Surface 3 with Atom X7 is just $499 and ultra-mobile.

Posted on 31 March 2015 by

Bill Gates must be so happy today. The Microsoft Surface 3 has just launched with an Intel Atom X7 quad-core at $499 and with it, the TabletPC has reached a new landmark.

The Surface 3 takes the design of the successful Surface Pro 3 and squeezes it down into a 10.8 screen form factor and a 622 gram weight. This fanless Windows 8.1 (with free Windows 10 upgrade) tablet PC is also offering to do-it-all with the optional backlit Type Cover keyboard.  I think you’ll see a bunch of cheaper options during 2015 but, like the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 is going to be an item that has quality on its side.

An LTE option is available ($100 more) and you can pick up 4GB and 128GB storage options too. There’s also a USB 3.0 connector and USB 2.0 (micro for charging and data) so you’ve got mobile power and connectivity options too. There’s no USB-C  port.

The storage will be eMMC based (Atom X7 doesn’t support SATA) so you won’t get the fast speeds of the SSD on the Surface Pro 3. It’s going to be fast enough for daily consumption use, but you never know the limits until you run the tests. The other missing data-point is the Surface 3 battery size in Wh. ’10 hours’ video playback isn’t really much to go on but I’ll guess at 35Wh and 7 hrs browsing at this stage given what I know about the platform and its predecessor.

The stand has three positions (not like the Surface Pro 3) and the screen resolution is 1920 x 1280 (3:2 ratio) which should help it in the hands. The Surface 3 is just 8.2 mm thick.

Microsoft Surface 3 comes with one year of Office 365 and 1TB of OneDrive storage.

Microsoft Surface 3 Specifications (base)

More specifications, notes, videos and images here in our database.

  • CPU type: Intel Atom x7-Z8700 quad-core 1.6 – 2.4 Ghz with Gen 8 graphics.
  • Fanless
  • OS: Windows 8.1 with free upgrade to Windows 10
  • Display Size: 10.8″ 1920 X 1280
  • Screen Type: LED-Backlit LCD, wide viewing angle. Touch with digitizer support.
  • RAM: 2 GB (4 GB option)
  • Flash 64 GB (128 GB option)
  • Weight (tablet) 622gm / 1.37 pounds
  • Size 267/187/8.7 mm
  • Size 10.5/7.4/0.3 inches
  • Physical Interfaces:DC-in. Displayport (Mini), Line-out / Headphone (3.5mm), SD slot (Micro), USB 2.0 (Micro), USB 3.0 (x1)
  • Wireless Interfaces: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0. LTE option.
  • Other: Accelerometer, Dolby Advanced Audio, Gyroscope, Microphone, Stereo speakers, Webcam 3.5 MP, Camera 8MP Auto-Focus
  • Optional: Backlit Keyboard, Surface Pen.

One has to assume that Microsoft are going to offer bundles with the dedicated Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen in the future but for now you’re looking at a minimum of around $650 for that set-up and that means it’s not really a cheap option, especially if you think you might need (you probably will) 4GB of RAM. That option adds another $100 to the price.

There’s also the question of Cherry Trail performance.  Microsoft have chosen a high-end version of the X7 and with the right eMMC storage it shouldn’t be slow to respond but you won’t be running desktop games on this and video editing/rendering is not exactly going to be barrier-free.

If you want LTE you’ll need to budget for that ($699 with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage.) and you’ll have to wait until mid June in the USA. That’s 2.5 months away and a lot can happen in that time. Adding the pen and keyboard will take you up to over $850.

A list of 10-inch tablet PCs from our database.

The Surface Pro 3 has proven to be an incredibly versatile device and the ingredients seem to be there for the Surface 3 to be even better in the mobility department but at 10.8-inches the Surface 3 is a tablet-first device and won’t be as productive as the Surface Pro 3 with the keyboard. We all know the compromises that come with a 10-inch screen / keyboard.

