Microsoft’s new compact, cut-price Windows tablet clearly has Apple’s iPad in its sights, but the Surface 3 – due for release here on May 5 at just $699 – could also have been built from the ground up for business travellers.
Its big brother, the Surface Pro 3, has quickly gained traction among high flyers and according to our recent reader survey is the second-most popular Windows tablet after the Samsung Tab series.
However the Surface 3 looks set to carve out its own path into airport lounges and business class cabins based on a smaller size, more affordable price tag and a few travel-savvy features.
First up, and announced to cheers all around, Surface 3 drops the pared-back and painfully limited Windows RT operating system for a full version of Windows.
That’s the same Windows 8.1 which runs on a notebook or desktop, and which will be upgraded to Windows 10 for free when Microsoft’s next-gen OS is released towards the end of this year.
That means it runs all your standard Windows apps, including Microsoft Office – with a year-long subscription to Office 365 Personal included in the $699 sticker.
The Surface 3 recipe builds on the foundations of the Surface 3 Pro, including an integrated kickstand...
... and optional keyboard covers which bridge the gap between a tablet and a notebook.
But the smaller screen – 10.8 inches, against the Pro’s 12 inch panel – makes for a more travel-friendly footprint, as does the anorexic 8.7mm profile.
It’s also a not-insignificant 180 grams lighter, a difference that’s noticeable when you hold the Surface 3 in one hand and the 3 Pro in the other.
The Surface 3 packs a USB 3 port, microSD card reader and Mini DisplayPort along with the familiar microUSB port for charging the battery.
Microsoft promises that battery will last for a solid 10 hours of streaming video, thanks in part to the decision to outfit the Surface 3 with a more modest Intel Atom X7 processor compared to the Pro’s muscle-bound Intel Core engines.
One of the more appealing optional extras will be the docking station (price TBA) which boasts four USB 3 ports, feeds into a desktop HD monitor and a wired gigabit Ethernet network.
Later this year we’ll also see a Surface 3 4G version from $839 so you can use a data SIM instead of relying on WiFi hotspots.
The Surface 3 is now available for pre-order at The Microsoft Store at $699 for 2GB of RAM with 64GB of storage, and $839 for a gruntier 4GB of RAM with 128GB of storage.
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