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Latest Dell Venue 11 Pro 5150 brings it close to Surface 3. Comparison.

An updated Dell Venue 11 Pro 5150 with a high-end Atom CPU, 64 Bit Windows and Full HD screen has appeared. This is the closest I’ve seen to the Microsoft Surface 3.

Dell Venue 11 Pro 515 with 64-bit Windows

Dell Venue 11 Pro 515 with 64-bit Windows

The high-end Atom CPU is the Z3795 which has Turbo Boost to 2.4 Ghz, just as the Surface 3 does and seeing as the Atom X7 and Z3000 series have similar per-clock CPU power there shouldn’t be much difference in CPU-related benchmarks (<10% based on reports so far.) The X7 will probably pull clear with GPU benchmarks. SSD speeds will be close and there’s even a USB 3.0 port on the Dell. That’s rare for products based on the Z3000-series.

Click for the Dell page (this is not an advert.)

Click for the Dell USA sales page. [This is not an advert.]

64-bit Windows is important because it means the 64-bit bootloader is far more compatible with alternative Linux builds than the Z3xxx series products that only have 32-bit Windows bootloaders. It’s available, with a slim keyboard, for $499 in the USA – the price of the Surface 3 tablet, without keyboard. There’s a similar product available in Europe which also works out cheaper than the Surface 3.

Consider the following before ordering the Dell Venue 11 Pro 5150. Firstly I have requested a review sample of this product (and the Surface 3) so i’ll be able to update you on all the performance figures and answer questions with authority soon. In the meantime, consider the following:

  • 10.8 inch screen on Dell is the same ‘size’ as the Surface 3 but the Surface 3 is a 3:4 ratio screen with 1920 x 1280 resolution. 200 more pixels in the vertical (landscape mode.)
  • Keyboard options on the Dell mean you can get a power-keyboard that is lap-able and includes an extra battery (for about 50% more battery life.) The keyboard weighs as much as the tablet though. The Slim Keyboard option has a fixed angle and no backlight. It weighs 11 ounces taking the total weight of the product to about 2.2 pounds / 1 KG.
  • A docking station option is available for both. A folio case is also available for the Dell.
  • The stylus option for the Dell is cheaper than the stylus option for the Surface 3 but I can’t comment on pen performance as I haven’t tested the Dell stylus.
  • The Dell Venue 11 Pro 5000 has HDMI video output. The Surface 3 uses the DisplayPort standard, which is arguably better for multiple displays (Chaining.)
  • At 1.57 pounds 770 grams the Dell Venue 11 Pro 5000 tablet is much heavier than the Surface 3 and this could be the most important difference between the two. The Surface 3 tablet weighs just 1.37 pounds / 622 grams. You will notice this difference a lot when holding the tablet for long periods.
  • The Dell Venue 11 Pro 5000 does not include a year of Office 365 / 1TB storage upload. The Surface 3 does.
  • No AC Wifi on the Dell. AC Wifi on the Surface 3.
  • Screen quality on the Dell 5130 was reported to be good. It should compete with the good screen quality on the Surface 3.
  • The Dell has an NFC sensor. (The Surface 3 doesn’t.)
  • Graphics performance on the Surface 3 will beat the Dell by an estimated 30-50%.
  • The (removable) battery on the Dell is bigger than that in the Surface 3. (32 Wh vs 27 Wh) This explains a lot of the thickness and weight difference.
  • LTE options available on both Venue and Surface. (Location dependant.)
  • Micro SD card slot on Dell requires a pin to open. (It’s meant to be tidier and slightly more secure.)
Dell Venue 11 Pro and keyboard.

Dell Venue 11 Pro and keyboard.

The difference between the Surface 3 and the Venue 11 Pro 5150 is minimal. I like that there are 2 keyboard options on the Dell and at this point I lean towards the Dell as the better option. But that’s me, what are your thoughts? 3:2 vs 16:9 is a big discussion as is the tablet weight.

My colleagues at Notebookcheck have a full review of an older Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 here and they are working on a Surface 3 review here (currently in German.)

I urge you to buy a Chromebook; for security’s sake.

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It’s over 9 years since I posted the first set of articles on the Carrypad blog…which became Origamiportal….which became UMPCPortal. I wanted to relay some thoughts on my personal need for a mobile internet device I called the Carrypad. I wrote about 5-7-inch screen sizes, web browsing, operating systems, GPS and use cases: Bed, sofa, toilet, plane, train and ship. I was, even if I do say so myself, spot-on, especially with the toilet! But I didn’t think enough about security.

My first mention of security was when I did a mini review of the Pepperpad 3 in October 2006.

…I was able to check for software listening on IP ports. It all looks pretty clean and with the automatic updates, there should be no need to worry too much about security. Low maintenance is always a good thing.

Admittedly the threat-level was lower 9 years ago but I should have paid more attention to security over the last 9 years and today there’s absolutely no excuse because the Internet is now a messy place.

PC and smartphones operating systems were not built with today’s risks in mind, and they’ve got worse. There’s more code in the operating system now, more 3rd-party applications, more sensors, more connectivity and more people to exploit creating ‘business models’ that were never imaginable.

The next time you join a new WiFi hotspot think about this: Is the site you’re looking at really the site you think it is? Is the DNS server really serving the correct IP addresses? Is the ISP behind the hotspot someone you trust? Do you trust everyone on the network that you’ve just connected to? How many of your apps have access to your location, permission to use your social networks, WiFi, your contact and SMS information and even to an unencrypted version of your internet traffic?

Last December I was teaching journalists about internet security and privacy in Ukraine. As part of a demo I set up a ‘fake Internet’ using about 150 euros of equipment. I served up a router, DHCP, DNS and even faked a Facebook login page. After I had logged into the Facebook page I turned on the projector which was connected to my Linux-box-Internet, did a search on Wireshark and read out my password. It was easy, cheap and effective and that was just in a class of 20 people. Can you imagine what goes on at the CES show in Las Vegas? At every airport in the world? At the cheap cyber café and on that open hotspot you found from your apartment?

If you are about to connect to an unknown hotspot don’t use a Windows PC unless you’re either a) happy with the risks or b) you’ve taken time to harden your PC with the 13-point checklist below. Easy isn’t it? NO IT ISN’T. The checklist is unworkable for most people.

Windows on a public hotspot checklist. (For increased privacy and security.)

  1. If possible, use a PC with an encrypted disk. (Microsoft Bitlocker is available for free on some low-cost Windows devices and on all Windows ‘Pro’ installations. E.g. All Surface Pro devices.)
  2. Turn on SecureBoot in your BIOS if possible and (as a minimum) add a BIOS boot (or BIOS admin) password. Create a long 15+ character Windows password for all accounts.
  3. Install OS updates and reboot.
  4. Check Firewall is on.
  5. Update the anti-virus and run a check.
  6. Run CCleaner (also check and clean the auto-start-up list.) and Spybot.
  7. Create a non-admin account. Log out and log back in as a non-administrator account. For more privacy, don’t log in via a provider account (E.g. Microsoft, Google .)
  8. Use up-to-date Chrome with HTTPS Everywhere, Privacy Badger extensions enabled. Don’t link Chrome to a Google account unless you trust Google. (Run an Incognito browser Window.)
  9. Hardwire your DNS to your ISP. If you trust Google, they have a good DNS service at 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. (Don’t use the DNS given by the hotspot)
  10. Use the Zenmate extension to tunnel and encrypt web traffic or buy a good VPN to tunnel all traffic. (I’m using HideIPVPN’s UK tunnel.)
  11. Use Startpage.com as search engine if you don’t want Google to store your searches / IP address. Startpage can also be used as a proxy.
  12. Avoid using cellular data if you don’t want to be location tracked. (Turn off A-GPS / location services on phone too.)
  13. Do not leave your PC unattended.

Enjoy your coffee!

Fortunately there are easier ways. You can ignore most of this list (points 1- 7) if you use a Chrome OS device and a Chromebook is probably the cheapest, easiest way to do it. That’s why i’m encouraging you all to think about adding a Chrome OS PC to your PC portfolio. I’m not asking you to replace anything, I’m simply asking you to consider spending $150 on your security.

Acer E11 and Acer CB3

Acer E11 and Acer CB3. Sub $200. The CB3 is your safer bet for a second laptop.

A Chromebook is not 100% secure but it’s probably the cleanest consumer computing device you can buy. Even if you don’t trust Google, a Chromebook is still the cleanest consumer computing device you can buy. When it comes to online security, the Chromebook is the easiest recommendation I can make. Again, if you don’t trust Google, you can still use a Chromebook without a Google account.

ASUS Transformer Book T90 Chi

I want the T90 Chi with Chrome OS dual-boot.

Chrome OS was built from the start with security as a key consideration. Chrome OS is also simple and fast and that’s the bit that makes it so easy to recommend. My only problem with ChromeOS is that I can’t get it as a dual-boot option or on a mini, lightweight 2 in 1 that I can take everywhere. Like the ASUS T90 Chi for example.

The Lenovo N20p [N20p review] is my most-used device at home because it’s a no brainer. Which one of my 10-20 PCs is likely to be the fastest to boot? The Chromebook. Which one is most likely not to have to be rebooted after booting just to get the latest security patches installed? The Chromebook. Which one is not going to take 2 minutes before I can use the full speed of the disk and CPU? The Chromebook. Which one is likely to have some battery life left after a week of not being used? The Chromebook.

