Microsoft announces Surface 3 tablet
Today, Microsoft has finally unveiled its long-rumored Surface 3 tablet. As suspected, it is powered by one of Intel's newest Atom SoCs, the x7-Z8700. It's an x86 processor with support for 64-bit instructions, which allowed Microsoft to install the full-fledged 64-bit Windows 8.1 (or Windows 8.1 Pro for business customers) instead of resorting to the much-criticized RT version. 1 year of subscription to Office 365 Personal and OneDrive (1 TB) is offered for free. Inbuilt storage capacity and RAM size varies with configuration: for $500, the buyers get 64 GB and 2 GB, respectively, while for $100 extra both can be doubled. Standard connectivity includes dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/n/g/ac and Bluetooth 4.0, but both 64 GB and 128 GB variants will be also offered with optional LTE - that will of course cost more, but it is not yet revealed how much. While not advertised, WiDi (Wireless Display) is supported by the SoC and should be available if the installed wireless module comes from Intel.
The list of physical ports consists of full-size USB 3.0, microUSB (for charging), mini-DisplayPort, microSD slot, 3.5 mm combo audio jack and a connector for the magnetic keyboard cover. The latter has to be purchased separately, just like the Surface digitizer pen (which is now available in four colors: blue, red, black and the original silver). Of course, the tablet's 10.8-inch display also supports the usual 10-point multi-touch. It offers a high resolution of 1920x1280 pixels (213 ppi) with the same unusual 3:2 aspect ratio as the Surface Pro 3. An ambient light sensor should help it automatically adjust the brightness depending on the lighting conditions.
Two cameras are installed: 3.5 MP in the front and 8 MP (with autofocus) in the back, both capable of shooting 1080p video. The tablet is quite light at 622 g (1.37 lbs) but would still be unwieldy as a camera with its dimensions of 267 x 187 x 8.7 mm (10.52 x 7.36 x 0.34 inch), so Microsoft mentions that the rear camera will be particularly useful for scanning barcodes and capturing images of documents. The tablet can allegedly last a full work or school day with promised 10 hours of battery life (measured with video playback) but the exact battery capacity is not disclosed. Both the included 13 W microUSB charger and any other microUSB can be used, though of course the charging process will take longer in case of low-current adapters usually bundled with smartphones.
The new Surface 3 can be pre-ordered now and will be on sale from May 5 (May 7 in some markets) but according to Microsoft's Corporate Vice President Panos Panay, all Microsoft stores will have trial devices available already tomorrow, April 1. This will allow potential buyers to decide if the tablet suits their needs before ordering it.
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