Surface Book 3 is a unique laptop. It’s unique in its design, pricing model and even its market placement. I loved the Surface Book 2 and its minimalist, Scandi-looking design, something designers from Shoreditch would like. Anyway since the Surface Book 2, this latest iteration hasn’t changed, we still have the same keyboard, the same hinge, the same size and aspect ratio and the same ports – still no thunderbolt 3. Microsoft has upgraded its internals and increased its price tag to match.
Whether you decide to get the i5 or i7 versions, you get the latest 10th Gen Intel Core processors, you can choose up to 32GB of RAM, up to 1660 Ti NVIDIA GeForce graphics card and you get the same sharp display that Microsoft calls PixelSense Display which is, of course, a touch screen also.
We have ample amount of connection options, so there are 2 USB A ports, 1 USB C – no Thunderbolt 3 – 3.5 mm headphone port on the tablet portion which makes sense, 2 Surface connect ports one on the base and one on the tablet, and a Full-size SDXC card reader.
Back to how unique it is, the tablet portion can be detached from the base at the press of a button, doing so means less battery life as the base carries some more energy and it also reduces its graphics performance as the base has the built-in NVIDIA graphics in there so when using the Surface Book 3 for graphics-intensive tasks, you won’t be able to detach the keyboard, however, if you’re keen on using it as a tablet then you can flip the tablet, fold it back then crack on. While some may complain about the lack of an updated design, I actually quite like the look of it, the magnesium body, the keyboard is one of the best I’ve used with backlight and 1.5mm of key travel, it feels great to type on with a nice bounce to it, you have the surface pen too for drawing. If there’s anything, I often get tempted to bend the laptop further back because of the way the hinge looks. I also don’t like the large bezels but I can get over it.
Elsewhere, we have a front camera with a dual-mic setup that supports Windows Hello and there’s also an 8MP camera on the back which could be useful for AR things or just taking pics to annotate or whatever.
The display on the 13-inch model here has a 3000 x 2000 resolution with 267 PPI, 60Hz, as mentioned before, a 3:2 aspect ratio which is great in tablet mode but not so much when gaming, good contrast at 1600:1 and a 10 point multi-touch feature. It’s fairly bright at 371 nits brightness although the glossy finish can hinder your view in direct sunlight situations. It’s great for those editing photos with 97% sRGB, 75% Adobe and 75% DCI-p3.
Overall, the Surface Book 3 isn’t lacking when it comes to design, display quality and usability. If anything, it’s heavier than a lot of the competition, the lack of Thunderbolt 3 could be an issue for the price tag, it’s not really a gaming machine as you could get something cheaper or the same price with 144hz refresh and you can’t just upgrade it like the competition and the speakers aren’t so great, my Galaxy S20 Ultra’s speakers are louder.
But how about the new internals?
This 13-inch version is packed with the latest Intel Core i7 Processor, 512GB of internal storage, 32GB of RAM and a GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB memory. In the real world, it means the Surface Book 3 has no issues crunching numbers in Excel whilst running multiple other applications at the same and flicking between them. What’s also great is that it doesn’t get super hot or loud when under pressure. Although the everyday office folks who might edit the odd photos here and there or someone like me who might edit some photos in Lightroom every other day won’t complain about its performance, the folks who are power-hungry for the price tag will not find it adequate, ask them to use Adobe Premier on there at the same time running multiple Google Chrome tabs, other Adobe applications and maybe Spotify also running, they might find it hard.
Battery life is not bad when attached as you can get a whole day’s use out of it on normal use, but 3 hours on tablet mode only is not enough to compete with say the iPad Pro. Which brings me to the title, jack of trades master of none. The Surface Book 3 is a beautifully engineered machine, but the price doesn’t make it attractive vs other offerings from the likes of Dell or HP, it’s not a gaming machine but you can game on it, you can use it in Tablet mode but you lose out on graphics capability and battery performance, so what does it do best? Not so sure.