Again, a Chromebook is not 100% secure but unless you’re into air-gap computing, sharing files over a temporary Intranet (I find the MiFi with microSD card and no SIM card to be a useful solution in this case,) have dumped your smartphone and are very familiar with the Tails Linux-based distro on a PC where you change the MAC address daily then don’t knock it. The Windows security landscape is terrible in comparison and the average Linux distro is rarely a problem-free experience when installed on a modern laptop. OSX might be a reasonable solution, it’s true, but there’s also a lot of unknown quantities there. [Note: I have never assessed an OSX PC for security and privacy. Your comments are welcome on that topic below.]

For security’s sake, get a Chromebook. Add the HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger plugins. Enable them for guest-mode/incognito mode usage. Consider and research ZenMate as an HTTP VPN and use Startpage.com as your default search engine to avoid Google having a list of searches against your IP address. Get a real VPN solution and learn how to configure it in Guest Mode on ChromeOS. Learn the 60-second Power Wash. Configre DNS to use Google 8.8.8.8 or find and configure your own trusted DNS and you will be in a position to switch-on and go browsing without any significant worry, unless you’re doing something naughty!

Related article: 7-steps to the best Chromebook security.

Chromebookworld.com is where I write about Chromebooks and Chromebooks under 1.3 KG are always listed in the database here at UMPCPortal. Go hereand select the Chrome OS operating system as shown in the image below.

chromebookdatabase

The database at UMPCPortal includes all sub 2.8 pound Chromebooks. Click the image above to access it.

Acer Aspire Switch 11 to get ‘V’ refresh later in 2015

The 11-12 inch screen size is perfect for mobile productivity and with processing power on the rise and design slimming down it gets more interesting every week. Intel’s Core M has a lot to do with the amount of activity in the sector and it might just be responsible for the new Acer Aspire Switch 11 V that got announced today. There aren’t many details available though as Acer only revealed that it would have improved ergonomics and more processing power. There’s one image available too.

Acer Aspire Switch 11V. More details later in Q2 2015.

Acer Aspire Switch 11V. More details later in Q2 2015.

 

Given that the Switch 11 was a product that was offered Intel’s Y-Series Cores it makes sense that it will be upgraded to Core M and will become fanless.  Total weight of the current Switch 11 is 1.5 KG so let’s hope that Acer means ‘improved weight’ when they say ‘improved ergonomics.’

Our list of Core-M based laptops and 2 in 1’s shows only three other Core M products with an 11-inch screen. The Lenovo Yoga 3 11 is a single-unit convertible and the Lenovo Thinkpad Helix 2 and Hp Elite x2 1011 G1 are higher-end models so there’s definitely space for the Acer Aspire Switch 11 with a Core M processor.

An Acer Switch 11 with Core M has already been found by TabTech (German) and it’s almost a certainty that the 11V and the SW5-173 found by Tebtech match up. As you can see from the image the design looks a lot better. We look forward to getting more information on the Switch 11V which, given the timescales, is likely to be formally launched at Computex in June.

Acer updates Aspire Switch 10 range for 2015.

Acer have just launched updated Aspire Switch 10 dockable tablets with  one starting at just $279. The high-end version has a full HD screen, digitizer pen support and gets a Gorilla Glass lid.

The Acer Aspire Switch 10 E (SW5-013) is the entry-level model and will be based on the existing Intel Atom Z3735.  The low pricing means the entry level model will have just 1GB of RAM which means Acer could be looking towards a richer Windows Store environment with and capability with Windows 10. 32 or 64 GB of storage, a 1280×800 resolution and a tablet weight of 630 grams aren’t groundbreaking but there’s a battery life of up to 12 hours and a Gorilla Glass touchscreen. Availability in China starts now with Europe following up in May and North America in June.

Aspire Switch 10 (2015 model)

Aspire Switch 10 (2015 model)

The Acer Aspire Switch 10 2015 (SW5-015) will come with a 1920 x 1200 screen and an unspecified Intel Atom CPU. Availability for Europe (€449) is planned for June with North America ($399) having to wait until August.  2GB of RAM, 32/64GB of storage (with optional hard disk) and USB 2.0 ports are the same as on previous Switch 10 models. Full specifications available in our product database.

Reinforced with an elegant white Gorilla® Glass 3 back cover, the tablet is resilient and the silver gray keyboard dock is an aesthetically appealing match. In addition, customers can purchase the optional Acer Active Pen for this model, which supports both passive and active pen input without requiring a digitizer.

Like the Switch 10 E it weighs 600 grams / 1.2KG but Acer quote a lower battery life: Up to 7 hours from a 22 Wh battery. This is no all-dayer.

Given that the specifications don’t differ much from the previous version of the Switch 10 and that the price is higher it’s difficult to see how Acer can launch this without an Atom X5 or X7 CPU.

All products are eligible for free Windows 10 upgrades.

The microsite for today’s Acer event is here.

iConsole Micro. The $129 Atom-powered Android stick.

ConsoleOS is a tailored build of Android (AOS) for X86 PCs. It’s optimized with features for keyboard and mouse, an anti-virus package and then it’s tailored for use with an expanding list of devices. The company that makes it is about to market ConsoleOS on a tiny X86 HDMI stick called iConsole Micro and it’s one of most interesting ultra mobile PCs I’ve checked out for a long time.

Me and iConsole Micro!

Me and iConsole Micro!

 

 

Give me Android on my TV and a dual-boot capability with KODI or Openelec and I can put 2 systems into one HDMI port on my TV. It might even replace my Fire TV Stick and Chromecast. With the power of the Intel Compute Stick (that iConsole Micro is based on) I should also be able to get some fun Android gaming out of it. I’ve had hands-on, and an ‘unboxing.’ Here’s what I have so far.

iConsole Micro

iConsole Micro

Inside iConsole TV (and all products based on the Intel Compute Stick) is an Atom Z3735F quad-core 1.33-1.8 Ghz Baytrail-T platform the same as you find in a lot of cheap Windows 8.1 tablets. There’s 32GB of storage inside the iConsole Micro and you get a full-size USB 2.0 port, a micro USB port (for power) and there’s WiFi and Bluetooth inside which will allow you to connect to a WiFi hotspot and pair a keyboard and mouse without using the USB port. A Micro SD card slot allows you to expand the internal storage up to 128 GB. The bootloader unlocked but it’s a 32-bit version which isn’t supported well on current 64-bit operating systems. There are ways to get it working though and I hope to see Openelec running on it ASAP! There’s no word on the RAM yet. 1 or 2GB is possible.

The announced price is $129 and availability is planned for summer. I’ve requested an update on that and I’ll update this post when I get the information.

iCOnsole usage ideas

  • iConsole Micro will ship with Android 5.0 which means it’s fully encrypted by default (not the Micro SD) which opens up some interesting data transport options.
  • The processing power should be enough for all Android games.
  • iConsole Micro is an interesting option for a HTPC. The platform can handle 50+ Mbps of H.264 with hardware decoding according to my tests on Windows. hopefully that hardware is supported in Android.
  • With a USB-Gigabit Ethernet port is can be a router or hotspot.
  • Tails or other security-focused Linux builds should work well on this if the 32-bit bootloader is supported.
  • Bluetooth controllers should work with Android.
  • The Amazon store will be included meaning you have access to official apps. Sideloading of apps will be possible. There’s no Google Play system.
  • With no screen this should be easy to power using a power bank or solar panel for headless operations.

One thing to note is that there are Windows tablets available using the same platform, offering the same specifications for the same money and including the screen and a battery. Not all of them have an HDMI output and none of them have a full size USB port meaning that charge+data is a little difficult but that might not be an issue for some people. What’s interesting with iConsole Micro is that you’re getting a fully working Android 5 build on X86 and judging by some of the interest there should be a good community around it.

Update: Liliputing have just published a review of the Intel Compute Stick which will give you some idea of the performance available when using Windows and the problems of loading other operating systems through the 32-bit bootloader.

I interviewed Chris Price at MWC in Feb where we go the first look at iConsole Micro.

Amazon Fire TV Stick Review (Focus on Miracast.)

firetvAt €39 the Amazon Fire TV Stick is very interesting. For Prime customers it’s a must-buy but for those of us with Miracast-enabled devices it means that the Miracast feature (Screen Mirroring) also brings extra value. Early firmware builds for the Fire TV Stick didn’t support Miracast from Windows 8.1 but I’ve just received a stick here in Germany, upgraded the firmware and tested Miracast on two Windows PCs, a Windows smartphone and an Android tablet. All of them worked but there are still some issues that need sorting out. Read on for a review of the Fire TV Stick, a focus on Miracast and some thoughts about KODI, iConsole Micro and Chromecast.

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is similar to Google’s Chromecast. Both are small  HDMI-connected Internet media streaming devices. Chromecast is designed to be driven from an Android device or the Chrome browser. There’s no built-in user interface and there’s no remote control. The Fire TV Stick, however, is a standalone unit with remote control and has a big-screen user interface. Google Chromecast is angled towards Google media services and Fire TV Stick is angled towards Amazon’s Prime services, as you’d expect.

The attractive Fire TV packaging includes the HDMI ‘stick’ and the tidy little remote control along with a small HDMI extender, a USB power supply, a micro USB to USB cable, batteries for the remote. There’s an app available for iPhone and Android that will also drive the Fire TV Stick and enable voice control but I’m not testing that here.

Amazon FireTV Stick packing is excellent.

Amazon Fire TV Stick packing is excellent.

Once plugged into a HDMI port on your screen and powered via the supplied adapter or an available USB port you’ll be guided through a simple configuration process that will connect the Fire TV Stick to a WiFi hotspot and will connect your Amazon account to the Fire TV Stick. For the best experience you’ll need a strong WiFi connection. For Miracast usage you’ll need both devices to be in close range of each other for the direct connection to work. (This feature doesn’t need a hotspot.)

