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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  • Impulses - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    Passed on it initially and I almost regret it now, has it not sold well enough for them to work out a favorable deal with Intel or switch to AMD?
  • CoreyWat - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    I really wish they would had updated a few months back ( was a whole year since the release of the 3), was waiting for the new version but it never came and purchased an iPad Pro 9.7 instead
  • geekman1024 - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    C'est la vie, pal.

    MS just announce their decision when the time is right, for them.

    I just bought a Surface 3 not a month ago, now that's a real bummer. However, stop of production is okay, just as long as it's not end of support for Surface 3, I'm fine with that. If MS announced a newer, more powerful and still priced reasonably Surface 4, then I'll go berserk.
  • MonkeyPaw - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    If what you have works, then that's all that should matter. Sure, it would be nice if my Surface 3 was a little faster or had this or that, but it serves me quite well as it is. It's a very mature device, and hasn't suffered the initial problems SP4 and SB had. The only time mine needs a reboot is to install updates. I do hope MS brings us a replacement to keep the affordable model alive. I suppose if they want to bring the base SP4 down in price instead, that would be fine. Might be better for MS anyway, as they might get people to upgrade to faster models.
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    I'm sure they will bring it back, eventually. Although how long that takes may depend on Zen's ability to scale down and either A) Fit within the non-Pro's power and thermal requirements or B) Drive Intel's pricing down on a suitable replacement for the Atoms to sub-$50 levels.
  • Impulses - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    Yeah I don't see how Pro ever moves down from $700 minimum, it's never gonna reach $500 or less. They either wait for the hardware to make another non-Pro possible materializes, or they forget about it, I can't believe the market allowed for such a gap, ugh.
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    Think of it as a glimpse into having no competition in x86. AMD has nothing competitive in the ultra-low-power tablet market right now, and there's little direct pressure from ARM, so Intel starts killing off development of affordable Atoms. Leaving only high-margin chips that drive costs up, and outdated Atoms (who knows for how long). They may be forced to change their tune again, but who knows when exactly? The factors involved are murky.
  • Wolfpup - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    It's running real Windows so it'll get support for YEARS. Heck, the Surface 1 is being supported I guess until Windows 8.1 quits being supported some years from now, and an x86 based Surface 3 should fare better than that.
  • Michael Bay - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    Well damn, and I was thinking to replace my M80ta with it.
    Sure hope there will be something else in this formfactor from them.
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, June 25, 2016 - link

    I have the Asus Note 8 as well, but couldn't see myself going for a 10"+ device. The 8" form factor is just too useful. Maybe a 7.9" with a 2048 × 1536 resolution or 8.9" with 1200p. But that's the biggest it can get for me.

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