Floor three assessment: Lastly, an affordable Floor you’d truly need

Surface 3 review: Finally, a cheap Surface you'd actually want

As soon as once more, the third time’s the appeal for Microsoft’s Floor lineup — for probably the most half. Final yr’s Floor Professional three was the software program big’s most compelling implementation but of its hybrid laptop computer/pill idea. Now we’ve the Floor three, the third entry in its cheaper Floor lineup. And whereas it might look just like its predecessors, it is truly a totally totally different beast. It is a $499 Floor pill that may truly run all the Home windows packages you are used to, not simply Home windows eight apps. And to Home windows RT, the stripped down model of Microsoft’s OS that beforehand powered the non-Professional Floor tablets, all I’ve to say is: So lengthy, goodbye. Do not let the door hit you on the best way out! By giving up on Home windows RT, Microsoft has lastly managed to make an honest low cost Floor.

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Microsoft Floor three evaluate

seventy nine

Floor three


  • The lightest Floor but
  • Runs all Home windows software program
  • Stylus help is a pleasant bonus


  • Keyboard is one other $one hundred thirty
  • Entry mannequin has solely 2GB RAM
  • Not highly effective sufficient for media modifying and lots of video games


Microsoft’s Floor three is the purest distillation of its hybrid pill/laptop computer idea but. It packs in a wholesome quantity of performance for its $499 worth, although be able to pay one other $one hundred thirty for its keyboard.


No, there are not any main surprises with regards to the Floor three’s hardware. It has the identical silver magnesium alloy case with clean chamfered edges, which provides it a clean, premium really feel in your palms. And naturally, there’s the long-lasting kickstand, which may now click on into three positions, one step past the Floor 2. It isn’t almost as versatile because the Floor Professional three’s absolutely customizable kickstand (which has no distinct positions), however it’s sufficient to make the Floor three match comfortably in your lap in many various orientations. This time round there’s additionally help for Microsoft’s strain-delicate stylus, one thing that is all the time been out there on the Floor Professional collection, however by no means the plain Floor line.

Do not take my lack of shock as a destructive, although — the Floor three continues to be extremely nicely-designed, with an consideration to element you do not discover on most laptops and tablets. Even as we speak, after testing all 5 earlier Floor units over the previous few years, I am nonetheless impressed with Microsoft’s craftsmanship. Now that it is lastly operating software program you’d truly need to use, the Floor three may make extra individuals acknowledge Microsoft’s design chops.

Surface 3 review: Finally, a cheap Surface you'd actually want

On a purely hardware degree, the Floor three is the fullest realization of Microsoft’s unique Floor dream: a transportable pill that may do double-obligation as a laptop computer. It encompasses a new Intel Atom x7 processor, which lets it run conventional Home windows apps, in contrast to the earlier Tegra four chip. At 1.37 kilos and zero.34 inch thick, the Floor three can also be a tad lighter and thinner than the Floor 2, which clocked in at 1.forty nine kilos and zero.35 inch thick. The 2 tablets nonetheless really feel very totally different, although. The Floor three adopts the three:2 display facet ratio from the Floor Professional three for its 10.eight-inch display, which makes it resemble a sheet of paper greater than the vast sixteen:9 shows on earlier Surfaces. And whereas meaning the Floor three will present black bars when watching films, the brand new proportions make it much more balanced to carry as a pill. The earlier Floor’s large display simply felt extra awkward when held in a single hand — particularly in portrait mode.

The Floor three may make extra individuals acknowledge Microsoft’s design chops.

In comparison with the 1.seventy six-pound Floor Professional three, the Floor three is noticeably lighter and higher-suited to getting used as a pill. However the Professional mannequin makes for a a lot better ultraportable laptop computer, given its vastly superior hardware. That is to be anticipated, nevertheless it’s a reminder that anybody contemplating the Floor three must assume arduous about how, precisely, they plan to make use of it.

Alongside the Floor three’s edges, you’ve got received a full-sized USB three.zero port, Mini DisplayPort, headphone jack and a micro-USB port for charging (no extra proprietary cables!). And naturally, there’s the standard energy button and quantity rocker, in addition to an microSD card slot beneath the kickstand (one thing Microsoft’s included in previous fashions). Once more, there aren’t many surprises, however I grew to understand the Floor three’s capacity to cost over micro-USB. Whereas it comes with a USB energy adapter, you may also plug the Floor three into nearly any micro-USB charger (and even one other gadget with a USB port). Until you trek out into the center of nowhere, there’s little probability you’d end up stranded with out the power to juice up the Floor three.

