If you’ve been following my search for the ideal Tablet device, you’ll know that a number of them have passed through my hands, whilst I’ve passed up on others. To date, I’ve had an HP TX2000 convertible, a Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, and currently I have a Lenovo ThinkPad 10 and a Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible.
I’ve long ruled out Apple’s iPads and the myriad of Android tablets, since I use the Windows ecosystem, and up until now, Microsoft’s Surface range of products has never ticked enough of my boxes. Whilst I had initially high hopes for the Surface Pro 3, it came with a poor fixed-focus rear camera, no GNSS capability, and a fan (I really want a fanless tablet). For more detail, see my “trying to nail it” post.
This might all be about to change, as Microsoft has now introduced the Surface 3. This, like the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 (TP10), has an Intel Atom processor, but whereas the TP10 has the last generation of the Atom (codenamed Bay Trail), the S3 has the newest iteration of Atom chips. These are apparently slightly faster than Bay Trail, but not a major advance. Here’s a comparison of the basic specifications of the TP10 and the S3:
|ThinkPad 10||Surface 3|
|Processor||Intel Atom Z3795 processor (4 cores,2MB Cache, 1.6GHz with Intel Burst technology up to 2.4GHz)||Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor (4 cores, 2MB Cache, 1.6GHz with Intel Burst technology up to 2.4GHz)|
|Display||1920 x 1200 (16:10)||1920 x 1280 (3:2)|
|Memory||4GB / 1067MHz LPDDR3||4GB / 1600MHz LPDDR3|
|Storage||128 GB eMMC + MicroSD up to 64GB||128 GB eMMC + MicroSD up to 128GB|
|O.S.||Windows 8.1 Pro 64bit||Windows 8.1 64bit*|
|Front camera||2 MP fixed-focus||3.5 MP fixed-focus|
|Rear camera||8 MP auto-focus + LED flash||8 MP auto-focus, no flash|
|Digitizer Pen||Wacom||N-Trig (optional)|
|Base unit price||€699.99||€729.00|
* Apparently, Windows 8.1 Pro 64bits will be available as an option. However, the non-Pro version is perfectly adequate for me.
** If you buy the WWAN (LTE) version of the Surface 3, that will also include GNSS, but you can’t have GNSS without WWAN (unlike the TP10, where all models have GNSS included).
You’ll notice that the prices of these two tablets, while definitely in the “Premium” bracket, are close to each other. However I would definitely want the N-Trig pen, which adds another €49.99 to the price of the Surface 3. Then again, my ThinkPad 10 has a Quickshot Cover, which to my mind is an essential accessory, and that cost me €49. The Quickshot cover is thin, and only covers the screen (it can be completely folded back under the TP10 in use). It can also act as a stand, but it is less stable, and with less angles to choose from, than the kickout stand built into the Surface 3.
Unfortunately, Microsoft do not produce an equivalent cover for their Surface range. Instead they have the Type Cover – a cover and keyboard combined. Nice idea, but it weighs in at an eye-watering €149,99. Since I don’t need a keyboard, I can’t see myself shelling out for this. So I’d probably go for just a slipcase to protect a Surface 3. Not as convenient as a flip-over cover, but a good deal cheaper. I just wish that Microsoft, or a third party would produce something like the Quickshot Cover for the Surface range.
So let’s say that I find a decent case for €30, then my total outlay for a Surface 3 setup would be €808.99 versus €748.99 for the TP10. Still within shouting distance of each other, but the gap is widening, and not in the right direction. Physically, the two tablets are close in size, and smaller than the Surface Pro 3. Here’s a diagram to illustrate the differences:
The Surface 3 has a larger display than the TP10, and I like the 3:2 aspect ratio of the S3 even more than the 16:10 ratio of the TP10. It would be even better for reading books and documents:
This, to my mind, is where the S3 scores over the TP10. For me, its display has a nicer ratio, and a nice physical size. The Surface Pro 3, although it has the same aspect ratio, is bigger (almost the size of an A4 pad). It also has a much higher resolution, which causes scaling issues with some programs.
I think the S3 is the Goldilocks model of the three (TP10, S3 and SP3). By way of comparison, the Yoga 3 Pro that I have is a bit bigger than an A4 pad, at 33cm x 22.8 cm, and when in tablet mode is simply too unwieldy for my liking. So the plus points of the S3 are:
- it’s fanless (like the TP10)
- screen ratio of 3:2 (better than the TP10)
- bigger screen than a TP10, and smaller than a SP3.
The drawbacks are
- premium price
- no reasonably-priced flip-over cover available
- no GNSS
I think, for my requirements, it measures up very well against the TP10, and might well be the tablet to go for once Lenovo ask for their loan TP10 back. Of course, waiting in the wings will be the Surface Pro 4. The question arises, would I consider this. Frankly, I don’t think it will be a good fit for my requirements. I suspect it will be at least as big, if not bigger, than the SP3, with power to match.
I don’t need a poweruser’s laptab; the S3 is a much better match with what I’m looking for. As usual with Microsoft, the third time’s the charm. The Surface 3 promises to be a good machine. It would suit me, and I suspect many others, very well indeed.