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Surface 3: news, features and release date

Surface 3
The Surface 3 isn't radically different, but it's better
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Updated: Here's everything you need to know about the newly announced Surface 3.

At long last the Surface 3 is here and it many ways it's like a smaller version of the Surface Pro 3, though it's not quite as small as the rumored Surface Mini. It's been over a year and change since the Surface Pro 3 hit the shelves, but at long last its thinner and lighter companion has arrived. It has come at a perfect juncture in light of Microsoft's recent Windows 10 debut, which has seen the company take the first major step toward merging the OS across all devices

The Surface 3 is the first non-Pro Surface to get full-fat Windows 8.1, rather than Windows RT, which featured on the original Surface RT and Surface 2.

10.8 inches, the new tablet is closer in length to those devices while being slightly taller due to its 3:2 aspect ratio display. The new tablet inherits many qualities from the Surface Pro 3 including a 3:2 aspect ratio display and three-point kickstand, though it comes packing a little less in the power department

Surface 3

Surface Pro 3 finally has a smaller sibling

Release date

The Surface 3 is hitting the ground running with preorders starting on the day of its announcement, March 31. Soon after, starting May 5 user will be able to purchase their Surface 3 and new accessories on the online and physical Microsoft stores and other retailers and commercial. Microsoft claims its latest tablet will be available in 26 markets by May 7th.

Surface 3

Microsoft sticks with a full HD display

A pixel-packing, roomy display

Like the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3's display has made the switch from a 16:9 aspect ratio to 3:2. The slightly taller and narrower screen did wonders for productivity with the Surface 3 and it should do likewise with Microsoft's smaller 10.8-inch tablet-PC.

Disappointingly, Microsoft decided to stick with similar 1,920 x 1,280 panel so there haven't been any drastic improvements in resolution. However, this full HD display paired with a low-powered Atom processor, should help the Surface 3 last for longer than most Windows machines.

Surface 3

Surface 3 gets the double magnetic keyboard

That sturdier kickstand and keyboard cover design

Whereas the kickstand on the back of the older Surface 2 flipped out to help the tablet stand up and a slightly more tilted angle, the Surface 3 can bend all the way back as if it were participating in a limbo. The new third position allows the Surface 3 to get nice and down low for users who want to paint with their tablet or use it as a Heartstone pad on their lap.

On top of the kickstand, the Surface 3 also has a newly redesigned keyboard cover featuring the same magnetized bottom bezel that has vastly improved typing on Microsoft's pro-bent tablet. Frankly, both features seem like shoo-ins, given their critical reception with the Surface Pro 3.

No Windows RT to worry about here

Full-fat Windows

Initially it seemed as though Windows RT's concept was sound. It was a touchscreen focused alternative to the full Windows 8 experience. Initially, it would have been driven by touch-sensitive Windows 8 apps and run on ARM-based hardware, allowing devices to be thinner and cheaper while offering longer battery life. However RT's inability to run legacy Windows programs and confusion around the platform led it to being shunned by many.

Now the Surface 3 puts the final nail in Windows RT's coffin by coming loaded with the full Windows 8.1 experience. With the unfettered system operating system, users will finally be able to use modern applications alongside the desktop version of Microsoft Office on Microsoft's smaller tablet. With Windows 10 around the corner you can bet Microsoft will offer users a free upgrade.

Surface 3

Surface pen sold separately

Specs to suit a wallet-friendly price point

After the Surface Pro 3 came at a lower starting price point than previous Surface Pro devices and thankfully our hopes the Surface 3 would follow suit in this regard came through.

Microsoft's Surface tablets have always come in at a lower price point than those in its Pro range it seems the introduction of Windows 8.1 has bought the price of a 64GB unit down from USD £439 ($549, AU$629) to £419 and $499 (about AU$814). For the money you'll also get a an 1.6GHz Intel Atom x7- Z8700 "Cherry Trail" processor paired with a 64GB SSD and 2GB of RAM. Alternatively, users could bump up to the £499 and $599 (about AU$970) configuration with 4GB of RAM and 128GB for storage.

As such, we reckoned comes packing an Intel Atom processor to keep the costs down while providing enough beef to run both Windows 8.1 apps and legacy desktop programs without wheezing. We're a bit surprised Microsoft didn't go with an even lower-impact Intel Core M-processor, but the Atom-chipset should give the tablet a bit more horsepower to plow through more heavy computing tasks and even some light gaming.

Built-in 4G

The original version of the Surface 2 missed out on 4G, which was baked into a newer model six months after the original device's release. Likewise it seems the Surface 3, however will come with a 4G LTE equipped models coming down the pipe.

Microsoft has announced 4G LTE-equipped models will ship shipping June 26, featuring 64GB of storage and 2GB of RAM or another 128GB model with 4GB of RAM. Pricing details have yet to be disclosed but stay tuned for updates.

Surface 3

Still waiting for touch-enabled surface

Touch-sensitive Office

According to rumors, the Surface Mini was initially delayed so that it could launch at the same time as Microsoft's touch-friendly version of Office for Windows, codenamed "Gemini". With the Surface Mini canned (for now), the Surface 3 could have been the frontrunner to launch with Microsoft's long-awaited tactile productivity suite. Now it seems the Office 2016, due to release later this year, might be the next window of opportunity for the software maker to reveal a slew of new features.

The arrival of touch-friendly Office would finally give you the best of both worlds: full-sized desktop Office for keyboard and mouse users, and touch-sensitive Gemini apps for those who prefer a tablet-like experience when being productive. What's not to like?

  • Check out our Surface 3 hands-on review right now!
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.