Microsoft Surface 3 full review

Microsoft's Surface 3 has arrived as a cheaper alternative to the Surface Pro 3, but how does it compare to the Google Nexus 9 which also has a keyboard dock? Find out in our Surface 3 vs Nexus 9 comparison review. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2016.

The Nexus 9 and Surface 3 are quite different tablets but both offer a very similar set-up for getting work done when you include their respective keyboard docks. See what we make of each one including price, design, hardware and software.

Surface 3 vs Nexus 9: Price

As usual price is an important element when buying a new gadget. It's of little surprise that the Google Nexus 9 is the cheaper option starting at £319. The Surface 3 will set you back at least £100 more depending on what model you choose. We've outlined the various choices in the table below.

Chances are, you're reading this article as the Surface 3 and Nexus 9 are two tablets on the market which are potentially good for doing work on, although they are very different. The reason is that they both have keyboard dock accessories which make them more like a laptop in use. However, it's worth pointing out that neither price includes the extra.

The Surface 3 Type Cover (available in various colours) will set you back £109 while the Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio case is effectively the same at £110 so bear this in mind when making your decision. See also: best budget laptops you can buy in 2015


Nexus 9

Surface 3










64GB + 4G LTE






128GB + 4G LTE



Surface 3 vs Nexus 9: Design – using like a laptop    

The Nexus 9 and Surface 3 look quite different – Google's tablet is thinner and ligher at 7.95mm and 425g compared to 8.7mm and 622g – but we're mainly interested in the aspect of using them for work. At lot of this comes down to the keyboard, although there's also the optional pen for sketching and writing on the Surface. It costs £45 but could come in extremely handy depending on the task you're doing. It's far more accurate than using your finger and the physical button can be used to launch OneNote and take screenshots.

Microsoft's Surface 3 Type Cover is by far the simpler solution and snaps on and off quickly with magnets – it just works. You use it completely flat or use the magnets to give it a nice angle like a regular keyboard. It's worth noting that the kickstand built into the tablet itself offers three different viewing angles whether the Type Cover is attached or not.

Microsoft Surface 3 Type Cover

A couple of features which it has over the Nexus 9 are the backlit keys and a built-in trackpad. When the cover is closed it protects the screen of the Surface 3.

As the name suggests, the Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio is a full case for the tablet – although it also attaches magnetically. As you don't need an additional case as you might do for the Surface 3, the Nexus 9 could be be a cheaper option.

Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio

The keyboard must sit flat, and there are only two viewing angles for the screen and no backlit keys or a trackpad. Since there's no physical connection between the case and the tablet, you must pair the two using Bluetooth. This isn't the end of the world but the Surface method simpler and easier. It also means you need to keep the Keyboard Folio charged up in order for it to work (Google claims it can last up to five months on a single charge).

Surface 3 vs Nexus 9: Hardware and software

Starting with the screen, which is pretty important when you're trying to get work done. The Nexus 9 is smaller at 8.9in but has a higher resolution at 2048x1536. The Surface 3 is 10.8in and Full HD Plus 1920x1280. Resolution aside, the size is more important when it comes to getting things done so the extra space on the Surface could make a big difference depending on your task. That said, we still prefer the Surface Pro 3 with its 12.1in display over the noticeably smaller 10.8in display.

Storage is also going to be a potentially big deal and it makes sense that the cheaper Nexus 9 has less available with just 16- or 32GB. Opt for the pricier Surface 3 and you'll get at least 64GB or 128GB if you don't mind paying more but there's also a microSD card slot which Google doesn't offer.

Google Nexus 9

In the engine room, each tablet has 2GB of RAM (4GB on the 128GB Surface 3) and the Nexus 9 is powered by a 64-bit nVidia Tegra K1 Dual Denver processor clocked at 2.3GHz. The Surface 3 has the new Intel Atom x7 which is 1.6GHz but can jump to 2.4Gz with Intel Burst technology. Microsoft's tablet is the more competent here although it has its limits and we wouldn't recommend it for video editing.

Like most Android tablets, the Nexus 9 doesn't provide any physical ports beyond microUSB, but it does have NFC should that come in useful. Microsoft has also switched to microUSB for charging but it offers full-size USB 3.0 and Mini DisplayPort on top, making the Surface 3 much more like a proper laptop.

Battery life is similar here with up to 10 hour video playback on the Surface 3 and 9.5 hour on the Nexus 9 so software is a bigger deal.

Surface 3 ports

While the Nexus 9 comes with stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, the Surface comes pre-installed with Windows 8.1 (the full version, not RT which is now defunct) and will  be upgraded to Windows 10 later this year for free. This is a huge difference and although many apps, including Office, are available for Android, the Surface 3 give you more scope for running software.

Many apps are free for Android which is advantage but it's worth noting that the Surface 3 comes with one year of Office 365 Personal with OneDrive cloud storage.

Reasons to buy the Nexus 9: Cheaper, better for fun alongside work, lighter and more compact.

Reasons to buy the Surface 3: Designed for work, better keyboard dock, larger screen, more ports, expandable storage.


Microsoft Surface 3: Specs

  • Windows 8.1 Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor, quad-core 1.6GHz (turbo to 2.4GHz) Up to 4GB DDR3 RAM Up to 128GB internal storage 10.8in ClearType full-HD-plus (1920x1280, 214ppi, 3:2) multitouch display USB 3.0 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.0 Mini DisplayPort 8Mp rear camera 3.5Mp front camera Stereo speakers with Dolby sound battery life up to 10 hours (video playback) 267x187x8.7mm 622g (without keyboard) 1 year warranty

Best prices today

Retailer Price Delivery  

Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide