Just recently many new laptops and 2 in 1's were announced with more power and better resolution than ever before. It's a fantastic time if you're looking for a new machine and if you have the available funds for it. As along with an increase in performance, you'll of course also get an increase in price tag. Which is why I'm happy to say that somehow, in a surprising turn of events, my Atom powered Surface 3 is still putting in an insane amount of work without so much as a hiccup.
The Surface 3 gets no love. It came out at a random time and it was incredibly "under" powered by normal laptop standards and its price tag was relatively high when it came out, particularly as it didn't come with either the Surface Pen or Surface Keyboard. But its spoke to me, due to its size and it's long battery life. But mainly its size. I love the idea of taking my work whenever I go. The idea is amazing, but executing it is something else. Most laptops that are decently powered come in at maybe 5 pounds? The Surface 3 has made being a mobile programmer into a possibility falling at a little over 1 pound.
While the initial thought with picking up the Surface 3 was as more of a blogging tool while on the go, it somehow turned into my main programming machine. It's got the latest Visual Studio and SQL Server running along with all of the side applications that most programmers normally use. Chrome is used heavily with well over 2 dozen tabs opened at any one time, and yet..it doesn't complain.
The Surface 3 is as silent as my phone is. And when I'm done, I just close the type cover and get moving and feel confident that the next time that it opens it will have a decent amount of battery power left. And it always does.
The biggest test so far was taking it to TechCrunch Disrupt for the week. It was a toss up between the Surface 3 and my 7lb laptop with an i5 processor. Needless to say, the Surface 3 won that challenge. It not only held up perfectly well as my main QA and coding machine, but it was also our display tablet at our showcase booth. It was involved in a photo-shoot for press related media during the event. And it did very well I may add.
During the 5 hour flight back from New York, the Surface 3 still had enough juice to allow for some light gaming. Nothing too crazy for sure, but a few applications such as Year Walk and Braid run and look fantastically well on it.
Should I Upgrade
Which begs the question, should I upgrade my machine? For the time being, the answer is a confident no. The new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are fantastic devices and either one would make for an amazing improvement in performance I'm sure, but so far there hasn't been anything that the Surface 3 can't tackle. Not including hardcore gaming into this conversation, as I do very little and I'm sure anything that requires 3D graphics and a sharp frame rate wouldn't run even remotely well. Though not for the lack of trying.
There are a number of things that make the Surface 3 standout as a portable minimal workstation. It is currently set up as a .NET developers machine running a relatively heavy MVC production application.
1. Performance. For one, its surprising performance. No one knows how, but it is somehow running every major application that one can think of on a daily basis. Which to me, makes it perfect for work, blogging and helping to run a startup.
2. Display - The Surface 3 has a gorgeous display. It's bright and bold colors make it a pleasure to work and to spend some time watching documentaries on. And if you have the Netflix app installed, then for sure you're in for a fun time.
3. Audio -The sound on the speakers is some of the best that I've had. Very loud and very clear and perfect for meetings usually as its range is solid enough that a medium size room
4. Battery life - Last on the list, but near the top in selling points. The battery life is fabulous for everything that it does. On average it gives out about 10 hours with relatively heavy use.
Kudos to you Surface 3
I'm not saying go out and pick up a Surface 3 right this minute. And good luck finding it if you wish, as it is aged as far as computers go. But the fact that the weaker member of the family has come out so strong says much about the Surface line in general and how it has evolved throughout the years.
Surface has gone from a machine that couldn't run full Windows, to a machine that doesn't require a fan for one of the more powerful processors out there today. So if anyone at Microsoft is reading this, and feels that I should try out one of the newer Surface Pro's, feel free to send me a message :)
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Walter Guevara is a Computer Scientist, software engineer, startup founder and currently mentors for a coding bootcamp. He has been creating software for the past 15 years.