Microsoft Surface Book 3 15-inch review
The Surface Book 3 offers a couple of hardware upgrades, but its unique design is clearly holding it back against more powerful competitors. It’s still a compelling option for creatives, but remember there are far faster machines for an equivalent price.
That's because it isn't sort of a normal laptop -- it’s really an outsized tablet with a detachable keyboard. Most of its components -- the CPU, RAM, storage and main motherboard -- lie behind the screen. The keyboard base, meanwhile, holds a bigger battery and dedicated graphics. It's a clever thanks to craft a detachable PC, and Microsoft's engineers deserve many credit for going completely against the grain. But now, it's starting to appear to be a liability.
Take the new hardware. The Surface Book 3 features Intel's quad-core 10th generation Ice Lake CPUs, which reach at a 3.9GHz Turbo Boost speed. (Those chips also appear within the Surface Laptop 3, an ultraportable that doesn’t even pretend to handle heavy lifting). The MacBook Pro 16-inch, on the opposite hand, offers Intel's recent six and eight-core CPUs, including the monstrously powerful 5GHz Core i9. Dell's XPS 15 also can be configured with similar chips reaching up to five .1GHz. you are doing the maths . There's just no way the Surface Book 3 can compete during a CPU fight.
At least Microsoft is competitive on the graphics front. you've NVIDIA's GTX 1650, GTX 1660 Ti and Quadro RTX 3000 as options, the latter of which is far faster than the MacBook Pro 16-inch's Radeon GPUs. you will have to leap through a couple of more hoops to urge that Quadro GPU though, as it's only available to corporate customers.
I'm not saying the Surface Book 3 isn't impressive. It still looks and seems like a high-quality machine, though the planning hasn't budged in the least since the last model. There's an equivalent all-metal case, the unique bulbous hinge (that leaves a small gap open when closed), and an outsized 15-inch screen. But since we last saw the Surface Book, most PC makers have started seriously slimming down their bezels to suit in larger displays and reduce weight. The Book 3, unfortunately, still has thick screen borders that make it appear as if a notebook from four or five years ago.
Previously, I also knocked the 15-inch Surface Book for being heavier than its competitors at 4.2 pounds. But, ironically enough, Apple ended up making the MacBook Pro 16-inch a touch chunkier also , so it now slightly outweighs the Book 3. But as you will see , i feel Apple justifies its heft a touch more. and therefore the MacBook Pro is additionally significantly slimmer -- the Book 3 is up to 23 millimeters thick, while the MacBook Pro maxes out at 16.3 millimeters. As usual, Microsoft's curved hinge makes things stick out quite bit.
One advantage of being so large, though, is that the Surface Book 3 is in a position to suit a good keyboard and roomy touchpad. It's all an equivalent hardware we saw a couple of years ago, but they're still excellent. The keys have many depth and responsiveness, making them a dream to type on. and therefore the smooth glass touchpad is among the simplest I've used on a Windows notebook.
So sure, there is a lot to like about the Surface Book 3. But if you would like to understand why I'm being so critical of its new hardware, just check out the benchmarks. In PCMark 10, it scores a notch below Dell's recent XPS 13. And even more damning, it scores only a couple of hundred points above HP's Elite Dragonfly, a 2-pound PC whose performance we called "middling." If you're trying to be a powerhouse machine, this is not the corporate you ought to be keeping. Its Geekbench 5 multi-core speeds also fell behind the new MacBook Pro 13-inch, and it had been once more bested by the XPS 13. The Surface Book 3 fared better in Geekbench 5's Compute benchmark, where the NVIDIA GPU brought it in line with ASUS's excellent Zephyrus G14 (a less expensive machine with much better CPU scores).
The GTX 1660 Ti is clearly the lynchpin of the Surface Book 3's performance, and it also means the notebook can finally handle some decent gaming. Running in 1080p, I clocked between 110 and 130 FPS in Overwatch with "epic" graphics settings. The Hitman 2 benchmark also delivered a solid 72 FPS with maxed out settings. To be clear, you'll get similar performance from gaming notebooks that cost half the maximum amount . But a minimum of Book 3 owners are going to be ready to get some fragging done alongside their creative work.
The real question any potential Surface Book 3 owner must ask: Is it worth spending plenty on a premium notebook that's not as fast as a MacBook Pro, but features a screen you'll pop out? Three years ago, I saw tons more potential within the Book's massive tablet display. But lately , it seems less useful. For one, the Book 3 remains awkward to carry as a tablet, since it's extremely large and weighs nearly 2 pounds.
At best, it's really only good for binging video or reading a couple of articles. There still are not any truly great tablet apps on Windows 10, so you will be stuck navigating software that's primarily designed for a keyboard and mouse. Even modern Windows apps like Mail and Office are frustrating to use with just a touchscreen. And sure, if you had a Surface Pen ($79 extra, of course), you'll dive into the big screen for digital artwork. But the 15-inch Book 3 may be a bit overlarge only for notetaking.
After spending many time with the Surface Book 3, and seeing how it compares to other premium notebooks, I'm starting to wonder if it's worth having a 15-inch model in the least . Microsoft could easily keep the 13.5-inch Book around for people that need a detachable screen. But given how clunky a 15-inch tablet is, it'd make more sense to pursue a totally different design that would actually hold a strong CPU. we have seen a couple of wild experiments, like Acer's Triton 900, which features a rotating screen that swivels back and forth. And while that machine wasn't entirely successful, Microsoft could refine an identical approach. We've also seen many concept devices from Intel that slot in dual screens and unique hinges.
If you are still intrigued by the Surface Book 3, be prepared to distribute pile . The 15-inch model starts at $2,300 with a Core i7 1065G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and NVIDIA's GTX 1660 Ti. That's $100 but the MacBook Pro 16-inch's starting price, but that machine also gets you a faster six-core CPU and a 512GB SSD. I'd say Apple is providing the higher value there, especially once you compare benchmarks. If you would like NVIDIA's Quadro RTX graphics on the Surface Book 3, you will have to distribute a minimum of $3,500 via a billboard reseller.
Here's the thing: I've followed Microsoft's Surface line from the beginning , and i have grown to like how the corporate that gave us Windows is pushing PC designs in bold new directions. It's doing more creative work than Apple lately , and that is saying something. But the Surface Book 3 just feels too familiar and underpowered. Microsoft needed a bold redesign here -- this ain't it.