Home / Laptop Reviews / Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13-inch) review: A portable powerhouse

Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13-inch) review: A portable powerhouse

Microsoft Floor E book three (13-inch) overview: A transportable powerhouse

Microsoft Floor E book three 13

“The Floor E book three 13-inch has nice efficiency to again up its distinctive design.”

  • Robust efficiency
  • Good battery life
  • Glorious enter choices
  • Sharp, high-contrast show

The Floor E book three claims to be Microsoft’s performance-driven laptop computer. That may typically pose an issue for the 15-inch mannequin, which has to compete in opposition to powerhouses just like the Dell XPS 15 and Apple MacBook Professional 16-inch. These laptops use highly effective eight-core Intel Core i9 processors, which which promise glorious efficiency.

However a robust 13-inch laptop computer is extra uncommon. That’s the place this smaller Floor E book three has an opportunity to shine. My overview configuration got here with an Intel 10th-gen Core i7 CPU, a discrete Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti graphics card, and a whopping 32GB of RAM.

The $2,500 worth is excessive, little doubt, however based mostly on the specs alone, this could be essentially the most highly effective 13-inch laptop computer ever made.


The Floor E book three is a little bit of a contradiction. On the one hand, it stays essentially the most futuristic laptop computer available on the market at the moment, regardless of a design that’s an identical to the Floor E book 2 launched in late 2017. Pushing a button and tearing off the show is simply as satisfyingly geeky as at all times — no different 2-in-1 is sort of so cool.

And the construct high quality is great, rivaling the MacBook line for sheer class and solidity. There’s not a creak, bend, or groan from the laptop computer, regardless of the way you deal with it, within the lid, the keyboard deck, or the chassis backside. The Floor line, normally, is properly made, and the Floor E book three provides maybe essentially the most spectacular construct high quality of all of them.

On the identical time, the Floor E book three feels a bit historic. Its show bezels are comparatively large, and the identical might be stated in regards to the cumbersome chassis. Whereas different laptops are squeezing into tiny frames because of minuscule bezels, the Floor E book three seems like a throwback to when machines have been thick and chunky.

You received’t discover it simple to make use of on an airliner’s tray desk.

As a 13-inch class laptop computer, it competes with the extremely svelte HP Spectre x360 13 and the Dell XPS 13, each of that are noticeably smaller (greater than 1.5 inches much less deep, for instance). The Floor E book three is zero.59 inches thick at its thinnest level in entrance, which appears skinny sufficient, however then it flares to an enormous zero.91 inches in again because of the rounded fulcrum hinge. The Spectre x360 13 is zero.67 inches, and the XPS 13 is zero.58 inches, they usually each really feel fairly a bit thinner. The Floor E book three additionally weighs three.62 kilos in comparison with the HP at 2.88 kilos and the Dell at 2.65 kilos.

You received’t discover it simple to make use of the Floor E book three on an airliner’s tray desk, for instance, particularly given how the show is ready additional again than these on most different fashions; just like the thickness, that is because of the fulcrum hinge that’s designed to stability the heavier-than-usual show. You’ll be able to flip the show round and use it in media mode simply sufficient, however then once more, the identical might be stated for different 2-in-1s. And smaller laptops just like the Spectre x360 13 and the XPS 13 match simply high-quality in the identical sort of restricted areas.

One benefit of the Floor E book three’s design is that except you’re pushing the discrete GPU, the keyboard base stays cools because of the heat-producing elements being within the show.

As a pill, although, the Floor E book three could be very comfy, with just one main disadvantage. To start with, it’s skinny and lightweight, surprisingly so for its 13.5-inch dimension. And it’s nice for inking because of the three:2 facet ratio that’s nearer in dimensions to a sheet of paper and nice assist for Microsoft’s lively Floor Pen. It could be an older design, nevertheless it stays fairly practical.

The one downside with utilizing the Floor E book three as a pill is that in contrast to the Floor Professional 7, for instance, there’s no kickstand and so no simple technique to prop it up for, say, watching media. One of the simplest ways to binge Netflix, then, is to flip the pill round on the fulcrum hinge and use the keyboard base to prop issues up. It’s not as light-weight an answer, nevertheless it works properly.

Connectivity is one other space the place Microsoft hasn’t totally embraced trendy computing. The Floor E book three has two USB-A three.1 ports, an SD card reader, a USB-C three.1 port, and the Microsoft Floor Join port that gives the quickest charging, in addition to connectivity to the corporate’s new Floor Dock 2. These ports are all on the keyboard dock, whereas the pill has a Floor Join port for charging.

Thunderbolt three is lacking, which limits the quantity and efficiency of hooked up gadgets. It additionally means the Floor E book three can’t hook up with exterior GPUs. In keeping with inner studies, Thunderbolt three represents a safety danger, and that’s the rationale it’s been left it off of Floor gadgets.


