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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  • Michael Bay - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    Maybe next year.
    Pro is definitely too big and too expensive for me.
    Reply
  • smilingcrow - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    Core M has a configurable TDP but only down to 3.8 W.
    But if they disabled HT and lowered max clock couldn they achieve a TDP suitable for a Surface 3?
    And as it would be relatively crippled Intel could reduce the price and make it one of their custom chips with no official RRP so no effect on regular Core M pricing.
    One issue is that it's an MCM package so larger than the Atoms which are 'true' SoCs.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    "Core M has a configurable TDP but only down to 3.8 W."
    All I've read about it, mobile phone SOCs have had 5W has a TDP, so 3.8W is totally fine for a tablet device.
    Reply
  • jordanl17 - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    damn it, I love my Surface 3. no joke. it's the lightest AND smallest full keyboard pc there is! (I'm sure I might be wrong with this statement, but I'm not far off.). Reply
  • Michael Bay - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    I`m pretty sure those old horrible netbooks had smaller ones. Reply
  • BedfordTim - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    I appreciate that the Surface 3 is a very good Atom tablet but at three times the price of a typical Atom convertible it must be a hard sell. I could understand if Microsoft doesn't replace it. Reply
  • Alexvrb - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    Well the build quality, size, display, and general usability blow away said typical Atom tablets, among other things. Read the review of the Surface 3 display here on AT. Also the really cheap Atom convertibles tend to be the 8" class, which is far cheaper of a category to begin with. 10.8" Surface 3 competes with other devices in it's class, and the decent ones tend to start life around $400 and quickly head up from there. Reply
  • BedfordTim - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    The cheap tablets are available in 10" format as well. Mine cost £140.
    You are right in that they are not as good, but they are perfectly serviceable.
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - link

    That's nearly $200 USD (not counting hopefully short term turmoil, panic, fear, and potential EU market bullying which I hope never materializes). Surface 3 over here starts life at $399, and the better model with twice the storage and twice the RAM is $499. I guess the price will be like that until they sell out.

    Most of the 10" tablets I see in the ~$150 range are junk, no-name scrap with Bay Trail chips that just aren't very good. I've used cheap tablets before and I am just done with them. The build quality sucks, the camera might as well not exist, the display is awful, etc. Just my opinion. The ones that are $200 or so are better in terms of brand/build, and the displays aren't bottom-of-the-barrel not-quite-defective panels. Once you hit $300 ish you see some decent models but... still Bay Trail.

    I'm not even certain you can get anything brand name with a comparable Cherry Trail chip under $400. Especially not an X7 with decent clocks. Why would I spend that kind of cash and NOT get a Surface 3? The only reason I can think of is perhaps you are OK with a larger form factor, and so you buy one of the Pro variants (maybe a gen or two old, for price reasons).
    Reply
  • Gunbuster - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    You got Atom slowness at near Core-M pricing. Yeah I cant fathom why they are not scrambling to replace it.

    Intel needs to fix pricing. Just dump Atom and make a feature crippled Core-M with pricing that makes sense. The jump from atom ~$30 price to ~$300 is STUPID.
    Reply

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