Amazon Fire TV Stick (19) Amazon Fire TV Stick (23)

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Fire TV Stick powered through a TVs USB port.

 

Amazon features and third-party apps.

In summary Fire TC Stick is an Internet streaming device that can connect to online services for media content playback and download. Naturally the focus here is Amazon’s Prime service, which includes free video and TV series in (mostly SD) quality, Amazon music and Amazon photos. Access to premium films and TV series not included in Prime Video is available on a one-time charge basis. You’ll need an Amazon account for these services and a subscription for the Prime service for the free video and TV series. Note that although a Prime subscription can be shared in a family, that doesn’t include Prime Video. Note that the Amazon music library can only hold 200 uploaded songs unless you add another subscription service (Prime Music not available in all countries.)

In addition to video, music and photos you can install apps and games (you can use a compatible Bluetooth game controller.) I tested the TuneIn Radio app and was happy to be able to stream my favorite channels and podcasts to the TV. There are health, cooking and education apps and apps that will display photos from Flickr, Google and many other places. There’s also a YouTube app. I noticed that the user interface inside apps isn’t as responsive as in the native UI but apart from that I haven’t looked deeply into this area. Assuming all the apps work well it appears to be possible to get a good value experience out of the Fire TV Stick without an Amazon Prime account.

Screen Mirroring with Miracast.

Amazon Fire TV Stick includes a WiFi Alliance Miracast compatible screen mirroring function allowing phones and PCs to send their screen to the Fire TV Stick for display. The feature has recently been updated (54.1.1.0_user_110041020 is the version I’m testing) to improve this and some work went into improving support for Windows 8.1 devices.

Note that WiDi is an extension to the Miracast standard that includes some low-latency, quick setup, security and high bit-rate options but Fire TV Stick won’t support those. Windows 8.1 devices with WiDi should be able to send to Miracast receivers though.

There’s no screen-sharing security on the Fire TV Stick by default so if you go into ‘Display Mirroring’ (under the settings menu) and enable it, anyone will be able to use the screen. As the Fire TV Stick uses device-to-device (WiFi Direct) connectivity it doesn’t need a WiFi hotspot either. In many respects it’s good as it enables quick photo sharing from a phone but beware that once the Fire TV Stick is ready to accept a mirroring connection, the first one to connect wins the screen.

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Fire TV Stick Software 54.1.1.0_user_110041020 used in this test.

 

I tested Display Mirroring / Miracast with three Windows devices. A Lumia 830, a Surface Pro 3, a Lenovo Miix 2 8 I also tested a Dell Venue 8 7000 (Android)

Lumia 830 and Miracast

Lumia phones (and I assume other Windows Phone 8 devices) have ‘project my screen’ option in the settings. The Lumia 830 found the Fire TV Stick quickly and connected first time. There’s latency in the connection (my guess is 0.2-0.5 seconds) depending on connection quality) and the stream is significantly compressed. Color and definition is lost and I feel that the audio quality suffers too but for showing a quick YouTube video or sharing some photos it’s good enough. I also tried displaying a Powerpoint presentation and was impressed at how easy it was. For a full-screen experience you have to put the phone into landscape orientation but it was nice to have a no-wires experience. Screen zooming helps to highlight parts of  a presentation.

What happens when you take a picture of a mirrored Lumia 830 camera preview

What happens when you take a picture of a mirrored Lumia 830 camera preview

Music streaming via the Xbox Music app was almost stutter-free but I heard a couple of tiny breaks in the stream on average every 30 seconds. Local videos worked well but still had the occasional stutter.

Of the three devices tested the Lumia 830 was by far the easiest to set up and the most stable.

Surface Pro 3 and Miracast

The Surface Pro 3 provided the most stimulating experience but it took a long time to get it connected to the Fire TV Stick (multiple attempts, reboot and restarts to get the Fire TV sick discovered and added as a device) and it wasn’t very stable, especially when the Internet connection (via a WiFi connected hotspot) dropped. I saw the Fire TV Stick reboot a few times during my testing with the Surface Pro 3.

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Use the Windows Project menu while the FireTV stick is enabled for Display Mirroring.

Adding the Fire TV Stick can be done through the Devices menu (available from the charms bar Devices option.) Select “Project” and the PC should offer an “Add a wireless display'” option. If it doesn’t you’ll need to make sure the Fire TV Stick is in Display Mirroring mode and try again. Alternatively go into the control panel and select Devices and Printers.

The PC should show the name of Fire TV Stick in the device list and you should be able to select it. It’s likely that this attempt will fail and you’ll spent the next 30 minutes retrying, rebooting and restarting. Make sure your PC is updated as pending system updates can block the use of WiFi.

Once you’ve added and connected the Fire TV Stick successfully to your Surface Pro 3 you’ll see a low resolution copy of your screen via the Fire TV Stick. If your TV is a Full HD model then set the Surface Pro 3 to 1920 x 1080 resolution. Also set the remote screen to the same resolution and use the Surface Pro 3 in landscape mode.

One of the more interesting scenarios One Note, PDF Reader or Powerpoint with the stylus where documents can be annotated dynamically. It’s an impressive and dynamic way to hold a presentation but there’s one thing you need to be careful of. By switching the screens to ‘Extended’ mode one can run Powerpoint with notes showing on the tablet and a full display on the projected screen.

I found the connection between Surface Pro 3 and the Fire TV Stick to be stable but occasional pausing, a few FireTV stick reboots meant that this solution is not recommended for real-world usage. There’s also the latency (which can go up and down) and WiFi smog to think about. When you test this solution, do it in a room full of WiFi devices to make sure it’s going to work. I’ve successfully held 30 minute presentations over WiDi with an Actiontec ScreenBeam receiver [I note that the ScreenBeam Mini 2 is now $34.99] but I would be wary of doing the same with the current Fire TV Stick firmware.

Note that audio will be sent to the Fire TV Stick and if you want to play it locally (using Windows sounds settings you can change the audio output) it will be out of synchronization.

When it's working, the Surface Pro 3 is the perfect demonstration of why wireless display is worth having.

When it’s working, the Surface Pro 3 is the perfect demonstration of why wireless display is worth having.

WP_20150421_12_45_13_Pro WP_20150421_12_45_24_Pro
Screen quality on the mirrored screen is quite poor. Sub 1080p / 30 fps in my opinion. Original on left, mirrored screen on right.

The Surface Pro 3 and the Fire TV Stick could be a great combination but Amazon and Microsoft need to do some more work together before it’s smooth enough to be reliable in a business situation.

Lenovo Miix 2 8

The Miix 2 8 is a 1280×800 8-inch tablet running the Baytrail-T platform that many low-cost Windows 8 tablets used from 2013 through to mid 2015. I wanted to see if one of these basic tablets worked but there were too many issues to be able to recommend this. That may change with Windows 10.

Again it was a dance to get the Fire TV Stick recognised and added to the device list. Once it was connected it was clear that Display Mirroring wasn’t an option. Despite setting screen resolutions to the same setting and fixing screen rotation settings Windows 8.1 would not accept display mirroring (“Duplicate these displays” in Windows 8 talk) as an option. The Fire TV Stick would work as an extended screen but it is of no use whatsoever unless you’ve got a mouse with which to move and control Windows on the extended screen. There’s no way to push Windows on to an extended screen by using the touchscreen.

Lenovo Miix 2 can connect to the FireTV Stick, but not in any useful way.

Lenovo Miix 2 can connect to the Fire TV Stick, but not in any useful way.

 

I’ve successfully used the Lenovo Miix 2 10 (also on the Baytrail-T platform) with WiDi wireless display before so maybe that would also work with the Fire TV Stick. If it does it would indicate that low resolution screens don’t work with mirroring.

Dell Venue 8 7000

The Dell Venue 8 7000 is an 8-inch Android tablet that has a great 2K resolution screen and reasonable speakers which means that media playback on the device is a very good experience.

After selecting “Enable wireless display” in the “Cast screen” option under the Display settings the Fire TV Stick was visible and connected quickly. Latency was OK but as with the other devices tested here the mirrored image was compressed and weak in color range.  A 1080p video played from YouTube was not enjoyable despite the easy set-up experience. Sending audio from the Google Music app was also a poor experience with dropouts and poor quality audio. Remember that this is a streaming + streaming setup and not a ‘director’ setup as with the Chromecast and Google music. The Lumia 830 did a better job streaming audio and video to the Fire TV Stick but neither were high quality or stutter-free.

A word on Fire TV language and location in the EU.

You can choose any language for the user interface regardless of where you are located. (Your IP address will define that for Amazon). Problems occur when you want to access content.  Film content is licensed to a country and you won’t be able to use, for example, UK streaming content unless you use an IP proxy. For me, an Englishman in Germany, there’s a little bonus as, like Netflix, streaming video content in the Amazon store is often available with the original soundtrack as an option. There are also ‘original language’ (search for OV on the German Amazon store) films and TV series. When it comes to music that you’ve purchased via Amazon in another European country (and now have in your Music library) you can re-register that music to another country through your account settings. My UK-purchased music on my (multi country) Amazon account was registered to the UK only and did not show up in the Fire TV Stick. I was able to transfer that music over to Germany but it now means I can only access that music behind a German IP address. When I switched to my wifes account (German) her music became available but was blocked with a warning . I can enable that music but I can not change the music account to another one for 180 days. The situation is probably worse for video content purchased in another EU country.

