My primary daily computer is a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and it continues to prove it's the best computer I've ever owned. However, I spent the last 10 days testing out the new Surface 3 with AT&T integrated LTE service while on my daily commute and on a week-long business trip to New York City.
Experiences with the integrated LTE
Free hotel WiFi is rarely fast and stable enough to get work done so many business professional travel with a WiFi hotspot from their cellular provider or other device capable of providing a fast connection. Every iPad I have owned has had support for integrated Verizon Wireless service and I found it essential for working while on the road.
The SIM card slot is located at the bottom left corner of the device, under where the Type Cover keyboard connects to the Surface 3. I experienced download speeds ranging from 14 Mbps to 25 Mbps using the Surface 3 with AT&T service in New York and Washington.
The integrated AT&T LTE connected in every location I tested it out and the device performed well at maintaining the connection. I was able to use the LTE for email, streaming music, streaming video, social networking, and web browsing. The Surface 3 battery easily lasted more than a full day of work over the last 10 days.
We also experienced a rather damaging wind storm this past weekend and lost power for 24 hours. I used the Surface 3 to continue working, checking on the status of the power outages, and stream ESPN live stats during the Seahawks preseason game.
AT&T includes an All Access utility on the Surface 3 where you can monitor your usage, find wireless hotspots, and manage your account. I understand that you should be able to use wireless tethering with a DataConnect plan, but when I tapped on the mobile hotspot option the page stated that this device was not compatible with this functionality.
I didn't load up a ton of engineering applications or try to test the limits of the Atom processor as my focus with the Surface 3 was on its LTE connectivity. The Surface 3 is an impressive device that provides users with a great Surface experience at a reasonable price. I just wish this is what Microsoft had released a couple years ago instead of the RT version I bought my daughter that is no longer relevant.
Surface 3 vs Surface Pro 3
The Microsoft Surface 3 is the smaller sibling to the Surface Pro 3 with an Atom-based processor, smaller display, and smaller keyboard. The smaller keyboard and display didn't seem to impact my typical usage much, but the limited three-position integrated kickstand did annoy me. The Surface Pro 3 supports a full range of positions with its hinge design.
The Surface 3 has the power and volume buttons on the top left while the Surface Pro 3 has the power button on top and the volume button on the left side. I kept hitting the power button while trying to control the volume on the Surface 3 and had to retrain myself to look and feel before just pressing the button.
The headphone jack also moves from the top left to the bottom right corner, but this move actually made it easier to keep my headphone cable out of the way while watching movies on the airplane.
It was great to travel with the Surface 3 and be able to charge it up using the same microUSB cable that I used to charge up my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and LG G4. Use of microUSB for charging is very convenient for travelers trying to pack light.
Buying a Surface 3 with LTE from AT&T
The 64GB Surface 3 with LTE is priced at $599.99 with no-contract on AT&T. You can also sign up for a 2-year contract to save $100 or pay through an installment plan at $30 per month for 20 months.
You can also save $200 on the Microsoft Surface 3 if you purchase a Lumia Windows phone via AT&T Next. You must sign a 2-year agreement for both the Surface and Lumia to take advantage of this offer.
If you are currently an AT&T wireless subscriber then you can add the Surface 3 for $10 per month and use your shared AT&T Mobile Share plan data. If you just want to use the Surface 3 with AT&T then you have the option to purchase a DataConnect plan. Plan options include 250MB for $14.99 per month, 3GB for $30 per month, and 5GB for $50 per month. These DataConnect plans also include access to almost 30,000 AT&T WiFi hotspots around the country.