Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 Review: 15-inches of Portable Power

The 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 could be one of probably the most moveable 15-inch units I’ve ever used. It’s skinny, it weighs simply 3.Four kilos, it has a giant 15-inch show, and by some means it manages to be fairly highly effective besides. I’ve not often used a laptop computer this massive that feels so small when transported from house to workplace, and even simply round the home. It’s completely wonderful. It’s additionally the primary premium gadget in years to depend on an AMD processor as a substitute of an Intel one. AMD and Intel have each made a really massive deal about this partnership, and having used the Surface Laptop 3 for nearly every week, I perceive their enthusiasm.

What is it?

The 15-inch model of the Surface Laptop, now with AMD inside.

Price

Starts at $1,000 for a 13-inch and $1,500 for a 15-inch. Reviewed at $1,700.

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Thin. Portable. Incredible GPU efficiency.

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Battery life is middling. Keys can really feel mushy. Aluminum end picks up hand grease quick.

The Surface Laptop 3 is the third era of Microsoft’s try at an amazing $1,000 laptop computer. This yr Microsoft produced two varieties of Surface Laptops. A 13.5-inch model that begins at $1,000 and has a 10th-generation Intel Ice Lake CPU inside, and a 15-inch model that begins at $1,500 and depends on an AMD Zen 2 processor with a souped-up Vega GPU. The one reviewed right here is the $1,700 model with Ryzen 5 3580U CPU, Vega 9 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD. That’s a really bizarre worth for a really bizarre gadget as a result of different massive Windows laptop computer makers like Dell and HP simply aren’t doing something just like the Surface Laptop 3. HP’s Spectre x360 and Dell’s XPS 15 are each fairly a bit thicker and heavier, however for a similar worth, the provide you with discrete graphics and older CPUs with extra cores.

Microsoft’s hope appears to be that folks can be keen to pay for portability as a substitute of energy in a 15-inch laptop computer. As somebody who’s simply high quality together with her 13-inch gadget, however did want it had a much bigger show, the 15-inch Surface Laptop is mainly focused at me. It’s my laptop computer, simply with extra show and barely any extra weight.

Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

It solely weighs 3.Four kilos! That’s solely half a pound greater than the 13-inch, and a half-pound to a pound lower than the flagship 15-inch units from Dell and HP. This is the primary 15-inch laptop computer in almost 4 years that I want to a 13-inch when commuting too and from the workplace. It takes up barely any more room—comfortably becoming right into a suitcase pocket meant for a 13-inch gadget when I dragged it to a marriage over the weekend. At 0.57 inches, it’s extremely skinny for a 15-inch too.

Yet regardless of being so skinny and lightweight, it feels sturdy. I can run round with it open, clutched in a single hand, and never really feel prefer it’s going to flex or break. When I took it on the aircraft this weekend, neatly balanced on my lap, there was no floppy hinges or undue wiggling as I typed. The solely issues I can criticize in regards to the construct of the laptop computer are the end and the keyboard. Microsoft opted for an aluminum end (present in both black or platinum on the 15-inch). The distinct cloth palm relaxation discovered within the 13-inch isn’t accessible on the 15-inch, which is a disgrace as a result of the black aluminum Surface Laptop, like each single black aluminum laptop computer I’ve ever used, is an absolute magnet for the oils discovered in your arms. I’ve used this factor for lower than every week, and its matte end is already beginning to shine. The cloth, or some form of oleophobic coating, can be welcome.

As for the keyboard—the keys really feel just a bit too mushy for my style. They’re not mushy sufficient to repulse me, however I do want that they had just a bit extra snap to them.

Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

I additionally want Microsoft would simply cease with the flowery Surface Connect port for charging. I have a foul behavior of knocking the cable out of the port on accident, and I’m spoiled by the big selection of units I now use that cost by way of USB-C. With such a meticulously designed laptop, the random proprietary charging port stands out in an unappealing manner. The Surface Laptop 3 does embrace a USB-C port (in addition to a USB-A port and 3.5mm headphone jack), however it’s for powering shows and charging peripherals, not for charging the gadget itself.

