Leading tech-review site Engadget praised Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface 2, which launched in late 2013, for sporting an attractive industrial design, good battery life, and a high-quality display. However, the site criticized the fact that the tablet ran Windows RT and not the full Windows 8.1, which also meant that the device couldn't run standard desktop programs.
Interestingly enough, WinBeta's Zac Bowden reports that a new Surface is coming and that it will run full Windows 8.1, with upgradeability to Windows 10. Let's take a closer look at the details that WinBeta has to share about this device.
Fanless and powered by an Atom
The device is expected to be fanless, which is similar to the prior-generation Surface 2. This time, though, instead of the ARM Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH)-based processor found in the Surface 2, the device is expected to feature an Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) processor.
In the original report, the author wasn't sure whether the device would feature an Atom processor or a higher-end Core M processor. However, in a tweet this weekend, Bowden confirmed that the device will feature an Atom processor. In this case, I would expect it to be none other than Intel's recently announced 14-nanometer Cherry Trail Atom chips (which you can read about here).
Got a few more Surface 3 tidbits, looks to be an ATOM Cherry Trail CPU. Likely to have an LTE / 4G option— Zac Bowden (@ZacB_) March 27, 2015
LTE support, too?
Bowden's tweet also claims that an LTE version of the upcoming Surface 3 is likely. That makes sense, particularly as I'm sure Intel would be all too happy to include an LTE chip with the Atom x5/x7 processors. If I had to guess, I'd say that an LTE version of the Surface 3 will use Intel's XMM 7260.
This modem supports LTE-Advanced category 6 speeds (300 megabits per second download/50 megabits per second upload), which is quite competitive today. Further, according to Intel's analyst day presentation, the XMM 726x generation of modems is qualified on a whole host of carriers:
Microsoft may therefore be able to release LTE-capable versions of the Surface 3 that work on most, if not all, of the major U.S. carriers. In contrast, the LTE version of the Surface 2 worked only on AT&T (NYSE:T) (although Engadget says users might be able to use the device on T-Mobile's (NASDAQ:TMUS) network as well).
Coming before or at Microsoft's annual BUILD conference
The final tidbit in the WinBeta report is that Microsoft should introduce the device before or at its annual BUILD developer conference, scheduled to start on April 29. That seems like an appropriate venue at which to launch this device, and given that Intel started shipping its Cherry Trail Atom processors in late 2014 and early 2015, Microsoft will have had plenty of time to build stock by then.
This may be the Surface we've been looking for
Although I still have reservations about Microsoft's competing with its hardware OEM partners, I do think that if this report is correct, the Surface 3 might finally be the Surface device many were hoping for.
The Atom x5/x7 chip reportedly inside the device should be plenty fast by tablet standards. Further, full Windows application compatibility should make it a far more versatile computing device than the prior Surface RT and Surface 2 were. In a nutshell, think of this as a smaller, more affordable, and fanless variant of the higher-priced Surface Pro 3.