If you add in a bit of discounting and look at the Surface 3 as a mobile tabletPC then it makes more sense. The weight is right, the battery life could be right and there’s bound to be a good community that builds around it.

Let us know your thoughts below. Were you hoping for an even smaller Surface? Waiting for a Surface Pro 3-M (with Core M) or are you waiting for a Surface Pro 4 with Broadwell-U?

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  • Any info on which Windows 8.1 ?? 32bit or 64bit ??

    • Very good question. AFAIK all X5 and X7’s are 64-bit now with 64-bot capable bootloaders. I expect all manufacturers will swith to 64-bit builds.

      • James

        VentureBeat and others have stated it’s 64bit, and 4GB or higher RAM models usually are, just not sure if it apples to both the 128/4 GB model and the 64/2 GB model…

        If the UEFI is 64bit then the OS will be too, but still questionable whether they’ll offer 64bit for anything less than 4GB models…

        • I checked out the Surface 3’s at the local MS store… they were all the 64gb/2gb variety and they all had 64 bit Windows. I thought connected standby was only implemented on 32bit windows 8.1… so are these going without that feature? will connected standby be part of Windows 10 64bit?

  • scoobie

    Everything I wanted , apart from those terrible keyboard covers. Arrrhhh

    • I wrote this article on one of those terrible keyboards. (Which aren’t bad, they just feel and sound bad. Get past that and they are OK. In my opinion of course.)

      • scoobie

        I mean compared to ThinkPad quality. I’m used to that level in my last job. I think this type thing are average to poor.

        I may get one nevertheless :) Inking devices are rare. And I’m a sucker for buying cheap , underpowered atom devices that end up gathering dust.

      • Oh, that’s why so many typos.

        • Oh my goodness. Please feed back details!

        • I’ve not seen any typos. :-/ Unless they’ve already been corrected?

        • This fanless Windows 8.1 (with free Windows 10 upgrade) tablet PC is also offering to do-it-all with a the optional backlit Type Cover keyboard.

          The Surface 3 just 8.2 mm thick.

        • Thanks for spotting those. I wouldn’t blame the keyboard for that, it’s just my bad, bad editing and proof-reading skills. All corrected now.

  • user

    Waiting for a Surface with Core M and 13inch display.

    • M

      Should be the SP4 I think.

  • I think the reason Microsoft is marketing this device as “tablet that can replace your laptop” is very sound and logical. It’s not the pro device, so it shouldn’t be expected to have the same power as the pro device. @_@ It’s going up against the devices that people are considering as their aging laptops are getting worse and worse and aren’t sure if they will be comfortable with just a tablet.

    As someone who has been waiting for such a device, I plan on getting it with the pen first, then later getting the keyboard. In the meantime, I expect to get something like the Logitech K480 BT keyboard to help with various devices (especially to use in lieu of my laptop keyboard, which is absolute crap) and will use that with the Surface if I *really* need a keyboard on the go — it’ll be an awkward setup, but not something I’d be doing often enough to care (hence the plans on getting the Type Cover later).

    IMO, it’s a brilliantly positioned device, as it’s balanced in the middle between the budget tablets that are now plentiful in the Windows ecosystem side of things and the more expensive devices like the SP3.

  • Richard

    I was excited for this until I priced it up. With a stylus and keyboard cover the price ends up being the same as the Asus T300 chi which has more RAM, storage, a better processor and a real keyboard dock to be a proper laptop. The T300 is larger which cuts both ways depending on your needs and probably has worse battery life though. For me I’d love to see more device with a 3:2 screen, 16:10 is just too unwieldy in portrait mode.

    • The T300 Chi is certainly going to be on the ‘compare list.’ but I also think the T100 Chi should be on the list too. Although it has a ‘last gen’ Atom processor inside it will still be good enough for a lot of people. For me though the LTE option is very interesting, the proven firmware support over time adds value and the fact that it can be used with the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover also a bonus.

      • M

        Love the hardware but I think it’s at least $50-100 overpriced.

