The Microsoft Surface 3 Finally Arrives

On March 31, Microsoft formally unveiled its next generation Surface 3 tablet. The device is as rumored, featuring full Windows 8.1, an Intel Atom processor, and a fanless design. However, with the device now "official," Microsoft has given out more details about this device.

Is the Surface 3 a winner, or will it suffer the same fate as the prior generation Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets? Let's take a closer look.

Solid specifications, but a bit priceyAccording to AnandTech, the Surface 3 features the following specifications:

  • 10.8-inch 1920-by-1280 display
  • Intel Atom x7-8700
  • 64GB (with 2GB of RAM) or 128GB (with 4GB of RAM) storage options
  • LTE option
  • 3.5MP front-facing camera, 8MP rear-facing camera
  • 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity

The performance of this device, particularly the 128GB model, should be quite good. The new Atom should offer a solid improvement in CPU/graphics performance from the prior generation Surface 2.

Full compatibility with all traditional Windows applications should also be a huge selling point. Not only is this a win for customers who want to run traditional productivity applications, but the device should be able to run quite a lot of traditional Windows games at respectable performance/quality levels.

The lower storage/RAM model comes priced at $499 and the higher storage/RAM model costs an extra $100 at $599. Microsoft will also sell you a "Type Cover" (i.e., a keyboard) for an additional $130, so in order to get the full benefit of this device, it'll cost you either $629 or $729 depending on your storage/memory choice.

Much better than the Surface RT and Surface 2, for what it's worthThe Surface 3 is a huge step above what Microsoft delivered with the prior generation Surface RT and its successor, the Surface 2. It has an Atom processor that I think will deliver respectable performance in both Windows Store and traditional desktop applications, the latter point alone guaranteeing that it's vastly more functional than its predecessors.

Further, I like what Microsoft is doing with the storage/RAM pricing. For an extra $100, Microsoft gives the customer twice as much storage and twice as much RAM (both of which should help with the longevity of the device), which I think is a compelling enough offer to drive a sell-up for users interested in this device.

The big question, then, is whether these improvements will be enough to make this device a "success" for Microsoft. I have no doubt that the Surface 3 will sell better than the prior Surface RT and Surface 2 by virtue of the fact that Microsoft is delivering a lot more value to the customer with this device than it did with the prior ones. Whether that'll be enough for Microsoft to turn a profit on Surface 3 -- after factoring in R&D and marketing spend -- time will tell.

Availability and, hey, where's the Surface Pro 4?The Surface 3 is available for preorder now, with shipments of the Wi-Fi only models happening "by May 5th" and the LTE-capable models "by June 26th" according to Microsoft's website. This should be in-time for the back to school shopping season.

What I find interesting, though, is that Microsoft didn't announce an update to the current Surface Pro 3 models, which currently feature Intel's 4th generation Core processors, to include the recently launched 5th generation Core chips. In order to hit the back to school season, I expect Microsoft to either update the current Surface Pro 3 models to include the newer chips, or I expect a new industrial design based on those new chips or, perhaps, the lower-power Core M in order to enable a fanless design.

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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