It’s a pathetic situation we have with media licensing in ‘free trade’ EU. Film, TV and music rights are all controlled by different bodies and all have different country agreements. If you’re moving from one country to another I can only recommend one thing – spend money on a good proxy to your home location. This is something I’ll be trying with the Fire TV Stick although I don’t see any obvious ‘proxy’ or ‘vpn’ options…for obvious reasons!
Amazon Fire TV Stick (7)

Amazon Fire TV Stick (12)

Fire TV Stick or  Chromecast?

Our living-room TV has four HDMI inputs. Cable TV, Xbox, Openelec and Chromecast. After testing the Fire TV Stick I’ll be removing Chromecast and the reason is quite obvious – I use a Windows smartphone. Despite having my digital music collection in Google Music I will be looking out for a clean and stable solution for that on Fire TV and while I think Chromecast is excelent I’m pleased to be able to support some competition in this market. The Xbox remains as my gaming solution and cable TV remains as the live broadcast solution.

Fire TV Stick to replace dedicated KODI (previously XBMC) PC?

Openelec (an alternative, ‘thin’ KODI build) stays installed on my NUC and connected to my TV. It remains the easiest way I’ve found to stream raw content (without a re-encoder) from a NAS and the device does not need any type of account to be used. Those who have a Plex server installed might not need an alternative local content streaming solution but I am a huge fan of the simplicity and stability of Openelec. Here’s my NUC/Openelec setup and how-to. It is possible to install KODI / XMBC on the Fire TV Stick but it requires some effort. I might be moving my Openelec build from an Intel NUC to an iCOnsole Micro soon (Android OS with dual-boot ability) which will re-add a Google streaming capability to my setup.

Summary: Miracast and Display Mirroring on the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

This has been a look at Miracast Display Mirroring with Windows and Android devices on the Amazon Fire TV Stick which is a well-priced, self contained, Amazon Prime-focused media streaming solution. Depending on your country you will see an extra list of applications that are likely to include Netflix, YouTube, local TV station apps, Plex and Twitch. In terms of quality you can expect a mid-range, sub-1080p solution based on my tests with streamed content and an Amazon Prime Video account. Some content, mainly films, are available to buy or rent in HD.

The Display Mirroring results weren’t good overall but with the current firmware there are a few use cases that can be considered. The Lumia 830 and the Dell Venue 8 7000 would work for short Powerpoint or PDF presentations and quick photo share to a big screen or projector. There’s an exciting and potentially game-changing use case for dynamic and interactive wireless presentations using the Surface Pro 3 and similar pen-enabled devices but firmware need to improve to make this easier to set up and more stable to use. The Fire TV Stick should not be used for gaming or desktop screen usage due to lag and I can not currently recommend Display Mirroring for watching a high quality movie or audio from a device via the Fire TV Stick.

At €/$39 it’s clear that Fire TV is made for Prime and it’s a must-buy if you’re a Prime customer. If not then you might find that it still has value based on the applications available. If you’re an Android / Google user then Chromecast probably remains a better solution.

Fire TV display mirroring does not beat WiDi so ff you’re looking for a higher quality wireless display experience I still recommend WiDi and the Actiontec ScreenBeam Pro (I haven’t tested the Mini 2 version yet) for better video and audio quality along with lower latency options and improved access. The dream of having a WiDi-enabled HDMI streaming stick remains.

Dell Venue 10 Pro shipping. Review model incoming.

Starting at just $329 the 10-inch Dell Venue 10 Pro doesn’t look like anything special but take a look at the high-end package that’s available in the range. It comes with a nice-looking keyboard dock, full HD screen, 64 GB storage and it costs just $429 now at the Dell US site. There’s even a Wacom digitizer pen available for $34.99. Ooh! Do we have another Surface 3 competitor here?

Dell Venue 10 Pro and keyboard. $429

Dell Venue 10 Pro and keyboard. $429

 

I’ll be getting a Dell Venue 10 Pro tomorrow (reviewing for Notebookcheck.net) and I’m really hoping I get the keyboard because that’s the important part.

The tablet is a 626 gram (1.38 pound) unit with a 32 Wh battery inside (compared to 626 grams and 27 Wh on the Surface 3) but it’s only running the Broadwell-T Atom Z3735F  which I find a little underwhelming; not because the Surface 3 is using Atom X7 but because Dell could have used a higher-end Baytrail-T that would have competed well with the Atom X7 in terms of CPU power. Despite that though there’s no 4GB RAM option, no AC WiFi and of course the display is only 10.1-inches with a 16:9 aspect and not a 10.8-inch 3:2 format screen as on the Surface 3. The port rundown is as follows:

Dell Venue 10 Pro

Dell Venue 10 Pro

  • Full-size USB 2.0
  • Micro HDMI
  • Micro USB (charging or data.)
  • Headset

The keyboard is available as part of a package or for $89.99 and it looks solid, like the keyboard on the Dell Venue 11 Pro. At 1.38 pounds, 626 Grams, it’s much heavier than the Surface 3 Type Cover keyboard but it might give users a less stressful and more productive experience. There’s no backlight and no extra battery inside.

There’s a LTE option (with GPS) and as I mentioned, an optional Wacom digitizer pen and you can also buy the Dell Venue 10 Pro with 32GB of storage and a 1280×800 screen.

Stay tuned for some early thoughts and perhaps a little unboxing and early test. The full review will be at Notebookcheck.net.

Alternatives to the Dell Venue 10 Pro: ASUS Transformer Book T100 Chi, Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10, Microsoft Surface 3, Lenovo Thinkpad 10 Tablet and many more tablets with 10-inch screens.

Toshiba Click Mini is shipping; but is it too late?

ASUS and Toshiba have a problem. They both launched 8.9-inch 1KG dockable tablets in Q1 2015 and before they got them to market the processing platform was upgraded and a shiny new product appeared. Microsoft’s Surface 3 runs on the brand new Atom X7 processor and clearly there’s going to be a run of new products leading up to Computex and ‘back-to-school’ period that will use X5 and X7 Atom. Why on earth would anybody want an ‘old’ Baytrail-T based tablet now?

Surface 3 side (4)

Microsoft’s Surface 3 runs on a new Atom X7 processor.

 

I know, and you probably know too that Atom X7 is about making things smaller and cheaper and adding new branding. Apart from the ‘up to 50%’ graphics performance improvements (which aren’t going to help your average mobile PC user by much) there’s little to talk about in the CPU department. Processing power, per clock, is much the same as before. The die is smaller and there’s a possibility that these processors will be cheaper to make than Baytrail-T but it’s not going to mean much to you and me.

What matters is that people want the latest tech and they want it for the cheapest price. They also want it to look good, especially after we’ve recently seen beautiful devices. Macbook, Surface 3, UX305 etc. I’m looking at you.

Satellite_Click_Mini_05_with_screenToshiba’s Satellite Click Mini is an ugly dockable tablet running on old technology that started shipping today (*1.) In reality it’s a damn interesting device at an excellent price. 350 nit 1920×1200 display with a total of 38Wh battery, full SD card slot, full size USB, free Office 365 for a year in a 1 KG package. This is the stuff that UMPC fans dream of (see my hands-on video below) but I fear it’s not going to be popular. I am tempted to buy one for UMPCPortal but I fear it will be wasted money, even if it is just going to cost the company €260. (Note to readers from North America: EU companies don’t pay the average 20% sales tax you see included in European prices.) Maybe I should save that money for the T90.

ASUS Transformer Book T90 Chi BackASUS’ T90 might have a better chance. It’s still on the ‘old’ Atom platform but it’s a great looking device. It’s also using a high-end variant of Baytrail-T which should return CPU scores very close to what we’re seeing in Surface 3 performance benchmarks. It weighs a class-leading 750 grams with the (non-backlit) keyboard dock and comes with a 64GB storage option. There’s a rumor that it might come with full 64-bit bootloader support which would be interesting for Linux and other multiboot scenarios. The problems are 1) It has a 1280×800 screen which is usable but not an impressive specification and 2) No-one has been able to get a full hands-on or review model yet. The T90 Chi might never materialize.

ASUS might have the right idea by holding back the T90. A re-launch in June (Computex) on the Atom X7 platform with a full HD screen and Windows 10 would allow them to ride the Surface 3 buzz. ASUS have also got space to re-price it as the Surface 3 is relatively expensive.

As for the rest of the Baytrail-T Windows tablets and convertibles, well, they’re safe until something launches on Atom X5 and X7. If they launch with Windows 10 then the Baytrail generation will feel even older. Time to put those Z3xxx tablets on Ebay?

*1 The Toshiba Satellite Click Mini is now shipping in Germany. Video hands-on below.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 extended review and tips. It’s still worth it!

After six months with the Surface Pro 3 I felt inspired to write a detailed review, and that says a lot about the product.

Surface Pro 3, and pen, review.

Surface Pro 3, and pen, review.

The Surface Pro 3 fell into my hands as part of a long-term loan deal from Intel. They invited me to attend IDF in San Francisco and 2 days before flying to the event my Ultrabook packed-in. Intel, perhaps seeing that I might not be able to write anything about their biggest event of the year, offered a Surface Pro 3 and that’s how I ended up with it. I didn’t choose it and Intel, as is normal for them, didn’t ask me to write anything about the product even though it turns out that it’s not just a showcase of Intel 4th-Gen Core engineering but a damn good all-round Tablet PC. From desktop to laptop to presentation device and lots in-between. The Surface Pro 3 is 800 grams of ultra-powerful, ultra-mobile PC. It is, I can confirm after 6 months of use, a tablet that can replace your laptop, and your desktop. Add a keyboard cover and it’s almost as good as a laptop.

