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 - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    Yeah they wanted to boost their profit margins back up. Windows on ARM did help stay their hand in the execution of the low-cost Atoms for a few years but the app issue killed Windows on ARM... for now.

    But that does bring up a good point, they could bring it back. Think about it, all of the Win8 and Win10 apps are written for the new Windows runtime. UWP apps can even support multiple UIs / form factors with the same app. All of these apps can be recompiled in the cloud for a different architecture so long as the runtime and APIs are ported. So as more software is ported to the Windows Store, the likelihood of another ARM-based tablet increases. So if Intel or AMD doesn't release something cheap and low power soon that can compete, they may very well make another go at an ARM device in a year or two.
  • Wolfpup - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    I wish Microsoft had built in a seamless x86 emulator or something. I bought a Surface 1 for a relative, and it's still a really nice tablet...and still getting OS updates for that matter (but not 10).
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    I hope we see one.

    If I have a windows tablet, 99% of the apps will be coming from the store. There just isnt anything x86 based besides CIV V that I want on a tablet.

    ARM offers a lot more in that 3-5 watt space that x86 just doesnt offer. a snapdragon 820 or 830 powered surface would be neat.
  • Roland00Address - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    The recommended customer price on Intel's Ark is nothing like the final price OEMs pay. That is the starting negotiating price of Intel but due to things like rebates and such the OEMs pay far less than that.

    You might as well put 3 zeroes behind the price of every chip with intel ark's price for it is misleading data. Thinking that number has anything to do with the final price means you do not understand how negotiating strategy works, or you are unaware of what the real world average selling price which is released in intel's quarterly documents is.
  • Alexvrb - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    It could even sell for 1/4 of what they're asking and still would cost roughly double what the Atom sells for! ASP is dragged down by the Atom line. Not up. The Core m3 is FAR more expensive than the highest end X7 Atoms. You can play the "final selling price" game all you want but at the end of the day the lack of a newer gen Atom killed off the Surface non-Pro (for now). If they stick an m3 in there, now they have to price it closer to Surface Pro levels. Unless Intel cuts them a really serious break just to smooth things over. But I kind of doubt it.
  • Wolfpup - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    Doesn't seem brilliant to not have a chip for Microsoft for a Surface 4... I'm entirely convinced Nvidia's CPU (that seems to have been abandoned after being used in 1 product) was meant as an Atom competitor with better GPU...had they been able to license x86.
  • Wolfpup - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    Hmm...yeah, AMD's parts aren't as competitive here, Intel apparently locks Nvidia out of the market, and then oh yeah, we just can our part. HMM lol
  • Roland00Address - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    They have a Pentium 4405Y which is Skylake-Y tech aka 6w processor with a cTDP down that can do 4.5w.

    It runs at 1.5ghz skylake dual core but with no hyperthreading and slower integrated graphics.

    I have not seen any proper benchmarks for this chip for barely anything uses it. If I were to guess it would be at .75 single thread cinebench 11.5, and 1.50 multithread cinebench 11.5 due to how skylake scales. The core m3 that is just above it scores differently depending on the tablet it is in. In the Surface Pro 4 it is 0.98 single thread cinebench 11.5 and 2.27 multithread cinebech 11.5 but the surface 4 pro has a fan, other fanless devices can score 0.8 single thread 2.0 multithread and ranges in between

    Contrast this to the atom x7 in the current surface 3 which scores 0.46 single thread and 1.3 multithread. Thus moving to the pentium 4.5w or 6w skylake cpu will result in almost a double thread in single thread and a little faster multithread.
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    That's way more power and heat than the Atom. The only Skylake currently suited to the smaller passive-only design (built with 14nm Cherry Trail in mind) would be the m3. See above.
  • Roland00Address - Sunday, June 26, 2016 - link

    Intel m3 tdp is 4.5w

    Pentium 4405y tdp can be 4.5 watts or 6 watts. The OEM gets to choose.

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