Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch) review

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Slick design
  • Clean software

Cons

  • Lacks a dedicated GPU
  • Limited ports

Bottom Line

The Surface Laptop 3 delivers on a familiar pitch for what a good laptop should offer, executed in intense detail and a clean sense of style.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 1,699.00 (AUD)

Should I buy the Microsoft Surface 3?

The Microsoft Surface 3 very much continues the traditions established by its predecessors. It’s not a spec monster, nor is the lightest laptop ever etc. Surface hardware has always been as much of an idea as an ideal. 

Sitting firmly within that established framework, the new Surface Laptop 3 delivers on a familiar pitch for what a good laptop should offer, executed in intense detail and with a clean sense of style. It’s not going to be the last laptop you buy but it’s still a pretty great laptop. 

Price when reviewed

In Australia, pricing for the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 starts at AU$1699.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (2019) full review

Available in a variety of colours and two sizes, Mirosoft’s third-generation Surface Laptops opt for a more distinct look but don’t strategy too far for the qualities that defined earlier efforts. If you want to stick with the fabric-laced designs that distinguished earlier models, those are still around. If you want something sleeker, there’s a delicious-looking matte black alternative. 

Both as an object and as a piece of consumer tech, the Surface Laptop 3 gets all the small things right. It’s well-weighted. You can open it in a single fluid motion. The material design is immaculate and the touch-sensitive PixelSense display on the device makes for a gorgeous centrepiece. 

The Surface Laptop 3 isn’t envisioned as a portable powerhouse but, as far as using it for watching video content, browsing the web and other daily computing tasks goes, it looks incredibly compelling in action. 

Credit: Microsoft

Price

In Australia, you can buy the new Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 through the following:

Design - Look, Feel and Features 

Available in a variety of colours and two sizes, Mirosoft’s third-generation Surface Laptops opt for a more distinct look but don’t strategy too far for the qualities that defined earlier efforts. 

Like the second-generation Surface Laptop, the new 13.5-inch and 15-inch Surface Laptop lives and breaths simplicity. It’s the Windows laptop for those who want daily tasks like checking your emails and browsing the web to feel as effortless as possible. The option for people who want a laptop that just works. 

In addition to offering a low-friction version of the usual Windows 10 experience, the new Surface Laptop 3 also offers up a surprisingly lightweight hardware experience. Even in the larger size, it only weighs about 1.2kgs.

Both as an object and as a piece of consumer tech, the Surface Laptop 3 gets all the small things right. It’s well-weighted. You can open it in a single fluid swipe. The material design is immaculate and the touch-sensitive PixelSense display on the device makes for a gorgeous centrepiece. 

Credit: Microsoft

The Surface Laptop 3 isn’t envisioned as a portable powerhouse but, as far as using it for watching video content, browsing the web and other daily computing tasks goes, it looks incredibly compelling in action.

The Surface Laptop 3 does come with the promise of easy-upgradability when it comes to storage, though what that looks like in practice is a bit up in the air. You also have to buy the smaller 13.5-inch model in order to get Wi-Fi 6 connectivity - which feels like an odd omission for an otherwise ultra-modern clamshell. 

As for ports, the Surface Laptop 3 features the following:

  • 1 x USB-C

  • 1 x USB-A

  • 3.5 mm headphone jack

  • 1 x Surface Connect port

Unless you’re already geared up with a wireless keyboard or a suite of dongles, the above does limit what you can do with the Surface Laptop 3. However, to Microsoft’s credit, you can now charge the device using a USB-C cable and, in context, the new Surface Laptop isn’t a huge outlier for how few ports it features. 

Credit: Microsoft

If you’re already on-board with the new hyper-minimalist era of laptop design, that’s a good thing. If your preferences lean more utilitarian, you’re going to be disappointed by what’s on offer here.

Performance - Specs, Benchmarks and Battery Life

Specs

  • Processor:  Intel i5-1035G7

  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home

  • RAM: 8GB

  • Storage: 256GB

  • Graphics: Iris Plus 950

  • MicroSD slot: No

  • Display:  13-inch PixelSense Display

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi, 

  • Front-Facing Camera: 720p HD (f/2.0)

  • Weight: 1.2kgs

Benchmarks

Weighed up against the Dell XPS 13 and ThinkPad 13s, the Surface Laptop 3 came out way ahead when it came to compute. Otherwise, it performed at the same high level as other 10th-Gen chipset-based Windows notebooks like the new Dell XPS 13.


Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG
Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Gaming

If you’re hoping that the Intel’s new Iris HD graphics might make this Surface Laptop a little better suited for gaming than previous models, there’s a good chance that your ambitions are going to be in vain. 

Though the GPU inside Microsoft’s latest is more capable than past efforts, you’re going to struggle to play many modern titles on this thing. If you’re keen to squeeze in a game of Hearthstone or Gwent, the third-gen Surface Laptop will do the trick but faster-paced fare like Overwatch struggled to run on this thing in a way that left even the Switch version of Blizzard’s team-based shooter didn’t

There is a variant of the Surface Laptop 3 that runs on a custom Ryzen processor - which might be better suited for such. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the sample that I was sent to review - so I can’t really speak to it. 

Battery Life

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 delivered impressive results when it came to battery life. By Microsoft’s own estimates, you’ll get about eleven-and-a-half hours of usage per charge. It’s what they’d call “all-day battery life” but whether that’ll live up to the hype kinda depends more on what your individual work day looks like. 

Credit: Microsoft

Regardless, it easily outlasted my usual Samsung Notebook 9 laptop. It’s not quite exceptional or as long-lasting as something like a Snapdragon-powered ACPC might be but the Surface Laptop 3 still achieves respectable results. 

When subjected to the usual Battery Eater testing tool, which gauges the minimum battery life of a given notebook PC, the Surface Laptop 3 lasted for 2 hours and 34 minutes.

Though it lacks any sort of formal fast-charging tech, Microsoft say that you should be able to charge it to about 80% capacity in about an hour of charging - which is decent. The Surface Laptop 3 also benefits from additional flexibility through the ability to charge the notebook using a USB Type-C cable or Microsoft’s own Surface Connect cable. 

The Bottom Line

The Surface Laptop 3 hits all the notes you’d want to hit without radically deviating from what have made previous Surface Laptops work. If you’re uninterested in the tablet form-factor offered by the Surface Pro 7 and want to get your hands on a Windows-based clamshell that’ll excel at the ordinary, this remains a competitive option that’s easy to recommend to all but the most demanding power users. For them, the Surface Book is the place to go. 

The Surface Laptop 3 probably isn’t going to be the last laptop you buy but it’s still a pretty great laptop.

Credit: Microsoft

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