I’m rocking the I5 256GB version, just felt that with the storage and ram, it sat nicely mid of road to accomplish my daily task with min concern for running out of storage. The device comes adorned in the usual Microsoft packaging for its Surface line with the exception you’re presented with a gray box with the applicable number 3 present. The specs have been published and discussed at length, so I won’t tire you with those details, but will provide a link (SP3 specs) for your viewing. Included in the box is the SP3, Pen, 4A battery, 2 pamphlets and charger with USB connector for charging second device, nice move Microsoft.
Once unpacked and plugged in, setup began. I had one weird occurrence during setup, got to a gray screen with the words, Microsoft Surface and a small spinning blue circle that after 20 minutes of viewing left me feeling I was witnessing a loop or some issue. Held down the power, finally restarted and I was safe and sound at the logon screen. Now logged in, a series updates to include the just released firmware took place, this lasted what seemed like an eternity, actually 2-3 hours. Even then, I went back into the settings to manually check and confirm no further updates were available. Highly recommend that process before doing anything with the SP3 to ensure it’s ready for prime time.
By this time, I’d achieved a full charge, recalling that out of box, it had a charge of about 85%. Off the charge true mobility began, proceeded to the sofa to experience the new kickstand / lapability. The extra degree of angle proved the difference in providing stable use on lap. I owned the Surface 2 which had the two position Kickstand, while that was good, SP3’s kickstand is a marked improvement. I’d been in store prior to purchase, getting a hands on with the displays and marveling how thin and light it was compared to previous versions. However, it wasn’t long in the hands that even though it’s lighter and thinner, it’s still heavy and you’ll feel that weight within 10 minutes or so. The SP3 is definitely a lap, flat surface or two-handed device.
The display is awesome, shifting to the 3 x 2 ratio did wonders for portrait as it both feels better, removing that awkwardness and whatever you’re viewing, looks more natural. Having a nice sunny day here in the PACNW, I took the SP3 outside to test the viewing. While you could make out what’s on the display, the glare was over-bearing and made the experience unpleasant. Indoors, the display is pleasing, the auto brightness does well to adapt to different levels of light / dark and unlike my time with previous devices, didn’t find myself constantly having to manually adjust. Personally, I think from day one, the Surface line of tablets have had good displays, readable and looked descent next to some higher res devices.
I like setting up my new devices as new, vice bringing in setup and / or apps etc. from previous savings. Installing and configuring was a snap, no issues. I must mention that during the update and more so during the firmware install, the fan kicked in and was noticeably loud. I felt the back for heat an observed warmth near the upper left above the SD card slot if you’re looking at the back, but it was never hot to touch. Subsequently, and to date, fan has not come on nor warmth felt on back. After the initial installs which included Office, I’m down to 205GB from 211GB, there’s more to load, but I’m comfortable in that storage space won’t be a concern. Could’ve gotten by with 128GB, but wanted the 8GB ram to ensure a minimum 36 months of updates, future proof hopefully.
Recall that I took the SP3 off charger at 100% and the advertised battery life is 9 hours of web browsing. While I didn’t watch a movie or stress the device with various testing software, I achieved 11 hours usage before plugging in with 10% remaining. My use was web browsing, watched a few videos (one approx. 25 minutes long), using One Note, the Pen, installing apps and sending emails. The only game played was Sudoku, wanted to play because the Pen works with. I didn’t intentionally keep my usage simple, but looking back, that’s probably the typical first day use for most of us.
The keyboard is a real good improvement and the track pad feel and function is equally improved. I’m composing this article with it, travel is good and for a removable accessory, it simply works. The added incline is welcomed. Like many, I wished Microsoft had included it with the tablet. That argument of many complaints from original iteration, people wanted choice in colors etc. Bundle it with keyboard an allow the customer to choose the color or discount the device accordingly if they don’t want one. I was eager to write with the Pen, experience the paper like feel so many had mentioned in various reviews. I can say, the experience is real, place the Pen to display and writing is effortless and accurate.
Over the past 24 hours, I’ve yet to use my laptop or desire to grab a tablet. My goal in buying the SP3 was as Microsoft touted during the keynote, have a tablet that can replace my laptop. Yes, it’s only been 24 hours, but having the SP3 in hand, I can see the case for it being an all-in-one device. Just keep in mind, it’s not light and it’s a 12″ display, So bedtime reading and one-handed use is a no no. Yes, with the kickstand you can prop on your chest while lying, but it’ll still be awkward at best.
To be honest, there was a period when a let down crept in and for a moment I considered returning. That’s regarding the tablet use and not being able to hold one-handed for any decent length of time. But, in the same moment, I looked at the SP3 for what it is and not what I want it to be and the feeling of let down quickly disappeared. A tablet with laptop and in some cases desktop like innards, 12″ display (10 point touchscreen), 8GB ram, 256GB storage, Pen, a removable keyboard and more, got it.
Then what’s my verdict after the first 24 hours? The SP3 is snappy, have yet to see any lag. When compared to the last Surface device, this is pretty much a total re-design and the improvements are nice and depending on your usage, the SP3 can easily be your all-in-one mobile device. Perhaps Microsoft should have presented it in that light, an All-In-One Mobile device vice a replacer. Sure same premise, but as you know, it’s how you say things that determines the reaction.
Hence for me, it’s been a replacer, I’m not seeking to ascertain what it can’t do. I’ll do what I normally do with a tablet and / or laptop and when I can’t accomplish a task will determine its length of stay within these walls.
If you’ve got one, leave a comment with your experiences / thoughts. If you’re on the fence to buy, I hope I’ve provided an average user experience that can aid in your decision to buy or not.
Let me conclude with this last reflection. Whether you’re on board or not with the Surface line of tablets and the premise thereof. One thing is truly evident from the original Surface to SP3, the changes / modifications are a true indicator that the folks at Microsoft are listening, and that’s refreshing.
Update: As I’m editing, the low battery alert (10%) appears. I unplugged this morning at approx. 9:30 AM 100% charge, it’s just past 9:00 PM. Near 12 hours today.
Update 2: Charge from 6% to 100% battery life took just over 2 hours.
Update 3: Eight (8) months later, the SP3 continues to be an all-around device. Although usage is plentiful, the Microsoft argument of replacing other devices is yet to be realized. More to come.