Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 review: A picture of elegance
Pretty in Black
Microsoft now has more Surface devices than ever, including its signature Surface Pro 7 convertible and the Surface Pro X. However, for those of you who still prefer a more traditional clamshell laptop, it's got the Surface Laptop 3, a notebook that boasts an elegant, minimalist design. However, the Surface Laptop 3 also faces more competition than its other siblings, especially from the gorgeous new Dell XPS 13, which is already looking like it could be the best ultrabook to come out in 2020.
But while the Surface Laptop 3 may not have the XPS 13's freakishly slim bezels, it's still a very attractive notebook. The matte black aluminium colour is beautiful, and Microsoft also makes models with Alcantara fabric that give it a pretty unique look, especially when it comes to the mesmerising Cobalt Blue. A word of warning regarding the black finish though – it's quite the fingerprint magnet, so you'll have to put in work to keep it clean.
Build quality is excellent though, and the laptop feels impeccably built and just oozes quality.
The Surface Laptop 3 is also finally getting a USB-C port, a long-overdue change that opens up more expansion and charging solutions outside of Microsoft's own charger and dock. Port options are still rather sparse though, and the only other connectors are a USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, and the Surface Connect port.
That aside, we've already done a pretty detailed hands-on with the laptop, so I won't be rehashing what's already been said. Suffice to say, the updated port selection and new colours are among the biggest changes you'll see on the Surface Laptop 3. It's actually not that different coming from the Surface Laptop 2, so Microsoft isn't breaking any new ground here. This is almost slightly disappointing – Microsoft has shown that it isn't afraid to push boundaries with devices like the Surface Neo and Surface Duo, but it just doesn't want to do so with its clamshell laptop, even if it is the one with the greatest mainstream appeal right now.
However, the Surface Laptop 3 still nails many of the key elements of what makes a good laptop. The 2,496 x 1,664-pixel touchscreen display is bright and crisp, and the 3:2 aspect ratio makes it better for viewing documents. The bezels are starting to look a little thick though, and it's high time Microsoft thought about updating the look of the Surface Laptop. In addition, the keyboard has decent travel and feels really comfortable to type on, especially with the slight concave on each key that helps guide your fingers into place. It also has the same 19mm key pitch as the Surface Laptop 2.
The other big upgrade is the availability of Intel's 10th Gen Ice Lake processors, but the same is also found on most other modern ultrabooks today. However, the Surface Laptop 3 still has one more trick up its sleeve, if it can even be called that. The laptop is available with either 13.5-inch or 15-inch displays, and the latter also comes in a special AMD Ryzen Surface Edition flavour and AMD's Ryzen 3000-series mobile processors.
Microsoft sent us one such unit for review, and here's an overview of its specifications:
- 15-inch 2,496 x 1,664-pixel PixelSense touchscreen display
- AMD Ryzen 5 3580U processor
- 16GB RAM
- 256GB SSD
- 45.8Wh battery
- 339.5 x 244 x 14.69mm
The above will cost you S$2,488, which isn't cheap for specs that aren't exactly class-leading. The battery size is also slightly concerning, and it's even slightly smaller than the one on the Surface Laptop 2. Both 13.5- and 15-inch models have the same battery, which is odd as it appears that Microsoft deliberately chose not to include a bigger battery on the larger and more power-hungry model.
What's more, the AMD processor it uses is also kind of outdated now, given that AMD already announced its Ryzen 4000 mobile processors at CES. That said, head over to the next page to find out how it really performs.