        To compare with the T100 chi as you say (ie 2GB model with keyboard), this would cost $630, vs the $400 of the asus. It’s nice that it has the newer, better atom but that’s not going to be worth +50% more for most. They have similar battery life, screens, RAM, storage, optional stylus..

        If you go up to the 4GB model with stylus you’re already looking at $650 which is very close to the (4GB with stylus) pro. I understand the s3 has a portability advantage, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow to lose so much performance for a small price difference.

        I don’t get the attraction of an LTE model.. why not just connect it via your phone, that you presumably have on you all the time anyway?!

        Looking forward to seeing more cherry-trail atom devices though. Get on it Dell, Asus, etc!

        • James

          There’s more than a few differences between the Asus T100 Chi and this Surface 3… Whether you consider it worth the price is debatable but you do get a lot more than just a better processor…

          There’s the higher build quality, the built in 3 position kick stand that the Asus doesn’t have, the full size USB 3.0 port instead of micro port, the Display Port instead of HDMI (means you can do things like support 4K monitors), the 3:2 ratio screen makes it better for those who prefer tablet usage and reading over just media consumption, the optional pen is working with a built in N-Trig digitizer that the Asus doesn’t have, screen is a bit larger at 10.8″ instead of 10.1″, etc.

          There’s also the fact you’re comparing a mid-range Asus with a high range Surface 3… The Cherry Trail x7 is the highest end option available for all the Cherry Trail models… It would be more appropriate to compare to a high range Bay Trail option like the Z3795 in models like the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 10, etc.

          While the built in LTE means you don’t have to worry about your phone battery dying and makes it harder for someone to hack your network as tethering leaves you vulnerable to things like man in the middle attacks and you don’t have to worry if you forgot your phone, among the multiple scenarios that it would make sense to have a dedicated LTE option… Mind, business users, especially, have a wider range of concerns than regular users…

          Besides, it’s likely the price will drop later as has happened with previous Surface releases…

        • Richard

          Do we know yet what the technology used in the Chi line of digitisers is? The active stylus support with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity is listed on the Asus site but not what tech it uses.

        • James

          The optional Asus Chi pen uses a single AAA battery, so it’s definitely a N-Trig… WACOM pens don’t need batteries…

          The pen option may also be one of the reasons they opted for BT keyboards instead of the dockable keyboards their Transformer Book series… since it’s easier to use as a tablet with the pen…

  • jaybird

    I guess I am missing something. Why would anyone buy this with Asus at the low end, or alternatively a basic Thinkpad Yoga i3, Asus UX305 or Dell XPS !3 2015 at the upper end – say US700-850. Is a small underpowered tablet and a few ounces less actually worth that much?

    • James

      Depends, first it’s primarily for people who prefer a tablet first and laptop usage as secondary, which excludes the XPS and other laptops…

      Second, not everyone opting for a lower end option necessarily want to go all the way down to the bottom… The x7 is the highest end for the mobile Cherry Trail SoCs and thus is a compromise between the low end and the above range…

      Third, there’s still no word when Asus and others will update their lineup and so there’s also the factor that not everyone wants to get a product based on hardware that’s already over 2 years old… and thus either wait or get what’s available now…

      Fourth, weight can be very important to a business person who travels a lot and needs to account for every ounce of travel weight and space used up by the device and accessories… Like MS Office, the main customer base MS is targeting with the Surface are business type users…

      Features like the display port means the device can support monitors/projectors with very high resolutions, 4k, etc… The full size USB 3.0 port means much less hassle connecting devices and getting decent performance from a external device… 4GB of RAM option is still very rare among mobile tablet devices, which along with the high end x7 means you could actually get some limited work done and it doesn’t have to be a mainly media consumption device… and there are still older devices that don’t even offer more than 64GB of storage…

      The optional pen is the same as the Pro 3 uses and thus the driver support should be highly optimized and means you can get something like Photoshop to work pretty well with this device despite having much less performance than the Pro 3… Since Adobe optimized Photoshop to work with the Pro 3’s pen… and would not be something you would get with another product with even a similar pen offering…