In case you’re the sort who enjoys taking photographs together with your tablets — one thing I am going to by no means perceive — you will be happy to know the Floor three additionally sports activities a brand new eight-megapixel rear digital camera. That is a step up from the 5MP shooter on the Floor 2, which we discovered to be pretty disappointing in our evaluate. There’s additionally a three.5MP entrance-dealing with digital camera, which ought to be much more helpful.

Surface 3 review: Finally, a cheap Surface you'd actually want

As soon as once more, you will have to purchase considered one of Microsoft’s $one hundred thirty Sort Covers individually for those who truly need a keyboard. And, let’s face it, there isn’t any purpose why you’d need to purchase the Floor with out the Sort Cowl. Because the starting, Microsoft’s positioned its distinctive keyboards as costly equipment — as a result of the Floor is, in any case, a pill. The issue with that logic, although, is that Microsoft additionally needs it to be seen as a laptop computer alternative. And making an attempt to promote a laptop computer and not using a keyboard is like making an attempt to promote a automotive with no steering wheel (no, Google’s self-driving automobiles do not rely). It is simply not going to occur. Microsoft is so wanting to compete with the iPad’s worth that it is virtually mendacity to shoppers concerning the Floor’s true value. Which will have been excusable at the beginning — perhaps — however at this level it simply feels gross.

Making an attempt to promote a laptop computer with no keyboard is like making an attempt to promote a automotive and not using a steering wheel.

Identical to earlier than, the Floor three’s Sort Covers latch onto the pill with a robust magnetic clip. However, taking one other cue from its greater brother, it additionally angles up barely, which makes it extra secure whereas in your lap. Microsoft has created a brand new Sort Cowl to suit the Floor three’s smaller body, however you can even connect any of the earlier Floor keyboard instances for those who’ve obtained them mendacity round (although they may hold over the pill’s edges a bit). There is no new Contact Cowl (which does not have bodily keys) for the Floor three, which can be an indication Microsoft is prepared to surrender on that entire idea. However given simply how skinny and succesful it has been capable of make the Sort Cowl, I do not anticipate anybody will mourn the inevitable dying of the Contact Cowl.

Regardless that the Floor three’s Sort Cowl is smaller than the Professional model, I discovered it straightforward to sort on, with an honest quantity of suggestions from the keys. It is barely harder to stability in your lap when it is related to the Floor three, however it was nonetheless snug sufficient for me to sort up most of this evaluation.

Show and pen enter

Surface 3 review: Finally, a cheap Surface you'd actually want

Microsoft managed to cram some good shows into the final spherical of Floor units, and that development continues with the Floor three. It encompasses a 10.eight-inch LCD with a 1,920 x 1,280 decision that is shiny, crisp and colourful. It isn’t as sharp because the iPad Air 2’s Retina display, or the Quad HD screens in Samsung’s Galaxy S Tablets, however it’s a effective show for prolonged studying, photograph viewing and even watching films (I notably loved utilizing the Floor three to compensate for my Comixology queue). However when you’ve got points studying small textual content, take notice: The Floor three’s beneficiant decision will make some web sites and packages exhausting to make use of. Be ready to bump up the textual content measurement in your system settings and browser.

As is often the case with LCDs, the Floor three’s show fares properly indoors, however loses its luster outside. It is nonetheless usable — you’ll be able to simply make out textual content and photographs — however you will should get via loads of reflectivity to get something completed. It is onerous to fault the Floor an excessive amount of when this can be a drawback you will face with most tablets and laptops, even these considerably costlier. For what it is value, the Floor Professional three performs a lot better in direct daylight.

It makes a robust case for together with strain-delicate stylus help in additional tablets.

For the inventive crowd, including help for the Floor Pen is a sensible transfer. It is the identical stylus that is included with the Floor Professional three, and it depends on that system’s N-trig digitizer. Sadly, Floor three customers should shell out a further $50 to get it, however since it is a pretty area of interest product, it is sensible for Microsoft to maintain it separate. After pairing it over Bluetooth, you’ll be able to click on the highest button of the Floor Pen to open up a brand new OneNote file and begin scribbling your ideas. Click on it once more, and it will get despatched to your OneDrive cloud storage. And simply as with the Floor Professional three, you’ll be able to even get up the pc from sleep by clicking the Pen’s prime button, which brings you proper to a clean OneNote web page.

With regards to placing the Pen to the display, the Floor three feels about nearly as good as its Professional sibling. That’s to say, it is a fairly clean expertise. There wasn’t a lot lag between hitting the display and getting one thing to point out up, and there is a respectable quantity of paper-like resistance towards the display. It definitely will not make you overlook you are drawing on glass, however it makes a robust case for together with strain-delicate stylus help in additional tablets.