So, sure, the Floor E book three is massive for a 13-inch laptop computer. However there’s a motive: The show homes a lot of the pc’s elements, together with the CPU and a lot of the electronics. The keyboard base homes the discrete GPU (on the Core i7 fashions) and a bunch of battery capability. That’s why the laptop computer is so thick general and why the pill part is so comparatively cumbersome in comparison with a easy show.

In my testing, the Floor E book three was lots quick in my overview configuration with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 and 32GB of RAM (uncommon for 13-inch laptops). It churned by way of our benchmarks, scoring higher than a lot of its 13-inch rivals. In Geekbench 5, for instance, it beat out the HP Spectre x360 13 and matched the Dell XPS 13. It was even quicker than our overview configuration of the Floor E book three 15, which had much less reminiscence.

The Floor E book three is a efficiency chief amongst 13-inch laptops.

In our real-world Handbrake take a look at that encoded a 420MB video as H.265, the Floor E book three completed in a second over three minutes, once more virtually precisely matching the very fast Dell XPS 13 and beating the Spectre x360 13 by virtually a minute.

That makes the Floor E book three a efficiency chief amongst 13-inch laptops. The MacBook Professional is the one 13-inch laptop computer to surpass it in CPU efficiency, because of its customized 25-watt processor.

Toss within the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics, and you’ve got a laptop computer that’s going to be much more aggressive for any inventive software that may make use of the GPU. This isn’t the quickest GPU round, nevertheless it’s a lot quicker than the Intel built-in graphics that just about each 13-inch laptop computer depends upon. The one different outlier is the Razer Blade Stealth 13, which makes use of the GTX 1650 Ti. That laptop computer doesn’t have the distinctive design of the Floor E book, which doesn’t drive the GPU and CPU to share the identical house.


Chances are high, you’ll wish to run the GTX 1650 Max-Q by way of its paces and use the Floor E book three 13 as an entry-level gaming laptop computer. And for essentially the most half, you are able to do that — so long as you mood your expectations. I ran the laptop computer by way of our gaming exams and got here away slightly underwhelmed. The laptop computer isn’t fairly as quick as another laptops with related GPUs, although most of these are bigger 15-inch laptops.

For instance, the Floor E book three was properly behind the sooner Dell XPS 15 with the GTX 1650, and even additional behind the latest XPS 15 with the GTX 1650 Ti, in all of our benchmarks. That features the artificial 3DMark suite, the place the older XPS 15 was greater than 10% quicker, and the newer mannequin was virtually 20% quicker. Civilization VI was one sport the place the Floor E book three was slightly extra aggressive, seemingly because of the robust CPU efficiency, the place it managed 68 frames per second (FPS) in 1080p and medium graphics in comparison with the older XPS 15 at 56 FPS and the newer mannequin at 114 FPS. In Murderer’s Creed: Odyssey, although, the Floor E book three solely managed 25 FPS in 1080p and excessive settings, in comparison with the older XPS 15 at 42 FPS and the newer mannequin at 47 FPS. The pattern held up in Battlefield V, with the Floor E book three hit 41 FPS in comparison with 54 FPS for the older XPS and 60 FPS for the newer mannequin.

The Floor E book three couldn’t hit 60 FPS in Fortnite, a extra light-weight sport that serves as a benchmark for entry-level gaming. The older XPS 15 managed 67 FPS and the newer mannequin hit 74 FPS. Total, in the event you flip down graphical particulars, you will get playable body charges at 1080p out of the Floor E book three, and that’s glorious for a 13-inch class laptop computer. Simply don’t count on it to exchange a bona fide gaming laptop computer any time quickly.

In fact, the discrete graphics don’t come normal. The bottom mannequin begins at $1,600, and also you’ll want pay $500 extra to get that further graphics efficiency. The bigger 15-inch model comes with the choice for the extra highly effective GTX 1660 Ti.


The Floor E book three has an IPS show within the productivity-friendly three:2 facet ratio and a excessive three,000 x 2,000 decision. It’s not fairly 4K, however each textual content and picture particulars are sharp as a tack. As with the entire Floor gadgets, all configurations of the Floor E book three embrace this identical high-resolution show.

In keeping with my colorimeter, the show has its positives and negatives. To start with, it’s shiny at 422 nits and has glorious distinction of 1,420:1 (we like shows which might be 1000:1 or larger). That’s the great things. The colour gamut isn’t terribly vast, although, at 94% sRGB and 73% AdobeRGB, they usually’re not essentially the most correct at 2.10 (1.zero or much less is taken into account glorious). You will get higher shows on 13-inch laptops, such because the OLED show on the HP Spectre x360 13 and the superb 4K show on the Dell XPS 13 — each of which supply wider and extra correct colours and equal or higher brightness and distinction.

