2. Accessories & Hardware
Accessories – Type Cover and Surface Pen
First, let’s get to the 2 popular accessories used with Surface series, the Type Cover and the Surface Pen. The Type Cover magnetically clips to the side of the Surface 3 which works very well in my opinion. The grip is strong and it’ll be quite hard detaching it. It has inverted the function keys where F1 to F12 now requires an additional Fn keypress but made more common functions such as increasing display brightness and mute easily available. One minor complaint that many people have about the Surface 3 Type Cover is that the keys on the keyboard stick too closely, and I have to agree with them, it makes typing feel rather weird at first but it is easy to get used to. Maybe you’ll need the first few days to adjust to the spacing or you can just get the better Surface 4 Type Cover for the Surface 3, but that will cost more.
Notice too that the top portion of the Type Cover magnetically sticks to the lower portion of the Surface 3, which gives you a slight tilt for comfortable typing. It is also backlit so you can type easily in the dark.
The Surface Pen has 3 buttons, one for free-form selection, one for eraser mode and one to summon One Note, making it the One Pen of Note-taking. Well, in all seriousness, the Surface pen is very useful because the Surface is able to distinguish the pen from your finger. Need to scroll in Microsoft Edge? Use your fingers. Want to highlight something? Use the pen. It’s effectively a third control that just works very well with touch. It has a hover function when you put your pen close to the Surface 3. The pen is great for drawing too as it has minimal latency for the display to show up. You can live without it, but you’ll need to remember some of the gesture commands here. The Surface Pen requires a quadruple A battery for normal operation and 2 button batteries for the Bluetooth portion.
Physically, without the type cover and pen, a few side buttons (a volume rocker and lock screen) is all you have on the Surface 3. There is a logo of Microsoft on the right-hand side of the Surface 3 in landscape mode which brings up the Start Menu. You won’t be using it if you have the Type Cover, and the fact that they removed it in the Surface Pro 4 suggests it wasn’t really useful anyway.
In the mobile world, storage specifications are closely tied to RAM specifications for some reason. The Surface 3 plays by these rules too, so you’ll have a choice of 2 GB RAM/64 GB storage or 4 GB RAM/128 GB storage. Honestly, 2 GB of RAM isn’t going to be enough for many users, especially if you keep lots of tabs on your browser. Even the Windows operating system is going to use a minimum 1 GB of RAM.
Processor-wise, the Surface 3 is powered by a Quad Core Intel Atom x7-78700 processor (2 MB Cache, 1.6 GHz turbo boost to 2.4 GHz), it’s not a fast processor, but it was decent and power efficient. This also means that the Surface 3 doesn’t need a fan to cool it down, although the device could get quite hot running power hungry applications.
The cameras in the Surface 3 are really average. It has an 8 MP back camera, which is decent enough if you just need an occasional shot. It does not work well in low light, a problem which many other tablet and smartphones have. It lacks an LED flash as well, so do not try to take any photos in the dark if possible. The 3.5 MP front camera is decent enough for a Skype video call for sure, just don’t expect to take selfies with it.