The most important drawback with the Floor Pen? There is no place to carry it on the Floor three. The Sort Cowl for the Floor Professional three at the very least provides you a slot to tuck the Pen away.

Efficiency and battery life PCMark7 3DMark06 3DMark11 ATTO (prime disk speeds) Microsoft Floor three (1.6GHz Atom x7-Z8700, Intel HD Graphics) 2,839 three,920 E941 / P552 163 MB/s (reads); 39.2 MB/s (writes) Microsoft Floor Professional three (1.9GHz Core i5-4300U, Intel HD 4400) 5,024 5,053

E1,313 / P984

555 MB/s (reads); 252 MB/s (writes) HP Spectre x360 (2015, 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U, Intel HD 5500) four,965 eight,810 E1,667 / P932 / X265 555 MB/s (reads); 270 MB/s (writes) Microsoft Floor Professional 2 (1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) four,922 6,236

E1,906 / P997 / X303

534 MB/s (reads); 167 MB/s (writes) Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2014, 1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) four,773 5,881

E1,727 / P930 / X284

555 MB/s (reads); 137 MB/s (writes) HP Spectre thirteen Ultrabook (1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) four,786 6,005

E1,837 / P962 / X293

527 MB/s (reads); 327 MB/s (writes) Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Professional (1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) four,676 5,688

E1,713 / P914 / X281

546 MB/s (reads); 139 MB/s (writes) Sony VAIO Professional thirteen (1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) four,502 four,413

E1,177 / P636 / X203

1.04 GB/s (reads); 479 MB/s (writes) Sony VAIO Professional eleven (1.8GHz Core i7-4500U, Intel HD 4400) four,634 N/A

E1,067 / P600 / X183

558 MB/s (reads); 255 MB/s (writes)

Whenever you see the “Intel Atom” label, it is arduous to not conjure up reminiscences of netbooks, these tiny Atom-powered laptops that preceded the iPad and different trendy tablets. They have been perpetually underpowered, however their diminutive measurement and low cost worth made them best for being secondary moveable computer systems. So I used to be stunned at simply how succesful the quad-core Atom x7-Z8700 chip within the Floor three is. It runs at 1.6GHz, however it will probably bump as much as 2.4GHz in bursts. The Atom x7, which was introduced at Cellular World Congress, additionally balances that velocity with clever energy administration. Due to that, the Floor three does not even want a fan to remain cool.

General, the Atom x7 looks like a step up from the earlier era of Atom processors we see in Chromebooks. I used to be capable of run Firefox and Chrome, each with a number of home windows and loads of tabs, together with Spotify and Skype with none vital slowdown. Launching new apps felt speedy, and I did not have any points shifting between the apps and swiping round Home windows eight’s interface. The one factor I needed to control was complicated net apps like Tweetdeck consuming up an excessive amount of RAM in Chrome — however that is one thing I additionally need to cope with on my desktop and MacBook Air. And as you possibly can inform from the benchmarks above, the Floor three’s disk speeds cannot examine to extra highly effective laptops, so it will not be a lot of a media-creation machine.

Surface 3 review: Finally, a cheap Surface you'd actually want

Principally, I loved the truth that I might use the Floor three like a traditional Home windows pc. I wasn’t restricted to Home windows eight apps and pre-put in Workplace apps just like the Floor 2 and Floor RT, and that goes a great distance towards making it extra helpful. I missed easy issues on the Floor 2, just like the speediness of Chrome, my library of Steam video games and modifying pictures shortly with Paint.Internet.

The Floor three has its limits, in fact — 4K YouTube streams have been a stuttery mess, and it isn’t almost highly effective sufficient to run graphics-hungry video games. Gone Residence, a primary-individual indie recreation that does not want a lot horsepower, loaded up shortly, nevertheless it was solely playable at a 720p decision. And even then, it was nonetheless sort of uneven.

4K YouTube streams have been a stuttery mess, and it isn’t almost highly effective sufficient to run graphics-hungry video games.

My expertise with the Floor three is perhaps a lot totally different than yours, although. Microsoft despatched me the $599 mannequin with 4GB of RAM — the naked minimal you’d need in any pc lately — and 128GB of storage. The entry-degree $499 Floor three solely has 2GB of RAM, which suggests it’s going to be far much less succesful on the subject of juggling a number of apps. Given simply how low cost RAM is lately, you’d assume Microsoft would simply chew the bullet and embrace extra reminiscence by default. The Floor 2 carried out decently with solely 2GB of RAM, although, however that machine could not run conventional reminiscence-hungry Home windows software program.

