Microsoft Surface 3 Review – In Depth : Performance, Minecraft, Pen, and more!
Today this is the little sibling to the surface pro 3 and in the past, these lower end tablets from Microsoft did not run the regular version of Windows. They ran something called Windows RT. The good news is, with this version of their tablet at lower end tablet, it’s running the full version of Windows 8.1, so just about anything that runs on Windows will now run on their lower end device, which is really nice. I, like the surface pro, it has a very similar industrial design, except it is made out of plastic and not out of metal, but it does have a very similar kickstand and really feels nice in the hand, they also kept the same aspect ratio that they have On the larger device on its display, so this is a 32 aspect ratio, which means you get a little bit more room when you move the tablet into portrait mode like this. So if you’re browsing the web or something I want to read a web page kind of like an tablet style it’ll, give you a little bit more room on the screen to do that, it really does look nice to not have a screen that’s too narrow. When you put it this way, so a lot of the wide screen detachable tablet devices will have like a 1920 by 1080, like an HD display, which looks fine when you’re in landscape mode. But when you switch it around to a portrait, it gets a little too narrow and they’ve really done a nice job with this at least getting that aspect ratio straight it’s, pretty lightweight it’s, about 1.
75 pounds without the keyboard. I costs 4.99, so it’s a little bit on the expensive side, especially considering what is powering it. It is running with an Intel Atom processor. This is their new generation of Atom chips. This one’s called the cherry trail it’s 1.6 gigahertz quad core, and they call this. The x7z 8700 we’re gon na see this chip start to make its way into low end computers over the next couple of months. So you’re gon na be able to get all the performance you’re about to see in this device and things that will probably cost less than 300, perhaps even in the 200 range in a few months. This is really a premium price for what you’re getting, and I think that something we’re going to be looking at throughout the course of this review, because I was really really kind of strange that they picked this chip to put into this machine. I think they could have gone with something different and gotten a little bit better performance out of it has two gigs of RAM as configured and 64 gigabytes of storage. Now, remember, you do not get the keyboard for 4.99. You’Ve got to add it in later. For one hundred and thirty dollars, so this is the keyboard. You can of course, hook up a Bluetooth keyboard to it that might cost less. But if you want the whole package here and have it nicely, integrated, you’re gon na have to invest in their type cover here and what’s cool about.
It, though, is that it’s got this really strong, magnet it just kind of locks in and finds its position and gets you off and running. I have noticed, though, when I take the keyboard out and put it back in and move it around and stuff. It tends to screw up the computer and I have to reboot it, so I have not had a very good experience with detaching and reattaching the keyboard over the course of my playing with it this weekend. Now what you can do if this is a little bit too much of a flat kind of position for you as you can I have the keyboard kind of dock into the side of the device or there’s another set of magnets. That kind of locks it into place and then you can adjust the kickstand in a couple of different positions to get it into a comfortable spot for you. You can use it on your lap, but it is kind of kind of that flimsy it’s kind of clumsy. You have to you, know, put it on your lap like, so it will stay in a lap position, but it really doesn’t feel like a laptop. It does feel like it’s in two different pieces, and you have to kind of position yourself the right way to get it to work, but you can use it as a laptop if you so choose so it’s, pretty comfortable on a desk a little less comfortable.
As a laptop device, there are some ports to discuss on here, not too many, though you’ve got a many display port here for connecting it to an external monitor. It will support 4k resolutions. You have a USB 3 port here that you can plug in USB devices. If you have a bunch of things you want to connect, you can use a USB hub, of course, and just plug it in there to get get yourself up and running. The charging port is here it’s a USB micro adapter that plugs in right there. Then you have the headphone microphone adapter over there, the on the top. You have a power button here, as well as a volume rocker, nothing on this side and then underneath the the kickstand. There is an SD card slot, a micro, SD card slot, and you can use that to augment its internal storage, because this one only comes with 64 gigs of storage. So if you put a couple of games on here and a few other things you’re going to be pretty much out of space, pretty quick, they also have a pen that you can add on to. So I you know, as we get through everything 4.99 for this 130 dollars for this, and the pen is another 50, so right now I’m into this for about six hundred and eighty dollars all in at the moment plus shipping and sales tax. So it is a little bit expensive out step through how this pen works.
