Product Surface 3
Specs 10.8in, 1920x1280, 3:2 aspect ratio, ClearType Full HD Plus display, quad-core Intel Cherry Trail Atom x7-Z8700 processor, 2GB or 4GB or RAM, 64GB or 128GB storage, 3.5MP front and 8MP rear cameras, Windows 8.1, 267x187x8.1mm, 622g
Price From £419
MICROSOFT HAS BEEN WORKING HARD to offer buyers an all-in-one device that can work as a tablet and a laptop since it unveiled the first Surface models all the way back in 2012.
The firm has had some success at the top end of the market with its Pro line of tablet-come-laptops, but has failed to really succeed in the mid to low end.
Traditionally this has been more to do with software than hardware, as the stripped-down Windows RT operating system used on the basic Surface line cut back on many key functionalities, such as legacy application support.
The Intel Atom-powered Surface 3 is designed to fix this issue and is the first semi-affordable, own-brand Microsoft tablet to come running a full version of Windows 8.1.
The Surface 3 has a similar design to its big brother, the Surface Pro 3, and, other than the Surface 3's smaller 267x187x8.1mm dimensions and 622g weight, the two convertibles look all but identical from a distance.
Both feature a silver magnesium chassis and are designed for portrait use. Microsoft has placed the capacitive Windows/Home button on the bottom of the device's front face and physical power button on its right side.
However, once we got up close we noticed a number of subtle design changes on the Surface 3, some of which are positive, others less so. On a positive front, Microsoft has sensibly replaced the proprietary charger used on the Surface Pro 3 with a basic USB 2.0 input.
This is a huge step forward in our view as it allows the Surface 3 to be charged with any microUSB charger with a high enough wattage. So you won't be left in the lurch if you forget to pack the Surface 3's bundled 13W charger when leaving the office or home.
The inclusion of a charger port, which also acts as a regular USB 2.0 input, also means that the Surface 3 is fairly well stocked when it comes to connectivity options. Microsoft has loaded the Surface 3 with a full sized USB 3.0 input, mini display micro, microUSB 2.0/power jack and microSD slot.
Moving onto the less positive changes, Microsoft bizarrely chose to take a step backwards with the Surface 3's kickstand and designed it to have only three standing options. This makes using the Surface 3 as a laptop a little trickier than with the Surface Pro 3, which has a kickstand that can be manually adjusted to stand at custom angles.
Microsoft has also chosen not to bundle the Surface 3 with an active stylus, as it has on past Surface devices, meaning that, like the Type Cover keyboard attachments, buyers who want to take advantage of the convertible's full functionality will have to shell out more cash.
This would be fine were it not for the fact that the Surface Pen costs £45 and the Type Cover costs a hefty £110.
We were fairly impressed with the Surface 3 in terms of build quality. Lugging it around London in a satchel and using it as our primary work and personal tablet and laptop, the convertible managed to survive an accidental encounter with a stair rail and a rude tube commuter's elbow.
Next: Display and operating system