While the original Surface RT had a lot of issues Microsoft really delivered when it came to the Surface Pro 3.
Now we’ve got a smaller and cheaper version but is the Surface 3 worth it? Looking at the design Microsoft has a nice looking package here. It’s solidly built out of magnesium and it feels durable enough to handle normal wear and tear easily. We now have a 3 by 2 aspect ratio which goes a long way in making the Surface more usable as a tablet, it’s still good for watching video but it’s now actually usable in portrait mode. You’ll also find the built-in kickstand and this is a big part of the Surface. Pair it with the Type Cover and you’ve got a device that transforms from tablet to laptop in a few seconds. It resembles the iPad smart cover but on top of protecting the screen you’ve got a surprisingly decent keyboard. Pop open the kickstand and this is a pretty decent little laptop although the stand can be a little uncomfortable to use on your lap after a while. As you might expect there’s not a ton of travel and it’s slightly smaller than a normal keyboard but it’s totally usable and the addition of adjustable backlighting is a nice touch. There’s also a trackpad tucked below the keyboard, it works well but it’s almost comically tiny. You’ve got the touchscreen as well but I found myself falling back to the trackpad quite a bit when using the normal desktop. The biggest problem with the Type Cover is price, it runs a steep $130. The Surface is totally usable with a USB or Bluetooth keyboard but the Type Cover really completes it which makes it basically a must have. Unlike previous models the Surface 3 is running full Windows 8.1 that’s upgradable to Windows 10 later on. That means you can run basically all Windows apps like Chrome and that’s a huge advantage. For a more tablet-y experience there’s the Modern UI which is much more touchscreen friendly and the app ecosystem is getting better but I spent the majority of my time on the normal desktop. Windows might not be the best tablet OS but it’s easily the best option if you want to get work done. Performance wise this is definitely closer to the tablet side of things, we’ve got a quad core Intel Atom x7, two gigabytes of RAM and 64 gigs of storage which can be expanded with a MicroSD card. For $100 more you can double it to four gigabytes of RAM and a 128GB drive which is pretty reasonable however throw in the Type Cover and the Surface can start to get expensive. The Atom is reasonably powerful, it’s slower than something like an Ultrabook and you won’t want to spend all day in Photoshop but it’s good enough for lighter use. It’s definitely not a gaming PC but you can play some lighter titles like Minecraft and League of Legends if you don’t mind playing on lower settings. The Surface does have a good selection of ports, we’ve got USB 3.0 which is useful since with full Windows you can plug nearly anything in and it should work no problem. You can also power an external monitor up to 1440p using Mini DisplayPort and there’s a MicroSD card slot for expanding your storage tucked behind the kickstand. For charging there’s a MicroUSB port and while having a standard port is nice it charges slowly. Very slowly. With the included 13 watt adapter it takes hours to fill up the battery and even longer if you’re using the tablet. Battery life is good enough to get me through a full day of moderate use but when it comes time to plug it in you’re going to be waiting a while. Get to the display and you won’t be disappointed. It’s a 10.8 inch panel with a resolution of 1920 by 1280, it’s got great color and gets pretty bright although I did notice the auto brightness can sometimes get a little confused in darker environments which can be distracting while watching video. The Surface also sports a pair of front facing speakers hidden away on either side of the display. They don’t get as loud as I’d like but they sound better than something like the iPad with side or rear firing speakers. The Surface 3 is rocking a 3.5 megapixel front facing camera and it’s actually surprisingly decent. So it’s more than good enough for things like Skype and video calling and the rear facing camera is actually not too bad either, well as long as you don’t mind carrying around a PC to take pictures with anyway. The Surface 3 is a good tablet. It’s also a good laptop. The problem is it’s not really a great laptop and it’s not really a great tablet either. At $500 it can do a lot more than most tablets but add the Type Cover and upgrade the storage and it’s solidly into laptop territory. It’s not for everyone but if you want a tablet that can get work done the Surface 3 is worth it.