From Best Products
We judge laptops on a scale of 10, analyzing the categories we think are most important: design, display, and performance. Here’s how the Microsoft Surface Book 3 stacks up.
The Microsoft Surface Book 3 packs timely hardware upgrades, while retaining the same iconic and versatile design as its predecessors. Available with 13.5- or a 15-inch detachable touch screen, it is once again the ultimate portable PC.
• 10th-generation Core i5/i7 (quad-core) processors
• Optional NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with Max-Q Design (13.5-inch); standard NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU with Max-Q Design (15-inch)
• 13.5- or 15-inch PixelSense touchscreen with 3:2 aspect ratio
• Up to 32 GB of RAM; up to 2 TB SSD
• 2 USB-A 3.1 ports; USB-C 3.1 port, SD card reader; 2 Surface Connect ports
• Compatible with Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Dial
I spent more than a week testing the Microsoft Surface Book 3 with a 15-inch display. Here’s why it’s the do-it-all touchscreen laptop you’ve been waiting for.
Still an Industry Benchmark
- The Surface Book 3 is beautiful and exceptionally crafted
- Its versatility is yet to be matched by a rival
- It has an excellent set of connectivity features
Microsoft has not made any changes to the design of the Surface Book 3, and that’s totally a good thing. Almost half a decade since the original made its debut, the Surface Book is still in a league of its own when it comes to craftsmanship, versatility, and character. Its sleek lines and detachable display with a unique hinge help it stand out as it always has.
I remember being at the unveiling of the original Microsoft Surface Book in 2015 and irrationally making plans about getting one. Interacting with the latest iteration brings the same sense of special occasion as the original did back in the day.
Once again, users can instantly transform the Surface Book 3 from a traditional laptop to a tablet by detaching the display from the keyboard with the press of a button. Of course, there’s also the option to flip the screen and use the base as a stand while gaming or creating content.
The notebook’s keyboard is superb, offering backlit keys with just the right amount of travel and tactility. The glass trackpad is also precise and dependable as usual.
The Surface Book 3 has a rich and futureproof selection of wired and wireless connectivity options, including Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. The optional Surface Dock 2 accessory, on the other hand, offers even more connectivity ports in case you need them.
A Glorious Touch Screen, But Making the Most of It Will Cost You
- The display is sharp and excellent for any task
- Its 3:2 aspect is more convenient than the 16:9 ratio of most laptops
- The Surface Pen and Surface Dial cost extra
The PixelSense touchscreen of the Surface Book 3 is excellent overall. It’s plenty sharp, bright, and thanks to a 1600:1 contrast ratio, capable of displaying vibrant and accurate colors.
With a 3:2 aspect ratio, the detachable display is also as versatile as the rest of the device’s hardware. I enjoyed being able to view and edit full pages of documents side by side on the 15-inch Book 3 I tested in landscape mode without zooming out to fit them in — the process is nowhere near as convenient on a typical laptop with a 16:9 display. In portrait mode, the touch screen is ideal for reading, browsing, or taking notes with the Surface Pen.
The Surface Pen is essential for taking full advantage of the Surface Book 3 and its PixelSense Touchscreen, and I wish Microsoft didn’t charge extra for it. The Surface Dial, on the other hand, is an optional accessory that’s tailor-made for creative work.
Addictive Power and Battery Performance to Match
- The Surface Book 3 is uncompromisingly powerful
- The NVIDIA graphics make the notebook a capable gaming rig
- The notebook’s performance during video calls is top-notch
Even when I tried, I couldn’t slow down the 15-inch Surface Book 3 with Intel Core i7 CPU, NVIDIA graphics, and 32 GB of RAM I tested. It’s the most powerful touchscreen laptop I have experienced to date, capable of instantly conquering any task you throw at it, as well as instantly switching between a multitude of open apps.
My usual workflow consists of Google Chrome with a multitude of open tabs, Affinity Photo for editing large image files, Slack, Twitter, and Spotify to keep me entertained. In order to fully put the big Surface Book 3 through its paces, I threw in a Gears of War 5 gaming session and it didn’t show even a slightest hint of hesitation. The notebook switched effortlessly between action-packed gameplay and the Word document I used to create this review.
Thanks to its powerful NVIDIA graphics, the range-topping 15-inch Surface Book 3 is not only a powerful tool for graphic design and video editing, but also a highly capable gaming rig. I had fun playing Gears 5 at a smooth 60 frames per second, using an Xbox One wireless controller.
The laptop’s battery life is as head-spinning and reliable as its processing and graphics power are — up to 17.5 hours of mixed use for the 15-inch model (15.5 hours for the 13.5-inch). While testing the big notebook, I consistently made it through a full workday with the display brightness set well above 50%. Considering the hardware specs and the versatility of the notebook, this is as good as it gets.
I was impressed by the performance of the notebook during video calls as well. Thanks to pro-grade microphones and a Full HD webcam, I looked and sounded crisp during virtual meetings using Microsoft Teams and Zoom. The device’s speakers are also impressive for its form factor.
Pricing of the Microsoft Surface Book 3 kicks off at $1,599.99 for a 13.5-inch variant with an Intel Core i5 processor, Intel Iris Plus graphics, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage. I highly recommend that buyers opt for a higher-spec version with Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and NVIDIA graphics — it’s vastly more capable and futureproof.
The 15-inch Book 3 I tested starts at $2,299.99 for a variant with 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. Thankfully, all iterations of the big-screen notebook are equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics.
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