We Tested the Microsoft Surface Book 3: As High in Performance as In Price.

Aside from a couple of changes to the USB port, you might not notice the difference between Microsoft’s latest Surface Book and its earlier versions. They look almost identical side by side. Same keyboard layout. The same color of the chassis … The part of the screen keeps disconnecting from the base to operate as a tablet. Even the hinge on the cover still has that accordion design.

What sets the Surface Book 3 apart from its forerunners is what’s inside the body, and in this particular case, it’s an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q graphics card. Both components are of the current generation and offer more than enough power to use the device throughout your workday and play a few games. It’s an excellent machine, but it’s expensive, and most people probably won’t need or use all the versatility it offers.

Good to see the Surface Book getting better and better (Now it’s got USB-C, yay!) In 2015 it was Microsoft’s first laptop. The company was trying to find a way to get rid of the stench of Windows 8 using Windows 10 while still struggling to break into the tablet market.

 Tablets had good traction at the time, primarily due to the iPad, but seeing a person with a 2-in-1 wasn’t as regular as Microsoft would have wanted, and if they had an iPad or a Surface, chances are. They had a keyboard accessory to go with it. The response times of the touchscreen keyboard were not on par with an excellent conventional keyboard and PC.

The main selling point in 2020 is ergonomics. Surface Book is still functional as a laptop (with decent hardware specs), but if you need or want to use it as a tablet, you can. I’m a person who has traditionally rejected tablets because I hate typing on them (and by no means want to spend another $ 100 on a separate keyboard). And yet Surface Book 3 is surprising to me. I keep making many typos because there are no physical keys to help guide my finger placement, but I can almost type as fast as a standard keyboard.

Microsoft Surface Book 3


The third generation of the Surface Book with the wholly revised hardware.


Starting at $ 1,600. 2,800 the analyzed model


The keyboard responds tremendously well. The sound system and the screen are incredible.


The price-specification ratio. It does not have an electronic pen, and the screen ratio can distort some games.

Surface Book 3 is on sale in two versions of 13.5 and 15 inches. The 13.5-inch version has a screen resolution of 3000 x 2000 with 267 PPI and starts at $ 1,600. The 15-inch version’s display has a 3240 x 2160 resolution (with a slight drop to 260 PPI) and starts at $ 2,300. Microsoft sent me the 15-inch model, and the truth is that its larger screen gives the touch keyboard more space than any standard tablet. The keyboard keys are also slightly larger. It’s a much better experience than a Surface Pro. What surprised me the most was how often I found myself using it in tablet mode even though I liked it precisely because it’s good, albeit a costly laptop. The physical keyboard on the base sits higher than the touchscreen keyboard on the tablet, making it easier for me to type on the touchscreen than on the physical keyboard when on my desk.

There is nothing wrong with the physical keyboard. To some extent, I just wish the keys were more significant and similar in dimensions to the touchscreen keyboard. If you’ve used a Surface Book before, you’ll probably notice that the layout of the physical keyboard hasn’t altered. I can’t personally confirm the keys’ feel on previous models, but the Surface Book 3’s keys feel light under my fingers and quiet.

Surface Book 3 still disconnects the tablet from the keyboard dock in the same way: pressing a button in the upper right corner. Ha, from the keyboard. You will overhear a click, and then a message will appear on the screen informing you when it is harmless to remove the tablet. I tried to contemplate the scenarios where I or someone else would instead use the Surface Book 3 in tablet mode, and I came up with many, but the most helpful way for me, someone who is not in the world of art or design, is the of a digital notebook. Unfortunately, I couldn’t test that feature because the stylus is sold separately (it costs $ 100). Spending so much money just to primarily use the tablet as a notepad? I would not do it!

Sticking to the specs will allow you to get more out of your games, but the games on the Surface Book 3 look strange due to the screen ratio. Typically a gaming laptop or desktop monitor has a 16: 9 ratio, but the Surface Book 3 has the identical 3: 2 ratio as its earlier versions. Then, depending on the resolution settings your game offers, the images will be slightly stretched or left in their original format with black and white spaces above and below the game images, even if you have the full-screen setting enabled. (It does this with desktop settings as well.) Playing a game like Overwatch with whichever setting interferes with my ability to focus.

If that detail doesn’t bother you, then you will probably like the performance it offers. In most 1080p games, you can max the graphics and still get 60 frames per second. I was Playing the Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the highest graphics settings, and it averaged 57 fps, and Far Cry 5 on ultra averaged 67 fps. In more graphically demanding games, like Metro Exodus, you should switch to a medium or lower graphics setting to get at least 60 fps. Metro Exodus averaged 34 fps on ultra. Not that surprising, considering that the game needs more than a GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q GPU to take full benefit of everything it offers.

CPU-heavy games and tasks are a different story on the Surface Book 3. The Intel Core i7-1065G7 is a good processor, but it struggled with our tests in Blender and Handbrake. Rendering a 3D image in Blender using the CPU took more than 25 minutes and lasted around 27 minutes with the GPU. Transcoding a 4K video to 1080p and 30fps took just over 23 minutes. The CPU time in Civilization VI was just 8 seconds, and the average fps was 65-70 in 1080p ultra. Total War: Warhammer II averaged 47 fps with the exact resolution and graphics settings.

Performance is good … but not the ultimate reason you should buy a Surface Book 3. I understand that a laptop that can be turned into a tablet with the push of a button is an attractive deal. However, this configuration’s $ 2,800 price tag is incredibly daring when performance and specs are considered.

Indeed, something like the MSI GS66 Stealth doesn’t have that screen-splitting convenience, but if you’re the type of person who values cost versus performance, any gaming laptop will be a better deal for you. If you like the versatility and battery life of the Surface Book 3 (11 hours in our test), it may be worth spending a few extra hundred dollars. You can even lower some RAM and storage space, keeping the 15-inch screen, processor, and graphics card, to bring the price down to $ 2,300.

Surface Book 3 is excellent for light gaming and light creative work, but I would look elsewhere if you want to play high-performance games or are a professional video editor. (You will also need a lot of storage space for all of that.) If you need something just to check emails or maybe work on that novel of yours, the $ 1,600 13-inch model will work just fine, but even less would do. That’s the base problem for the Surface Book 3, which has too specific an audience.


Very versatile for all uses

The touch screen is super sensitive.

Excellent sound system. Ideal for watching movies in tablet mode or playing games in laptop mode.

Absurdly expensive for hardware specs.

The target market is relatively small.

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