Microsoft & # 39; s Surface Book 3 is the most powerful 2-in-1
We're about to take a thorough look at Surface Book 3. But since it's such a specification-based laptop, I want to take a second to review the raw specifications and list configuration options:
- CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i5 and i7 chips
- RAM: LPDDR4x RAM in 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB Configs
- Storage: PCIe SSD in 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB Configs
- GPU: Integrated Iris Plus (base model), GeForce GTX 1650, GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, Quadro RTX 3000 (business customers only)  Display: 13.5-inch 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI), 15 inch 3240 x 2160, (260 PPI)
- Ports: USB-A (2), USB-C (no Thunderbolt 3) , headphone jack, full size 2 TB SD card reader, Surface Connect ports (2)
- Camera like: 5.0 megapixel HD selfie camera, 8.0 megapixel HD rear camera with auto focus
- Dr wireless cards: Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6
- Weight: 3.38 pounds (13.5 inch model), 4.2 pounds (15 inch model)
Okay, let We begin. The Surface Book 3 is very similar to its predecessor, so what's new? Has Microsoft solved any of the Surface Book 2's issues, or is it just an internal spec bump?
What's New in Surface Book 3?
Externally, the Surface Book 3 is indistinguishable from its predecessor. Microsoft threw a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor into the base 13.5-inch Book 3, and every other configuration runs on a fast 10th-generation Core i7. That's a big leap forward from Surface Book 2's 7th and 8th generation Intel Core processors, which are noticeably slower than their newer counterparts.
Microsoft has also replaced the Book 2's LPDDR3 RAM with new LPDDR4x modules in 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB flavors. Combined with Book 3's 10th generation Core processors, you have a serious multitasking machine. And like the Book 2, the Book 3 comes with 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB PCIe SSD storage configurations, with a nice 2 TB option for the 15-inch model.
If you zoom in on the small details, you'll see that the new Surface Book 3 includes Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6 chips, along with an updated 17.5 hours of battery life and improved 127 watts of charging. Some Book 2 owners complained that their laptop would lose its charge if it was plugged in during heavy tasks – an issue that should be resolved with the additional 20 watt charging speed.
Finally, there are the GPU options. The base 13.5-inch Surface Book 3 has integrated Intel Iris Plus graphics, which is decent, but not good enough for AAA titles. Any other configuration of the Book 3, including the basic 15-inch option, packs NVIDIA graphics cards. You will find the GeForce GTX 1650 chip in upgraded 13.5-inch models and the slightly faster GeForce GTX 1660 Ti in 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 in the keyboard dock, so they are not & # 39; t active in tablet mode. That said, the Book 3's 10th Gen Intel CPU has decent integrated graphics that can handle most design software and lightweight games when not connected.
In Microsoft & # 39; s Surface Book 3 is the most powerful 2-in-1 laptop 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 distinguish the Surface Book 3 from its slower predecessor, the Surface Book 2. Externally, the Book 3 is almost identical to its predecessor. If you weren't a fan of the Surface Book 2's weight and port selection, get ready for a mess.
Like its predecessor, the 13.5-inch Surface Book 3 weighs about 3.5 pounds and the 15-inch model weighs about 4.2 pounds (with some variation depending on hardware configuration). Almost that weight goes into the detachable tablet, which can limit the usability of the tablet for some people. For reference, the iPad Pro weighs just 1 pound and premium laptops like the Dell XPS 13 weigh around 2.5 pounds.
Despite its weight, the Book 2 is widely acclaimed for its display and keyboard – both of which are included in the new Book 3. The 13.5-inch model has a 3000 x 2000 panel, while the 15-inch model has a resolution of 3240 x 2160. Windows Hello also returns, along with the same high-quality 5 MP HD front camera and 8 MP HD rear camera as the Book 2.
Port selection 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 full-size SD card reader for up to 2 TB of additional storage. Despite the price tag of the Surface 3, the USB-C port doesn't conform to the Thunderbolt 3 standard, which offers faster data transfer speeds and better accessory support than standard USB-C. Thunderbolt 3 is available on most computers at this price point, but Microsoft is avoiding the technology for security reasons – something that could be important for business or government customers. Despite the lack of Thunderbolt 3, you can still use the Surface Book 3 with two external monitors by pairing it with Surface Dock 2.
The only external change you notice here is the addition of a second built-in microphone. The new Surface Go 2 has this dual-microphone array, and if early reviews are any indication, it's a big step forward for voice recording and video calling.
Which size suits you?
Choosing between the 13.5-inch and 15-inch Surface Book 3 isn't nearly as easy as it should be. Both sizes have almost identical specifications, the only difference being the GPU. Can you spend an extra $ 400 for the large 15-inch Book 3 screen and the slightly faster GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card?
If you are a professional, a creative or a gamer, the answer may be yes. The 15-inch Surface Book 3 offers a decent speed boost for visual design tools, especially video editing or display software. And while I wouldn't recommend using the Surface Book 3 as a dedicated gaming machine (cheaper gaming laptops are more powerful), the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU can push most games to high graphics settings.
But if you just want a high-performing 2-in-1, the 15-inch Book 3 might not be worth the extra money. The basic 13.5-inch model will run most software like a champ and has solid integrated graphics for older or lightweight video games. Rising to the $ 2,000 13.5-inch model gives you an i7 processor, along with a dedicated GeForce GTX 1650 GPU. It's not as fast as the 15-inch model's graphics card, but it delivers reliable video software performance and runs most AAA games with medium and high graphics settings.
While comparing the dimensions 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 screen that is larger than most conventional tablets. If you want to use the Book 3 as a conventional tablet, the cheaper 13.5-inch model may feel a lot more comfortable than the larger 15-inch. That said, the 15-inch model might work better for artists or business people who want a giant touchscreen display, and those with big strong hands may find the 15-inch display comfortable for everyday tablet use.
Don't plan to use book 3 in tablet mode? Then why buy it? The Surface Book 3 may be the most powerful 2-in-1 in the world, but it is not exactly the most powerful laptop . You can choose from a lot of laptops in the $ 1,000 to $ 3,000 price range, and they are all available in more powerful configurations than the Surface Book 3.
I've mentioned this a few times, but the Surface Book is significantly less powerful than other laptops in the $ 1,500 to $ 3,500 price range. The base model, with a 10th generation i5 processor, integrated Iris Plus graphics and 8 GB of RAM, offers performance comparable to the $ 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 Surface aesthetic.
The Surface Laptop 3 is the cheapest alternative to the Surface Book 3, although that's not the case & # 39; t a 2-in-1, and it has no dedicated GPU. Still, it's probably the best choice if you don't need the firmer GPU or a convertible. If you prefer a business machine with a dedicated GPU, I recommend buying a maximum Dell XPS 15 instead. It has the same specs as the $ 3,400 Book 3 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'll find in 15-inch Book 3. That said, the XPS 15 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports that can be connected to external graphics cards, so your graphics card options are technically unlimited. You can even use the cheaper $ 1,200 XPS 13 with an external graphics card and spend your leftover money on a regular tablet. 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 includes a fast RTX 2070 GPU, with configuration options for the faster GeForce RTX 2080 or Quadro RTX 5000 chips.
And finally, if you're more concerned with form factor than performance, you can always buy a Surface Pro 7 or a 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, while slower than the Book 3, is still a pretty powerful device, starting at around $ 1,000.