Review of the new Microsoft Surface Book 3 laptop
Microsoft Surface Book 3: is it worth your purchase?
- Excellent keyboard
- Big screen
- Good selection of ports
- Not suitable for gamers
- Lackluster speakers
- There is no fingerprint scanner
The Surface Book offers some improvement over its predecessor. Some defects that we expected to see resolved are still present, making it somewhat out of date when compared to the competition.
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Review of the new Microsoft Surface Book 3 laptop
The original Surface Book was released in 2015, at a time when Microsoft’s range of computers was expanding rapidly.
Although there was a two-year gap between the first two generations, we had to wait a bit longer for the Surface Book 3 to arrive.
Although there are few relevant cosmetic changes, several improvements under the hood make it the most powerful laptop Microsoft has ever made. Will that power be able to justify its price?
The Surface Book 3 is a classic example of prioritizing function over form. It’s not unattractive in and of itself, but its industrial design certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. That is emphasized by the option of a single silver color, which only draws attention to this more imposing look.
However, the most notable design element is the so-called “fulcrum hinge”, which has always been present in the Surface Book lineup since its launch. The hinge design means that it can comfortably support the weight of a heavy screen, while at the same time ensuring that there are no accidental pressing of the touch screen while typing. It’s also a surefire way for Book 3 to stand out from the competition.
Speaking of typing, the keyboard is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Surface Book 3. In the 15-inch model I tested, it offers a really great typing experience, with the touch and responsive keys offering excellent amount of travel.
It’s one of the most impressive laptop keyboards I’ve tried, and it doesn’t seem to miss out on much compared to the full desktop experience.
Below the keyboard is an equally impressive trackpad. Although the Book 3 is compatible with the surface mouse or any other Bluetooth mouse, I was more than happy to use it to navigate the device. However, its large surface is not a cost in terms of comfort, since there is still plenty of room to rest your hands.
However, as you may have noticed in some photos, there is no fingerprint scanner on the Surface Book 3. Although Windows Hello offers a quick and effective alternative method to unlock the device, there is no logical reason why both cannot be included. . At this price, it’s a strange omission that’s hard to excuse.
Face unlock is made possible by a 5 MP front camera, which is capable of recording a full 1080p video. It offers a decent level of detail that is superior to what is found in most built-in webcams, but seriously struggles in low-light conditions.
The 8 MP rear camera adds autofocus, but it’s only worth using it for scanning documents or points or visual reminders. Although it is rare to see a rear camera on a laptop, this does not mean that you should use it for any photography!
The Book 3 is relatively well-ported, with 2 USB-A, 1 USB-C, a headphone jack, and a full-size SD card slot. The latter makes a lot of sense when considering the device’s target market, as many photographers and filmmakers want to seamlessly move files between their camera equipment and their PC.
These ports are divided between the keyboard and the screen, to allow full functionality when in tablet mode. This means there are two separate Surface Connect ports, as Microsoft continues to stick with its proprietary charging method.
At the top of the screen is also the power button, as well as a dedicated volume rocker. However, having to place the speakers to the side means that the sound quality suffers. They offer great clarity for voices, but the volume and bass are insufficient when it comes to music. For more than just casual use, I would recommend taking advantage of Bluetooth 5.0 to connect a wireless headset.
The Book 3 is compatible with accessories, including the Surface Pen and Surface Dial, but I couldn’t test them so I can’t comment on their effectiveness.
The Surface Book 3 is among the toughest 2-in-1s on the market, and it’s not obvious that the display is removable. If you do, you will be prompted to remove the display from its base.
Although it suffers from the same software limitations as other Windows tablets, the experience in tablet mode is much more intuitive for touch input. The fact that Microsoft’s most powerful laptop can also be a tablet is hugely impressive, although there are some limitations to what it can do.
If you’re using Book 3 for a task that requires all of your device’s processing power, like video editing or graphics-intensive games, it won’t let you separate the screen.
This is because the device requires the processing power located below the keyboard to function effectively. However, it is not too complicated, and you quickly realize what you can and cannot do with the screen removed.
That includes holding it in one hand for an extended period, with most of the total weight of 1.9 kg inside the tablet. That makes it a bit awkward to use, so it’s clear that it’s a useful alternative as opposed to a true everyday use case.
The display on the Surface Book 3 is excellent regardless of which model you choose, although the resolution does so very slightly. The 15-inch model I tested comes with a 3240×2140 ‘PixelSense’ display, while the 13.5-inch version is a step smaller, with a resolution of 3000×2000.
