One Week With Surface 3

Pleasantly Surprised!

That’s how I feel every time I pick up and use my Surface 3. I use my Surface 3 as a tablet 90% of the time. Not the norm, I know. I prefer using Windows 8.1 as a tablet first, touch-based OS. I prefer the UI to Android or iOS, and enjoy the power that lies behind the simplified Start screen. I have reviewed several Windows tablets for SurfaceGeeks and have used even more that I have never wrote a word about. In short, The Surface 3 is perfect for me.

What I’ve Been Using…

In 2015 alone, I have owned an iPad Air 2 Wifi + Cellular (returned within 24-hours), Surface Pro 3 i3 (couple months), and Galaxy Tab S 8.4 LTE (still using it). I have also been using an Asus Eeebook X205 that I picked up from the Microsoft Store for $179. My home desktop is a Mac mini running Yosemite and my work PC is a Lenovo small form factor PC running Windows 7. iOS is just not for me anymore, and I found the Air 2 not great to use without a kickstand. The Surface Pro 3 is awesome and the i3 model has few flaws IMO. The only negative for me was that I was using it as a tablet in my hands, and it could sometimes feel a little heavy and was usually unwieldily when walking around my home/office. Although, if not for learning about the Surface 3, I likely would still have the Pro 3. The Tab S has been an amazing one handed tablet with a plethora of applications that run well. I bought it for only $279, and yes that is with AT&T LTE support! However, I can’t really get work done on the device. I don’t want to have to carry a full size keyboard around and the custom keyboard by Samsung is just way too small. The Asus Eeebook has been an amazing device, considering its low price. But I missed having touch, and the BayTrail ATOM + 2GB RAM did sometimes feel slow for select desktop application. IE and Chrome were not a pleasure to use. Office ran OK, and benefitted from a decent keyboard and trackpad.

The Perfect Surface?

The day after the announcement of the Surface 3, I hit up my local Microsoft Store. It was love at first touch. Compared to the Pro 3, the Surface 3 felt noticeably lighter, the screen looked better to my eyes, and even the Type Cover performed better for me. I spent over an hour evaluating the 2GB model on the store floor, and chatted with the Store Manager. We were both super excited for Microsoft’s newest device. Over the weeks that followed, my excitement remained strong as I saw unboxing from VIPs, bloggers and reviewers. Then the reviews started coming in. What was great is they didn’t all come in at once. Every few days I would find a new written or video review about the Surface 3. For the most part, everyone was pleased with the device. Complaints seemed to focus on the key accessories being optional, and the battery life being hit or miss.

I was fortunate enough to receive my Surface 3 bundle on launch day. I received a Surface 3 4GB/128GB model, a red Type Cover 3 and a red Surface Pen. I used the Type Cover during the initial setup of the device. Although I didn’t do too much typing, I didn’t make one mistake. I pair the Surface Pen, but never actually touched it to the screen. Since then, the accessories have been in my sleeve, but not used either of them since Day 1. The accessories are great and I love knowing I have them, but they literally won’t be used more than a couple day a year. Hopefully, I will use the Surface Pen more because it looks and functions very well. The type Cover will be used when traveling and the Surface 3 is my only computer.

Now to the Surface 3 itself. I used it everyday. At work, it is the device I grab to bring to meetings. Throughout the day, the Surface 3 is used to play music, watch YouTube videos, browse Twitter and chat with friends via Messenger. At home, it is my couch and bed companion. I also find it fits nicely next to my monitor on my desk and is used as a second screen. The hardware is first rate. There is a reason Microsoft charges $499 and up. No other tablet feels this good. The weight is perfectly balanced. Color accuracy of the screen and speaker performance is exceptional. Although not as flexible as the Pro 3, the kickstand is almost as good. It is nice not having to fiddle with it to get it just right. And it can be repositioned better one-handed than the Pro 3. It could use one more position to be perfect IMO. (My first “want” for its successor.) The in-hand feel is what keeps me going back to the Surface 3. I can walk around with it and use it one handed. The kickstand provides extra grip when I am using in two handed. I have’t dropped her yet!

