So, I mentioned that I was playing Ys: The Oath in Felghana on a Surface 3 in my last entry, and I thought I’d talk about that because it’s one of the more interesting pieces of hardware I’ve owned in a very long time.
If you remember, the first couple of Surfaces came in “Pro” models, those being the models you would actually want to own as they had real Windows and x86 processors, and “RT” models, those being the models that ran weird ARM processors and couldn’t run normal Windows applications. These were widely reviled and Microsoft didn’t bother to make a Surface RT 3 when they released the Surface 3 Pro.
That left them without a budget Surface, however, so they released the Surface 3 a little later. If you look strictly at the specs, it’s nothing amazing – it has an Atom processor, albeit a quad-core version, a 10″ 1920×1280 screen with a weird 3:2 aspect ratio, and either 2GB RAM/64GB SSD or 4GB RAM/128GB SSD.
The big things going for it, really, are that screen, because it is exceptionally bright and sharp, and an overall feel of quality construction. Mice aside, Microsoft has never been a company I’ve thought of as making particularly enticing hardware, and I have to give them credit for making something that – while a budget model – doesn’t FEEL cheap.
Anyway, so you have this weird little stop-gap Surface, and it’s $600 for the version anyone wants (4GB/128GB), and it was actually reviewed pretty well in comparison to the iPad Air 2 which was its main competitor… but then they decided to get out of the budget tablet market and focus on the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, both of which are admittedly stunning but also a bit higher end.
And it just happened that my wife and I were walking past the Microsoft store at a nearby mall, on my birthday, on a day when they were running, essentially, a PLEASE BUY THESE sale. That $600 Surface was priced down to $400, with the dock included free of charge, and a further educational discount thanks to my wife having her college ID handy… and things happened and I had a new gadget that I assumed would be good for, well, visual novels mostly. I did not have high hopes for gaming on it beyond that.
Then I was sick for the better part of a month and spent a fair bit of that playing hidden-object games on the thing. It worked pretty well for those, as well, not that any given HoG is ever THAT taxing.
…and then I was playing the first Ys game (on a different computer) when my wife asked if she could use the TV.
Now, the first couple of Ys games are all 2D sprite based, so I installed them on the Surface, and I had it sitting on its little kickstand, and I plugged an Xbox 360 controller into it, and then I looked at the 12 foot cord connecting me to the computer, and had a lightbulb moment where I realized that it probably had bluetooth built-in, and then I went looking for a Dualshock 4.
A month ago, this wouldn’t have been a great idea. That was before Valve added Steam Controller drivers for the Dualshock 4, so now the DS4 looks more-or-less like an XBox controller for games that support that, even if they don’t natively support the DS4.
Timing really IS everything.
So, tl;dr version, an low-expectations impulse buy has managed to surprise me. I’m not in the market for a new computer any time soon, but I will be putting the laptop version of the Surface on my list of things to look at the next time I am.
Also it’s pretty adorable, silly kickstand and all.