      But, it’s clearly not for everyone… So don’t worry about it if it doesn’t fit your needs… The price should drop a bit after launch for those that do want it but the other OEMs should bring out some interesting products of their own soon enough… Some may just be waiting for Windows 10 release or waiting on a different model Cherry Trail or Braswell that isn’t shipping yet…

      • krasby

        Don’t think you know what the Asus X305 actually is…

        If you spec out the Surface 3 & add a keyboard it is actually $30 more than the Asus. If tablet functionality is not of primary importance to someone, the Asus absolutely destroys the Surface 3 in every meaningful way.

        My advice is to wait, this device is going to be a major flop for MS & will probably be discounted within just a few months of release.

        • James

          Sorry but the Asus X305 is clearly a Ultrabook(what Asus calls a Zenbook)/Laptop… It’s not a tablet… So I do know what it is!

          So no, you’re comparing apples to oranges with that one… and like I stated before the primary reason for someone to want a Surface is for a tablet first and laptop second type of user… Of course, if someone prefers a laptop then there are plenty of alternatives but MS was never going to cater to everyone with the Surface series!

          You’re never going to see a desktop Surface, for example!

          Prioritizing tablet design is one of the reasons they went with the 3:2 ratio screen, for example, as that is better for tablet usage!

          While predicting a flop has been happening since the first RT Surface… but this Surface 3 is a definite upgrade from the first two models… So it may still be a niche product but not as much anymore and even then that doesn’t mean no one would want it and in just a few months it’ll be updated to Windows 10 for even less reasons not to like it and they will likely reduce the price by then as well…

          Already, some places like Costco are already offering pre-order bundle deals where the Keyboard and Pen are included for only $100 more… Saving you about $80 from getting them separately… So it’s really too early to predict doom and gloom!

          Especially, as MS already has contract deals with major companies for their Surface line and with Windows 10 they should have more interested in the business user space, which again is another targeted aspect for the Surface series…

  • gluon

    I don’t know. I’m speculating on a light tablet /w keyboard that i could throw in the backpack for those weekend trips on the MTB. Preferably it should be powerful enough to handle some light programming in visual studio and several browsing tabs at once etc. I was looking at the Lenovo tablet 2 10″. Killer-specs and keyboard included for just about 350 eur! And I guess it soon will be a tablet 3 10″ with the atom x7. What do I get from paying the premium price for surface? Swedish price is about 690 eur for the 4/128GB model.

  • yeahman45

    it looks nice but i guess it starts at $499 with the 2GB ram version? it’s a bit pricey…

  • johan

    If the LTE version comes out soon after the other versions, I’ll get this. If not, I’ll get some other sub 11″ device with LTE.

  • Vakeros

    I would compare this to a Medion Akoya P2213T.
    Admittedly last gen processor of Celeron N2940, but has 64 GB SSD plus dock which includes 500 GB HDD and is also full HD and 4GB RAM – only £339.
    For a further £60 you get 1TB HDD and the processor is the Pentium N3540.
    So a size in between the Surface and Pro, the tablet is also fairly light, with the dock doubling the weight, but really adding something, and £100 cheaper.
    Now maybe the pen option is worth that extra, but I don’t see it is enough. Especially as keyboard, which is necessary for productivity, plus pen adds a further £150 to the cost.

  • Neross_Boss

    Early benchamarks of atom X7-z8700 look very promising, especially for playing 3D games. Its known, that for the X7 Geekbench3 64bit score for single core is around 1000, and for multicore -around 3400.Ice storm unlimited score- around 25000.Google Octane V2 score- around 8000.
    Check this out: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2906498/hands-on-with-microsofts-surface-3-full-windows-and-a-new-cpu-cut-the-compromises.html

    • Remember that 25K Ice Storm is with the 2.4Ghz max Atom X7. The 1.83 Ghz Atom Z3xxx could reach 15-16K so I don’t see much improvement when clocks are normalized. Looking forward to some more detailed benchmarks.

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