This is not a Microsoft Surface 3 review. (For Surface 3 reviews, look here.)

This Surface Pro 3 review is long and detailed…

To cut the long story short you need to read the following 6 points (and share the review to all you social networks with a glowing tag-line.)

  1. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is powerful enough to use as a desktop and 1080p video editing tool. I’ve also been using it as a desktop with a USB 3.0 docking station. You might not need the Type Cover keyboard cover accessory.
  2. The Surface Pro 3 is incredibly well-engineered, both inside and out.
  3. Battery life is on average between 5 hours (hard work) and 6 hours (browsing) and can extend to 8 hours video playback. It’s good for an 800 gram device but you’ll still need to take the power brick with you. (Detailed battery life report below.)
  4. The Microsoft Type Cover keyboard accessory is strange, but it works. [At least it works well now that I’ve modified it a little.] The back-lit keys are awesome in events, conferences and press launches. The problem is that it doesn’t sit well on a lap and it’s horribly noisy when angled-up at the back.
  5. The digitizer pen is great, but has no stowage space on the device. I have no idea where it is as I write this review.
  6. The lack of physical ports is going to annoy you. You’ll forget an adapter and have to borrow one, often. Surface Pro 3 needs a second USB 3.0 port. I’ve never used the silly little Micro SD card slot.

I recommend the Surface Pro 3, but not for the 12 hour road warrior but it’s the best TabletPC there is and the one with the smallest list of compromises. It competes with, and beats, many Ultrabooks.  It is inspirational and, when one projects a thought into the future, part of a product-range that could define a new way to use PCs. The Surface Pro 3 is a very, very important product.

[Update: The Microsoft Surface 3 launched while I was preparing this review but it’s not in the same league. You can carry on reading.]

Surface Pro 3 Photos (62)Microsoft Surface Pro 3 detailed specifications.

Here’s what’s inside the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, in detail.

  • CPU type: Intel Core i5 4300U (VPro not enabled. More details here.)
  • CPU speed: 800 Mhz (idle) 1.9 Ghz + Turbo Boost to 2.9 Ghz.
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4400 to 1.1Ghz
  • Operating system. Windows 8.1 Pro. (Full disk encryption and other advanced features)
  • Display Size: 12.0″ 2160 X 1440. Wide viewing angles. (IPS)
  • Screen Type : LED-Backlit LCD
  • Touchscreen technology: 10-point finger touch with digitizer
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • SSD storage: 128 GB SATA. Samsung MZMTE128HMGR-00MV
  • Battery capacity: 42 (Wh)
  • Weight: 800 grams / 1.76 pounds.  (Measured weights: Tablet: 802 grams. Type Cover: 297 grams. Pen: 18 grams. PSU without mains cable: 164 grams. Example mains cable 1.5 M, Europe: 87 grams.)
  • Size (w/h/d mm) 292/201/9.1 mm
  • Size (w/h/d inches) 11.5/7.9/0.4
  • Ports: Mini Displayport, USB 3.0, Headset (mic+ line-out), Micro SD slot. Reversible magnetic power port. Magnetic keyboard port.
  • Array Mic.  Stereo speakers.
  • Internal: WiFi 802.11AC (Marvell AVASTAR), Bluetooth 4.0, Digital compass, TPM 2.0, Realtek audio
  • Web cams: Front: 1.3 MP. Rear: 5.0 MP.
  • Accessories available: Two keyboard types, docking station. (Type Cover used in this review.)

Before we move on I notice that you didn’t fully read the specifications. Go back and take note of Windows 8.1 Pro and TPM. It enables full-disk Bitlocker encryption and that’s something you need if you carry important data.

As I write this section I’m conscious of the lack of a USB-C port. 12 months ago this wasn’t important. Today it is. Surface Pro 4 must have two USB-C ports for charging and data. USB-C is something that could age the Surface Pro 3 very quickly so if you’re reading this review in late 2015, let us know what you think of a device without USB Type C port in the comments below.

The DisplayPort interface highlights a professional angle on the specifications. You can buy a Mini DP-to-HDMI adaptor for under $20.

There’s no built-in GPS. On Windows 8.1 that might not be an issue but with the Cortana location-aware assistant in Windows 10 (Summer 2015) it might be an issue.

The 42 Wh battery is very good for this weight of Core i5 device.

A complete Surface Pro 3 gallery is available here.

Working Fascia – Screen, Keyboard, Touchpad.

The Surface Pro 3 does not come with a keyboard but I’m reviewing the ($129, street price $110) Type Cover keyboard accessory. A reminder. I’m reviewing the Surface Pro 3 (not the Surface 3) with 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD.

Surface Pro 3 Screen.

Surface Pro 3 screen is excellent quality but not perfect.

Surface Pro 3 screen is excellent quality but not perfect.

A 2160 x 1440 resolution  is too much for some desktop applications, requires extra processing over a low resolution screen and needs tweaking for different scenarios. I’ve used this screen at 1680×1050 resolution for some stubborn Windows desktop apps (Cyberlink PowerDirector 12 is my main problem) but I switch to native resolution and a 150% magnification for tablet usage. It’s a lot of messing about and for me, someone who needs larger fonts for my tired eyes, sub-optima. I understand that it gives people options though and I see how it might add a little to the ‘marketing value’ of the device.

Colors look great, brightness is great (go to the Notebookcheck review for detailed test results on the screen) and although the 3:2 aspect ratio isn’t good for widescreen films, it’s better for general productivity. Viewing angles are more than acceptable. Photographers and digital designers might wish for a little more color accuracy and coverage but this is easily good enough for any sort of preview work. 2K videos look stunning.

Type Cover keyboard.

Surface Pro 3 Photos _20_

The Type Cover provides a reasonable typing experience.

 

There’s a story to tell here because just before CeBIT in March I nearly threw the keyboard cover right out of the Window. The hollow sound of the keyboard is something I can get used to (or you can drop the keyboard down to ‘table-flat’ mode to reduce that) and the short ‘throw’ of the keys is fine for me. The main issue was the spacebar. I tend to use just the right 20% of any spacebar and the error rate here was too high. I aborted it and nearly gave up on the SP3 completely. A random conversation at CeBIT convinced me to try another Type Cover and, surprise, there was no spacebar problem! Back at home later that week I decided to see if I could fix the spacebar. Perhaps there was a stray bit of glue or a crisp stuck under there. I didn’t recall spilling any Coke on it but it was always possible.  It turned out that there was nothing under the spacebar expect a very tricky set of plastic scissor-action hinges that took me an hour to get back into place. Be careful if you remove the spacebar!

What I did find was a metal clip underneath the spacebar which I popped-out and carefully bent up at one end. After re-fitting the spacebar everything was, and still is, 100%. I’m can now say that I am truly happy with the Type Cover keyboard. It’s expensive, but it’s extremely light, protective and is back-lit. The felt covering on the back is still in perfect condition after 6 months.

Modified Type Cover spacebar.

Modified Type Cover spacebar.

The mouse pad is small but I don’t find it an issue. It’s accurate and two-finger scrolling works well. Remember that you’ve got a touchscreen and digitizer to enhance the experience too.

Kickstand.

The final part of the ‘working fascia’ is the stand. I was worried that it would loosen-up or break but after 6 months of use in many scenarios the stand is still working perfectly. On close inspection (image below) there does seem to be some wear but I can’t detect it in use.

The stand is not great for lapping with the Type Cover due to the extremely large surface area it needs to hold itself up. I’m not sure how this issue can be solved given the tablet-first design but a solid (and probably quite heavy) fixed keyboard with battery and dock hinge is the only answer I can think of.

Surface Pro 3 stand close-up after 6 months.

Surface Pro 3 stand close-up after 6 months.

The stand is a continuous fold-back (not stepped) design and allows the tablet to sit in a comfortable position when you’re using the pen. I find myself using the stand to improve my grip on the tablet as I move about although there appears to be a ribbon cable behind the stand that might be at risk if you do this too much. The stand helps in that knees-up position you sometimes find yourself in when in bed. I haven’t seen reports of broken hinges and if you’re checking a second-hand model a little ‘play’ should be expected.

The working fascia goes from simple tablet to complex keyboard / stand setup. At first you might not find a comfortable position and the echoey sound of the keyboard is very likely to annoy you but having fixed the spacebar I’m happy with it as the best keyboard-case I’ve ever tested.

Surface Pro 3 ruggedness.

The metal casing is resistant to light abrasion only.

The metal casing is resistant to light abrasion but not metal-to-metal action.

As you can see on the image there are a number of scratches at the base of the stand. One of them is deep but apart from that the Surface Pro 3 is scratch free. The screen is almost perfect (one tiny scratch) and there’s no damage to the plastics or the felt on the keyboard cover. The switchgear remains solid. There’s no evidence of the paint coming off the keycaps and although a sticker I added in November has almost worn through, there’s no evidence of scratching on the main part of the rear of the device. I’m guessing that the stand base has rubbed against something at the bottom of my shoulder bag and I’ll be a bit more careful about stowing it in the future.

Note that there’s no spinning hard drive in the Surface Pro 3 so there’s no risk of damaging data if the unit gets bumped around. I have no comments about dust / water ingress resistance.

Tablet usage.

As a Tablet PC the Surface Pro 3 is good. As a casual tablet, not so.

The 10-point capacitive touch and pressure-sensitive digitizer with palm rejection is exactly what’s needed if you want to use the Surface Pro 3 for scenarios like annotations, handwriting input, sketching, editing, signatures and education. The built-in Reader application, for example, has pen support for annotations. One Note is free and very feature-rich when it comes to pen support.

