Microsoft Surface Book 3 is one of the most unique and versatile computers on the market — but comes with a high price
Microsoft Surface Book 3 is an expensive but powerful computer with a beautiful design and a unique detachable screen.
It’s not the most powerful laptop on the block — as its predecessor was when it was released in 2017. But if you need and can afford the versatility it gives you then you won’t be disappointed.
I reviewed Surface Book 2 on Buzz.ie — you can read my views here — when it was one of the most powerful computers you can buy.
Three years on, however, and that is no longer the case.
This is because of the limitations of its design which restrict how much power and heat Microsoft can pack into the detachable display on a Surface Book.
Because the tablet disconnects from the base, the processor, RAM and storage are all housed behind the screen. This limits the type and size of processor that can be used.
So the top-specced 15in Book 3 comes with 10th gen Intel Core i7 quadcore processors — whereas other manufacturers now have more powerful machines on the market with six and eight core chipsets.
But that doesn’t mean the Surface Book 3 isn’t a most capable beast, because it is.
I’ve been testing the latest model for the past six weeks.
It breezed through everything from 4K video rendering to running a digital audio workstation such as Serato Studio or Ableton Live with ease.
The only area where it struggled for me a little was intense gaming, even with the incredibly powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU that runs when it’s connected to the base. But I don’t think too many gamers will be buying a Surface Book 3 so it’s not an issue.
Design and build
Design wise, SB3 keeps the exact same industrial look and superb build quality as the SB2. It even has the same port selection: two USB A, one USB-C, 3.5mm audio out — and an SD card reader.
The touchpad and comfortable backlit keyboard were excellent on SB2 — the same applies here. The touchpad could be bigger as there is a lot of unused space around it.
SB3’s platinum-silver keyboard and display are crafted from magnesium and joined with a unique hinge that operates like a clamshell.
The fulcrum hinge has a hidden release mechanism, activated by pressing a key on the keyboard. Within a second or so, you can remove the keyboard base and use the Surface Book 3 display as a standalone tablet.
Having a super powerful 15in tablet to hand is an almost life-changing experience. It is the unique selling point but unless you are going to get value from the detached screen then choose a Surface Laptop 3 over the Book.
The detached display (which has its own headphone port) would suit artists who might need to sketch, retouch, and edit using their fingers or Surface Pen and Surface Dial.
I haven’t actually tested the Dial but I use Surface Pen all the time and it comes close to Apple Pencil for responsiveness and accuracy.
The bright and vibrant almost 4K screen, incidentally, has a resolution of 3,240 x 2160 and a 3:2 aspect ratio with Microsoft’s PixelSense technology.
Another big plus point of SB3 is its full HD selfie camera which is outstanding for video calls and Teams meetings — super colour reproduction and sharpness.
Audio quality from the front facing stereo speakers is decent and they support Dolby Atmos.
The 127w charger is worth a mention too as there were some questions raised on Surface Book 2 that the charger in the box was not fast enough. No such issues this time around.
Should you lose or forget the proprietary cable you can charge by the USB-C port once you have a sufficiently powerful brick.
I’ve tested it on chargers with only 60w output and they got the job done.
Battery life, incidentally, is excellent when connected to the base. It lasts a full 10 to 12 hour day of heavy work easily. The tablet on its own lasted for five hours for me.
If you’re a digital artist that can make use of the Surface Pen or would get a lot of use from a laptop that transforms into a tablet, then you’ll love Surface Book 3 and will get value from its high price.
How much does Microsoft Surface Book 3 cost?
Microsoft Surface Book 3 (15in model with 256GB SSD and 16GB RAM) costs €2649 from Microsoft.com/en-ie
What are the specs of Microsoft Surface Book 3 (review model)?
Dimensions: 22.9 x 345 x 251.5mm
CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus; Base: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q (6GB GDDR6)
RAM: 16GB 3,733 MHz LPDDR4x
SSD: 256GB NVMe SSD
Display: 15in PixelSense touchscreen, 3240 x 2160 resolution, 3:2 aspect ratio
Networking: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201, Bluetooth 5.0
Ports: 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone port, 2 x Surface Connect ports
Camera: 5MP front camera, 8MP rear camera, both with full HD 1080p video