Review: Microsoft Surface 3

Sarah Tew/CNET
The new Microsoft Surface 3, attractively priced at N99,500, I could safely say I was getting N100,000 worth of computing experience. The only problem is that I was actually using N125,370 worth of computer. That's because the Surface line's biggest folly continues well into the series' third generation. Its all-important snap-on keyboard, really the most impressive thing about the Surface, is still sold separately, and at a premium price.

And there lies the biggest tragedy of the otherwise-excellent Surface line. When you're adding a N25,000 ($129) keyboard cover to a thousand-dollar tablet, it's an added expense, but doesn't dramatically change the value proposition of the system. Adding the same N25,000 ($129) to a N99,500 ($499) product, however, raises the price by more than 20 percent, and you should consider the combined cost before getting too excited about this low-cost Surface tablet.

That said, the new Surface 3 has corrected the biggest flaw of Microsoft's entry-level Surface tablet series to date: it finally runs the full version of Windows, not the stripped-down Windows RT operating system (unofficially named after the Windows Runtime architecture that enabled it). That means it can run all of the same legacy Windows programs as its big brother, the Surface Pro 3 -- a huge step up from the the Surface and Surface 2, which only ran programs found in the Microsoft Windows app store.

With full Windows 8 on board, the new non-Pro Surface makes it feel and work much more like a standard laptop or hybrid -- albeit one that's more modestly powered. Rather than utilizing Intel's Core i-series CPUs, or even by the Core M chip found in some new ultra-slim laptops and hybrids. Instead it uses the latest version of Intel's Atom CPU, a chip that dates back the days of low-end netbook laptops that sacrificed power for portability and price. The new Atom x7 (previously known by the code name Cherry Trail) is said to be the most powerful Atom CPU to date, and is even capable of playing back 4K video.

In practice, for casual websurfing, email, and streaming HD video from Netflix and other sources, the Surface 3 runs smoothly, especially if you keep to Windows-optimized programs such as Internet Explorer 11 or other pre-loaded apps in the Windows 8 tile interface. But, like most Atom-powered PCs, it also had occasional moments where it inexplicably seized up, sometimes when running multiple tabs in another Web browser, such as Google's Chrome.

For around the same price or a little more, you can find many Windows 8 laptops and tablets, most running similar hardware, but occasionally with a more powerful Core i3 or Core i5 processor, such as the $599 Lenovo Flex 3. Add in the cost of the keyboard dock and there are better values out there, at least in terms of raw specs.

But, the Surface 3, like the previous Surface Pro systems, represents one of the best overall user experiences for a Windows 8 tablet. The hardware feels good, is solidly built, and includes enough ports to get by. The kickstand hinge and keyboard cover are miles beyond what other tablet-makers offer.

-Review & Photos by CNET
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About Abula Gist

'Tunde Ojedokun is an Editor working for Lappyphone, he loves technology. You can't see him without a gadget. .


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