Microsoft boasts its Surface 3 can 'replace your laptop'

Microsoft made big moves at an event in New York when it announced its newest tablet offering, the Surface 3, is the "tablet that can replace your laptop." Will the processing power and PC extras be enough to make a splash in the tablet market and overcome the inevitable device tidal wave from Apple in June?

Mark Lennihan/FILE/AP
Panos Panay, Microsoft's vice president for surface computing, introduces the Surface Pro 3 tablet device at a media preview, Tuesday, May 20, 2014 in New York. The device will have a screen measuring 12 inches diagonally, up from 10.6 inches in previous models. Microsoft says it's also thinner and faster than before.

Would you replace your laptop with a tablet?

What if it had one of the fastest processors available? A stylus? A letterhead sized screen?

Microsoft is attempting to find out what combination of features will bridge the gap between the tablet and laptop PC with its latest Surface release. By adding a faster processor on an extra-thin device, and packing on little details such as a keyboard and stylus, the Surface 3, which was demoed for the first time on Tuesday, certainly knits the two technologies together closely. But whether consumers will see the latest Surface offering as a cohesive solution to the two-device debate, or a confusing combination of technology remains to be seen.

“So many people carry both a laptop and a tablet but really want just one device that serves all purposes,” says Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft Surface, in a release. “Surface Pro 3 is the tablet that can replace your laptop — packing all the performance of a fully powered laptop into a thin, light and beautifully designed device.”

So how does the Surface 3 bridge that gap? Microsoft says power, pounds (or lack thereof), plus extras. The Surface 3 has several 4th generation Intel Core processor options: the i3, i5, and i7. It runs on Windows 8.1 (as opposed to Windows RT – the Microsoft tablet specific operating system), which allows users to access desktop applications such as Microsoft Office . The Surface 3 is also the thinnest device running an Intel processor – it is only 0.35 inches thick, about the same as the iPad, and weighs just 1.7 pounds. Though the main device is a tablet, you add a physical keyboard with a track pad and a stylus for sketching or writing notes. The back of the device also comes with a friction hinge, meaning you can prop the device up at any angle, instead of preset options.

The Surface 3 also makes up for several areas that previous Surface tablets have been lacking. It switched to a 4:3 aspect ratio (from a 16:10), which is more in line with Apple tablets, and has a high-definition, 12-inch screen. It also has a nine-hour battery life, which means it could conceivably last for both personal and professional use.

Microsoft made it quite clear the Surface 3 is a direct competitor to Apple’s MacBook Air – even weighing the two devices on a scale to show the Surface 3 weighed less than the Air. Price-wise, the Surface 3 does run quite a bit cheaper than the MacBook Air. It starts at $799. However, that doesn’t include the extra $130 keyboard and $30 stylus, and once you get up to faster processors and extra storage the price can jump up to nearly $2,000.

Apple is also likely to release new products at the Apple developer conference in June, giving the Surface 3 a short window of attention. Pre-orders start Wednesday but the device won’t be available until June 30. Can the Surface 3 compete with whatever Apple has up its sleeve?

In the past, the answer has been no. But this device does offer more than a Microsoft tablet ever has before. Whether customers are interested in a portable hybrid over a flashy new announcement will become clear by the end of June.

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