The secret weapon of the Surface 3: Micro USB

Discussion in 'Surface 3 (Atom)' started by Spider, Apr 30, 2015.

  1. Spider

    Spider Super Moderator Staff Member

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    By Tony Bradley April 29, 2015, 11:22 AM PST

    The Surface 3 is a less powerful, more affordable version of its Surface Pro 3 sibling with one significant difference--you can charge it via micro USB from virtually anywhere.

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    Image: Tony Bradley

    Microsoft recently unveiled the Surface 3. The tablet is smaller and less powerful than the Surface Pro 3. It also has one killer feature, however, that makes it a better Surface tablet than the Surface Pro 3 and unique among Windows PCs of any size or shape--you can charge it via micro USB.

    If you've ever used a laptop on the go, you're probably familiar with how frustrating it can be to have the battery run out of juice. Murphy's Law dictates that your computer will shut down at some crucial moment when you're waiting for an important email or trying to put the finishing touches on a client presentation.

    More advanced processors and more efficient hardware architecture has substantially increased battery life over the last few years. It wasn't long ago that two or three hours was considered good, but many laptops are now capable of five or six hours or more on a single charge. When it comes to the Surface tablet line, Microsoft has made significant strides since the original Surface Pro. The Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 deliver admirable battery life that can get most users through a workday.

    Longer battery life is awesome--but still finite. Every time you leave your home or office you have to gamble: Can you get by without the power cord, or are you going to end up running short on battery life in the middle of the day? It's an important question, because lugging the power adapter around is a burden, but having the laptop or Surface tablet die in the middle of the day is simply unacceptable.

    If you decide not to take the power adapter and lose the gamble, you're most likely dead in the water. There's little, if any, uniformity among power adapters, so unless you find someone with the exact same make and model as your PC, it will be virtually impossible to recharge. Even within a line of laptops from one OEM, there's a good chance you can't mix the power adapters--including between the original Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 3, and the Surface 3.

    The fact that Microsoft changed the power adapter on the Surface, yet again, is very annoying--until you realize the benefits. The micro USB charging on the Surface 3 is the Holy Grail. If you have a Surface 3, you can recharge from just about any source at any time. Not only does the Surface 3 last longer on a single charge, thanks to its more energy-efficient architecture, but if it gets low, you can add juice from just about any USB power source using any industry standard micro USB cable.

    Microsoft has pitched the Surface line as a hybrid between a traditional PC and a mobile device since its inception. Thanks to the micro USB charging capability, the Surface 3 is actually the first of the Microsoft tablet line to truly deliver on that promise.

    The Surface 3 still doesn't compete directly with tablets like the Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. It costs more than an equivalent traditional laptop, and it makes concessions in size and power when placed next to the Surface Pro 3. However, when you consider its capabilities compared an ordinary tablet, it's portability, flexibility, and functionality compared to a traditional laptop, and its affordability compared to a Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 is actually a tremendous value.
     
  2. GreyFox7

    GreyFox7 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I was not initially enamored with the micro USB on the S3 however in looking at USB chargers and battery packs I have changed my mind and embrace the change. It remains to be seen how well it will charge with a small 1A USB charger but battery packs are available in all sizes and should prove to be quite useful. Even one of those Lipstick sized battery packs is enough to get you through an emergency.

    With that in mind MS should definitely sell charging cables that plug into Battery Packs for the other Surfaces and optionally one or more Battery Packs in different sizes. I just picked up 10,000 mah and 20,000 mah battery packs the latter would extend the life of an SP3 around 2.75 x nominal while the former 1.8 x. They aren't that big or heavy. The gains for a S2 or S3 means more than all day life. MS is missing out on an excellent opportunity here.
     
  3. irogos

    irogos Member

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    This is just another way in which Microsoft is bucking other big computer companies trends of selling unique charging devices that require expensive additional cables if you want to have backup cables.

    Then add to it that Microsoft sells one device you can use for everything as opposed to another company which sells a device for when your home, a device for when your on the go, a device for when you want to sit on the couch and read news, and all the unique charging cables in between.

    To me, all these benefits indicate that Microsoft is more consumer focused than ever
     
  4. bluegrass

    bluegrass Well-Known Member

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    I've been a bit confused about using other micro usb battery pack chargers. Does the phone and other micro usb chargers all put out the same voltage as the one that comes with the S3. I haven't checked an S3 out at the MS store but I know my SP3 voltage is 12 volts.
     
  5. GreyFox7

    GreyFox7 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    USB chargers are all 5 volts the amount of current varies leading to slower or quicker charging. Small chargers are typically 1 amp and range up to 2.4 amps or more. The spec states 2.0 amp @ 5v but some are supplying more.

    The newest spec for Power allows a variable configuration negotiated by the data line. To maintain compatibility they would have to default to 5v and switch on command.

    In July 2012, the USB Promoters Group announced the finalization of the USB Power Delivery ("PD") specification, an extension that specifies using certified "PD aware" USB cables with standard USB type A and B connectors to deliver increased power (more than 7.5W) to devices with larger power demand. Devices can request higher currents and supply voltages from compliant hosts – up to 2 A at 5 V (for a power consumption of up to 10 W), and optionally up to 3 A or 5 A at either 12 V (36 W or 60 W) or 20 V (60 W or 100 W). In all cases, both host-to-device and device-to-host configurations are supported.
    USB Power.PNG
     
  6. icon123

    icon123 New Member

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    What would be really nice and I doubt it is included is if Microsoft (or more Intel's Atom processor) could handle the "quick charging" scenario that Qualcomm and new Samsung processors/kernals can handle. That would be ideal. Convientent to use a standard micro usb charger when needed and use a quick charger normally.
     
  7. netuser

    netuser Member

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    Micro-USB might be best for today, but I can't wait for USB-C to get popular so that everyone can move to that. The cable connectors are much nicer and less prone to damage since they fit both ways.
    If USB type C click into ports at least as nicely as Lightning cables for Apple products, it will be great.
     
  8. TeknoBlast

    TeknoBlast Active Member

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    Maybe I read this for something, but is it true that you cannot charge the S3 while having the charging cable connected?

    I know for my HP Stream 7 it's true. I have to fully turn it off for it to charge.
     
  9. netuser

    netuser Member

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    The charging cable has to be connected for it to charge.
    How do you plan on charging without a cable?
     
  10. sharpuser

    sharpuser Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The micro-USB charging is a smart move by Microsoft. European Union law is already forcing Apple to give up their iPhone Lightning charging enterprise by 2017 in favor of Micro-USB, as other mobile phone manufacturers already comply. The Surface 3, voluntarily conforming to this adds a convenience point to the device. The message is mobility.
     
  11. TeknoBlast

    TeknoBlast Active Member

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    For example, on my HP Stream, if I connect the charging cable to my tablet and wall, the tablet will not charge at all while in use. I have to completely power down the tablet for it to charge.

    That's what I meant about the S3.
     
  12. GreyFox7

    GreyFox7 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I read somewhere that a reviewer thought it charged slowly but that statement was not quantified. However I believe the S2 charger was 24W and the S3 charger is 13W so that would be almost 50% slower give or take.
     

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