A little hands on time with Surface 3

A little hands on time with Surface 3

Although Microsoft only just announced their new Surface 3 device Monday they were already ramping up behind the scenes.

As of today they have the newest member of the Surface family on display in their Microsoft retail stores and are already taking pre-orders for pick-up/delivery on 05 May 2015.

I called my local store this morning and asked if they had the devices available to take a look at. I live 30 miles from our Microsoft Store so I wanted to make sure the devices were actually in the store before I hit the road.

Luckily they did have the devices in store however, I was told an appointment was necessary to come in and see the Surface 3.  I thought that was a bit strange but maybe they were expecting heavy traffic or had limited devices in store and wanted to make sure customers got dedicated time with them.

Anyway, I got on with my day and headed out for my appointment when the right time arrived.

When I arrived at the store there were no lines but I still let the greeter know I was there for an appointment and very quickly I had my own dedicated store associate to talk to me about Surface 3.

Let me start by saying there was no shortage of Surface 3’s as there were four of them on one of the front tables as you walk into the store. This table was on the other side of the aisle from the Surface Pro 3 display and was prime retail real estate catching customer’s right as they walk in the door.

There was at least one other Surface 3 out elsewhere in the store in the new $199.99 dock for the device.

So a shortage of devices was certainly not the reason I was asked to make an appointment when I called and the store was not crowded either as it was mid-afternoon of a work day.

When we asked Microsoft why we were told to make an appointment to see the Surface 3 we received this official statement from Jonathan Adashek, GM Communications Strategy at Microsoft:

“Starting today, all of the 111 Microsoft stores have Surface 3 devices to try out, along with our team of experts dedicated to delivering the best choice, value, and service with every technology purchase. Appointments are not required to demo a Surface 3 at Microsoft stores, however customers have the option of making an appointment at microsoftstore.com. We invite everyone to head to their local Microsoft store to experience all Surface 3 has to offer. Customers can also pre-order the new device in store or at microsoftstore.com.”

Since my time with Surface 3 was only about 30 minutes long there is of course no review of the device just my initial impressions and comments.

- The first thing I noticed was the 3:2 ratio of the device. It is so distinctly different to my Surface (16:9 ratio) but I imagine you folks that are already using the Surface Pro 3 (also 3:2 ratio) would find it very familiar.  If you laid the Surface 2 on top of the Surface 3 and lined them up along their bottom edges the Surface 2 would be slightly wider and shorter than the Surface 3. The Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 are definitely siblings.

- The large silver Microsoft logo on the kick stand is a great looking logo and really brands the device nicely however, I noticed on all four of the Surface 3’s that this shiny surfaced logo was scuffed up. I am not sure if that is just an early manufacturing issue or maybe it rubs around in the box but hopefully it was just an anomaly with these units. 

- The Type Cover on Surface 3 is the same design as those for the Surface Pro 3. It is not at all flimsy like the second generation Type Cover I use on my Surface 2 and it also has the same magnetic strip to help give the keyboard a slight angle and make it more stable. The Surface 3 Type Covers are also branded with the Microsoft name on the bottom. That means when you close the cover the Microsoft name will be visible.

- The Type Covers have the same magnetic connector that previous editions do and I was told they are interchangeable although the size and how much of the screen it covers will of course be an issue. They will come in 5 colors for the Surface 3: light blue, blueberry blue, red, orange and purple. Interestingly enough – no black. Update: Apparently black is available it was just not on display or mentioned by the store staff. In fact, there is also no evidence of a purple cover for Surface 3 either.

- The original Surface Pen for Surface Pro and Pro 2 sold for $79.99 retail. The Surface Pen that comes with the Surface Pro 3 now sells at $49.99 and the pens for Surface 3 will cost the same.  In fact they are the exact same pen so your Surface Pro 3 silver pen will work with Surface 3. Beginning on 05 May the Surface Pen will also be available in black, red and blue and can be pre-ordered for delivery on 05 May.

- The inking/writing experience on the Surface 3 is just like that on the Surface Pro 3. Very smooth and of course a click of the Surface Pen’s top bottom immediately opens OneNote so you can write down a quick note.

- The three position kickstand offers the same two angles that are on Surface 2 plus a third one that lays the Surface 3 in a position that will make it much more comfortable for inking and drawing.  

- The third kick stand position does not make the Surface 3 very lappable. The end of the kickstand, on my lap, extended right to the edge of my knees in a seated position. The second kick stand position has much more lapability just like on the Surface 2. I imagine there is more flexibility for this with the the fully adjustable kick stand on the Surface Pro 3.

- Big differences between the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 docks. The Surface 3 dock, which works much like the Surface Pro 3’s version, connects into the tablets Mini Display Port and USB 3.0 port on the right side of the device with only about an inch of your Surface 3 sitting above the top of the dock. On the Surface Pro 3 dock the USB 3.0 and Mini Display ports on the Surface remain accessible as about half of the Surface Pro 3 sits above the top of its dock.

- Although I could not use it at length the system was very fast as I explored a few apps, the desktop,  web browsing and system information pages. These retail display units are running a special demo package to turn on all of the systems features and app functionality but despite that it responded to my interaction faster than my Surface 2 does.  

- Surface 3 runs Windows 8.1, sometimes referred to as Windows 8.1 Home and not Windows 8.1 Pro like the Surface Pro 3 does.

- I asked about upgrading to Windows 10, as it was indicated as a possibility on the information placard on the Surface 3 display table, but the staff would not commit one way or the other about the Surface 3 running Windows 10. I think this is just not wanting to promise something at the retail level – just in case.  Microsoft is not going to release a brand new piece of hardware, specifically one they have built,  just before the general availability of Windows 10 and not be confident the device will run it.

- I was told during my visit that I could simply provide my info and I would be able to have a Surface 3 set aside for me to come in and pay for it on 05 May when the devices become available. No need to put it against any credit card. I am not sure if this is a policy specific to this store or if that is the same at all Microsoft Stores.

After seeing the Surface 3 in real life and getting to check it out a bit I am convinced this is going to be a huge hit. Between having the full version of Windows, the pen and inking capability with OneNote, getting all of this in a lightweight tablet that can also be a laptop at times, plus releasing it and the accessories in early May the Surface 3 is perfectly lined up to be a terrific back to school purchase.

It will also be an attractive option for someone who finds the Surface Pro 3 just too much for their budget but yet wants the Surface brand and quality.

If you haven’t done so yet be sure to check out the gallery from our visit with Surface 3.

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