
Why a Windows Tablet?
First, a reminder that I feel lightweight Windows 10-inch tablets are very important because they enable you to use a full desktop copy of Outlook on a highly mobile device. That way you have all the tools you need to accomplish powerful MYN task and email management, while on the move. I’m also a fan of the excellent active digitizer pen capabilities many of these Windows tablets have.
Here are my thoughts on this new Surface 3 tablet:
- I am glad to see that Microsoft has finally switched to using the Intel Atom processor for its low-end machines. It supports a full copy of Windows OS (not the hamstrung RT), and since it’s using the new Atom Cherry Trail x7 line, it performs much better.
- At $499 the 64 GB base model is a good price point for this fairly powerful 10.8-inch tablet. However, if your goal is mainly a thin lightweight laptop, you’ll need to add the keyboard ($130) and jump to 128 GB storage and 4 GB RAM ($100). At that total ($729) you can buy a dedicated laptop with a much faster Intel Core M processor, 2X more RAM, 2X more storage, and larger/better touchpad (e.g. ASUS Zenbook UX305F at 2.6 lbs). So consider your goals and primary uses carefully.
- The pen and active digitizer screen both look very good on this unit (but the pen is $50 extra).
- At a low 1.37 pounds (without keyboard), Microsoft is finally getting into the “read a book with one hand” weight territory in its tablet line–bravo! This is a good reason to favor this over the heavier Surface Pro line. Still, the iPad Air weighs only .96 pounds and is thinner. But that’s the cost of having a full USB port and of the many other advantages Surface has over an iPad.
- Microsoft has switched to a more iPad-like aspect ratio 3:2 (rather than the usual Windows 16:9), a switch I highly applaud—it just makes more sense on a tablet.
- However, reports of battery life are mixed. While rated at “up to 10 hours,” 6 to 7 hours are being reported by reviewers for typical heavy use. I feel a tablet should be closer to 10 or 11 hours these days.
Should you Buy a Windows Tablet Now?
While this is a quite good Windows tablet, right now may not be the time to buy any Windows tablet. Windows 10 is due to be released this summer, and no matter how firmly manufacturers brag about their OS upgrade capabilities, I’ve never in all my years had a good experience with a major Windows upgrade. Rather, I always recommend you buy the machine with the major OS version you want already installed.
Also, the Windows App store is still pretty weak. But the utility of the Windows app approach will jump considerably when the new Touch version of Microsoft Office is released this fall. And many other Atom x7 tablets will be coming out by then with Windows 10 already installed. So, if you can, I’d wait another 3 to 6 months.