New Surface 3 Tablet Abandons Windows RT, Rocks Intel Cherry Trail Chip

Microsoft’s corporate vice president of the Surface division, Panos Panay, today announced the Surface 3 tablet. The big news here is that the device doesn’t sport Windows RT like the previous two versions, but the full-blown release of Windows 8.1 powered by an Intel Atom chip. Customers can pre-purchase the tablet today for a starting price of $499. The tablet ships May 5.

The Surface 3 features a 10.8-inch ClearType display with a 1920 x 1280 resolution, a 3:2 aspect ratio, support for 10-point touch input and support for the Surface Pen. Backing this screen is an Intel quad-core Atom x7-Z8700 (Cherry Trail) processor (1.6 GHz, 2.4 GHz burst) and a battery promising up to 10 hours on a single charge.

The specifications also show that the new Surface 3 ships in two flavors: 64 GB of internal storage with 2 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage with 4 GB of RAM. There's also a handful of sensors, a 3.5MP camera on the front, an 8MP camera with autofocus on the back, two speakers with Dolby audio, and Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. Ports include a full-size USB 3.0 port, a microSD card reader, a mini DisplayPort and more.

The new Surface 3 tablet comes equipped with a 1-year subscription to Office 365 Personal. The tablet also includes the Surface Pen (blue, red, black or silver), which is only compatible with the Surface 3 and the Surface 3 Pro. A FAQ also revealed that the new tablet will come packed with a thinner, lighter 13 W power supply that can only be used on the Surface 3 tablet. The device weighs a mere 1.37 pounds and measures just 0.34 inches thin.

So what's the difference between the new Surface 3 tablet and the Surface Pro 3? Launched back in May 2014, the Surface Pro 3 is faster, sporting an Intel Core i3, Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processor, depending on the model. The Pro edition also includes a 12-inch ClearType screen with a 2160 x 1440 resolution, 3:2 aspect ratio and multi-touch support. Storage options range from 64 GB to 512 GB, and RAM options span from 4 GB to 8 GB.

The good news here for many customers is that they can run their desktop applications on the Surface 3. The previous model, the Surface 2, featured an Nvidia Tegra 4 chip and Windows RT, which isn’t compatible with x86-based software. Windows RT turned off many consumers, so it's not surprising that Microsoft chose to take the Atom route with its new Surface 3.

Customers wanting to use Surface 3 on-the-go can purchase the tablet with 4G LTE capabilities. Options include the Surface 3 with 64 GB of internal storage and 2 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage with 4 GB of RAM. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn't provide pricing but did report that these two versions will ship on June 26.

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