File this under “I’m not shocked” but Microsoft has confirmed today that the Surface 3 tablet will cease production by the end of December. The Surface 3 first launched way back in the spring of 2015, and after its review it quickly jumped to the top of the stack in the Windows tablet space. The design, excellent display, and 3:2 aspect ratio still makes it one of the best sub-$500 Windows tablets today.

So the news that it’s going to cease production in six months is not especially exciting – after all it will be going on two years old by that point. The real question is what is going to come next. The Surface 3 is a Cherry Trail Atom design, with a quad-core x7-8700 processor. The successor to Cherry Trail has been axed by Intel though, leaving a big gap in Intel’s lineup. They have confirmed that Apollo Lake will be available for tablet makers, but it’s certainly not a drop-in replacement for Cherry Trail.

Certainly this long after Surface 3 launched, there is plenty of room for improvement. USB-C has become more commonplace, and could easily replace the micro-USB charging which was a major hindrance on the Surface 3, leading to excessive charge times. One of the biggest issues with the Surface 3 was the sub-par storage performance, and on a new model it would be great to see NVMe based storage. The Surface 3 is also 50% thicker and heavier than the iPad Air 2, but it does have a built-in kickstand of course.

Surface 3 on top of Surface Pro 3

We’ve not had any indication from Microsoft on a replacement device, so there’s no indication whether this model will be updated with a refreshed Surface 4, or just cancelled outright. The lack of a new Atom processor might force their hand. While it would be great to see this appear with a new Core M based part, unless Intel revamps that lineup, the pricing of that CPU would likely be the death knell of this smaller Surface device.

If you were looking at one of these, the 128 GB storage option also includes 4 GB of memory, and the price has dropped to $399/$449 without LTE. Stock is limited. It’s still one of the best Windows tablets around, despite its shortcomings.

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  • Alexvrb - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    m3 TDP can be 7W, 4.5W, or even 3.8W. The OEM gets to choose. Reply
  • mkozakewich - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    m3 Surface Pro 4 doesn't have a fan. Reply
  • PrayForDeath - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    What if they go with an AMD processor for the Surface 4? Is that out of the question? Reply
  • Alexvrb - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    They'd have to wait for one of the very low power Zen APUs. I suspect the mainstream Zen APUs will roll out before highly mobile APUs. So while not out of the question, it would not be ready in time for early 2017. There would be a large gap. They can't use current AMD processors because the big cores are too power hungry and the Cat cores aren't competitive when downclocked for such a low power draw (especially compared to 14nm Cherry Trail designs they're already using).

    At this point they just have to either discontinue Surface non-Pro, or release a stop-gap "Surface 4" with an X7 Z8750. Which is basically what they have now but with 160Mhz higher turbo. They could add USB Type C and faster NVMe storage to make the device better and more responsive, but at the end of the day it wouldn't be a substantial improvement over what they have now.
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    OTOH, the CPU really isnt the problem with the surface 3. The lack of RAM and the slow eMMC4 storage is what kills it. Reply
  • Alexvrb - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    The version to get is the 128GB version... which comes with 4GB. Which is PLENTY for a tablet. After having used one, the current CPU is "good enough" but not great. Replace the eMMC with a proper SSD, sure, but that's not enough of an upgrade to sell a Surface 4. A new-gen unit needs a better processor. Reply
  • babadivad - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    The Surface 4 already released. Almost a year ago. Reply
  • 255BB - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    you mean Surface PRO 4? Reply
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    You'll have to forgive baba, he's actually from two years in the future. Darn it baba, I told you to bring back winning lottery numbers! Reply
  • babadivad - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    *sigh* I keep forgetting. Next time, I promise. Reply

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