Microsoft's Surface 3: It's still not my laptop replacement

If a college student or mobile professional asked Mary Jo Foley whether to spend roughly $700 on a Surface 3 (with the separately priced keyboard and pen) or on a laptop, she'd still recommend a laptop.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Today, May 5, is the day that Microsoft's newest Surface tablet goes on sale in the U.S. and a number of other countries. (It will be available in even more countries as of May 7.)

As many know, Microsoft advertises its Surface devices as the tablets that can replace your laptop. For me -- even with the improvements Microsoft has made to this model (especially the new 3:2 aspect ratio) -- a clamshell laptop is still my personal computing device of choice.

I've had a chance to use the Surface 3 as one of my mobile devices for the past month or so. It's a well-designed, portable and fast-enough device. I am happy that Microsoft seems to have fixed Connected Standby so that when I'm not using the device -- unlike the case with some previous Surface models -- the battery doesn't rapidly deplete itself.

I'll leave the strenuous battery-life and performance tests to "real" reviewers. I will say that I routinely was able to get more than seven hours of battery life with on-and-off use with the device. And while the Intel Atom-based Surface 3 obviously isn't as fast as an Intel Core-based device, I found opening apps, watching video and browsing the Web to be acceptable.

Yet, if a college student or mobile professional asked me whether to spend roughly $700 on a Surface 3 (with the separately priced keyboard and pen) or on a laptop, I think I'd still recommend a laptop. I say this as someone who almost never detaches the keyboard from her Surface. If you're someone who might use the Surface as a tablet only on a regular basis, your preference might be different.

The continued lack of lapability with Surfaces is a big drawback for me -- and I'd imagine might be the same for those who might end up typing more than briefly on anything other than a relatively sturdy platform.

I also was surprised to find that the little bit Microsoft shaved off the size of the new Surface 3 keyboard to make it fit properly on the 10.8-inch Surface 3 affected me. Granted I type all day, pretty much every day, which isn't true for many. But my hands felt cramped by the smaller keyboard on the new Surfaces compared with the slightly larger one with the older models.

The new Surface 3 is a 64-bit Intel Atom x7 (Cherry Trail)-based tablet that's the new little sister to Microsoft's flagship Surface Pro 3.A Surface 3 tablet with 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, minus the add-on keyboard, starts at $499. It ships with Windows 8.1, but will freely upgrade for consumers to Windows 10 for one year following Windows 10's general availability (a period which will start some time this summer).

I've said before and I'll say again: I wish Microsoft's Surface team would make a laptop that's as nice, quality-wise, as the Surface tablets.

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