Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 is the most powerful 2-in-1 in the world and the only portable Surface to have a dedicated NVIDIA GPU. But it’s an incredibly expensive device, it’s a bit heavy, and it still doesn’t have Thunderbolt 3. The Surface Book 3 is worth buying, but only if you need the 2 in 1 form factor .
We’re about to take a deep look at Surface Book 3. But since it’s a spec-based laptop, I want to take a second to list the raw specs and configuration options:
CPU: 10th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 chips
RAM: LPDDR4x RAM in 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB configurations
Storage room: PCIe SSD in 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB configurations
GPU: Integrated Iris Plus (base model), GeForce GTX 1650, GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, Quadro RTX 3000 (professional customers only)
Pin up: 13.5 inch 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI), 15 inch 3240 x 2160, (260 PPI)
Ports: USB-A (2), USB-C (not Thunderbolt 3), headphone jack, full-size 2TB SD card reader, Surface Connect ports (2)
Cameras: 5.0 megapixel HD selfie camera, 8.0 megapixel HD rear camera with autofocus
Wireless cards: Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6
Weight: 3.38 pounds (13.5 inch model), 4.2 pounds (15 inch model)
All right, let’s go. The Surface Book 3 looks pretty much like its predecessor, so what’s new? Did Microsoft fix any of the Surface Book 2 issues, or is it just an internal bump?
What’s new in Surface Book 3?
Externally, the Surface Book 3 is no different from its predecessor. Microsoft has released a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor in the 13.5-inch base Book 3, and all other configurations run on a fast 10th generation Core i7. This is a leap forward compared to the 7th and 8th generation Intel Core processors in the Surface Book 2, which are significantly slower than their more recent counterparts.
Microsoft has also replaced Book 2’s LPDDR3 RAM with new LPDDR4x modules in 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB versions. Combined with the 10th generation Core processors in Book 3, you have a serious multitasking machine. And, like the Book 2, the Book 3 is available in 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB PCIe SSD storage configurations, with a fancy 2 TB option for the 15-inch model.
By zooming in on the smallest details, you will see that the new Surface Book 3 integrates Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6 chips, as well as an updated 17.5 hour battery life and an improved load of 127 watts. Some Book 2 owners have complained that their laptop would lose charge when plugged in during heavy tasks – a problem that should be resolved with the additional 20 watts of charge speed.
Finally, there are the GPU options. The base 13.5-inch Surface Book 3 incorporates Intel Iris Plus graphics, what is decent but not good enough for AAA titles. All other Book 3 configurations, including the basic 15-inch option, contain NVIDIA graphics cards. You’ll find the GeForce GTX 1650 chip in the improved 13.5-inch models and the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti slightly faster in the 15-inch models. Businesses can order a 15-inch Surface Book 3 with a Quadro RTX 3000 GPU, and it’s a shame Microsoft doesn’t offer this model to the public.
Surface Book GPUs are installed on the keyboard docking station, so they are not active in tablet mode. That said, the 10th generation Intel processor in Book 3 has decent integrated graphics that should handle most design software and light games when not docked.
In Microsoft’s words, the Surface Book 3 is the most powerful 2-in-1 laptop available on the market today. And the company is absolutely right. But if you saw it on a shelf at Best Buy, you wouldn’t be able to tell the Surface Book 3 apart from its slower ancestor, the Surface Book 2. Externally, the Book 3 is almost identical to its predecessor. If you weren’t a fan of Surface Book 2 weight and port selection, then prepare to be disappointed.
Like its predecessor, the 13.5-inch Surface Book 3 weighs approximately 3.5 pounds, and the 15-inch model weighs approximately 4.2 pounds (with some variations depending on hardware configuration). Almost this weight goes into the detachable tablet, which can limit the use of the tablet for some people. For reference, the iPad Pro weighs only 1 pound and high-end laptops like the Dell XPS 13 weigh around 2.5 pounds.
Despite its weight, the Book 2 is universally appreciated for its screen and keyboard, both presented in the new book 3. The 13.5-inch model sports a panel of 3000 x 2000, while the 15-inch model pushes a 3240 x 2160 resolution. Windows Hello is also back, with the same high-quality 5MP HD front camera and 8MP HD rear camera as the Book 2.