Windows 8 Reader app has pen support.

Windows 8 Reader app has pen support.

The 10 mm registration distance means there’s good palm rejection support and it’s also good for ‘hover’ actions that aren’t easily accessible through a capacitive touchscreen. The stylus has three buttons that are used for erase, right-click and, on the top of the pen via a separately powered Bluetooth connection, to launch One Note. A double-click on the top button captures the screen and opens it in One Note as long as Bluetooth is enabled and the separate battery is working. Over the last 4 months I’ve stopped using Evernote and have completely migrated to One Note as a result of the pen, the One Drive synchronization and the availability of One Note on other platforms.

Surface Pro 3 Photos (2)

Edge accuracy on the pen is good. Where applications support it, the pen delivers a great experience.

Unfortunately the Surface Pro 3 isn’t a good casual tablet in the way that maybe an iPad or a lightweight Android tablet might be. At 900 grams it’s too heavy, there’s some heat (and sometimes fan output) and although the 3:2 ratio makes it a bit easier to hold in landscape mode, it’s too big. You can’t really thumb the on-screen keyboard and, as we all know, the Windows 8.1 app experience isn’t as rich as it should be. That could change with Windows 10 and Microsoft’s renewed push for Universal Apps across Windows Phone and PC.

Surface Pro 3 is too heavy for long-term hand-holding.

Surface Pro 3 is too heavy for long-term hand-holding. Look at the strain on my wrist!

 

I’ve rarely used the Surface Pro 3 in casual home scenarios because of the size problem and the issue of finding enough space to use the stand. I’d rather have a 7-8 inch tablet with me, even a Windows one, as I watch TV. Even my cheap Lenovo N20p touchscreen convertible Chromebook is a better experience as it’s more stable on the side of an armchair or on the lap. Over time, in Surface Pro generations to come (see: Surface 3 launched) this problem will be solved. We’ll get to 500 grams with a Core M CPU in 2016 or even 2017 that’s perfect for consumption but for the Surface Pro 3 that’s not the case.

Ports.

While not as limited as the new Macbook (again, great engineering) which has just a single USB-C charge/data port the Surface Pro 3 is still quite limited. There’s no full-size SD card slot (there’s a Micro SD card slot under the kickstand) and you’ll have to use Display Port cables and adapters for your external screens. The DisplayPort (V1.2) can support two external daisy-chained full HD displays or one 4K display. A single full size USB 3.0 port is available for data although it’s not a hugely powerful port. I initially experienced an issue with an external SSD (which appears to have been solved via a recent firmware update) and I’ve been told that other devices may not work on the port. An external powered USB hub will solve the issue but that’s not a solution when you’re mobile so be aware of that. The Surface Pro 3 has a single headset port, a keyboard docking port and a power/docking connector.

Surface Pro 3 docking connector.

Surface Pro 3 keyboard docking ports.

Surface Pro 3 left side.

Surface Pro 3 left side.

Surface Pro 3 right side.

Surface Pro 3 right side.

A complete Surface Pro 3 gallery is available here.

Wireless Connectivity.

A Marvell AVASTAR WiFi module provides WiFi AC and 2.4 and 5 Ghz band support (selectable after a recent driver upgrade) with connectivity speeds up to 866.5 Mbps. In practice the WiFi has proven to be strong, fast and stable. In a local AC-WiFi NAS transfer test I was able to reach a stable 30 MB/s (280 Mbps) which is probably the limit of the local NAS drive. See below for SSD storage speed tests. Bluetooth 4 is included.

As there is no enabled NFC module on the Surface Pro 3 I was unable to test a Tap-and-Send WiFi direct operation from a Nokia Lumia phone. Bluetooth file transfers from a Lumia 830 were relatively slow, taking about 10 seconds to transfer a 2.5 MB photo.

Internally there’s Miracast support (not including WiDi extensions) for 1080p and multi-channel audio over WiFi and you can also send audio over Bluetooth but only using the A2DP protocol which isn’t high-quality.

Surface Pro 3 docking.

The Microsoft Docking Station for Surface Pro 3 (not tested) is a $199 accessory that utilizes the side power/docking port to provide three USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port (possibly via internal USB to Ethernet adapter) a mini Display Port, headset port (not separate mic and audio-out) and a locking port. The Type Cover can be left on the Surface Pro 3 which is clamped into the dock via extendable ‘wings.’ docking station (2)

I haven’t used the Surface Pro 3 dock (which, incidentally, is going to be compatible with the next Surface Pro model according to Microsoft) but I regularly use a Belkin USB 3.0 DisplayLink dock which provides similar ports for a similar price. The Belkin dock is universal and allows the Surface Pro 3 to be angled as required. (The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 dock holds the Surface Pro 3 at a fixed angle.)

More details on my hot-desking experiences in this article.

The disadvantage of the USB 3 based docks is that 1) they use a small amount of CPU to drive the  DisplayLink software and 2) the display quality is not 100% in sync or at 100% quality. For Office working I haven’t noticed these issues on the Surface Pro 3 but customers need to be aware of this issue for gaming and high-quality video scenarios.

Security.

All Surface Pro products currently ship with the Windows 8.1 Pro OS which includes additional security features over basic Windows 8.1. The most important feature is disk encryption. Microsoft Bitlocker encrypts all the data on your drive and can be used to encrypt data on a removable drive using the Bitlocker To-Go feature. In addition to Bitlocker, Windows 8 (all versions) ships with an anti-virus solution called Defender and a firewall / packet inspector.  It is also recommended to make sure that automatic updates are turned on.

You can disable non-security updates from being installed.

You can disable non-security updates from being installed.

The UEFI boot software has some important security features. The Secure Boot feature will ensure that any operating system being booted is signed which can prevent attacks via USB -based password cracking software. A password can be set on the BIOS (recommended to stop someone turning off Secure Boot) and there are (after a recent firmware update) options to disable ports and features in the Surface Pro 3 BIOS. As well as having security advantage these new options could also help to improve battery life.

BIOS security features

BIOS security features

More on Windows 8.1 tablet security can be found in this detailed article.

And relax! In the next part of this review I look at performance…

Surface Pro 3 performance.

The combination of Ultrabook-style processor, 4GB of RAM and a fast storage device means the Surface Pro 3 can be considered a barrier-free PC for many.  You’ll have no problem managing a large photo or music library (I still use Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Media Player to manage large libraries of media, even on a network drive.) Simple photo editing is fast and the Surface Pro 3 is powerful enough for every Windows 8 Store game there is. Minecraft works (see test below) and World Of Warcraft can be played at medium settings. You’ll find some fun in many desktop games too but don’t expect the latest 3D games to work on anything but minimum graphics settings.  The limits of the Surface Pro 3 can be found if you push the device too much in memory, storage, CPU or GPU loads but most people won’t find those limits. Occasionally I’ve had a Windows Defender process get stuck on a large compressed archive file (and heard the fan as a warning signal.) I’ve experienced fan noise on rendering full HD videos with a lot of filters in but in general you won’t hear the fan. As a hot-desking and home office PC it’s perfect. In order to position the performance for you I’ve put together some benchmark figures below.

PCMark 7 is a good indication of performance in office scenarios and in a battery powered test the Surface Pro 3 scored 4616 (4668 on a mains-powered second run) which is a little lower than the 4800-5000 that some other Core i5-4300U systems get. [System storage figures might have been affected by a relatively full disk.] 

Surface Pro 3 PCMark 7 score: 4616 (battery powered.)

Surface Pro 3 PCMark 7 score: 4616 (battery powered.)

 

Disk Performance.

The CrytalDiskMark 3.0.3 test result shows that the SSD in the Surface Pro 3 is more than fast enough. Combined with a USB 3.0 external SSD drive the transfer rates for file transfers are incredibly fast. 200-300 MB/s means your videos can be moved around with ease. A fast SSD also helps to reduce the effects of background tasks like anti-virus, system cleaning, indexing and system updates.

CrystalDiskMark on the Surface Pro 3

CrystalDiskMark on the Surface Pro 3

The headline 433 MB/s sequential read figure and the 57.63 small-block write figure will ensure that nothing ‘blocks’ the system, even if multiple tasks are being done at the same time. [Note that these SSD performance figures are way above what the Surface 3 can offer.)

CPU Performance.

Raw multi-core CPU performance from the Intel Core i5 4300U CPU is good – about twice the performance of  current Intel Atom-based systems and way ahead of the performance we were seeing from Ultrabooks just a few years ago. For example the original Lenovo Yoga 3 scored 2.23 on the Cinebench multi-core test. The Surface Pro 3, at 2.77, is 24% ahead. For fun, I looked at the CPU performance of a 2008 netbook. The Surface Pro 3 has exactly ten times the processing power.

Cinebench 11.5 CPU (Multi core): 2.77-2.82

Cinebench 11.5 multi-CPU

Cinebench 11.5 multi-CPU

Cinebench 11.5 CPU (Single core): 1.20-1.26

CPU Performance is reliant on ambient and internal temperature for long-duration CPU loads as Turbo Boost can cut back the clockrate if the system gets too warm but in short-term, 1-2 minute, bursts you can expect the full 2.6 Ghz dual Core (2.9 Ghz single core) maximum from the system.

Browsing / Javascript Performance.

There’s enough power in the Surface Pro 3 for a swift, multi-tab browsing experience with any browser. Browser technology changes over time and benchmark results will vary but here are the current Sunspider, Peacekeeper and Octane results.

