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Microsoft Surface Book 3 – more of the same (thank goodness)
4.4Overall Score
Name: Microsoft Surface Book 3, i5/i7 in 13.5 and 15",
Price (RRP): $from 2649-4795

I love reviewing Microsoft Surface products – you can take the last model review and simply update the specs. The same is largely true of the Microsoft Surface Book 3 although this one threw me a couple of welcome curveballs.

To be fair to Microsoft, I am not decrying the lack of innovation in the Microsoft Surface Book 3. It is just that at the time the Microsoft Surface Book 1 and 2 were equally ahead of the curve and to this day no others compare with its separate Clipboard and Power Base. It is hard to improve on perfection.

Let’s start by a comparison of Microsoft Surface Book 3 with its predecessor. The changes include

  • 10th Gen Intel CPU i5-1035G7 or i7-1065G7
  • Later NVIDIA GeForce GTXZ 1650/1660Ti Max-Q GPU (i5/i7)
  • Faster LPDDRX4 RAM up to 32GB
  • Faster SSD and a 2TB option for i7
  • Wi-Fi 6 AC and BT 5.0
  • 2 x USB-A and 1 x USB-C 3.1/2 Gen 2 10Gbps ports
  • 102W i7 and 65W i5 charger and 127W for 15”
  • And the price has jumped quite a lot

Externally – nothing has really changed – the alterations are under the hood! What that means is that Surface Book 2 owners need not commit hari-kari until we get to oh, say Surface Book 5!

Microsoft Surface Book 3

Australian review: Microsoft Surface Book 3, 15″

The review unit is a 15”, i7, 32/512GB and GeForce GTX 1660Ti 6GB GPU. We will generalise about the i5/i7 13.5” versions.

  • Australian website here
  • Price:
    • 13.5” i5 8/256 $2649 and i7 16/256 $3,399, 32/512Gb $4,149 and 32/1TB $4,499
    • 15” I7 16/256 $3699, 32/512GB $4439 and 32/1TB $4795
  • Warranty: 12-months ACL with a 2-year extension at extra cost
  • Country of Manufacture: China
  • Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services.

Surface Book 2 issues solved

Under normal use the Surface Book 2 was superb. But under heavy use, it had some wider issues.

  • It could draw more power than the charger provided – dipping into the battery (Surface Book 3 has a higher capacity charger).
  • It could overheat. The 10th Generation CPU and later GeForce fix that.
  • Had HDCP 1.4 so would not play 4K content from Netflix (now HDCP 2.2/HDMI 2.0)
  • Dock 1 would not support 2 x [email protected] monitors. Dock 2 does, but better still it has USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps, so it works with any later USB-C dock. But we cannot understand why the Surface Book 3 does not have Thunderbolt 3, so that loses it points.
  • And Microsoft’s own Windows updates were screwing the NVIDIA GPU

Don’t let any past issues put you off – from our extensive tests, the Microsoft Surface Book 3 works a treat.

What is the Surface ethos and design credos?

You immediately recognise a Surface device by its matte Mag-alloy chassis, squarish edges, build quality and the now-famous 3:2 ratio display. But deeper down it’s a product of what Microsoft calls Inclusive Design. This encompasses things like accessibility, ergonomics, usability, context, and much more.

The Surface design has stood the test of time, and our retail spies say it is the least returned ‘PC’ item of all and the most satisfying device/format – although they are referring to the entire Surface range.

The Microsoft Surface Book 3 fills the niche for CPU and GPU performance in a portable 13.5 or 15” format. To do that it has a Power Base housing an NVIDIA GPU and a Clipboard (tablet) that operates independently of the base. That also means two batteries for extended 17+ hour use. 

Who uses it?

A lot depends on whether you want 13.5” or 15”, portability versus well a little less portability.

  • 13.5” 312 x 232 x 13-23 mm x 1.534/1.642kg
  • 15” 343 mm x 251 mm x 15 mm-23 mm x 1.905kg
  • Both plus a charger at 465g extra
Microsoft Surface Book 3 hinge

Size and weight are an issue because there is a growing range of Intel 10th Generation Project Athena-based notebooks at around 1kg. These are just as powerful and lot lighter and probably a lot lower-cost.

So, the answer is obviously, those who can afford it and have deep pockets – well backpacks. And Microsoft have other versions in the Surface for Business range that are even more powerful/

But more than that the Microsoft Surface Book 3 is ideally suited to

  • Creative types who can use a pen/dial and develop artwork, design, fashion, cartoons etc
  • Engineering/drafters who can use the pen/dial as a portable digitiser replacement
  • Mixed Reality support in the field for training and use by mechanics to visualise repairs
  • It has one of the best, if not the best, keyboard/trackpad/pen experiences that make it ideal for journalists to travel with. I also have a Surface Pro 7, and while it is best for travel due to its size, I take the Surface Book 1 for the keyboard
  • An enormous number end up on CEO desks if only as a status symbol
  • And being cheeky it has attracted many MacBook Pro users that want touch screen – come on Apple!

It predominately sells to creatives designers, artists, CAD users, and those that need this specific tablet/base combo.

Microsoft Surface Book 3

If you use Adobe’s Creative Cloud (Premiere Pro, Photoshop, etc.) and CPU/GPU intensive apps.