Surface 3 initial impressions (interrupted)

Surface 3 was released to the public here in Norway on Thursday (7/5/2015). I was lucky enough to get my hands on one for free the very day.

The largest online retailer of computer equipment Komplett.no held a contest in association with Microsoft Norway. Having been situated at home the last couple of days (under the weather), I told my girlfriend about this contest. Komplett.no would announce at the strike of 12, 15 and 18 three locations where the first person to see one holding the Surface 3 and “shouting” “I want a Surface 3” would get to take that Surface 3 along with a Type Cover home. Eagerly we sat around 12:00 and waited for the announcement, and one of the locations announced was pretty close, so my girlfriend put on her shoes and ran to try get a hold of one. When she was almost at the location I texted her that it had already been given away.

After that first attempt I thought the next announcements would be in different cities or in a galaxy far far away. When my girlfriend got home she handed me a large white shopping bag: “Here, I got something for you”. Turns out that she followed the 15:00 announcement and the location? Right outside where she works, so she immediately ran over and got it. So thank you darling for the effort, it was really nice of you!

Here's my girlfriend holding the Surface 3 and the new Type Cover
Here’s my girlfriend holding the Surface 3 and the new Type Cover

Enough with the mushy backstory already, let’s take a look at what we got here.

So, the first thing you will notice when unboxing it is that it’s very similar to the Surface Pro 3, in fact it’s identical. It is smaller (10.8″) and lighter (622g) than the Pro 3, quite noticeable as a matter. Even though the Surface 3 is smaller than the Pro 3 it still has the same connectors. You have a full USB slot, headphone jack, mini-Display port and a microSD slot hidden under the kickstand as before.

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As similar as the Surface 3 and the Pro 3 is, there’s some differences:

One of the differences is in the layout: the buttons are placed on the top if you hold it in landscape mode or on the right if in portrait mode. My guess is that Microsoft thinks of portrait as being the default “working” mode of the Surface 3. The other difference is in the charging cable. Instead of a proprietary solution the Surface 3 can now be charged with a microUSB cable. To actually charge the battery you need to use a charger that can output around 2.5A/5V. You can use any phone charger, but beware that it might not get charged.

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My girlfriend was told this unit had 4G LTE capability, but I have yet to find out where you would put in the SIM-card so I’m concluding that it was a lie. However you can buy a Surface 3 with LTE connectivity, so if you’re on the go a lot and want a lightweight fully-functional PC then buy the Surface 3 LTE edition.

The third difference between the Pro and this one is the branding. On the back of the Surface 3 there is now a giant flat Windows logo instead of the Surface branding. The final thing you’ll eventually notice is that the kickstand is not fully flexible as the Pro 3. This one comes pre-configured with three positions that Microsoft has deemed the right ones.

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Under the hood the Intel i* processors has been replaced by a Intel Atom x7 Z8700 Cherry Trail processor. When we tested the Surface 3 under Build it was really smooth. The Atom processor has greatly improved since last time I used one.

Surface 3 also comes in two variants: 64GB SSD / 2GB memory and 128GB/4GB. There’s not a whole lot of power flowing through these laplets, but it might just do for regular tasks. Not sure if I would (or could) do heavy graphics- or video processing on these machines, but you always have Remote Desktop Connection for those scenarios.

Booting the device up you’re taken through the usual setup process. Here is however where my usage of this device ended. The setup process froze at “Almost there” and then on the second attempt on “Installing apps”. By forcing a reboot I could log in to the desktop and use it, but none of the regular apps were installed and after a while the device would freeze. Either when I was using it or by not coming up again after sleep. I tried installing Windows 10 to see if my device was pre-installed with some bad software. By the way. DO NOT install Windows 10 on your Surface 3 yet, not until Microsoft says you can. Intel has not provided drivers yet for the chipset in W10, so you will have a pretty laggy and degraded experience.

I reverted back to Windows 8 and tried refreshing the OS, but it still freezes after a while. I’ve made arrangements to replace my unit, so until then I can not give a full impression on how the OS and software runs on this bad (very bad) boy.

Take care, and if you experience troubles like I do, then contact your retailer and get it replaced. Also, do not install Windows 10 as well.