Microsoft launches 'budget' Surface tablet

The cheaper version of the Surface Pro 3 sells for $799.

The cheaper version of the Surface Pro 3 sells for $799.

Microsoft has rolled out a lower-priced Surface tablet in an effort to reach students and budget-conscious families. 

The cheaper version of the Surface Pro 3 sells for $799, compared with nearly $1000 for the higher-end models.

The discounted version has a slightly smaller screen — 10.8 inches rather than 12 — a slower processor, and less flexible kickstand — just three angles rather than unlimited positions.

They will go on sale in New Zealand early next month.

As the prices for tablets and smartphones have been declining, it has forced on PC makers to lower their prices, said International Data analyst Jay Chou. 

"It has been good news for consumers, but not so good for vendors," Chou said.

Graphic artists, engineers and finance professionals needing to run complex software might still want the company's higher-end Pro 3, said Dennis Meinhardt, director of management for Surface. But the Surface 3 should be good for everyday tasks, he said, and brings the Pro 3's premium feel to a device that will be affordable to more people.

The new Surface model is thinner and lighter, partly because it gets rid of the fan — similar to Apple's new MacBook laptop. At 214 pixels per inch, the screen resolution is comparable to the Pro 3's.

Battery life is promised at 10 hours for video playback. The Surface 3 runs the regular version of Windows 8.1, just like the Pro 3. In the past, Microsoft has used a lightweight version called RT in its cheaper tablets.

The Surface 3 also has a USB port, a feature that distinguishes the Surface line from most rival tablets.

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2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage $799

4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage $959

- AP and Fairfax


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