Surface 3: Looking Better By The Day

What do you think of Surface 3? You can read the reviews and most of what I’ve read is that it’s a brilliant little machine. There’s generally some balking at the price, but setting that aside for a minute:

I DO need an all-day full-Windows device. That is, something that will run legacy applications.  Previous versions of Surface (not Pro) have given me the all-day experience, and the Surface Pros have given me full-Windows with support for legacy applications. It just seemed that I couldn’t have both.

When I need to be completely portable, and by that I mean walking around with my Surface (any model) in one hand here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Weight: Surface 3
    178 grams (0.39 lbs =6.24 ounces) is going to make a difference.
    That is the  difference in weight between Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3
    Surface 3:          622 g (1.37 lbs)
    Surface Pro 3: 800 g (1.76 lbs)
  • Screen Resolution: It’s a draw
    Screen resolution probably won’t matter given  what I do when standing.  I’m usually writing, sketching, doing annotations on the screen, or navigating through a presentation. I think it’s a draw.
    Surface 3:           1920 x 1280 
    Surface Pro 3:  2160 x 1440
  • Battery life: Surface 3
    Battery life is a state of mind and more than just the difference in the specifications. If I am not absolutely confident that my device will go the distance on its battery, I have to bring along and use the charger. That’s an anchor on a glider and completely changes my perception of the device. For what I do when standing,
    (presentations and learning events) I need to know that I that run about 3-4 hours with confidence. I frequently use Skype to share my screen and Skype is a battery killer. It also puts me at the outside edge of what I can do with my Surface Pro 3.  I plug in the Surface Pro 3 at breaks, and that’s a drag.
    If the Surface 3 behaves like its predecessors then I should be able to leave the anchor behind.
  • Charging: Surface 3
    Finally I can charge a Surface with micro USB chargers. That means that I should be able to use readily available battery packs and phone chargers or use my Surface charger with other devices. 
  • Size: Surface 3 ?
    It’s hard to know until I get my hands on Surface 3. The aspect ratio is the same as Surface Pro 3, and I really like that and from what I’ve read I expect that it will be easier to manage in one hand while I’m writing or sketching with the other.
    Surface 3:          267.0 x 187.0 x 8.7 mm
    Surface Pro 3: 292.1 x 201.4 x 9.1 mm

The principle complaint I’m seeing in the reviews is the cost. 

I think that the most expensive device is the one you don’t use. Second to that is a device that you need to supplement with another one. 

I could use a Surface 3 for a lot things that I do every day. It looks like it will handle my most frequently challenging application (walking around while talking, writing) for hours at a time. And finally free of the nagging concern about battery life, this could be a great device for me.

What do you think? Is there a Surface 3 in your future?

Surface 3 Review

Surface MVP Frank Garcia shared this review from

We Tested the Surface 3 (translation by Microsoft Translator).

Here are a few of the pictures that appear in the review.

Notice the size of the Surface 3 keyboard. The keys are the same size but the keyboard is a little smaller.


And here is a shot of the Surface 3 attached to and on top of a Surface Pro 3 keyboard. This gives you a pretty good idea of the size.


And here are the ports. Micro USB for charging and data, USB, and mini-display port.


Be sure to read the whole review. There’s lots of great first-hand impressions.

We Tested the Surface 3 (translation by Microsoft Translator).

And after you have read the review here are some more interesting things to explore.

StaffPad–Made for Surface Pen

Yesterday I wrote about Killer Applications. The one that grabbed my attention today is StaffPad. Follow the link and watch the video (shown using a Surface Pro 3 pen) and see someone writing sheet music faster than you could do it with pen and paper.

This quote from the website captures the heart of pen computing applied to a human endeavour..


From the website: “StaffPad is a brand new class of notation app, designed to take advantage of the advanced pen and touch input found on Microsoft Surface* and other compatible Windows 8.1 devices. As you write notation using the pen, StaffPad recognises your handwritten music and converts it into a beautifully  typeset score which you can further edit, playback, print and share….

*Surface 3, Surface Pro or compatible device required “

For some great insights about why the Pen (the Surface Pen) was an essential aspect of this application see: StaffPad Blog – Looking through windows

Check out these great opportunities.

