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Why I'll be swapping the Surface Pro 3 for the Surface 3 LTE

But in the not-too-distant future I'll be parting company with mine and picking up its smaller, LTE powered sibling; the Surface 3. Partly because, finally, the Surface 3 LTE will be going on sale in the UK very soon.

But apart from that, what would make me go from the Pro to the regular one, especially when I like it so much? Lunacy? Here's why.

That LTE connectivity

Surface 3

Perhaps the biggest single attraction is the LTE in the Surface 3. I'm fortunate enough to be able to travel about a reasonable amount in both personal and professional capacities, but one of the standard issues is connectivity.

Usually running an LTE hotspot is the way to go since public WiFi often isn't that hot, but that just drains the phone battery or necessitates carrying a charger of some kind.

If there were an LTE Surface Pro 3, this wouldn't even be a discussion. But there isn't, so it is.

Size matters

Surface 3

Coupled with the attraction of a built-in LTE connection, the size of the Surface 3 attracts me a lot, too. Since I picked up the Dell XPS 13 as my main laptop, I've been left with it and the Surface Pro 3 as two devices comparable in size.

The Surface 3 has size on its side when it comes to using as a tablet, too. Probably the only criticism I have of the Surface Pro 3 is that I don't feel comfortable using a tablet that big outside of the home. The shrunken down Surface 3 feels much better in this regard.

MicroUSB charging like (almost) everything else

Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3

Not just a bonus when travelling but even so in the office. One of the big issues in a job like this is cables. Laptop chargers, monitors, endless phone cables. All smartphones (apart from that one) use microUSB, so these are the most common. I've hundreds of them and a power brick that accepts 5 of them at a time to charge all the things.

It's one less thing under my desk, and it's one less adapter in my bag wherever I go. But better still is that if the battery gets a bit low while somewhere like, say, a big trade show, a regular old battery pack will give it a boost.

Productivity with minimal compromise

Surface 3

In many regards, the Surface 3 is just a smaller Surface Pro 3. That alone is a reason to like it. The same form factor, same style keyboard cover, full USB port, kickstand, even coming with its own desktop dock to plug into your monitor at home.

Sure, you lose out on raw power with the Cherry Trail CPU compared to the Core i3/i5/i7. But I'm not doing anything heavy with my Surface. Mostly modern apps, a fair bit of writing, the odd bit of light photo editing and a ton of web browsing.

I don't need a Core i5 for that. A smaller, lighter, version will do just fine. I'm perfectly happy compromising on internal power when there's so little compromise everywhere else.

So, that's my take. I don't know exactly when, but I've been thinking about this since the Surface 3 was first announced. I don't want a tablet that can replace my laptop or to be my primary machine. For people that do, the Surface Pro 3 is here for you.

But for someone like me that wants a mobile office with LTE and that same great experience, I'm finding it hard to consider anything else.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

