Smaller, lower-priced Microsoft Surface 3 tablet coming in May

The new tablet has a 10.8in screen and runs the latest Intel Atom CPU

Microsoft has announced that its Surface 3 tablet will be available to purchase in stores from 5 May 2015 and on pre-order from today. Its price tag is $699 for the entry level model, and it’s a tablet that’s designed to appeal to those of you who want a smaller (and of course, cheaper) alternative to the Surface Pro. It runs a full, 64-bit version of Windows 8.1.

The Surface 3 has a screen size of 10.8-inches and features a thickness just shy of 9mm. On the inside, it includes an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor (the fastest Atom of the moment), rather than the more powerful Core i series CPU that can be found in the Pro.

While the Atom CPU has four cores and provides enough grunt for typical Web and office document tasks, the Surface Pro 3 is still the one to go for if image editing and extensive pen input tasks need to be perform. The main benefit of the Atom CPU is that it extends the life of the battery, with Microsoft claiming a life of 10 hours with this model. Of course, that will depend on an individual user’s habits and system settings. Microsoft’s claim is for video playback.

While the focus of the product is firmly tablet, like the Pro version of the Surface, this also has a keyboard Type Cover option available that will allow it to be used as a laptop replacement for long sessions of typing. It’s a keyboard cover that comes in six colours, which is important considering Microsoft’s target for this product is largely the younger generation of users, in addition to businesses after inexpensive tablet-capable systems or companion devices.

The Type Cover has the extra fold in it that allows it to offer an angled typing experience. Meanwhile, the tablet’s kickstand has three pre-set positions that offer narrow, intermediate, and wide positions. Users wanting to use the Surface 3 in an office can opt for the Docking Station, which allows the tablet to be used as a workstation of sorts.

A resolution of 1920x1080 gives the Surface 3 plenty of screen real estate for apps and photos, and makes it a suitable product for kicking back to watch a video now and then. Pen input is supported on the touchscreen, with 256 levels of sensitivity. The pen is an optional accessory available in three colours: blue, red, and silver.

Internal storage is 64GB or 128GB, with 2GB or 4GB of RAM, and there is an assortment of ports readily available along the sides: full-sized USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, headset, micro-USB (for charging and data), and a microSD card reader. Wireless networking is taken care of by an 802.11ac module, there is Bluetooth 4.0, and Microsoft said that a 4G-ready Surface 3 with a nano-SIM slot will be available later in the year.

Stereo speakers, a built-in microphone, and front and rear cameras are also installed (3.5-megapixel for the front and 8-megapixel with auto-focus for the rear).

It will be equipped with a free one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote), and 1TB worth of OneDrive storage. The Surface 3 will also get a free upgrade to Windows 10 once that operating system is released.

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Elias Plastiras
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