On the storage entrance, the Floor three is a big improve over its predecessor, which solely provided 32GB and 64GB choices. The Floor three’s 64GB and 128GB choices are much more palatable for an precise pc — you will have room for a slew of packages, in addition to music and video information.

Pill Battery Life Microsoft Floor three 9:eleven Microsoft Floor 2 14:22 Apple iPad mini 12:forty three (WiFi) ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime 10:17 Apple iPad (2012) 9:fifty two (HSPA) / 9:37 (LTE) Microsoft Floor RT 9:36 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 eight:fifty six Sony Xperia Pill Z eight:forty HP Stream eight:17 Galaxy Tab 2 7.zero 7:38 HP Slate 7 7:36 Nexus 10 7:26 Microsoft Floor Professional three 7:08 Samsung Chromebook 2 (eleven-inch) 7:00 HP SlateBook x2 6:34 (pill solely) / eight:forty nine (keyboard dock)

Microsoft claims you will get round 10 hours of battery on the Floor three, which is greater than the 9 hours and eleven minutes I noticed in our normal battery check (looping an HD video at sixty five % brightness till it loses energy). That is an enormous step down from the Floor 2, which lasted a whopping 14 hours and 22 minutes in our exams. Nonetheless, it was capable of sustain with me for many of a workday, beginning at 9 AM and eventually dropping cost round four PM.

Configuration choices and the competitors

Surface 3 review: Finally, a cheap Surface you'd actually want

On prime of the 64GB $499 and 128GB $599 choices, there are additionally LTE-outfitted Floor three fashions on the horizon beginning at $599 with 64GB of storage. However do not forget, you’ve got additionally acquired so as to add the $one hundred thirty Sort Cowl if you would like a keyboard and one other $50 for the stylus. That places the entry degree Floor three at $680 with all of its equipment. And, for the primary time, there’s additionally a $200 docking station for the low-finish Floor, which incorporates 4 USB ports, a Mini DisplayPort, and Gigabit Ethernet.

Positive, the Floor three could possibly be seen as an iPad Air 2 competitor. They begin on the similar worth (sans the Sort Cowl), they usually’re each aiming on the 10-inch pill market. However you may simply as simply see it as a extra useful various to mid-vary Chromebooks like Samsung’s $four hundred Chromebook 2, which may solely run apps inside Google’s Chrome browser. It is also a extra highly effective choice than low cost Home windows laptops like HP’s $200 Stream, that are the centerpiece of Microsoft’s plan to tackle Chromebooks. And, in fact, the Floor three is principally only a stripped-down model of the Floor Professional three, which begins at $799 and not using a Sort Cowl (although you’d possible find yourself spending round $1,000 in the event you bump up the specs).

As I discussed above, you need to assume onerous about how you are going to use the Floor three earlier than committing. In the event you simply need an affordable net-searching pc, go for a Chromebook as an alternative. Should you’re primarily involved about getting the most effective pill expertise, get the iPad Air 2. And if the Floor three sounds underpowered, think about saving up for the Floor Professional three (or its eventual successor, which might land within the subsequent few months).


Surface 3 review: Finally, a cheap Surface you'd actually want

I can not advocate the Floor three to everybody, nevertheless it’s the primary $499 Floor that I can advocate to somebody. And that is greater than I can say for the Floor 2 and RT. It is a machine that is able to doing rather a lot — inside limits. And are available the eventual Home windows 10 improve, which will probably be freely obtainable to all Home windows 7 and eight customers later this yr, it’s going to solely get higher.

I can not advocate the Floor three to everybody, however it’s the primary $499 Floor that I can advocate to somebody

Even when it isn’t for you, the Floor three exhibits that Microsoft’s imaginative and prescient of a single gadget that may function each pill and laptop computer is not a mere pipedream. The corporate is studying from its errors — ahem, Home windows RT — and it is regularly doubling down on what makes the Floor lineup nice. The large drawback for Microsoft? It nonetheless does not have a killer, should-purchase Floor. And that leaves it open to being usurped.

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<a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/microsoft/floor/three/”> Microsoft Floor three </a>

  • Key specs
  • <a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/microsoft/floor/three/” title=”Microsoft Floor three evaluations” goal=”_blank”> Evaluations zero </a>
  • Costs
  • Discussions
  • Type issue Pill
  • Working system Home windows (eight.1)
  • Display measurement 10.eight inches
  • Storage sort Inner storage (sixty four GB, Flash), Reminiscence card
  • Digital camera (built-in) Sure
  • Most battery life As much as 10 hours
  • Launched 2015-05-05

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