Which CPUs will you find in the Surface Pro 3?

Which CPUs will you find in the Surface Pro 3?

Summary: The official spec sheet for the Surface Pro 3 is short on details about the components found inside. I've uncovered details about the exact i3, i5, and i7 CPUs used in the new devices, as well as their support for multiple monitors.


The official spec sheet for the Surface Pro 3, announced earlier this week, says that it will be available with "4th generation Intel Core i3, i5 or i7" processors.

That level of detail might be sufficient for some buyers, but judging by my inbox most ZDNet readers want more details. So I spoke with Microsoft engineers and got the inside story.

Inside the Surface Pro 3, introduced this week in New York by Microsoft's Panos Panay

The Surface Pro 3 is currently available for preorder in a total of five configurations, with three low-power 4th-generation Intel Core (Haswell) CPUs and a mix of memory/storage options. All configurations use solid-state storage and have MicroSD slots for expansion.

The base model, available for pre-order now and shipping in August, has an i3-4020Y processor, running at 1.5 GHz, with Intel HD4200 graphics. This model has only a single configuration, with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage.

First look: Thinner, lighter, more flexible

You've got Surface Pro 3 questions, I've got answers

The model that Microsoft showed off at its press event on May 20 contains an i5-4300U processor, running at a clock speed of 1.9 GHz and Turbo boost up to 2.9 GHz, with HD4400 graphics. (This is the same processor used in the Surface Pro 2.) It's available in two configurations, one with 4GB of memory and 128 GB of storage and the other with 8 GB of memory and 256 GB of storage. Both configurations will ship in the U.S. and Canada on June 20 and will be available worldwide in August.

The top model in the new line has an i7-4650U processor, running at a clock speed of 1.7 GHz with a maximum Turbo frequency of 3.3 GHz and HD5000 graphics. Like all Intel mobile processors in the 15W category, this is a dual-core part. Both configurations include 8GB of memory, with a choice of 256 GB or 512 GB of storage, and will ship worldwide in August.

Like its immediate predecessor, the Surface Pro 3 has a 42 watt-hour battery in a physical package that has been redesigned to fit in the much slimmer body. Microsoft made other changes to shrink the size and weight of the Surface Pro 3 motherboard to roughly half the size of its predecessor. One interesting detail: the motherboard has thin components on one side and thicker components on the other side to reduce its thickness substantially.

For those concerned about multiple monitor support, Microsoft engineers tell me they've tested these scenarios thoroughly. The i3-based model can comfortably drive two Full HD (1920x1200 at 60 Hz) displays, while the i5 and i7 models can power two external displays at a maximum resolution of 2880x1800 each at 60 Hz.

In all cases, you need to make the connection to the external monitors using the mini-DisplayPort adapter on the side of the device. For a single monitor, you can use an adapter to output to HDMI, DVI, or VGA. For dual displays you need either a DisplayPort hub or monitors that support DisplayPort chaining. The docking station (available in mid-August) includes a single mini-DisplayPort adapter and also allows the use of the matching adapter on the device itself, making multi-monitor support easy. In any configuration, you can continue to use the built-in touchscreen in addition to the external displays.

Topic: Microsoft Surface

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  • HDMI Monitor Support

    For those reading the article wondering if the SP3 is right for you, there is one sentence that might give you pause

    "In all cases, you need external monitors that support the mini-DisplayPort adapter, and you can continue to use the built-in touchscreen in addition to the external displays."

    Rest assured you can use monitors, TVs, etc, that only support VGA, or HDMI. You just need a fairly straightforward adapter, usually referred to as a dongle. On amazon they run under 10 dollars. From Microsoft or Apple you will pay up to $30.
    • I'm adding some details to the paragraph

      You are correct. I have a few additional details to add to the initial draft you see here. Thanks.
      Ed Bott
      • Why only 8 GB of RAM

        This is a stupid mistake MS is making again. We are not concerned with 256 GB or 512 GB of storage, we can always hookup an External SSD drive or regular drive to add storage. The problem is memory - RAM. For professionals who need to run Virtual Machines or run complex Excel spreadsheets or deal with lot s of data, 8 GB is a mare stupidity. Can somebody put some extra brain on MS to take the memory to at least 16 GB or more? How can you call a $ 2,000 machine with only 8 GB of RAM to be "ComputerName PRO"? This is 3rd iteration, I thought they themselves faced the same problem of running VMs on the high end machines like these. For god's sake, please - PUT 16 GB of RAM (memory) - make is available ASAP. You are crippling a beautiful machine.
        • Go for an HP Z mobile workstation for Virtual Machines!

          I'd not run Virtual Machines on this kind of machines, they are not Workstations,,, if I were in such need, I'd get an HP Z Mobile Workstation (http://www8.hp.com/us/en/campaigns/workstations/zbook-14.html).... Still this is a full blown pc, but not for Visualization I'd say.
        • It could be a tech constraint.

          Remember that most notebooks use DDR3 memory.