Surface Pen: Killer Applications

Killer Application – a software application so compelling that it drives sales of the hardware.


The Killer Applications that brought me into the world of pen computing were things that let me use a pen, when really – only a pen would do the job. In the early days that was MindManager. It let me create Mind Maps in much the way that I had done for decades only faster and you could edit it later. It was one of the very first Windows  (Tablet PC Edition) applications that was fully pen-enabled, and it remains today, one of the best.


Later I found Sketchbook. It’s primarily a tool for visual artists but I’ve been using it since it’s introduction as way to naturally express ideas both visual and conceptual. It’s super fast to learn; just like a pen on a paper napkin only it is pressure sensitive, has endless options for pens and colours, and layers.  Just last night I was trying to help a friend understand sound dispersion in a horizontal plane. After waving my arms around for a couple of minutes it was clear that I needed to approach this in a different way.  I switched modes and pulled out my Surface Pro 3 and drew a simple sketch of the concept in under a minute. He understood immediately. 

OneNote is another tool that was pen-enabled from the start. say that the pen and paper model is dead and with that, so too is the idea of notebooks and tabs and pages. Well I don’t see OneNote as an analog to paper based notebooks of past, but as a natural form of organization.  With that you get all the benefits of linking, embedding, and editing that you expect. In addition you get to do annotation with the pen, and amazingly, you can search and find key words and phrases that you wrote with the pen. 

Killer Applications are the ones that make me reach for my Surface Pen.  These are the applications I use daily,  and I just glanced down and noticed that all them are pinned to my Taskbar.

Do you have any Surface killer applications?

Check out these great opportunities.

Panos Panay and the Surface team Reddit AMA

Great questions and answers in today’s reddit AMA

“Good afternoon, Reddit, we are the Microsoft Surface team. On Tuesday, we announced the addition of Surface 3: our newest tablet that works like a laptop. It’s a killer device and we know you’ll enjoy it!

Super pumped to be here for the AMA – thanks for how great you’ve all been to us. We only have an hour, but we’ll do the best we can.”

The big topic of discussion was Surface 3 of course.  Nothing concrete about Surface Pro 4, but that’s not a surprise. 
“No mystery, we are always working on different products and we will not stop being relentless about it… I think we both know that we can’t talk about what and when :-)”

It’s a fun read, and there are lots of gems in there.

Great questions and answers in today’s reddit AMA

And here are some great opportunities to explore.

Surface 3: Side By Side

Okay – you might be expecting a side by side comparison of Surface 3 to Surface Pro 3 or Surface 2.  I might do that later, perhaps in May when they are shipping. For now you can join me as I look at this picture and try to imagine how much smaller the Surface 3  will feel compared to the Surface Pro 3.


Back to Side By Side

I’d like to think about working two-up: that is working with two machines side by side. I like to work with multiple screens. I do that now with my Surface Pro 3 and my Surface Pro 2. I run Mouse Without Borders (a virtual keyboard and mouse sharing application) that gives me most of the utility of running a single machine with an external monitor, AND I  have both processors working for me. This is great when I’m doing solid heads-down work at a remote location.  Usually I’m doing research or viewing outcomes on one machine and creating content on the other. I can imagine using the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 side by side. Assuming that I won’t have to think about power management with the Surface 3   I’d probably use the keyboard on the Surface 3 and use the Power Cover with the Surface Pro 3.  That should get me through a very long day of remote work.

I don’t want to suggest that the Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3 are not up to the task of productive work alone. It’s just that I really like to have a couple of screens going for certain kinds of work. The portable monitors that I’ve seen are expensive, heavy, and have much lower screen resolution than I want for this application.  To get anything comparable to the Surface 3, you’d have to spend nearly the same money,  and then you’d still just have a monitor not a second computer.

I’m thinking that a Surface 3 would make a great companion for my Surface Pro 3 for those side-by-side applications.  I would get much  longer battery life  than I get with the Surface Pro 2 I’m using now. And how nice it would be that they use the same Pen.