It is a very nice pen it’s a little bit more than just a random stylus. It does have some intelligence to it and we’ll go through and look at how that works. Overall, I will say I’m very happy with the keyboard and I should be for the price that I paid for it. It does feel very comfortable to type on. It does get a little echoey when you’re typing with it in this propped up mode. So if you’re in, like a you, know a college lecture environment or something like that, people are going to hear you typing, because it does make a lot of noise as you’re typing. On hear this, because it’s kind of it’s gon na resonate off the bottom of the desk, but the keys are well spaced, they’re very large. I can type on it very fast and I’m also very impressed with the trackpad. Even though it’s a little tiny I mean I am able to scroll webpages very accurately, things just seem to feel very nice on here. So they’ve done a nice job contemplating this Hardware it really does a nice has a nice feel to it. This is a click pad, so it works like a lot of other track pads out there on the PC and Mac as well. So we’re gon na do now is kind of step through this machine’s performance kind of run through the things that we usually run through and then I’ll give you my thoughts on the device overall.
So let’s take a look first and its web browsing prowess and I’ve got it running with Internet Explorer in the modern UI right now and as you can see, things do scroll very nicely of course, and they also render very nicely too it’s a really nice web Browsing device, but I really like about the display beyond its 32 aspect ratio – is that it also has a lot of pixels packed into its ten point. Eight inch screen. So this is not one of those retina high DPI displays per se, but because you’re packing in nineteen twenty by twelve eighty into a size like this you’re seeing you’re, not seeing any pixels you’re, seeing really nice clear text. A really nice color definition on the overall display. It looks really really nice just to use as a web browsing device. So they’ve done that quite well. I’M gon na pull up my youtube channel real quick too. So you can get a feel for how videos come up on it as well, and I found the multimedia arians to be nice to just because again, that display is so nice. The color is so good on the display that’s a really nice way to enjoy videos and whatnot. You can get a feel for how quickly things spool up here too I’m, just gon na switch this into 1080 mode and then pop it into fullscreen. So you can see how fast the YouTube videos pop up, but it does respond very quickly.
It would have been a very good choice to put this in here, because really what you’re looking at here is a 200 performance out of a device that will cost you close to 700, when you fully equip it some of those other core M devices. We’Ve, looked at the ux305 in particular, also costs the same about 700, but it comes with eight gigs of ram and a 256 gigabyte hard drive s solid state drive, so you get a lot more for the money with some of the other brands. But you are, of course, paying a premium for this industrial design. So let’s take a look at the stylist. This is a Bluetooth device. It actually performs as nicely on the surface as it does on the surface Pro and I tested that out last year I was very impressed with it, so what happens is as your pen gets closer to the screen? It will ignore your wrist input here. So I can rest my hand against the screen as I’m doing right now and right on here without any real problems at all, the second, the pen gets moved away. It will then allow me to touch the screen and move things around, but if I get a little bit closer with the pen, it will detect the Pens present. So you can see a tiny little cursor underneath the tip of the pen and it doesn’t. Let me move the screen at all, because it’s only going to accept pen input and there you go so you’ve got some pretty decent performance here, especially if you like to take notes.
There is a little bit of latency, not a lot, but it does lag behind slightly when you are writing on the screen. I think that might be a function of the Atom processor on here. So it’s not going to be as fast as pen and paper at Lisa’s in its overall response to your input but it’s, not as bad as some other devices I have tested in the past on other platforms. Now there are two buttons on the pen. They can be configured in a whole bunch of different ways, we’re in OneNote right now. So when I push down the first button here, it will act as an eraser, so I can get rid of some stuff. When I push down the second button, I can put it into selection mode and kind of draw a circle around my name that I wrote here and then just move it around on screen like so so. It’S got some pretty neat features and a little bit of intelligence to it. So this is a little bit more than just kind of your basic stylus. It does have some smarts behind it, but you got to make sure you get both batteries. The quadruple a which I don’t think many of us have as well as those two little watch batteries to make sure it’s always going to be working like you see it here, we’re gon na take a look now at Microsoft. Word I’m gon na pop open a template that I use quite a bit.
