Wrap Up: We want the Type Cover bundled
After using the Surface 3 for the past few weeks, it's clear that Microsoft made the right decision in discontinuing Windows RT. Not only is the Surface 3 a faster, better designed tablet than its predecessors, but thanks to the use of full Windows 8.1, it's significantly more capable as well.
The full metal body of the Surface 3 makes it one of the best designed, most attractive Windows tablets on the market. Throw in great features like the three-position kickstand, the hidden microSD card slot, the full-sized USB port, the 3:2 display, and Microsoft has nailed the design of this tablet.
Performance-wise I was impressed with how the Atom x7-Z8700 fared in everyday tasks. While the Surface 3 isn't the ideal device for power users wanting to do heavy Photoshopping, videos or large spreadsheets, the tablet performs well for browsing the web, accessing apps, editing documents and even some light gaming. The jump to x86 provides significantly better app compatibility across the board.
The Type Cover delivers a surprisingly good typing experience considering its slim profile, and although the trackpad isn't great, I appreciated the ability to angle the Cover thanks to a second row of magnets. The Surface Pen is also fantastic, delivering an extremely responsive experience complemented by easily-accessible features right on the pen itself.
However, while the Surface 3 delivers a great and versatile tablet experience, I'm still not convinced that the combination of a kickstand and Type Cover makes it a suitable laptop alternative. Yes, you can write documents on your lap if you want, but the kickstand only tilts to three positions, making it somewhat awkward to use in this position.
But the main problem I have with the Surface 3 relates to Microsoft's pricing structure. At $499 for the base model with 64 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM (and $599 for 128GB/4GB), the Surface 3 is priced acceptably against tablets and hybrids that provide similar performance and feature sets. Except the Type Cover isn't included. That's a $130 extra which hurts the product from a value standpoint.
Without the Type Cover, the Surface 3 is a regular Windows tablet with a kickstand that is perhaps worth $500. But with the Type Cover, the Surface transforms into a decent, capable hybrid device that can be used for both entertainment and productivity. The Cover integrates with the tablet so well that makes it the hero of this product and an essential accessory to complete the Surface experience.
If the Surface 3 were $500 and included the Type Cover, I could easily recommend it. But considering this combination is actually $630, Microsoft has basically priced itself out of contention.
To put the price of the Surface 3 plus Type Cover in perspective, you can currently pick up an Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi, a hybrid with a 12-inch display, included keyboard dock and Core M CPU, for $599 from the Microsoft Store. Atom-based Transformers with included keyboard docks are as cheap as $280.
Had Microsoft placed the versatile Surface 3 at a more attractive price point, it would be one of the most attractive tablet-laptop hybrids on the market, despite a few minor flaws. Unfortunately, at $630 with the all-important Type Cover, the Surface 3 becomes harder to recommend.
Pros: Excellent metal design includes a kickstand and full-sized USB port. Generally good performance from Atom SoC. Type Cover and Surface Pen are great accessories that make the Surface 3 a versatile device. Windows 10 should make this an even better product.
Cons: Type Cover is not included and is sold as an expensive (yet must-have) $130 accessory. Not great as a laptop. Battery life is somewhat disappointing.