When I first purchased the Microsoft Surface 3, it was in May of 2015. It was a birthday present for myself, as I like to create reasons for enjoying life guilt-free. But it wasn't just that. It was curiosity. It was a fully Windows-powered 1lb machine with an FHD display. It was a statement really. That I could take my entire tech world with me wherever I went in the width of less than most books. Sure it was underpowered compared to the big boys on the market. But it had a 10-hour battery life and a tiny backlit keyboard. From a technical standpoint, it was near perfect, although somewhat pricey.
So how has it been holding up these past 2 years since its inception? The answer is surprising even to me. Packing a quad-core Atom processor, you're not too sure what to expect when launching heavier applications. It's so small, that nobody could take it seriously really. Maybe it's great for writing or reading, but for work? Never. But so far, it's been performing faster than most of my other "full" laptops which are beginning to show their age. It acts much like any normal laptop would act. It doesn't heat up to uncontrollable temperatures or spin a fan at the speed of sound. It turns on and within a reasonable time, it will launch an application.
it goes everywhere
My day to day laptop is about 6 lbs, with about 5 cables sticking out of it plugged into various places around the house. It's about 5 years old and an amazing machine. But needless to say, it keeps me home many a time. Sometimes I have work to do, and going to the coffee shop was like preparing for a summit climb. Not that I get too much serious work accomplished in coffee shops anyhow. But I wanted the option to work from somewhere besides my standing corner at home.
But now it's different. I have the freedom to go anywhere really and work on a blog post. Or work on small bits of code here and there for my company. I can sketch on the Surface 3, which has become a favorite pastime of mine. I'm no artist, but when there's a canvas in front of you with unlimited possibilities, your brain just starts to wonder and creation happens.
When I first reviewed the Surface 3, I mentioned that it was a great machine for very light programming. And as it turns out now, it's been a good machine for any type of programming. I've been able to work on most any project these past 2 years on it without an issue. I have the following installed and running daily essentially and it doesn't hiccup once.
- Visual Studio 2015
- Visual Studio 2013
- Sql Server 2012
- IIS 7
Much of my professional work can be done on the Surface 3 nowadays. It's my "take to the meetings" laptop. My "blogging at the coffee shop" laptop. And my "time to read before bedtime" laptop. It doesn't replace my i5, 8GB of RAM machine, but it accompanies it on this journey I call life. It's an extension of it, in a way. I can spend 3 hours coding some serious work at home and then pick up my changes from the repo on the Surface 3 and take it to a meeting for a demo. And know that I still have hours of battery life for the rest of the day.
can't forget entertainment
What review/recap would be complete without talking about the entertainment factor of the Surface 3. So here goes. It's as decent as you need a 1lb laptop to be. It plays Netflix beautifully with a gorgeous display. And its audio is some of the best that I could find on any comparable laptop of the same price. It will give you as much power as a 1lb, Atom processor, integrated memory laptop can push out. It won't run Skyrim on the highest settings (probably, have not tried really) but it will probably handle a fair number of games on Steam that you can enjoy while out and about.
I recently installed Anomoly Defenders on my Surface 3. A fantastic tower defense game that I recommend you try if you have not yet. And it's a more than decent gaming experience on the Surface 3. The sound is clear, there's no lag, and everything loads just as fast as it would on my normal laptop. And the touchscreen controls work flawlessly with the game.
And I think that's what's special about the Surface 3. Not its power or performance or graphics capabilities and such. But an idea. The idea that you can carry technology around with you without even noticing it. Sure we have our smartphones nowadays, but we're not in the place yet where we can project a 10-inch display into thin air and type on a holographic keyboard with them. But Microsoft for sure nailed a sweet spot with the Surface 3.
If Microsoft can replicate or improve the form factor of the Surface 3 with improved performance for their next generation models, then I will for sure be picking one up.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.
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