I am running Word 2010 and the reason is that a word on the latest version on the office 365 version has this text animation that actually makes things look slower than they really are. Even on the fastest machine, so 2010 is a good benchmark for me. Now, one of the things you’re going to notice with this. If you go back and look at some of my reviews of the core M devices, the rendering on this is, I scroll through. It is a lot slower than it is on some of the other machines that I’ve looked at at the same price point and that doesn’t much. But I think, if you’re working with these kinds of documents, it’s not going to be as fast to move around as it might be, with a another device with a more powerful processor. And this is where the atom chip begins to be a little bit. Limiting. And even when I start typing on here, there’s a little bit of a delay as I’m, putting some words onto the page there so you’ll get into a you know into something where this processor will start to show itself in these kinds of tasks. And this might not be a deal breaker if you’re just doing regular Word documents throughout the course of the day. But if you’re doing a lot of you know desktop publishing or things where you’re going to be adjusting some of these more complex documents, you will notice a bit of a speed difference between this and another machine with a faster processor that costs the same so that’s.
One thing to keep in mind as you are making your decision now, though its performance in Microsoft Word isn’t. All that great. I was surprised to see how well minecraft runs on this device and, as you can see, as I’m scrolling through this world here, we’re getting frame rates around 30 to 40 frames per second, which is pretty good, it’ll, occasionally kind of jump down into the high 20s. But this is really decent performance out of a Atom chipset, and we. This is a real nice incremental improvement over the prior generation of these chips. So Intel has been really focusing on in their chipsets, getting the graphical performance to go up with each iteration of their processors, and this is definitely a good example of that so we’re going to see good performance in kind of these low end games. This is not a gaming machine by any stretch of the imagination, but it can run games like this and it’ll. Give you a good idea as to what you might be able to do with it. So older stuff certainly will work nicely newer stuff forget about it. You’Ll, never get it to run at any kind of decent framerate, but this does give you a sense as to where things on the low end of the processor spectrum are going now. The one thing the Atom processor does get you on. This device is really good battery life, so you will definitely get all day usage out of it provided you’re not killing it.
So if you’re, not playing games and you’re doing things like web browsing and email and word, processing and spreadsheets, those sorts of activities will keep your battery pretty much at or close to the 10 hours that they’re promising I’d say you probably get it around eight and A half nine hours, maybe a little bit over nine. What you’re doing also make sure to turn the screen brightness down a little bit to make sure that you’re able to get that battery really throughout most of the day. But it is a power sipping device and it does a really nice job at that it’s got two cameras. It’S got a three and a half megapixel camera on the front here, as well as an 8 megapixel camera on the back. You know the the camera on front is great for Skype, but the camera on the back isn’t, the best camera in the world, so you’re not going to capture motion all that well, but it’s good. You know for capturing things around. You know like the office like documents or that kind of thing, but it’s not going to be as good as any any kind of camera. You would bring to take pictures of things that way. So I have to say you know. Overall, this is a really nice device and I think of this kind of like Microsoft’s answer to the MacBook line, which is you’re paying more of a premium for the industrial design that you’re getting here it’s a very nicely designed tablet: it’s there’s, a lot of thought That went into this, it doesn’t feel as commoditized as other Windows devices do, and I like the fact that Microsoft is producing hardware, because we’re getting kind of what their vision of how their operating system should work because they’re building hardware in writing the OS.
At the same time, that said, the processor in here is going to be popping up on very inexpensive computers over the next couple of months and you’re going to be able to get the performance you’re getting in here. Maybe even the battery life you’re seeing to for significantly less, and you may have a form factor that works better for you. So although this is a really neat form factor, it’s not as comfortable to use as a laptop. So if your primary use is going to be laptop, this may not be the best device for you just given how you have to kind of contort it to get it into the position that you want. They’Ve certainly made it possible to do that, but it’s obviously not going to be as comfortable as just opening up a laptop and getting to work. That said, the tablet functionality is excellent. As I said, I really like the aspect ratio on the screen, it’s really nice – to look at both in landscape and portrait. The screen is beautiful, so there are some really good positives about this here. I just feel like they should have put that core M processor in here, as opposed to the atom just because it really impacts performance and I think, as you’re doing multitasking and maybe doing a lot of things at once on the computer kind of switching around different Things you will see some of the limitations of that processor, as we saw when we were messing around in Microsoft Word earlier, so you know.
Overall, this is a really high quality machine. Probably the nicest Windows tablet I’ve used, and I just wish they put in a little bit of a better processor, because I think it would better justify the high price. This is LAN Simon.