Though we loved the 13-inchwhen it first shipped two years ago, a lot has changed for thin and light premium laptops since then. Now the line just doesn’t stand out the way it once did, even the new 15-inch model. At first it isn’t clear who the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is for: Compared to the rest of its many competitors, it’s not particularly light, or fast or feature packed. It’s not inexpensive or full of cutting-edge tech and it doesn’t have a long battery life. But it’s reasonably light, sufficiently fast, looks pleasantly sleek, is partly upgradeable, backward-compatible with previous power supplies and sold by Microsoft. So it probably does make sense for one class of laptop buyers: enterprise.
The pricing for the 15-inch model starts at $1,199 (£1,199, AU$1,999), but that version has only 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Windows 10 takes 20GB, and if you’re a Microsoft Office shop that will take another 6GB, and with that little memory you’ll run a pretty large swap file. You really can’t run anything on that configuration except maybe cloud-based applications, and even then it’s barely really enough memory to hold Windows and a lot of browser tabs. It’s possible that this configuration was intended to run a lightweight version of Windows rumored to compete with Chrome OS, but who knows.
Our $1,699 (£1,699, AU$2,799) test configuration, with 16GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, is the minimum configuration I could recommend, and even that storage is only enough if you don’t save a lot of files locally or download video for travel. And that’s a lot to pay for what you get compared with competitors: Laptops like the, which is smaller at 14 inches but superior in every other way for hundreds less, or the which has a slightly larger footprint (a 17-inch display in a 15.6-inch size) but delivers a lot more for the same money. On sale it might be a different story, though.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)
|Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)|
|Price as reviewed||$1,699 (£1,699, AU$2,799)|
|Display||15-inch 2,496 x 1,664 (201 ppi, 3:2 aspect ratio) pen and touch display|
|PC CPU||AMD Ryzen 5 3580U Microsoft Surface Edition|
|PC Memory||16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2667MHz|
|Graphics||AMD Vega 9|
|Ports||1 x USB-C, 1 x USB-A, headphone jack, proprietary power|
|Networking||Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), Bluetooth 5|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home 1903|
|Weight||3.4 lbs/1.5 kg|
The design is essentially the same as the more easily opened, so the SSD can be upgraded (the memory is still soldered and the battery difficult to remove). It also has a metal keyboard deck rather than the odd Alcantara fabric., which means it’s basically a bigger , which was essentially just the . There are two nontrivial differences: a monitor-compatible-via-dongle USB-C port replaces the mini DisplayPort connector and it’s
It retains the proprietary magnetic Surface Connect port, though at least now it supports fast charging. The connector has a lot of fans, just as the old Apple MagSafe connector did, but as someone who accidentally disconnects it on a regular basis without realizing and then wonders why the battery hasn’t charged, I’m not one of them. And an extra USB-C port with the ability to charge through it might have been nice. Instead, it’s just a single USB-C and a single USB-A; given that it has the same battery as the 13-inch but a bigger chassis, another USB port of any type would have been lovely.
In fact, there seems like a bit of wasted space here altogether. The keyboard is the same as the 13-inch, just with larger empty spaces on the sides and the touchpad is the same size. The keys have 1.3mm of travel, which is typical for its class. It feels responsive but isn’t very quiet.
The 3:2 display, which is just a larger version of the 13-incher’s, is higher resolution to maintain the same 201-ppi pixel density. I’m a fan of 3:2 aspect-ratio displays, since they fit more on a screen than widescreen aspects like 16:9 — unless what you want to fit is video. The screen is nothing to get excited about unless you’re upgrading from an old laptop with a dim screen. Compared to a lot of modern laptops in its price range, it’s just OK. Fine for work, but somewhat washed out for Netflix. There are two color profiles which come with it, a standard sRGB and an “Enhanced” mode, but the latter seems to be the native screen profile and seems to just increase the contrast.
Its performance was disappointing. One of Microsoft’s big sales pitches for this new, larger model of the Surface Laptop 3 is the company’s first use of AMD mobile processors, in this case the Ryzen 5 3580U Microsoft Surface Edition and Ryzen 7 3780U Microsoft Surface Edition for the higher-end models, both 4-core/8-thread versions with different clock speeds. They’re both variants of other processors, the 3500U and 3700U, but with one more graphics core than their generic counterparts: 9 for the RX Vega 9 graphics in the 3580U and 11 for the RX Vega 11 graphics in the 3780U.
That extra graphics core allows Microsoft to differentiate its AMD-based graphics performance from laptops using Intel’s Ice Lake 10th-gen updated Iris Plus G4 and G7 graphics. It obviously decided to pass on that for this model, because the Vega 8 performs roughly the same as the G4 and Vega 10 about the same as G7. So in theory, Vega 9 should perform better than G4 and Vega 11 should perform better than G7. (Everything performs better than the older Intel UHD 620/630 graphics in the 10th-gen Comet Lake and Kaby Lake-R mobile chips that make up the bulk of current processors on the market.)
However, compared to the Surface Pro 7 with the Core i5-1035G4, it’s just not as fast on the typical workload it was designed to handle, and the battery life disappoints as well. On our video-streaming test it hit 7.5 hours, but when I used it with the screen at a reasonably bright but not maxed-out level — writing, email, web browsing, participating in a WebEx conference for 45 minutes plus overnight sleep — it was closer to 5 hours total.
|Lenovo Yoga C930||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 12GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|LG Gram 17||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop 2||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620; 256GB|
|MIcrosoft Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1903); 2.1GHz AMD Ryzen 5 3580U Microsoft Surface Edition; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 2GB (dedicated) AMD Radeon Vega 9 Graphics; 256GB SSD|
|MIcrosoft Surface Pro 7||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1903); 1.1GHz Intel Core i5-1035G4; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel Iris Plus Graphics; 256GB SSD|
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 15-inch
- Microsoft finally adds a USB-C connection to its Surface Laptop line. The 15-inch model Surface Laptop 3 offers easy opening for storage upgrades.
- Meh battery life for its class, no Thunderbolt 3 support and minimal connections.
The 15-inch model of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 offers solid performance and a nice design as an everyday thin-and-light business laptop.