With the Surface 3, Microsoft finally puts forth a budget alternative to the Surface Pro 3 that’s worth considering—if only because it runs full Windows 8.1 rather than the limited Windows RT of prior Surface models. The $499 starting price doesn’t hurt either (the Surface Pro 3 starts at $799). But there’s more to the Surface 3 than that, and we dove straight in as soon as we received our unit.
Microsoft sent its higher-end Surface 3 for evaluation: the $599 version with 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage. (The $499 version has 2GB of memory and 64GB of storage.) As with its pricier cousin, everything else for the Surface costs extra: The separate Type Cover keyboard costs $130, partially offset by the free one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, which saves you $70 initially. That 128GB of storage shrinks to about 93GB after setup, and about 88.8GB after installing Office.
A smaller Surface Pro 3
If Microsoft sold the Surface Pro 3 as the “tablet that can replace your notebook,” the Surface 3 offers a similar solution, only everything’s just a bit smaller, especially if you’ve been using the Surface Pro 3 as a daily driver, as I have. The Surface 3’s display measures 10.8 inches across, for example, with a resolution of 1920x1280 pixels, compared to the 12-inch, 2160x1440 display of the Surface Pro 3.
The smaller display, combined with the Surface 3 Type Cover, contributes to a slight feeling of claustrophobia. Another noticeable limitation: The Surface 3 includes a kickstand with three fixed positions, rather than the nearly infinite range of pitch options with the SP3’s kickstand.
To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.