(Pocket-lint) - We've been following Microsoft Surface - the laptop-meets-tablet hybrid device - since its conception, cumulating in the Surface Pro 3 towards the end of 2014. Now it's new year, new gear: with the brand new Surface 3, a 10.8-inch edition to the line-up, due from 7 May.
Microsoft has been quite clever about its new device too. Since the demise and disappearance of Windows RT (and good riddance we say), the new Surface 3 sports full Windows 8.1 as standard.
It doesn't scrimp on the build quality either, delivering the same magnesium chassis finish as found in the Pro 3. We handled both models side by side and there's nothing between them in terms of build, it's just the sizes and now slimmer 8.7mm thickess dimension that differs.
The Surface 3 isn't as powerful as the Pro 3, of course, but as the first model we've ever seen to feature a quad-core Intel Cherry Trail Atom processor (the 1.6-2.4GHz x7-Z8700 with 2GB or 4GB RAM depending on selection), it benefits from not needing fans or vents in its design - the reason it's the slimmest Microsoft Surface to date. Good job.
That 10.8-inch screen also doesn't scrimp on resolution, delivering a 1920 x 1280 pixel panel in a 3:2 ratio format. It's a similar size to a sheet of A4 paper, has decent viewing angles, isn't overly glossy, and is even slightly brighter than even the Pro 3.
It sits well in the hand, or, if you want, pop on the new clip-on keyboard which features a deeper trackpad, for full laptop-style use. Again, however, this accessory is priced at £109 rather than being included in the box - an ongoing fuss we have with the Surface line-up. Older Surface keyboards will continue to function with the Surface 3, but as they differ in size they can't double as successful protective covers.
To the rear is a kick-stand that can be popped out into one of three positions, adding one more extreme slant than the last-generation Surface 2 offers, but not matching the near-limitless and smoothly adjustable stand of the Surface Pro 3.
There are some subtle new features too: a Micro-USB is used for charging, not the proprietary magnetic connector; and Dolby enhanced speakers sit tucked left and right on the front of the device, almost invisible from view.
Like with the Pro 3, the Surface 3 also includes a full-size USB 3.0 port and mini DisplayPort to its side, while a microSD slot is tucked away behind the kick-stand. It all adds up to a laptop-like experience above and beyond a standard tablet device.
Dual cameras are on board, the rear offering 8-megapixels and autofocus, the front a cut-down 3.5MP for Skype calls and the like. Not that we're fans of using tablets for photography, but they are useful for some applications we're sure.
Microsoft tells us its core market is the education and student space, which makes perfect sense when looking at the price of the Surface 3. At £419 for the 64GB model (there's likely to be a 32GB model positioned for the education market), which includes a year's subscription to Microsoft Office (Personal edition), it's 50 per cent less than the full entry-level Pro 3's asking price was at launch. Not cheap, mind, but on its way to being competitive with other laptops and even, to some extent, Chromebooks in the market.
If you want extra on-board storage the 128GB device (with 4GB RAM) will cost £499. Other configurations will be available in other territories, while 4G variants will also be available, but the latter units at an unconfirmed date later than the 7 May launch date.
That's the Surface 3 in a nutshell. Solid build, slimmer design than before, a bright HD screen, and those expected laptop-esque features in a tablet form. It's not reinvented the wheel, but it's the price point and size that will likely see it as more successful than the Pro 3 has been.