          The Surface Pro 3 uses LPDDR3 memory (2 x 4 GB), which is unavailable for general purchase and a already a fair bit more expensive.

          It's possible that there aren't any 1 x 8 GB LPDDR3 sticks ready for the mass market in general.

          Look at the MBP for example. It uses DDR3L RAM instead of LPDDR3, despite the latter's advantages. It can reach up to 16 GB of memory.

          The MBA which does use LPDDR3 can only get up to 8 GB (2 x 4 GB).

          If there are any 8 GB LPDDR3 sticks (2 x 8 GB = 16 GB), I can only assume that they're very expensive.
          • On this, the MacBook Pro Retina, and the MacBook Air,

            the RAM is directly soldered to the mainboard, not in stick form, which means it's impossible to upgrade as higher capacity LPDDR3 becomes available. Which is why I'm also complaining about this device, those Macs, and any other computer (desktop or laptop) that doesn't allow for upgrades of RAM, CPU, or solid-state storage.

            Forced obsolescence at its finest, if you ask me.

            Even so, had Microsoft (and Apple, for that matter) wanted to, both could have placed more RAM in any of these machines with small design changes, but most likely at the cost of either size or battery life.
          • Very well observed

            Small and light means better portability, but sometimes also higher prices when acquired and shorter life span. All my main use laptops had to have their battery replaced.
          • has to be thin and light and you give up

            upgradability to do that. all custom components to get that nice light thin device that everyone wants.
          • Um

            Adding 16GB instead of 8GB, or 8GB instead of 4GB means no increase in footprint. How? Look at existing antiquated technology - the memory sockets only come in one size but, yikes and gadzooks, you can get 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB kits for the same machine and the larger capacity sizes take up exactly no more space within the chassis.

            And are people told they want it thin and light? Are these the same ones that think CPUs are made to withstand high temperatures for long periods of time and then gripe when their expensive machine has problems 18 month later but the warranty covered the gizmo for 3 or 12 months at best? Why didn't the company's advertising team tell the customer all the details? What would the company lose in the process if they were total and ethical with discussing details?
          • Or, in one word:

          • McFly on the SP3

            "I'm your density. I mean, your destiny."
          • isnt that simple

            You forget the size of one of those ram sticks you are mentioning. you have to shrink down the electronics to fit the form factor. And if you look at how they did that they went from a memory stick with ram chips distributed evenly on both sides of the pcb(stick) to an IC (chip). basically reducing the memory from multiple chips on a board to a single chip. the chip has a physical size constraint and hence a capacity limit directly related to the technology of the fab its made on. Samsung just last year created the 1st 4MB lpddr3 chips (which i believe were used in the surface pro 2(hence the 8gig option at that point). to increase to 16 Gig you would need to allocate 2x the space for ram on the surface pro 3 board( not likely considering the size of the chips) or wait for technology to keep shrinking so an IC manufacturer can make a 8Gig LPDDR3 chip.

          • Agreed

            Wild I was just typing exactly the same thing when I saw your response. 8GB is more than enough memory for a laptop/tablet hybrid What in Gods name are people wanting to do wit these machines? If you need to run Some insane excel sheet once in a while use RDP.
          • A few Facts:

            A "Retna" Macbook Pro, can be ordered with up to 16 GB of RAM, and you can replace the Solid State drive (even tough it's expensive to do so). So if you start with 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM, and 1TB PCIe-based Flash Storage, how soon till you need an upgrade? It would be great to have both the thin, and light, and still be ale to add more RAM, and a 1TB PCIe-based Flash Storage (user upgradable)
            I hate trolls also
          • Its got more space

            The MacBook pro has a lot more internal space to use for replaceable parts.
        • chillax

          I'm pretty sure there are multiple configurations in the forementioned... memory is always an issue, maybe it's time to step out of binary transistors and look for something more quantum....idk
        • Is memory expansion with "Readyboost" any good?

          I'm in the same boat. I have to do ERP demos on virtual images and 8 GB RAM is not enough. I've looked at the HP Z-Book but would love something that is small and compact and that can convert to tablet mode, since I'm travelling a lot and I'm sitting in meetings where I'd like to use it to take notes. Some reviews of the Pro 3 that I saw suggested to increase memory with an SD card by using "Readyboost". Does anyone know if that's any good?
          • You need new friends

            ReadyBoost is a Vista-era tech. It has nothing to do with Windows 8.1 on a system equipped with flash memory.
            Ed Bott
          • Re: Vista-era tech….

            Which when released as with Windows 8 was defended to the hilt.
        • Microsoft is targetting a different audience

          I think that Microsoft's target audience is 3 types: 1: The on-the-go business professional, 2: The College Student taking less development intensive courses, and 3: The artist. While you have great ideas with what you want to do with the machine, there simply isn't one in tablet/pc form that is capable yet. I am looking to do the same things you are anning to do. Microsoft has put out a great product in the surface pro 3, as long as you understand who their target audience is. Remember...they are saying it is: "The Tablet that COULD replace your laptop." They left out WILL because they know that this machine is not meant for some professionals requiring extra juice.