Microsoft unveils Atom-powered Surface 3 tablet

Microsoft announced the rumored update to its non-Pro Surface today, and it's called Surface 3. The new tablet resembles a shrunken Surface Pro 3 in many ways. Most importantly, it ditches the ARM CPU and Windows RT OS from previous non-Pro tablets in favor of a quad-core Intel Atom x7 CPU and Windows 8.1.

The Atom x7 is a Cherry Trail part fabricated on a 14-nm process. It's the fastest such processor that Intel offers, with a 1.6GHz base clock and 2.4GHz Turbo peak. The Surface 3 also inherits a Pro-style touch screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio and built-in pen digitizer. The 1920x1280 resolution is lower than Pro's 2160x1440 pixel array, however, and the 10.8" panel is smaller than Pro's 12.5" display.

Microsoft's new Surface is also thinner and lighter than the Pro 3, at only 8.7 mm thick and 1.4 lbs (versus the Pro's 9.1 mm and 1.8 lbs). Likely thanks to the Atom's 2W thermal envelope, Microsoft says that it was able to do away with active cooling in the Surface 3.

As with the Surface 2, buyers can add an LTE modem for mobile connectivity. There's also a $199 docking station that adds four USB ports, an Ethernet connection, and a Mini DisplayPort output for desktop use. Without the dock, expansion options are limited to a single USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort output, a Micro USB port for charging, and a microSD card reader.

The Surface 3 starts at $499 with 64GB of onboard storage and 2GB of RAM. The $599 version doubles the storage to 128GB and the memory to 4GB. Right now, those prices include a free year of Office 365 Personal along with 1TB of OneDrive storage. Pricing hasn't been announced for the LTE-equipped versions, but the Type Cover and pen cost an extra $130 and $50, respectively.

The Surface 3 is available for pre-order today, with shipments scheduled to begin May 5.

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