Sunspider.

  • 240 ms (Chrome 41)
  • 106 ms (IE 11 desktop)
  • 190 ms (Firefox 37.0.1)
  • 102 ms (IE Metro / Windows 8.1)

Peacekeeper.

  • 4226 (Firefox 37.0.1)
  • 3736 (Chrome 41)
  • 2477 (IE 11 desktop)

Octane V2.

  • 22808 (Chrome 41)

Intel Quick Sync Video rendering performance.

Intel Quick Sync is a hardware-based video decoding and encoding subsystem capable of vastly reducing the load on a PC for some video operations. Handbrake video conversion software supports Quick Sync as does the Cyberlink Power Director 12 video editing software (which is the video editing software I use for all my videos.) Handbrake was able to render 2K to 1080p at 180 fps where the CPU-based X.264 profile resulted in only 22 fps.

  • Handbrake SVN6013 32-bit + Quick Sync profile. 2560×1440 23 FPS 33 Mbps to 1080p 4 Mbps: 180 FPS.
  • Handbrake SVN6013 32-bit + X.264 CPU profile. 2560×1440 23 FPS 33 Mbps to 1080p 4 Mbps: 22 FPS.

Using Power Director 12 I tested various video rendering operations and saw big advantages but it’s also worth noting that the editing process itself, even with the 2K resolution video file, was smooth. (I disable shadow files as Quick Sync is also able to accelerate the decoding of video clips making shadow files unnecessary.) In a 1080p multi clip overlay, titles and rendering operation from 24 fps to 30 fps the Quick Sync hardware improved the rendering time by 2X.

  • Power Director 12. crossfade two 2K H.264 33 Mbps clips. Title in three places.Render to 1080p 25 fps using Intel Quick Sync. 4:36 video in 5:04
  • Power Director 12. crossfade two 1080p H.264 6MBP 24 fps clips. Title in 5 places. Render to 720p 3Mbps using Intel Quick Sync 9:13 video in  1:41
  • Power Director 12. crossfade three 1080p H.264 6MBP 24 fps clips plus one cutaway clip (on 2nd video edit timeline.) Title in 5 places. Render to 30 fps 8Mbps format using Intel Quick Sync. 6:37 video in 5:00
  • Power Director 12. crossfade three 1080p H.264 6MBP 24 fps clips. plus one cutaway clip (on 2nd video edit timeline.) Title in 5 places. Render to 30 fps 8Mbps format using CPU. 6:37 video in 9:35

Note: Effects on video clips (color, stabilization, overlays) will cause the rendering software to use CPU encoding. There are limits to the advantages of Intel Quick Sync.

3D and gaming performance.

3D performance has improved since Microsoft distributed a Surface Pro 3 firmware and driver update at the end of last year.  In July 2015 notebookcheck.net tested the Surface Pro 3 and saw 877 scored on 3DMark 11. Today we see over 1000 points from the same benchmark.

  • Cinebench 11.5 OpenGL: 19.1-19.35
  • 3DMark 11 Performance: P1033
3DMark11. Surface Pro 3 beats other 4th-Gen Core PCs.

3DMark11. Surface Pro 3 beats other 4th-Gen Core PCs.

Does the Surface Pro 3 have enough processing power for gaming? As I’m not a gaming expert I’m going to point you again to Notebookcheck for a set of gaming test results. I’ll make one observation though. Under heavy load the Surface Pro 3 can throttle CPU and GPU clockrates. Performance drops over time. Gaming benchmarks are not, in my opinion, a good indicator of longer-term gaming performance. When the CPU and GPU are at full load the system will generate heat, create fan noise and will run a Surface Pro 3 battery empty in about 2 hours. My opinion is that the Surface Pro 3 is OK for casual gaming, short-term desktop style gaming or for gaming with the applications found in the Windows Store. Again, the Surface Pro 3 is not a desktop gaming PC.

I have not tested Steam In-Home Streaming.

I tested Minecraft and although initial frame rates were in the 40’s it wasn’t long before those rates dropped into the 20’s. Turning on ‘fast’ graphics pushed those figures back up to the 4o’s so there’s some potential here. I enjoyed it!

minecraft1

Minecraft on the Surface Pro 3. Default settings. Initial FPS:46

minecraft2

Minecraft on the Surface Pro 3. Default settings. FPS:29 after 5 minutes.

WiFi performance.

WiFi performance is critical on a mobile device like the Surface Pro 3 and I’m happy to report that it’s good. During a ‘smoggy’ trade show and conference the connectivity was reliable and in my co-working office I connect at over 800 Mbps with AC WiFi. Range is good too. The only thing that could be better is having the WiDi extensions to Miracast and, for me, some apps to help with WiFi Direct file transfers from a Lumia phone. The NFC-initiated Tap and Send process on my previous Ultrabook was great for sending videos from the phone to the PC but at standard Bluetooth speeds on the Surface Pro 3 that’s not possible.

Noise and Heat.

The Surface Pro 3 has a fan and can definitely generate some heat. In these days of fanless laptops and tablets using the Core M CPU the Surface Pro 3 might sound a little out-of-date but be aware that the Surface Pro 3 will easily out-perform devices based on the Core M platform. In the next generation of Core M, which we could see in late 2015, that might not be the case and it’s at that point that we should consider a Surface Pro 4. In the meantime though you should know that the fan isn’t ever loud and in basic tablet usage the back never gets hot. As a reference point, consider my co-working space which is generally very quiet. I can hear my co-workers laptop fans across the room more than I can hear the Surface Pro 3 and even when running benchmarks, as I have been here, there’s little real-world noise from the fan. Heat could be a problem if you’re in a warm environment and trying to use some performance-intensive software when in tablet mode but there aren’t many alternatives that would do better.

Surface Pro 3 battery life.

Testing battery life on mobile PCs is a difficult task and only truly possible either by completing the full 100% rundown test or by using special mainboard measuring equipment. As I don’t have the latter and don’t have the time to let 56 hours of battery test run through I use a shorter test and extrapolate the results. By reading the battery discharge rate from the PC (available using the perfmon monitoring tool) I am able to watch the figures as I change variables on the system. For example minimum screen brightness to maximum screen brightness, turning WiFi on or off or video playback variations. In general we can ignore WiFi as a factor on PCs bigger than 10-inches as the 200 mw idle usage (my test result) is negligible compared to the 1.5 – 2.5W of the screen backlight and 1 – 3 W from the idle mainboard of a modern Windows tablet or Ultrabook.

The Surface Pro uses the Intel Core i5 4300U. This is a system-on-chip optimized for mobile use and has some very advanced low power states. It supports Microsoft Windows InstantGo (formerly Connected Standby) and operates in a 15W TDP. Basically it’s an Ultrabook platform.  Using HWInfo64 and its sensor monitoring tool (which uses very little CPU) I was able to view power drain rates on a per second, max, min and average basis.

The first thing to mention about battery life is that the screen backlight is very powerful (max 350 nits brightness) but can use a lot of battery power; up to 3.2W. Battery life figures will vary wildly depending on how the backlight is set. I disabled adaptive brightness (automatic brightness control) for all tests. The WiFi connection was set to be a metered connection to prevent background WiFi activity as much as possible.

Surface Pro 3 battery test results.

Idle. Lowest screen brightness:WiFi on; 2.4 W drain (equates to 17.5 hours battery life.)

Idle. Highest screen brightness (about 350 nits): WiFi on; 5.63 W drain (7.6 hours battery life)

Local video playback: WiFi off. 50% screen brightness (comfortable in a bright room)  2K resolution H.264 video (33 Mbps); 5.3 W drain (8.1 hours battery life.)

Video streaming with IE: WiFi on. 50% screen brightness. 1080p YouTube video full screen via IE Metro/RT app; 6.7 W average. (6.4 hours battery life.)

Video streaming with Chrome: WiFi on. 50% screen brightness. 1080p YouTube video full screen via Chrome 42.0: 12.4 W average. (3.4 hours battery life)

Web + HTML5 apps with Chrome: WiFi on. 50% screen brightness. Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and continuous browsing set for 5 minutes: 8.6 W (4.8 hours battery life.)

Web + Metro apps. 50% screen brightness. Tweetdeck, Facebook, Mail and continuous browsing set using IE Metro for 5 minutes. 7.2 W (5.8 hours battery life.)

Gaming: WiFi On, 50% screen brightness Minecraft fullscreen, fast graphics settings. 16.9 W (2.54 hours battery life.)

Note that Chrome is always more power-hungry when streaming YouTube videos compared to IE (desktop and Metro apps) but in this case the difference was slightly more than I expected. Chrome desktop is also a more power-hungry way to work with online applications. An extra hour of battery life was possible by staying within the Windows 8 application environment for the Web tests shown above.

In general the Surface Pro 3 offers good very efficiency for the processing power available. Naturally the next generation processors from Intel (Core M, Broadwell-U) will offer more power per watt but the difference, based on what I’ve tested so far, isn’t that big. Skylake, due in late 2015, is likely to be a bigger step forward and I predict we’ll see the next Surface Pro, perhaps the Surface Pro 4,  using this platform. (More of my predictions on 2015 Surface platforms here.)

Three tips to improve battery life on the Surface Pro 3.

1 – Use adaptive brightness and keep average screen brightness as low as possible for, potentially, hours more battery life on the Surface Pro 3.

2 – Use Metro / Windows 8.1 apps where possible. (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Mail can run efficiently in the background, even when the device is off.)

3 – Switch the WiFi to ‘Metered Connection’ mode to stop some background process starting up.

