Surface 3: what we want to see

Done right, Microsoft's next Surface could stand out from the crowd

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What do we want to see on the Surface 3? Many of the qualities we would expect from a new Surface tablet - namely slimmer dimensions, a lighter chassis and longer battery life - arrived on Microsoft's capable Surface Pro 3, making it a little harder for any potential new tablet to stand out from the crowd.

Release date

Until recently, details of a successor to the Surface 2 have been thin on the ground. The quiet was shattered by a DigiTimes report that claimed a new 10.6-inch Surface was gearing up to enter production in August ahead of an October release.

There's been no news since then and we're now in October so it's not looking likely, though with the Surface 2 launching in October of last year it's still a possibility.

In any case, according to the report, the new device will be thinner and lighter than the 12-inch Surface Pro 3 and will possess more sales and performance clout than competing devices released in 2014.

The question is: being a Surface device, will it once again run Microsoft's much-maligned Windows RT 8.1, or could it be the first to feature full-fat Windows 8.1? And with Microsoft having axed the Surface Mini, is a smaller Surface out of the question?

As we ponder the possibilities, here are some of the features we would like to see on the Surface 3.

A pixel-packing, roomy display

Lenovo ThinkPad 8
Lenovo's sharp-screened ThinkPad 8

The Surface Pro 3's display made the switch from the Surface Pro 2's 16:9 aspect ratio to 3:2, which did wonders for productivity by ramping up screen real-estate. For that reason, whatever size the Surface 3 arrives in, we hope it follows suit.

A high-resolution display would only sweeten the deal. The Surface Pro 3's 216-ppi display dazzles, and even though you could say that 16:9 is the preferred option for viewing movies, playing games and viewing other multimedia, some find 3:2 is better suited for handling both tablet and desktop-oriented tasks.

Should the Surface 3 feature a display smaller than nine inches, it would have the opportunity to join a very short list of small Windows 8.1 tablets with high-pixel-density displays. Lenovo's ThinkPad 8 (with a display resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels) stands out for being the only one, with most 8-inch slates featuring a comparatively lacklustre 1200 x 800 pixel-resolution.

That sturdier kickstand and keyboard cover design

Surface 3 release date news rumors

We were big fans of the new hinge touted on the Surface Pro 3's kickstand. No longer locked to three distinct angles, the new kickstand proves to be a boon for a number of activities. What immediately comes to mind is how digital artists have made use of the new kickstand.

But its lap-side entertainment capability has turned out to be fantastic as well. Playing touch-controlled games in front of the TV feels better than ever, with the kickstand bent all the back. Not to mention how the kickstand has improved lap typing.

Speaking of which, we hope the new keyboard cover design appears alongside the would-be Surface 3. That, coupled with the magnetized bottom bezel, has vastly improved typing on Microsoft's pro-bent tablet. Frankly, both features seem like shoo-ins, given their critical reception.

And with Intel's Core M processors out in the wild, Microsoft has an opportunity to cook up the thinnest Surface tablet ever. We'd love nothing more than to see a super slim (and potentially fanless) version that you could slip into a bag for easy transportation.

Full-fat Windows 8

8-inch tablet
Windows 8.1 with Bing could make an appearance

Windows RT's concept was sound: as an alternative to full Windows 8, it would be driven by touch-sensitive Windows 8 apps (Office aside) and run on ARM-based hardware, allowing devices to be thinner and cheaper while offering longer battery life.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, RT's inability to run legacy Windows programs and confusion around the platform have seen it shunned by many. Moreover, thinner, lighter and cheaper Intel-powered devices running full-fat Windows 8.1 have arrived on the scene toting near all-day battery life, meaning that it simply doesn't make sense for anybody to put up with Windows RT's limitations any more.