127 Comments
  • Sounds like sound logic to me! Enjoy your Surface 3!
  • Agreed. The premise is sound. Until the sp4 with lte...
  • I use my SP3 when out and about through internet sharing on my phone, which works for me. Guess you guys have much more usage demands though. Enjoy :)
  • I carry a Verizon jetpack hotspot.
    Problem solved.
  • You don't even need a jetpack because Verizon more everything plan includes internet sharing for free. I can't give my SP3 256 8gb ram for an S3 but to each their own.
  • SP3 for me. I need the big screen for my Photography
  • @duk Some of us still have unlimited data, so my hotspot on my Icon works just fine :)
  • and if you're not doing heavy work with the surface, plug the phone into it to give it a little juice!   i get the resoning, but maybe my on to go connectivity demands are much lower to where occasional tethering is enough. i can't give up the screen and raw power of the i series processors.   but choice is good!
  • It does drain the phones battery.
  • ...or don't want to sacrifice our phone's battery life when we could have builtin data.
  • Sooooo How much do you want to sell it for?
  • I like the Surface 3 a lot. I was tempted to sell my Pro for the same reasons but also because I've realised if I need real processing grunt I use my pc. Very tempted to stick it on ebay and pick one up.   For those that have a Surface 3 what is it like in general use ie web browsing, watching Netflix/Youtube etc and is battery life good?
  • I traded in my Surface RT for a Surface 3 about a month ago and am amazed how much faster it does everything. Love the type keyboard (had a touch cover before) and the pen is awesome. My only gripe is I dont do enough to use more of the functionality. But when I need it, it performs great.
  • I did exactly the same thing (trading in RT) for my S3. Even replaced my malfunctioning laptop with it so it actually replaced 2 devices. Since I no longer have to convert videos, K have absolutely no need for the extra power. The only thing to worry about is the storage. I got the 128GB model and with another 128GB microSD and over 1TB of OneDrive, I should be fine. Love it so far.
  • I opted for the 64GB model but added a 128GB microSD and I have over 1TB of storage on OneDrive, so I'm all set.
  • Where did you trade in your Surface RT and for how much?
  • Traded it at the MS store and got $100 credit.
  • Ditto
  • Traded in my Surface 2 for the 3. I love it. As far as power, its surprisingly good. I make music and I ran FL studio on it with really no problems. So when it comes to Netflix, web surfing etc. its perfect and it will work. I say go for it! I have the 128 4gb model. I suggest you get that one. 2gb to me is just laughable.
  • I went from a first gen Surface Pro with the i5 processor to a Surface 3.  The S3 is definitely slower not only because of the lower specd processor but also the slower emmc drive.  I've noticed that it'll pause at times and like the SP1, the wifi card is still horrible!  I didn't need the power so the S3 was fine, I'm also loving the battery life and weight compared to the SP1.
  • I've had one for only a few days, but I really like it. So far the Atom is fast enough that it never feels underpowered. I still have my desktop for games or anything processor/graphics intensive but the Surface 3 is working really well for general stuff.
  • I would have got the Surface 3, but the move to Micro USB was a deal breaker for me. I have a ton of the previous chargers around, and with the transition to USB Type-C this fall, I don't want a device that will have an outdated connector almost as soon as I buy it. Waiting for Surface 4 next summer.
  • Agreed, that's the only thing I DONT like about my surface 3...
  • I'm confused....the S3's microUSB charge port is for charging only and when used with the supplied adapter, charges really fast. Its only when u used another brand of Micro USB cable and adapter that it will charge slowly. Its an option in case u lose or damage ur pack in cable. They basically gave u the best of both worlds.
  • Um...define fast.  My S3 needs about 7-8 hours to charge 100%.
  • Damn, that's a long time. I think mine takes maybe 2 - 2.5 hours to get a full charge. Not sure what's going on with ur charger but the pack in charger is nowhere near that slow. U sure ur not using a different Micro USB charger? From ur phone perhaps?
  • My charge times are actually in between the two of you at around 4-5 hours.
  • I will do a test and drain it, then go for a full charge. Also, please note that I usually charge with my device fully off and not using it.
  • Ah yes, apples, to apples, good point -- I was charging mine with screen on full, WiFi going, and normal use.  I'll test if both ways and see if I can match yours.  (I too traded in my Surface 2 for the S3 and that was easily the first thing I noticed was how much slower this one charged which charged just fine while in use.)
  • Actually, the microUSB port can also be used as a standalone usb plug.  So you're basically getting two usb ports on the Surface 3.  Although i think the microUSB is only of the 2.0 variant.
  • It would have to be. The microUSB port doesn't have enough room for the pins for USB 3. They add an extra section for USB 3... Some of the Samsung phones had it, for instance. Makes it about as wide as a regular USB port, just thinner.
  • The standard sized USB port is still there.
  • The microusb was a huge plus for me and helped in my decision to buy it.  It's nice to be able to charge both my phone and surface 3 with one charger.  It's all a matter on convenience.