Surface Pro 3 Photos (17)

InstantGo / Connected Standby.

Pressing the power button on the Surface Pro 3 does not shut it down. Instead it goes into InstantGo mode which is a connected, active, screen-off mode. In this mode it’s possible for apps to continue to run in the background and use networks. This can be good (you still get notifications, Skype calls and can stream music at extremely low power usage) but has the disadvantage that battery is being consumed at a higher rate than in standby or when the product is truly shut down. After 4 hours of InstantGo activity the Surface Pro 3 will go into hibernation (preserving the session and using near-zero battery.) Over time you might find that many Windows 8 apps have been allowed to run in the background and to provide notifications and in order to improve the InstantGo battery drain you need to manage these.  Use the notifications settings to do this.

Control background activities to improve InstantGo battery life.

Control background activities to improve InstantGo battery life.

It is possible to avoid InstantGo by using ‘shutdown’ when you’ve finished your work or, if you’re feeling brave, to use the Group Policy Editor to disable InstantGo, enable Hibernation or reduce the time InstanGo time is available. I haven’t tested this but there’s a tutorial here that you might want to look at.

Windows battery life report.

I’ve used the Surface Pro 3 for over 600 hours now and the average daily battery life is (based on a projected 100% battery usage) 5 hours, 24 minutes and 29 seconds. How do I know that? Powercfg is your friend! (details here.)

powercfg -batteryreport shows a lot of historical power usage information

powercfg -batteryreport shows a lot of historical power usage information.

I’ve recharged the battery 54 times and it’s still at 100% capability which indicates that Microsoft have used a very high quality battery and charging system.

Surface Pro 3 usage tips.

  1. The button on the top of the stylus opens One Note, even when the device is in InstantGo standby. Double-click to grab a screenshot and go straight to OneNote. Ensure that you have paired the Pen to the Surface Pro 3 and that you have Bluetooth on.
  2. To improve battery life in InstantGo standby mode, check all your Windows 8 application notifications settings. Many of them are set to ON by default and you won’t need them.
  3. The disk is encrypted by default but to check that, right-click on the C: drive icon and look for the Bitlocker option. Click to check details.
  4. The screen is tough, but not scratch resistant. The same goes for the casing. Take care.
  5. To check your battery life history, press the Windows key, type “run” select and then type “powercfg -batteryreport.”  It will generate an HTML file called battery-report.html in your home directory. See here for more details.
  6. Working within Metro / Windows 8.1 apps is more efficient, gives you sharing features and can be a safer working environment.
  7. Make sure you have Windows updates turned on because that’s the way you’ll receive Surface Pro 3-specific firmware and driver updates.
  8. Data on a MicroSD card inserted into the Surface Pro 3 is not encrypted until you enable Bitlocker To Go.
  9. The screen backlight is powerful but can use a lot of battery. Enable adaptive brightness under Windows Power and Sleep settings and try to keep brightness low for the best battery life.
  10. Warm environments will affect the Turbo Boost performance.
  11. Music streaming still works when using a Windows 8 app (e.g. TuneIn, Music) and the Surface Pro 3 is in standby (for 4 hours by default.) In this mode it uses very little battery.
  12. The Surface Pro 3 does not come with one year of Microsoft Office 365 and 1TB One Drive storage like the Surface 3.
  13. Try the Type Cover keyboard for 30 minutes before buying it. You’ll either accept it or hate it. You probably won’t love it…until the lights go out.
  14. There are no power profiles on the Surface Pro 3 because it’s an InstantGo enabled device and it steps up and down through power ‘profiles’ as needed.
  15. The built-in Reader app allows you to annotate PDFs with the Surface Pen.
  16. Annoyed with font sizes? The high density screen on the Surface Pro 3 needs tweaking occasionally. You can use 1680×1050 resolution (can be better when used with a full HD external screen in extended desktop mode) or bump up the sizes to 150%. To get started press the Windows key and then type “make text larger.”

 

Other notes

The power supply is compact and includes a 2A USB charging outlet.

Surface Pro 3 power supply with 2A USB charging output.

Surface Pro 3 power supply with 2A USB charging output.

Graphics driver version used in this review: 10.18.14.4029

Digitizer registration distance is 10 – 11 mm. De-registration distance is around 13mm. This reduces if a finger/palm is touching the screen. Edge accuracy for the Surface Pen is good. There’s an application that can be downloaded from the Store (Search for “Surface”) to change the pressure sensitivity curve of the digitizer.

I have not written about the cameras because I’ve only ever used the front-facing one for Skype. It was OK. I continue to ignore the rear camera. If you know of a use for that, let me know.

The keyboard can be folded back over  the rear of the Surface Pro 3 and is disabled when in this position. It can also be used as a stand area.

Surface Pro 3 Photos (21) Surface Pro 3 Photos (22)

The speaker quality is reasonable. I would class it as good for a tablet of this size but it’s not as high quality as some laptop speakers. The stereo output is well separated in landscape mode. Max volume is acceptable and remains clear.

Surface Pro 3 and pen

Surface Pro 3 summary.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is a high-quality tablet PC that’s powerful enough to be a desktop and can be expanded to a notebook-style PC with the Type Cover keyboard. There are limits to that setup though (don’t call it a lap-top) and as a casual tablet the Surface Pro 3 is a little too big and heavy.  It’s relatively expensive too.

Apart from the tablet weight and size, 2 other areas need highlighting to the potential buyer. The first of those is battery life which is good but not ‘all day.’ You’ll need to bring the power adapter with you if you’re planning anything more than 5 hours of  ‘on’ time. The second point is the complex hinge mechanism. It should be treated with care, not used as a holding-point and should be checked carefully before buying a second-hand Surface Pro 3.

The Surface Pro 3 is the best Tablet PC I’ve ever tested under $1000 and after 6 months of use I’m very happy with its performance. The quality is excellent inside and out and it’s clear that Microsoft are taking care to support and improve the Surface Pro 3 through software updates.

Don’t forget that the Surface Pro 3 comes with full disk encryption and portable drive encryption, that it’s powerful enough to edit full HD videos, that the screen is great and that the digitizer pen comes with the tablet. Add a Miracast receiver to your projector and the Surface Pro 3 becomes the most dynamic presentation PC there is.

While I was writing this review the Surface 3 launched and prompted rumors and discussion about the Surface Pro 4. The Surface 3 doesn’t really compare if you’re looking for a desktop-capable tablet so that just leaves the Surface Pro 4. It might make sense to wait until after the Microsoft BUILD event (April 29th – 12 days after this review was published) to see if a Pro 4 launches. If it doesn’t, I recommend a BUY for the Surface Pro 3.

 

If this review wasn’t enough for you, check out the links on the Surface Pro 3 information page. You’ll also find current Amazon pricing for USA, Germany and UK.

Comparing the Surface 3 with the much cheaper Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2

Everyone that has reviewed the Surface 3 so far has been fairly confident that it can be a laptop replacement. Actually it can’t until you buy the keyboard for it but in terms of performance it’s not bad. The issue is that the previous generation Atom arent that much slower. If you look closely at the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows version) you’ll see a product that makes the Surface 3 look way overpriced.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows

I’m using the Yoga Tablet 2 as the Surface 3 comparison for a number of reasons. It’s got a 1920×1200 10.1-inch (not 10.8-inch) IPS screen, a stand (continuously variable) and it weighs 629 grams which is just 7 grams more than the Surface 3. There’s 2 GB of RAM inside and a 1.3-1.8Ghz Baytrail-T processor. The battery is a huge 34 Wh which is 25% bigger than that in the Surface 3. Storage is small at 32GB (compared to 64Gb and much more usable space on the Surface 3.) The port choice is comparable although there’s only one micro-USB 2.0 port. It doesn’t have AC WiFi, it’s only a 32 bit version of Windows and there’s no digitizer layer.

You can find all the information you need on the Microsoft Surface 3 here, and all the information you need on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 here.

In the USA there’s about $180 price difference. In Europe, where the Surface 3 is more expensive and the Yoga Tablet 2 is cheaper you’ll save yourself €250 and you’ll get the Bluetooth keyboard thrown in for the €349 total price saving around €380 over a base Surface 3 and keyboard. Half the price!

I do agree that the Surface 3 is unique and that nothing directly compares to it but if you’re looking at the entry-level model of the Surface 3 and are not interested in the digitizer then the Yoga Tablet 2 is the better value product.

I love the Yoga Tablet 2. The design is great, the screen pops and the keyboard is good (I had hands-on at MWC and CeBIT) and I like the battery hump because it’s a great way to hold the device. I’ve ordered it twice, and cancelled the order twice. I’m really close to buying one now just to compare in detail to the Surface 3 but you can see all the detail you need in this Notebookcheck review and I’m probably just looking for an excuse to buy it.

Surface 3

Surface 3

The other reason I won’t buy it now is because you’re going to see newer Atom X7 and X5-based tablets soon. While I don’t see much CPU and disk performance increases on a clock-for-clock basis we have to remember that the 14nm process used on the X5 and X7 frees up some Turbo Boost headroom. The Surface 3 can Turbo Boost to 2.4 Ghz meaning that Web activities are going to be noticeably quicker than on the classic 1.8 Ghz Atom Z3000-series.  4GB RAM is probably also worth waiting for…unless you need it now in which case there’s only one choice. The Surface 3 is unique when it comes to RAM and storage options and the excellent accessory range. Maybe we should stop comparing it to anything and just hope that it stimulates OEMs to launch a good range of competitors later this year.

You can find all the information you need on the Microsoft Surface 3 here, and all the information you need on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 here.

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