Microsoft ditches ARM for Intel with new $499 Surface 3, its latest iPad competitor

31 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft Announces Surface 3, A Cheaper, Thinner, Slower Surface Pro 3.

Graphic artists, engineers and finance professionals needing to run complex software might still want the company’s higher-end Pro 3, said Dennis Meinhardt, director of program management for Surface.

Given its past struggles that’s not an association that immediately springs to mind but following the superb but expensive Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has now made a new sexy hybrid laptop/tablet for the masses. Microsoft still wants its Surface line to be somewhere between a tablet and a laptop, but the result is usually a tablet that really wants to be a laptop. Priced in Canada at $639 (vs $849 to $1,999 for the Pro 3), the new tablet has a slightly smaller screen — 10.8 inches rather than 12 — a slower processor, and less flexible kickstand — just three angles rather than unlimited positions. The Surface 3 also costs less, starting at $499, sports a smaller, 10.8 inch screen, a claimed 10 hours of video playback on a single charge, and runs a full build of Windows that comes with a year’s subscription to Office 365.

Simply called ‘Surface 3’, the new model presents a truly compelling option to shake up not just the budget laptop market, but also Apple ’s iPad Air 2. At first glance it looks like Microsoft has simply rebadged its unsold stock of Surface 2 tablets and squeezed a fanless quad-core Atom processor inside. Price – 2GB and 4GB versions will offer 64GB and 128GB of storage respectively with prices starting from $499 and a 4G model (with integrated GPS) from $599.

That might sound like a small difference, but it actually makes it a lot more usable in portrait orientation, and it brings it closer to the tablet experience you expect from an iPad competitor. This is a quad core chip and should run smoothly as Microsoft doesn’t load up its Surfaces with bloatware, but it can’t become a cutting edge performer. Laboring under the presumption that the average laptop consumer is price sensitive — marginally sensitive to negative dollars as a percentage price delta between two competing devices — the move makes sense. Whether partners will be concerned or inspired by these moves remains to be seen, but Microsoft certainly appears determined to not let Apple’s message of unified software and hardware go unanswered.

Microsoft isn’t opting for USB Type-C like Google or Apple just yet, but the port swap does mean you can charge the battery using your normal phone charger. During my brief testing I didn’t notice any major performance issues with the 4GB of RAM model (2GB is the base), but I’m sure that most Steam games won’t run on this tablet and Photoshop or any video editing apps will likely strain its abilities.

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