Rumored for a while and today revealed in real life, the Surface 3 has emerged from the dark recesses of Microsoft, a budget successor to the Surface 2. Bearing all of the ‘Surface’ hallmarks, a stylus, various keyboard and ‘desktop’ accessories and a flexible kickstand, the device nonetheless faces stiff competition in the form of the formidable Surface Pro 3. The question thus emerges, is it worth it?
Join us as we compare the two, before deciding which is most deserving of your hard-earned bucks.
Both devices sport detailed screens, with the Surface 3 enjoying a 10.8 inch full HD panel and the Surface Pro 3 offering a 12 inch 2160×1440 display. Both devices have a slightly unusual 3:2 resolution. The screens on these two devices betray their intended use-case scenarios. The smaller 10.5 inch screen on the Surface 3 is more in line with conventional ‘tablet’ screens, making it especially at home on the couch, while the 12 inch screen on the Surface Pro 3 makes it a better ‘laptop’, with the extra real-estate lending itself well to productivity.
Winner: tie, both devices offer nice panels, but have different ideal use cases.
While both devices are powerful in their own right, this is where the Surface Pro 3 truly asserts itself. The Surface 3 will offer a new Quad-core Intel® Atom™ x7 processor, which is set as below the Core M series in terms of performance. This processor is constant across all versions of the device offered, which have so far been seen as sporting either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. For casual computing this will be perfectly sufficient, yet for more ‘desktop’ tasks and demanding applications, the Surface 3 is found lacking.
The Surface Pro 3 on the other hand offers a bevy of combinations, varying enormously in terms of power. The lowest specced version sports a 4th generation Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM, going all the way up to an Intel i7 with 8GB of RAM, with various versions offered in-between. Combined with the in-built Intel HD Graphics, this means that the Surface Pro 3 can easily compete with the likes of various ultrabooks and MacBooks, meaning that it is serious proposition for those looking to get some work done on the go.
Winner: Surface Pro, with more options and power across the board.
The Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3 offer an number of different storage options. The Surface 3 offers between 64GB and 128GB of built-in storage with the option to insert a MicroSD card for up to 128GB of extra storage. The Surface Pro 3 also offers a number of different storage options, varying between 64GB and 512GB and also including a MicroSD card slot. Both devices are solid performers in this regard.
Winner: Surface Pro 3, though the Surface 3 is no slouch.
Both the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3 are designed to survive a full-days work while out and about. Microsoft rates the Surface Pro 3 as able to survive around 9 hours of web-browsing (which we found to be accurate in our review), while the Surface 3 is rated as being able to last 10 hours, no doubt due to its smaller screen and low-power processor. Both devices are very capable in this regard, if not quite hitting the heights of their (more expensive) competitors.
Winner: Surface 3, though we will test this in our full review.
As is the wont of the selfie-obsessed public, every device (barring the common toaster) sports camera functionality, and both the Surface devices are similar in this regard. The Surface Pro 3 has twin 5MP efforts on the front and rear, while the Surface 3 has a 8MP rear-mounted effort and a 3.5MP selfie-cam. This should theoretically make the Surface 3 a little better for photographing documents, and the the Surface Pro 3 better for Skype calls. Give the general quality of tablet cameras however, neither is going to replace your smartphone or DSLR.
Winner: Tie, both are adequate.
Given that they are meant to be used on the go, both the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3 have a number of different connectivity options.
The Surface Pro 3 sports Wi-Fi 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 1 x USB 3.0 and a Mini DisplayPort, making it compatible with a number of different devices and accessories. Crucially, there is no option for LTE connectivity, making mobile tethering or WiFi an absolute must while on the go. This limits the effectiveness of working on the go with the Surface Pro 3.
With the Surface 3 on the other hand, things are a little different. With Bluetooth 3.0, a MicroUSB port, a full sized USB 3.0 port, a MiniDisplayPort, Wi-Fi 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n and the option for full LTE connectivity, the Surface 3 is a connectivity powerhouse, which will likely make it a valuable asset on the road.
Winner: Surface 3
Perhaps the most important category for many, this is where the Surface 3 finds itself in uncomfortable territory.
Aimed at a large section of the market, from students to professionals, the Surface Pro 3 is available at a number of different price points to satisfy most budgets.Moreover, given that it has been on release for a while now, these prices are beginning to drop, and the device can often be picked up on offer. The cheapest Surface Pro 3 is available for $799.99 from BestBuy at the moment, making it competitive with other devices in its class.
The Surface 3 is expected to be priced at $499 in its lowest specced incarnation, and $699 at its most expensive. Between these various versions, all that differs is internal storage, RAM and LTE connectivity. Part of the reason that the Surface line has suffered in the past (aside from the limitations of Windows RT) has been its unusual pricing. Coming with a full version of Windows 8.1 (with a free upgrade to Windows 10), 1TB of OneDrive storage and a subscription to Office 365, only time will tell if the Surface 3 will shift in bulk.
Winner: Surface Pro 3
Both the Surface Pro 3 and the Surface 3 are capable devices and are aimed at different audiences. If you are looking at completing serious work on the go and want something to replace your laptop, the Surface Pro 3 is for you, this is clear.
Yet who the Surface 3 is for is not yet clear, though an audience will no doubt reveal itself in time. Nonetheless, it is a capable, appealing device, though only time will tell if it is worth the hype. As such, the overall winner is the Surface Pro 3.
Which Surface device do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.Further reading: Microsoft, Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Windows 10, Windows 8.1