Surface 3: No.

Best Buy had the new Atom X7-based Surface 3 today and I put it through hell.

I downloaded The People of the Abyss, the 290MB version of The American Magazine, and Surface Japan (see the Google Books PDF Test page).

It turns out the Surface 3 includes a PDF app called Drawboard PDF.

I tried it.

The People of the Abyss was glorious on it.

But then both The American Magazine and Surface Japan brought the hardware and software to its knees.

The only thing worse was the second choice the Surface 3 offered to read PDFs: Adobe Reader!

Here’s how Microsoft disses the iPad on their pimping site:


Memo to Microsoft: The Surface 3 is built like a tank. It also weighs as much as a tank!

I held that thing like a tablet (portrait mode) for a good half hour. It was not fun.

When is “just a tablet” needed? When nothing but reading is being done.

The Surface 3 is not a reader’s tablet.

And the poor PDF performance was shocking for Windows hardware. The iPad does it better.



Filed under Google Books PDFs, Windows Tablets

6 responses to “Surface 3: No.

  1. Robert Jasiek


  2. Chris

    The CPU is no better than the last gen Z3975, only the GPU is better so it’s normal it lags to death on large PDF’s.

  3. Robert Jasiek

    I created my own PDF test file representing my needs: 17MB, 1700 black/white vector graphics, some text, 270 pages. On Surface 3 (Atom x7 z8700), iPad Air 2 (Apple A8X) and Samsung Tab A (Qualcomm Snapdragon 410) offline page movement was fluent, fast movement along many pages can take 1 or 2 seconds to reload the next current pages shown, zooming in needs ca. 1 second. So for me, all three CPUs are fast enough because I rarely need files bigger than 17MB. If there is any difference, the Snapdragon 410 shows rougher preview images during the 1 second of calculating the new zoom in view, but this could be caused by a suboptimal PDF viewer; download is a bit slower but this could be caused by the WLAN chip. Since the x7 z8700 was fluent, I’d guess that an x5 8500 should be (almost) fluent as well for the task. Although on the paper a Core i3-530 has a ca. 1.7 ~ 2.0 times faster single thread performance, it was a bit slower in rendering when using fast movement along many pages; apparently there are more factors to a CPU’s actual speed than just the single thread speed. The Core i3-530 beats all the other mentioned CPUs hands down when zooming in, but that could be caused by using Foxit reader and zooming in by mouse rather than finger touching, i.e., without intermediate size views.

    What have I learnt? CPU benchmarks or file tests with other kinds of files than used by oneself cannot really tell oneself whether a CPU’s single thread performance is fast enough for one’s own real usage tasks. Everybody needs to make his tests if he has non-standard needs.

    • Yes, exactly. Since most of my reading will be of Google Books PDFs, I specifically test those. I know that “regular” PDFs will now work fine on just about anything modern. But GBooks PDFs are a special case and some of them — like old magazines — can approach 1GB in filesize.

  4. Thank you for your review. I am looking for a light-weight replacement for my aging laptop and I often have to open large scanned pdf files for work. I live in a country that doesn’t have laws allowing returns, so your review really helped me dodge a bullet.

    • Well, don’t forget that “review” was based only on what the tablet had on it in-store. But I think the results might be the same with Foxit PDF or even PDF Xchange Viewer. That CPU really struggled!

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