Be sure to check out these special offers:

Surface 3: Long May You Run

I have my Surface Pro 3 and I recently picked up a couple of Surface Battery Covers. Each one of these gives me a couple more hours of run time away from AC power. And while it’s great to be able to do that it doesn’t mean that I get to relax and forget about the battery life issue. It just means that I get to think about it in a different way.  I have to charge up the Battery Covers and I have to think about when I will carry them around.

One of the great things about the Surface and Surface 2 was the battery life. Hours and hours or worry free computing.  And I’ve often wished that my original Surface had a Pen and could run legacy applications.  Surface 3 addresses all three of these concerns: run-time, full Windows with support for legacy applications, and the Pen.

Weighty considerations
When I know that I’m going to be working away from AC power I take my Surface Pro 3 and one or both of the Power covers.  Now here’s food for thought. The Surface 3 weighs just a little over 3 ounces more than the Power Cover. Could I take a Surface 3 instead of the Power Cover that I use do extend the run time of the Surface Pro 3?

On days when I need very long run time I could carry both Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 and use the Surface 3 for all but the most intensive applications and fire up the Surface Pro 3 when I need the processing power.    

Would I really carry both?  Not all the time, and for those situations where I’m primarily in consumption mode (reading music, doing research, writing documents) I’m thinking that the Surface 3 will do the job. 

I use OneNote for a lot of my note taking and music related tasks. And for other applications I use OneDrive.  Keeping files synchronized is easy.

If you have already looked check out these special offers:

Surface 3: Silence is golden, 3:2 & 200 pixels

Silence is Golden

No fan!  I want to see how well the Surface 3 performs for one application where silence is golden: audio recording.  I found that the original Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, and Surface Pro 3 were all fine for audio recording using high-end external microphones and USB interfaces, but for critical recordings you can’t have even the whisper quiet fan of the Surface Pro units in the background.

Aspect Ratio 3:2 and 200 pixels.

Surface 3 will have the same as 3:2 aspect ratio as Surface Pro 3 and for the 1 0.8” inch screen the resolution: 1920 x 1280 should be a good fit.  The Surface 2 was 1920 x 1080 so we’ll be getting another 200 pixels of usable screen height. That’s more reading and writing without scrolling.  This is a much more natural aspect ratio when working in portrait mode. It’s much more like working on paper. The comparison to paper may not seem relevant but it makes a difference when reading documents (and sheet music). I noticed a huge jump in my productivity with the 3:2 aspect ratio and I’m very happy to see this in the Surface 3. 

I was concerned about the 3-position kickstand compared to the continuously variable kickstand of the Surface Pro 3 but from the pictures that I’ve seen it looks like the lowest position will work fine for using the Pen – and that’s very important to me. clip_image002

That also looks like the angle that I use when I’m doing presentations on a podium.  I think that’s going to work just fine.

More ideas about how I work with the Surface Pro 3 and how the Surface 3 might have a bearing on that over the next few days.

In the meantime check out these special offers:

Surface 3

Just announced today, the Surface 3 and I’m excited.


Click the picture to read the announcement on the Surface Blog.

My first inclination was:  I don’t need this – I have the Surface Pro 3 with Intel® Core™ i7.  But as I thought about it, there is something very appealing about a smaller, lighter, long-running device that can run full Windows AND use the Pen. The Pen is for me the killer-application of this type of device. I know it’s not an application but the Pen is the reason that I will take a Surface Pro (any model) over other portable computing devices. And for me, the Pen is the make/break aspect of the Surface 3. And thank you Microsoft for making it the same Pen as the one I use with my Surface Pro 3.

I have some very specific applications  where size, weight, and battery life are bigger priorities than the raw processing power or storage I have with my Surface Pro 3.  So I’m really looking forward to using the Surface 3. 

This looks like it will be a great device for students and for people who are looking for a long lasting productivity device that can run legacy applications (full Windows 8.1-10 and legacy applications). I was concerned about the Atom processor but this is the Quad-core Intel® Atom™ x7 processor that is supposed to deliver 80% of the processing power of the Core  i3 found in the entry level Surface Pro 3. This should be plenty of power for a lot of what I do:  working in Office, writing, browsing the web, using the Pen for Mind Maps, mark-up and drawings. 

Check back in over the next few days as I’m thinking out loud about the Surface 3.

In the meantime check out these special offers:

Windows Touch & Tablet