While the reluctance to completely embrace USB-C looks like a step backward, the insides of the gadget really feel like a big step ahead. You received’t be capable of discover this particular CPU and GPU in a non-Microsoft product. The firm partnered with AMD to supply the chips that energy the Laptop 3. While neither firm has gone into in depth particulars about what’s completely different between the Ryzen 5 3580U discovered right here and the normal 3500U, each have, at the very least, famous that the Vega 9 GPU is extra highly effective and has extra compute models than the Vega eight discovered on the 3500U.

What does that imply should you don’t care about all these numbers and specs? It means the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 flies in GPU intensive duties. At least comparatively. See, the GPU area for laptops has gotten fairly complicated within the final yr. Intel has two differing kinds of GPUs, the standard wimpy built-in ones discovered one half of its 10th-Gen lineup, and a brand new, sooner built-in one discovered particularly in Ice Lake merchandise. A little sooner than these Ice Lake GPUs are the discrete MX150 and MX250 GPUs made by Nvidia and often present in higher-end laptops. Then there are the much more highly effective discrete GPUs from Nvidia and AMD. The Nvidia playing cards often find yourself in gaming units or dearer workstations, whereas AMD’s discrete GPUs ship in Apple units.

All photos: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

AMD’s built-in Vega 9 GPU discovered within the Surface Laptop 3 hovers, speed-wise, someplace between the Ice Lake and the MX 250. It’s quick sufficient to make so much of much less demanding gaming easy, however not precisely highly effective sufficient to get you thru Gears 5 on something above Medium.

As for the CPU, it butts up in opposition to the efficiency of Intel’s i7 Ice Lake processor (we haven’t examined the i5 Ice Lake processor, which might be the extra honest comparability). In Blender, the place we render a 3D picture and word how lengthy it takes, it was simply as quick as Dell’s new XPS 13 2-in-1 with an Intel i7-1065G7. The solely locations Intel’s half outperformed had been in Geekbench Four and WebXPRT 2015, two artificial benchmarks that sometimes favor Intel’s processors. In real-world assessments, from Overwatch to Civilization VI to Handbrake, the Ryzen 5 3580U was simply as quick (and within the case of the video games, it was really barely sooner).

Yet there’s one caveat. Battery life. It’s profoundly middling. The Surface Laptop 3 lasted simply 7 hours and 42 minutes in our check, the place we set the brightness of the show to 200 nits and stream a YouTube video till the battery dies. That’s almost 4 hours lower than that Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 with the Ice Lake chip. Not actually spectacular! But Dell’s XPS sequence has all the time outperformed rivals in battery assessments, and Microsoft instructed me our outcomes had been correct. It’s additionally proper in keeping with final yr’s Microsoft Surface Laptop 2, which was a heckuva lot much less highly effective. So as a lot as I need to ding the Surface Laptop 3, all I can actually say is “it’s fine” with regards to battery life. Not abysmal, however not unbelievable.

The so-so battery life looks like the one actual vital misstep in an in any other case wonderful gadget. Imagine if one thing as moveable as this 15-inch gadget additionally had unbelievable battery life? Instead of being an amazing 15-inch laptop computer, the Surface Laptop 3 can be a required buy for lots of folks. As it stands, it’s only a very sensible buy for lots of folks. If you worth portability and don’t want half a dozen CPU cores and a giant discrete GPU, the Surface Laptop 3 is a rarity that hits an ideal stability I didn’t know I wanted till I had it in my lap. AMD (and Microsoft) have produced a GPU and CPU seemingly pretty much as good as Intel’s highest. It’s absolute proof that AMD can and may begin showing in additional laptops, particularly the large flashy ones.

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  • The GPU is excellent.
  • The CPU is on par with a 4-core U-series processor from Intel.
  • The battery life is barely middling.
  • The 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 is so skinny and lightweight it’ll be exhausting to return to a extra highly effective 15-inch gadget.

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