  • So, which USB type-C peripheral devices do you intend to attach? I remember it took several years for USB 3.0 devices to become widely available and for the the price to come down to reasonable levels. I could care less about USB type-C. In the 2-3 years it will take for it to become the dominant standard, I will probably replace any tablet I would buy today. What you are getting when you buy a device with Type-C is being future proof several years from now. If you keep your electronics for a long time, then that's fine. In 2 -3 years, my kids will most likely be using my device and they have no need to connect anything to it.
  • The reason for 3.0 slow arrival was its the same port and when the makers of products made thier devices is was a easy decision to to just make it 2.0 as it was fast enough for most users. Type c is a whole new thing so its all in or not no cutting corners to save a buck.
  • and still no review for the surface 3
  • Since Surface (non-Pro) runs full Windows and not Windows RT this has become a relatively easy choice.
  • The Surface 3 would be a nice and meaby the best choice for a Windows Tablet without killing your wallet.
    Shame that's it not in Mexico yet :( Microsoft needs to hurry up and bring these great devices to Latinamerica.
  • I just wish the Surface 3 could push 4k on external monitors and I might be in your camp too... Hopefully Surface Pro 4 will be able to do 4K 60Hz.
  • I got my SP3 (i7) pushing a 28" 4K, a 24" and its own screen simultaneously via daisychained display ports. It's quite impressive for a tablet
  • No chance of a Surface 3 doing that though with just an Atom cpu right? Seems a bit underpowered for that kind if task.
  • Behold, the humble Atom...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsknvi3POMk
  • I can play 4k videos on my Asus T100. The S3 should do such things with ease.
  • Do you mean 4k Youtube?  B/c running less compressed video on a native 4k screen requires significantly greater processing capabilites than 4k Youtube.
  • Smaller screen size and standard windows program incompatibility on the surface makes me very happy sticking with the surface pro.
  • Surface 3 runs full Windows 8.1 and not RT, so you wont have any compatibility issues with programs :)
  • Sp3 and s3 runs the same OS. Same arch. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Hahaha...it's funny how people justify their purchases :)
    There isn't a program that you run on your SP3 that won't run on an S3! (It just may not perform the tasks as quickly!)
  • I'll trade you my 2520 for your SP3. :D Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I wish Microsoft had a trade in for the 2520 as well. I'd jump on it.
  • I'm still happy with my 2520 but I'll still trade for surface 3.
  • Replacing my SP3 with a SP4.
  • Yeah, that's what I would suggest to Richard, to wait to see if the SP4 is a better choice. Unless he really wants a smaller screen. Personally, I might go for the SP4 with the larger screen.
  • Makes sense... Apart from networks being so dam rubbish lol.
  • EE is pretty good for me. Usually. Costs a fair bit to get enough data to use, mind.
  • I got my latest contract through Carphone Warehouse. Direct from EE it was £42 pm with 2Gb of data. CW did it for me for a pound more with 10gb. So good.
  • Wow...that is a pricy contract to then have to put up with data limits!
  • Nice advertorial, but, if use my phone as hotspot, it's being charged by my surface pro ;)
  • And therefore draining power from the Surface. I don't even charge my phone from my laptop for the very same reason.
  • USB Hotspot also solves those problems...
  • If only T-Mobile and Microsoft would fix the hotspot issue on my Lumia 1020. It sucks so bad.
  • I use internet sharing which means the SP3 is on 4G through my Lumia 930, works for me when needed.
  • what is your problem with your 1020 Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Looks good to me.  Thanks for the video.  
  • Looking forward to an article on your experience after you have spent time with the Surface 3.
  • I couldn't ever switch to a kickstand with set positions after using the fully adjustable one on the Pro 3. No matter how I sit, there's almost always a way to adjust the kickstand to make it work.
  • I totally agree.
  • See I never use mine on my lap, so I don't think it'll be an issue. It's only ever propped up on a desk or in my hand. We shall see though!
  • Bah. Too easy to tether the SP3 to my phone. All the power and convenience of internet anywhere since I have my phone with me at all times anyway.
  • And I get 4G through my Lumia 930, which is ample for me :)
  • It's not convenient *enough* - especially for road warriors. Imagine turning on your device but your email and cloud storage hasn't been synced - so you have to then turn on tethering and wait for the syncing first before you can start working - especially embrassing if you are meeting with a client and have to tell them to wait 5 minutes before you can start.  A radio-enabled Surface would just keep pinging and syncing in the background and you would be always up to date, and for some people that is worth it.
  • I have a Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 i5. I had to give the Surface 3 to my hubby because I can't do work on it (mostly remote desktops). Don't know why, but it's not snappy enough. Though I'll admit I put a preview build of W10 so it was probably that. Once RTM I'm gonna steal it back because, as the author points out, there are may upsides. I just hope it can handle my basic remote desktop work when its all said and done!
