Should you buy a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet? (with Intel Atom CPU) – in-depth review

Should you buy a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet? (with Intel Atom CPU) – in-depth review

Hi, it’s HandyAndy Tech Tips here, and today I’m going to be talking about the Surface 3. So Microsoft has just introduced the newest tablet in their lower-end Surface lineup, a lineup which was previously dominated by Surface RT tablets that had low-power ARM processors. Now surface RT wasn’t a huge success, with many people failing to understand the concept of a Windows tablet that didn’t run standard Windows programs, and this, coupled with the anaemic state of the RT app store, meant that RT was basically dead on arrival. But now Microsoft has introduced a new tablet in the lower-end lineup, and this uses a standard Intel CPU that allows you to run most Windows software released in the past 20 years or so. It has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, which is obviously slower than the Core i3 CPU that is found in the base model of the Surface Pro, but it’s an x86 processor nonetheless.

It also has a 10.8″ screen running at 1920 x 1280, 2 or 4GB RAM and 64 or 128GB of storage depending on which model you choose. Now one thing Microsoft has always done right with the Surface is to build high quality devices, and the Surface 3 continues this tradition. It has a magnesium alloy body, which is very rigid, especially in comparison to cheaper plastic tablets that are available, and it feels great in your hand. The LCD panel is very crisp and sharp, and is bonded to the front glass, making for a stunning display. Colours pop and it’s generally a very good viewing experience. So it looks great, but what about performance? Well, ArsTechnica put the Surface 3 up against the Surface Pro 3, Dell XPS 13 and iPad Air 2, and it didn’t fare too well. Even the iPad, with its low-power ARM chip, beat the Surface in all of their benchmarks, sometimes by a very considerable amount.

So it’s obviously not a gaming machine, and at over $800 Australian dollars for the 128GB model, the price is on par with an iPad. Now of course we all know that any Windows tablet, including the Surface 3, is far more capable than an iPad will ever be, with more customisability, upgradeability and general freedom. But pricing it in the same league as the iPad won’t endear it to regular customers, because if users are offered a choice between the well-recognised iPad, the name of which is almost a synonym for tablet in the minds of consumers, and a Windows 8 tablet, then I think I know which one they’re going to choose.

But what the Surface 3 lacks in performance, it makes up for in compatibility. As long as you’re not trying to do 3D rendering or gaming, you can run virtually any piece of Windows software written since 1995, which, for businesses and organisations such as schools, is a great feature. Why buy pricey laptops and desktop PCs when you can run your company’s legacy software on comparatively inexpensive tablets which your students or employees can take home with them? But this advantage is also present in other Windows tablets. Recently, a new generation of 7″ x86 tablets has come out, and some of them hover around the $100 mark. These allow you to do everything a Surface 3 can do, including running Windows apps, for about $700 less. Sure, you get a smaller screen, and the build quality isn’t quite as good, and there’s a smaller set of accessories available, but you do save valuable cash. So, should you buy the Surface 3? Let me know what you think in the comments below. I’m HandyAndy, and thanks for watching my video.

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