Neither of them are full 4K, but they are unlikely to notice a difference on screens of this size. What you will notice is the excellent detail and rich colors that the display offers. I also recorded an impressive 340 nits of brightness with the SpyderX Pro, which means it can handle direct sunlight without too much trouble.
If the resolution didn’t give it away, the Book3 also retains the 3: 2 aspect ratio that is becoming increasingly common across the entire surface gamut. This gives it a more boxed feel than the traditional 16: 9, which will require some tweaking if you haven’t tried it before.
However, the lack of changes means that the Book 3 still has sizable bezels. The desire for frameless laptops is nothing like that of smartphones, but the Surface Pro X has shown that Microsoft could go further in this regard. It is by no means an obstacle, but just another commitment that you will have to settle for.
Hardware and performance
The Superface Book has championed the latest Intel Core processors since it was first released in that it is no different here. You can choose between the i5 or i7 processors on the 13.5-inch model, but there are only i7 variants of the 15-inch version. Its performance will vary wildly depending on how much RAM you choose to match it with.
I can only comment on the 15-inch 16GB model I tested, which will cost you over 2,199. Performance on most tasks is solid, with the Book 3 able to handle multiple open windows and multitasking without a hitch.
However, even though Microsoft specifically touted Book 3’s suitability for “immersive gaming,” that turned out to be its main weakness. Far Cry New Dawn is undoubtedly a graphics-intensive title, but even the Nvidia GTX 1660 didn’t measure up. Even when it was set to maximize performance, the game lagged during my tests, to the point where it was not at all pleasant to play. I’m sure it would be fine for more casual gaming, but those who are serious about gaming on a laptop should look elsewhere.
However, in terms of benchmarks, the Surface Book 3 is more than a competition for the best laptops on the market.
While not always the most accurate indicator of real-world performance, it does show how well Book 3 performs under almost all circumstances. This makes the device’s flaws in gaming performance even more frustrating.
It’s not worth a section of its own, but it’s worth adding that the Surface Book 3 comes with Windows 10 Home out of the box. Considering that Microsoft develops Windows, there are no software tweaks to report, and Surface devices don’t seem to take priority when it comes to operating system updates.
The Surface Book 3 has two batteries, with an estimated 22Wh in the tablet 63Wh at the base combining for a total capacity of around 85Wh. Microsoft claims this will give you around 17.5 hours of use when the two are connected.
Its performance in our 720p video loop test suggests that it falls far short. With the brightness set to around 120 nits through the SpyderX Pro, I recorded 9 hours and 13 minutes before the device went to sleep.
Although a video is not typical of everyday use, I was still struggling to go through an 8 hour day without reaching for the charger.
As mentioned above, there is a surface connection port on both the base and the display, which makes the experience confusing. Technically, the device only charged 15% in 30 minutes from being turned off using the 125W adapter, although the tablet battery was charged 30% and the keyboard 11%.
Value for money
As I’ve mentioned in previous sections, the Surface Book 3 isn’t cheap. You can buy it through the official Microsoft website.
The so-called entry-level 13.5-inch model costs € 1,619.10 and comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. For an i7 processor, you will pay at least € 2,024.10.
The 15-inch model starts at € 2,339.10 and can go as high as € 2,789.10 depending on the configurations you choose.
Even the most expensive entries in our best laptop table can bring the price down, and many of those devices offer more than the everyday consumer is looking for.
Despite only minor improvements, the Book 3 is another solid addition to the Microsoft Surface family.
A great screen, excellent keyboard, and solid port selection provide the foundation for a great laptop experience.
However, the performance is seriously mixed. The Book 3 performs well in most situations, but is a serious disappointment when it comes to gaming performance. That’s usually not a problem, but Microsoft has specifically announced its suitability for games.
That’s far from the only downside, with thick bezels, mediocre speakers, and a lack of a fingerprint scanner among the most prominent.
At this price point, these flaws are hard to see further.
See how we test it: Laptops for more on what’s going on in one of our reviews.
- 13.5-inch (3000×2000) or 15-inch (3240×2160) screen with a 3: 2 aspect ratio. Intel Core i5 (10th gen) or Core i7 (10th gen) processor
- Intel Iris Plus (Core i5) or Nvidia GTX 1650/1660 (Core i7) graphics
- 8/16/32 GB RAM
- 256GB / 512GB / 1TB SSD
- 2x full-size USB 3.0 ports
- Full-size SD slot
- 8Mp rear camera, 5Mp front camera
- Dual microphones
- 3.5mm headphone jack.
- 802.11ac WiFi 6
- Bluetooth 5.0