  • Apart from that one. Roflmao. XD
  • Gbn
  • Makes sense. The microUSB argument should be irrelevant in the future, with one USB-C port type for all devices. Probably the SP4 will have it. :D
  • Is there a significant battery longevity difference?
  • I downsized from the SP3 to the S3 with the same rationale. The S3 is really perfect for a road warrior like me. I mostly use Powerpoint to present data and occasionally Excel for computation. And of course, mailing, browsing and a movie on the return flight. The S3 does all of this in neat package. I will swap my S3 for the S3 LTE when iy goes on sale up here in Sweden. Or if I pick it up earlier in Germany. My only concern now is that I have a wondeful SP3 sitting on the desk serving as a desktop PC - far from its full potential :-).
  • Those were my thoughts as well -- 10" is the right size for a tablet and the 4:3 screen ratio makes it feel a LOT bigger than the RT's 16:9 -- which was terrible for my posture! :)   PS - I will WARN you however that the USB charging is not at all what it is cracked up to be.  Having tried it on many cell phone USB chargers -- the only one that reliably charges it is the proprietary one from Microsoft whcih comes with the Surface 3.  There's a huge thread on the support site about it but apparently it has to do with the lower wattage (voltage?) of cell phone USB chargers and the leangth of the cable...bottom line, at least at present, they dont charge the S3
  • It's not different than an ipad, or any other windows tablet.  Most will require a usb adapter that puts out 10-13 watts.  I went out and purchased a 24 watt dual usb travel charger for $10 on Amazon.  Now i have something to charge both my phone and Surface at the same time.
  • thanks for the tip!
  • I believe you are looking for 'amperage'. Watts = volts x amps. To the best of my knowledge, micro USBs all run on 5 volts DC. If you change the voltage to something other than what the equipment is rated at, you risk it frying (high voltage), or not working at all (low voltage). The different chargers often have different ampere ratings, alternately expressed in amps (A) or miliamps (mA). Higher amps = higher wattage = faster charging = potentially more heat. Long term or in extreme cases, too much heat will kill your battery. All that to say, higher amperage is good, but only to a point. Posted via my HTC One (M7)
  • I absolutely LOVE my Surface 3 considering I've had it over a month now with no major gripes other than what I already knew before I bought it (in comparisson I had the Surface 2 for 6 hours before I took it back to get my money). I'm using it as my main computer as I finish up studying for boards for nursing and I could'nt be happier, but also, I'm still waiting on the SP4.
  • So make your surface pro 3 a prize for windows central readers when you get the surface 3 lte :)
  • Looking forward to your experience blogs with the surface 3 in the coming weeks/months!
  • Curious what modern apps you use the most on your surface...?
  • Photowhirl is the one standout app for me. I don't think it's available on any other platform either.
  • Makes much sense to me even if you didn't explain.
  • Instead of loosing the power of the surface pro 3 for the regular surface 3 just because of the LTE connectivity, which keep in mind will drain more power, use Mifi LTE hotspot with the surface pro 3 will be the ideal solution, especially that you need a normal micro USB to keep it in power.
  • Here is my problem with the Surface line: It's still too damn expensive!!
    The basic 2GB Surface 3 model is priced at 600€. Add to that the cover and pen to make the complete package and not just another tablet, and it goes up to 800€
    For that price there are laptops with Core i7, 8GB of RAM and dedicated graphic cards, like my current ASUS laptop.
    Even if you don't need all that power, choosing the Surface instead it's still paying too much for too little performance in comparison.
    Not everyone is an Apple fanboy shelling their salary at the newest product they advertise. People with tight budgets like me will never pay 600€ or 800€ for this tablet rather than a similarly priced laptop, even if they prefer the Surface concept and the ultra portability and autonomy it offers.
    Microsoft needs to seriously pay attention to this.
  • This^
  • The tablet by itself in Australia is $699 for the 2gb ram version and then you have to find extra money if you want the accessories. I understand its a premium product but thats a big chunk of change to part with.
  • Yeah, I'm waiting for some sales in Australia before I get the S3. I got the SP3 (i5 128GB) for $997 when it was discounted at Harvey Norman, but I'd like to see the S3 for around $500 before I commit to buying it. I'll prob just give it to the the wife to use as her main laptop/desktop machine, although she seems pretty happy so far with the $130 HP Stream 8 I got on Sunday at Dick Smith (price is now back up to $199). I only see that as a play toy though, that she can chuck in a bag and not worry about too much... 
  • Not to mention that the ipad is way more powerful and has a better touch ecosystem. In the end though, perceived value is a personal thing. 450€, VAT included, would be my upper limit for a new non-pro surface.