The selection of ports also remains unchanged. Like the Book 2, the Book 3 has two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, two Surface Connect charging ports, a headphone jack, and a large SD card reader for up to 2 TB of additional storage. Despite the price of the Surface 3, its USB-C port doesn’t meet the Thunderbolt 3 standard, which has faster data transfer rates and better accessory support than basic USB-C . Thunderbolt 3 is available in most computers at this price, but Microsoft avoids technology for security purposes—Something that may be important to business or government. Despite the lack of Thunderbolt 3, you can still use it with Surface Book 3 with two external monitors by pairing it with the Surface Dock 2.
The only external change you may notice here is the addition of a second built-in microphone. The new Surface Go 2 has this array of two microphones, and if the first exams are an indicationis a big step forward for voice recording and video calls.
Which size is best for you?
Choosing between the 13.5-inch and 15-inch Surface Book 3 isn’t as easy as it should be. Both sizes have almost identical specifications, the only difference being in the GPU. Can you justify spending an extra $ 400 on the 15-inch Book 3’s big screen and the slightly faster GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card?
If you are a professional, a creative or a player, the answer could be yes. The 15-inch Surface Book 3 will provide a decent speed boost visual design tools, especially video editing or rendering software. And, although I wouldn’t suggest using the Surface Book 3 as a dedicated gaming machine (cheaper gaming laptops are more powerful), the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU is capable of pushing most games to high graphics settings.
But if you just want a high-performance 2-in-1, then the 15-inch Book 3 may not be worth the extra money. The base 13.5-inch model will run most software like a champ and has decent built-in graphics for older or lighter video games. Accumulating the 13.5-inch model at $ 2,000 gives you an i7 processor, as well as a dedicated GeForce GTX 1650 GPU. It is not as fast as the 15-inch graphics card, but it will provide reliable performance for video software and will run most AAA games with medium and high graphics settings.
While we compare the sizes of Book 3, you should take a moment to think about tablet mode. The 15-inch Book 3 weighs more than its little brother and has a larger screen than most conventional tablets. If you want to use the Book 3 as a conventional tablet, the cheaper 13.5-inch model may feel much more comfortable than the larger 15-inch device. That said, the 15-inch model might work better for artists or businesspeople who want a giant touchscreen, and people with large, strong hands might find its 15-inch screen comfortable for everyday tablet use.
You don’t plan to use Book 3 in tablet mode? So why bother buying it? The Surface Book 3 may be the most powerful 2-in-1 on the planet, but it’s not the most powerful laptop. You can choose from a ton of laptops in the price range of $ 1,000 to $ 3,000, and they all come in more powerful configurations than the Surface Book 3.
I’ve mentioned this several times before, but the Surface Book is significantly less powerful than other laptops in the $ 1,500 to $ 3,500 price range. Its base model, with a 10th generation i5 processor, integrated Iris Plus graphics and 8 GB of RAM, offers performance comparable to that of $ 700 Dell Inspiron or the $ 800 Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga. When you buy a Surface Book 3, you pay extra for the 2-in-1 form factor and the aesthetics of Surface.
the Surface Laptop 3 is the closest low-cost alternative to Surface Book 3, although it is not a 2-in-1 and does not have a dedicated GPU. Still, it’s probably the best choice if you don’t need the beefier GPU or a convertible. If you prefer an enterprise-class work machine with a dedicated GPU, I suggest you buy a maxed-out Dell XPS 15 instead of. It has the same specifications as Book 3 for $ 3,400 but costs about $ 950 less.
The only problem here is that the XPS 15 runs on a GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, which is slightly slower than what you will find in Book 3 of 15 inches. That said, the XPS 15 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports that can connect to external graphics cards, the options for your graphics card are therefore technically unlimited. You could even use the cheapest $ 1,200 XPS 13 with an external graphics card and spend your remaining money on a regular tablet.
If you prefer a super-fast internal GPU for dedicated games or graphics processing, you can always wait for the XPS 17, which Dell plans to sell with a super powerful RTX 2060 GPU configuration. Or, you can just buy a gaming laptop. The $ 1,800 Razer Blade 15 is one of the best gaming laptops available today. It incorporates a fast RTX 2070 GPU, with configuration options for the faster GeForce RTX 2080 or Quadro RTX 5000 chips.
And finally, if you care more about the form factor than the performance, you can always buy a Surface Pro 7 or one Surface Book 2. The Pro 7 is a reliable laptop with configuration options that can compete with the Book 3, as long as you don’t mind working with integrated graphics. And the Surface Book 2, although slower than the Book 3, is still a pretty powerful device and starts at around $ 1,000.