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Microsoft Surface 3 Delivers Full Windows for $499

Microsoft's powerful line of Surface tablets may have found its niche among mobile pros, but the company still wants a cut of that lucrative consumer market. With that in mind, Microsoft has announced the Surface 3, which runs full Windows (instead of the gimped Windows RT) and features a quad-core Atom processor and full HD 10.8-inch screen for $499.

Microsoft announced the new device on its Surface blog and shared some of its most salient details. The Surface 3 is smaller and cheaper than the Surface Pro 3, and can still function as a laptop replacement, if you're willing to invest in an expensive keyboard cover.

MORE: Best Tablets on the Market

From a hardware perspective, the Surface 3 is interesting, as it's the first Surface tablet to Intel's  quad-core Atom x7 CPU (running at 2.4 GHz). The tablet will also use micro USB to charger rather than the Surface's traditional proprietary connector. The device sports an 8 MP rear camera and a 3.5 MP front camera, compared to 5 MP in both the rear and front on the Surface Pro 3.

Laptop Mag spoke with Dan Laycock, a senior manager for the Microsoft Surface. Laycock believes that while the Surface 3 is more consumer-oriented than the Surface Pro 3, it can still create content almost as well. "I think it will be a very, very capable creation device," he said. "For those who are just writers, it will be amazing ... We see a real range of everything from light note-taking to drawing and digital art."

Users will also have a choice between a model with 2 GB RAM and 64 GB storage at $499, or one with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage at $599. Either way, the device comes with a microSD slot, which means that you can expand the device's memory at-will. A Type Cover, which gives users an almost complete keyboard right in the Surface 3's cover, still costs $129.

At $499 (at bare minimum), a Surface 3 will cost much more than some of its close competitors, but Laycock believes that the device will justify its cost. "The real value is that you're getting the best of Surface Pro 3 in a package that costs $499 ... a much more compact package that will fit in a lot more bags." In particular, Laycock discussed the build quality and the screen, which are almost identical to the Surface Pro 3 (the screen on the Surface 3 is, in fact, a little brighter).

Beyond that, the Surface 3 measures 10.5 x 7.4 x 0.3 inches, weighs 1.4 lbs, and features a full 1920 x 1280 display. All Surface 3s will have the ability to connect to 4G LTE networks, and Microsoft will provide details about wireless carriers closer to release. Out of the box, the tablet will run Windows 8.1, but it will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 later on.

Tablets overall appear to be on the decline, but Laycock does not believe that this will have a significant adverse effect on the Surface 3. "We don't see ourselves as just a tablet," he said. "Our phrase is 'a tablet that can replace your laptop.' We've been a productivity device from the very, very beginning ... We're building this so that that people can have be their primary machine. With that in mind, we think there will always be demand for very portable devices... that let you do all the work you need to do."

The device will launch on May 5, and likely be available at any retailer that currently carries Surface Pro 3s. Laptop Mag will bring you a full review of the Surface 3 as soon as possible.

Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Laptop Magazine. Contact him at Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @laptopmag.