Microsoft Surface 3 review – The Verge

When I first looked at the Surface 3, I honestly thought it was a Surface 2 from a year and a half ago. With the same silver matte aluminum finish, it still looks beautiful, modern, and premium. Dig a little deeper and you find some subtle — but important — changes. The Surface 3 is both thinner (8.7mm) and lighter (1.37 pounds) than its predecessor, and the dimensions have changed to make this more of a tablet than ever before. There’s now a 10.8-inch display running at 1920 x 1280, which is slightly larger than the Surface 2, and a 3:2 aspect ratio finally makes it a lot more comfortable to use in portrait mode as a pure tablet. The display is bright and crisp and has great viewing angles. Surprisingly, I find the color reproduction is actually better than the Surface Pro 3, and the screen is brighter.

The design still looks beautiful and modern

As a tablet, the Surface 3 is still bigger, heavier, and thicker than the iPad Air 2, but you’re also getting a whole lot more. There’s a single USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, headset jack, and a microSD slot underneath the hinge of the kickstand. They’re not the only ports, though: Microsoft has swapped its magnetic charging mechanism to Micro USB which means you can use a normal phone charger to juice up the Surface 3. It also doubles as a full-size USB port if you buy the necessary adaptor.

If you really want to have some fun, plug a Micro USB cable into the full-size USB and the charging port, and watch the Surface 3 charge itself. It doesn’t really, but in a quirky moment, Windows briefly says it’s charging before realizing it can’t actually redefine the laws of physics.

While the Surface RT and Surface 2 were difficult to use on your lap as a laptop thanks to the limited travel of their kickstands, the Surface 3 can work at three different angles. Disappointingly, it’s not the same redesigned kickstand that the Surface Pro 3 uses, with the hinge to allow you to set it at any angle. On the Surface 3, the first angle is totally useless for the lap, and the second is only slightly better, but I found the third was the one I used the most. It’s far from ideal, though, and I found myself longing for the adjustability of the Surface Pro 3. I use my laptop in weird positions a lot, with my legs crossed, on the floor of a trade show, in the back of a cab, and many other places.

Usually I just move the screen back and forth to adjust the angle and rely on the sturdy base, but with the Surface 3 I found I had to adjust the way I was sitting instead. If you use it on a desk it’s mostly fine, but it still becomes irritating if your desk doesn’t work well with one of those three angles.


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