  • Wrong on both counts. iPad is dual-core or tri-core, Surface 3 has a quad-core CPU. It also has double the RAM and can have twice the storage capacity. You use the same cable to charge it as you use to charge your phone, your Kindle, your Bluetooth speaker and even your bicycle lights. And because it has real, live USB ports, you can hook it up to a printer and print, a USB drive for back-up or data transfer, you can connect a mouse and/or keyboard to it or any other computer accessory you may have bought at any time in the last 15 years. Andd because it runs Windows, all those things will just work. Same goes for connecting it to a monitor or TV - just a simple cable, probably the same one you use for your laptop. Windows 8's touch experience makes every mobile OS seem like it's a generation out of date. MOre importantly, though, is tha tit makes every Windows tablet far more useful and versatile than one running a phone OS. The difference is chalk and cheese.
  • And in the real world, where die size matters more than core count, the new iPad is competing with SP3 in performance, not S3.
  • Here we go again comparing an ipad with a pc.  Are you seriously saying that the ARM processor in the ipad is more powerful than an intel i processor?  Until you can install the ipad's software on an SP3 or windows 8.1 on an ipad, it's all purely conjecture.  My guess is that the "more powerful" processor in the ipad will choke.
  • Not more powerful, but about 20% weaker. But you are right, it is difficult to make absolute comparisons because the OS is different. We can still however compare the amount of resources available to apps (those things you usually use on a touch device), and there the SoC in the iPad blows away the Atom in the S3. Regardless if it is due to OS optimization or the power of the actual hw, the consumer gets the better experience out of it. P.S. the i nomenclature doesn't really mean anything when the devices range from 10W to over 100W,
  • If die size matters, then Surface wins out because the Cherry trail CPU in it uses a 14nm manufacturing process, the A8X in a new iPad is 20nm. But it doesn't, die size just means lower power consumption, not higher power output.
  • I actually meant that bigger is better, given the same process. Apple has few cores but those cores are big, much faster than your average ARM-cores.
  • And for folks on a tight budget, there are dozens of OEM Windows based alternatives. Im ok with MS not trying to be everything to everybody.
  • The Surface line is, as others have stated, a flagship product, and is priced as such. Here where I live, 800€ will buy you a basic 14 inch laptop from Acer or Hp with a broadwell ulv core i3 4005. With a full plastic chassis and no touch capabilities. They don't feel premium at all and the S3 is much better built. Yes, the atom processor is underpowered but it works fine for general use. Plus it has a ssd which makes is faster than hard disk based laptop alternatives.
  • There has always been a premium on portability.  Look up any regular sized laptop and find an ultrabook with similar or even lower specs.  You'll find that it's always more expensive.
  • Good thoughts - if it weren't for needing to do Lightroom editing of Raw photos - and a lighting design program that needs some processing juice - I would also opt for the S3LTE..  
  • Same thing I did. I have a powerful laptop for my heavy usage needs hooked up to a big monitor. For everything else my surface 3 handles things with ease. Mobility is the biggest plus.
  • The only downside I've seen reported of the Surface 3, so far, is that the battery takes an eternity to charge. Apart from that, if you don't need the extra power, spare a couple of pounds indeed.
  • Does surface 3 LTE also have GPS location service?
  • Yes, but you have to calculate the position yourself via the bolt-on sextant and compass modules
  • I have had the s3 for about a week now and enjoy it. I wish they had gone with a better performance ssd - might have made it cost more and drain the battery, however if rather have a bot more hd performance due to copying files to and from it alot... Other than that it seems solid so far. If people want to see battery life and charge rates. Take a look at the web for the cmd: powercfg /batteryhistory and powercfg /sleep study - great reports!
  • Ill wait for the surface 4 with usb c, thinner, lighter, more powerful and with full kickstand bending then i can sell my sp3. Its just too heavy to use for reading at night specially when you are lying supine. Surface mini with kickstand would also be phenominal
  • One thing that was not mentioned is the pen. If I remember correctly from what I've read, one difference is that the Surface 3 does not include the pen. Sure, you can buy it separately, but in my opinion, unless you need to have connectivity during the trip, or your hotel or meeting does not provide free Wi-Fi, the LTE is not enough to switch.
  • Yep, no pen - and it costs $50! I agree that LTE is not much incentive to switch for most people... if they don't have a decent laptop/tablet then sure, but to downgrade from a SP3 just for LTE is madness. I generally commute between my home, my parents or friends homes, or work... all of which have free, unlimited WiFi. The places I can think of where I would be stuck might be if I'm travelling out of the city, but mobile network coverage is pretty patchy outside major cities so I'd likely be screwed either way
  • If you're selling it, I'm willing to take your old SP3 off your hands. I've been wondering how well it can do intense gaming like Team Fortress 2.
  • I've loaded up 10 or so Steam games on a 128gb microsd (Lexar 128 633x [95mb read]) in my SP2.  Combined with Xone controller and power cover, I'm amazed how well it works.