Performance was one area I was cautiously keeping an eye on. The first day, I noticed apps installed very fast. Thanks to 802.11AC support, downloads were speedy. The eMMC storage didn’t seem to slow installs. Modern UI apps were responsive once loaded. the Xbox Music app loads fairly quickly, MSN Weather is still a stubborn app to launch. All other “Windows” apps performed great and never made me feel like I was waiting. However, IE on the desktop was a bit of a dog. I prefer it over the touch-friendly Modern IE on most devices. Usually, IE runs better than Chrome and other browser on lower or midrange Windows devices. For example, on my BayTrail Asus Eeebook, using Chrome was not a pleasant experience versus IE. On my Surface 3, I took a chance and installed Chrome. It performs better than IE for my use case. Pinned Apps like Messenger, MySMS and PocketCasts all perform very well. And I get to instal extensions like Add to pocket and uBlock (ad-blocking). Checking Task Manager, I don’t see any impactful hit on CPU or RAM usage. Until Windows 10 is out, and the Edge browser ready, I’ll stick with Chrome. However, I do plan to transition to Edge when it is ready. Office has been installed, but only launched when I need to review work documents. I’m using the Mail, Calendar and People apps for my work email and calendaring needs. Since settling in, performance has been great and the ATOM x7 has given me no cause for concern. The 1-2 second pauses that made me miss the i3 Pro 3 seem to be gone or I have just gotten used to them. Clearly, they are not that impactful.

Battery life reviews have been all over the place. I don’t have hard numbers to share. My in my daily use, the battery life has been phenomenal. Yes, PHENOMENAL. The first full day, I had 18-hours uptime and nearly 50% battery life remaining. On the heaviest of usage days, I still have 35%+ remaining. In general, I can go 2-3 days between feeling the Surface 3 needs to be charged. This is a very fortunate thing, because it means I only have to charge the Surface 3 overnight when it does need a charge. The Surface 3 takes forever to charge. I am using the bundled power adapter but my own cable. The included micro-USB cable is shorter than I prefer, and the connection to the surface is very loose. My third party cable is longer and has a nice snug and secure connection into the Surface 3. It can take 3 to 6 hours to charge a Surface 3 depending on battery levels and whether the device is being used. It should have a USB 3 type-C connector for charging as it would charge must faster. (My second “want” for its successor.)

Behind Mail, Calendar and OneNote… Tweetium, TubeCast and outcoldplayer are my most used apps. outcoldplayer is for accessing my Google Play Music library. TubeCast is a stopgap whiel I wait for the new Hyper app. Hyper was my goto YouTube app for Windows 8. However, the app was pulled so the developer could work on a a updated version supporting the new APIs Goolge wants devs to use. CrossyRoad is a favorite of mine. And the best experience I have had playing it has been on my Surface 3. It just looks so good with the extra screen real estate. Netflix content looks awesome as the screen’s color accuracy s better than the Pro 3 and the speakers are front-facing and clear. My Bose SoundLink Around-Ear headphones paired easily and work well too. Below is my current Surface 3 Start screen showing the apps I use daily.

My Surface 3 Start screen

My Surface 3 Start screen

What’s Next?

I plan to continue tweaking my usage of the Surface 3. Finding new ways to use it, and more apps to play with. I’ll keep everyone updated via the SurfaceGeeks Podcast and the Agnostic Tech Podcast and future postings here. The Surface 3 will be my primary tablet, work companion and mobile computer. If things keep going as well as they are, I might even consider upgrading to the LTE model later this summer. Especially if it supports AT&T. If you have’t tried a Surface 3… hit up a Microsoft Store or BestBuy. If you don’t have one near you… order one. Microsoft has a great 30-day return policy. But you’ll likely be pleased. Microsoft got it right again. For me, the Surface 3 is better than the Pro 3. It is so lightweight and easy to hold, that any sacrifices made in performance and screen size are easily forgotten. The Surface 3 is the best tablet I have ever owned. I love using it and know it will be “upgraded” in many ways when Windows 10 and the new universal Windows Apps starting hitting the store.

Surface 3 starts at $499. The 4GB/128GB used is $599 + $129 for the Surface Type Cover 3 and $49 for the Surface Pen. Learn more here.

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