So I Bought a Microsoft Surface 3…

So I recently got a Microsoft Surface 3,

let’s talk about that.

Now, I know I don’t really ever do tech reviews on this blog, but I’m making an exception since my life has opened up an opportunity for me to rave about something that I spent money on and I feel like I have to justify my purchase.

But really, this Surface 3 really surprises me in what it can do, especially considering how compact it is. Of course, there’s the Surface 4 side of things now, so this is a little outdated. But when my laptop died, I went looking for something to replace it, and I needed it to be powerful enough to satisfy my ravenous gamer needs, and also be cheap enough so my pockets aren’t empty by the end of the day.

I was opting for a 2 in 1 mainly because I thought they were cool. I’d only had conventional laptops gracing my lap for five years, so I wanted to finally embrace my inner hipster in this purchase. The catch, however, was that I also wanted it to handle light gaming, and by light I mean Just Cause 2, low-poly Skyrim, Civ 5, what a poor man would play if he had nothing better to use. I take joy out of pushing machines to get the most out of my dollar. After going through a couple options I got to a listing for a Surface 3, it was only a tablet, but it had a 1080p display, what looked like a pretty powerful Intel Atom, and 4 Gb of RAM. After convincing myself I didn’t need the attached keyboard, I ordered the Surface and anxiously awaited its arrival.

The first thing I noticed when it arrived was the size. I hadn’t owned any other tablets before, but it felt good in my hands. Not too heavy, the case made out of Magnesium so that’s pretty light, power and volume up top, home button in the usual place, and a standard USB port and mini SD card slot to boot. But enough hardware talk, I bought this thing because I wanted something portable to game on, so I downloaded Steam and got to work.

The games of choice were as follows: Civ 5, Skyrim, Just Cause 2, and Half Life 2. Half Life 2 can basically run on a TI-85 at this point, best part is, it still looks pretty d**n fine while running at 60 fps. Civ 5 took some coaxing, and even after putting the graphics to low it was giving me lag. This Atom Z-8700 is a powerful little thing, but it doesn’t hold a melted graphical candle next to actual graphics cards, or even core processors. Fortunately, after taking the resolution down to 720p, things got better with a pretty stable 30 fps. Just Cause 2 was the hardest to iron out, but using the same method as with Civ, I got the framerate to a kind-of stable 30 fps, playable but many people wouldn’t bother. And then there’s Skyrim, and I bet you’re wondering why it’s even on this list. But I’ll tell you, with as many mods as there are, you can get Skyrim to do some pretty crazy stuff, and with that, I managed to get Skyrim to the same level as Just Cause, and there’s always room for improvement somehow.

Unfortunately, the ability to overclock your CPU with the Intel tuner is something left to the higher-end units. But with a quick trip to regedit, I was able to enable the high-performance power plan which actually lets the CPU go up to 2.6GHz, which I’ve found to be just enough for a variety of games. But keep in mind, when I bought the Surface 3, I was looking for something that could only just barely play my favorite games. Most people wouldn’t want to play their games with the shittiest graphics imaginable, but I’ve lived a lifetime of s****y PCs limiting my fun, I’ve learned to cope.

In conclusion, the Surface 3 was essentially everything I wanted, no more, no less. I could have used an included Bluetooth keyboard and the Surface Pen, but I’ll make do with my second-hand substitute keyboard from Amazon. All in all, it provides enough power to play the popular video games of the past decade while maintaining the size and portability of a tablet that can handle the everyday tasks of a college guy with ease. Really, it’s a fine system. Good job, Microsoft.

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