The Floor E book three’s show is an actual pleasure to make use of. You get extra vertical house because of the facet ratio, for what seems like a extra expansive workspace. Though that ends in some letterboxing when watching video, the photographs are sharp and shiny.

Audio isn’t as spectacular, although. There are two forward-facing audio system on the show portion, they usually put out sufficient quantity for watching the occasional YouTube video. However bass is missing, and also you’ll wish to maintain a pair of headphones helpful if high-quality sound issues to you.

Battery life

One of many Floor E book 2’s claims to fame was its battery life, because it was among the many longest-lasting 13-inch laptops round. The Floor E book three takes a step again, providing up robust however not fairly class-leading longevity — that is one other space the place the competitors has caught up and surpassed Microsoft’s providing.

The Floor E book three lasted 5 hours in our demanding Basemark net benchmark take a look at, which is an efficient end result and beats out the 15-inch Floor E book three and the Dell XPS 13 with a Full HD show. In our web-browsing take a look at, the Floor E book three managed just below 10 hours, an excellent however not nice rating that the XPS 13 beat by 100 minutes. And in our video looping take a look at, the Floor E book three went for simply over 13.5 hours, which was virtually an hour lower than the XPS 13. In fact, that’s not a totally truthful take a look at given the XPS 13’s Full HD show. In comparison with the HP Spectre x360 13 with its OLED show, the Floor E book three lasted for hours longer in net searching and video watching. Observe that the Floor E book 2 lasted 20.6 hours looping our take a look at video and 15.5 hours searching the online.

Many of the battery capability is within the keyboard base, although, and so popping off the show and utilizing it as a pill severely limits battery life. On this mode, the Floor E book three lasted just below 1.5 hours on the Basemark take a look at, lower than 2.5 hours on the net searching take a look at, and simply three.5 hours enjoying our take a look at video. That’s disappointing, significantly in comparison with different tablets that final for hours longer, just like the Floor Professional 7.

Keyboard and touchpad

The Floor E book three has at all times had among the finest keyboards round. It has loads of journey with a handy guide a rough really feel that makes for a exact and cozy typing expertise. It’s additionally fairly quiet, which is a plus by way of working with out disturbing anybody round you. I just like the Magic Keyboard on the newest MacBooks higher, however the Floor E book three comes near tying my second-favorite, the keyboard on the Spectre x360 13.

The touchpad works properly, too. It’s constructed with Microsoft Precision Touchpad drivers and provides up a easy and constant Home windows 10 multitouch expertise. It’s nearly as good a touchpad as you’ll discover on a Home windows laptop computer, although it’s smaller than it might be given the accessible house on the keyboard deck. The scale didn’t maintain me again, although.

The show is touch-enabled, in fact, and it’s as responsive as all Floor shows. It helps Microsoft’s glorious Floor Pen, which provides tilt, four,096 ranges of stress sensitivity, and among the finest Home windows inking experiences round. As talked about earlier, the show is within the three:2 facet ratio that makes it appear much more like a traditional eight.5 x 11 sheet of paper. It’s simply unlucky that the $100 Floor Pen isn’t included with such an costly laptop computer.

Lastly, the Floor E book three helps Home windows 10 Howdy password-free login through an infrared digicam and facial recognition. It’s quick and dependable, and it’s higher than a fingerprint reader on the keyboard deck as a result of it really works in tablet-only mode.

Our take

The Microsoft Floor E book three is a novel 13-inch laptop computer. It’s bigger than its competitors by a good margin, nevertheless it makes up for that with robust efficiency that you simply’ll discover in few different equally sized machines. In comparison with the Floor E book 2, the newest mannequin is just a quicker iteration of a tried-and-true design.

It’s additionally very costly, with my overview configuration coming in at $2,500. Its distinctive design makes it exhausting to check to different laptops, nevertheless it’s solely value the price in the event you’re satisfied in regards to the usefulness of the pill parts as properly.

Are there any alternate options?

You possibly can select from among the many different Floor gadgets in the event you’re merely enamored with the model. The Floor Professional 7 and X offers you higher pill experiences, and the Floor Laptop computer three is a extra conventional clamshell providing. None of them, although, supply the identical stage of efficiency.

The one 13-inch laptop computer to supply the same stage graphics efficiency is the Razer Blade Stealth. The Stealth is a bit cheaper, and you will get the GTX 1650 Ti mannequin with choices for both a 144Hz refresh price show or a 4K touchscreen.

How lengthy will it final?

The Floor E book three is constructed like a tank and makes use of up-to-date elements (apart from the shortage of Thunderbolt three). It offers you years of productive service. You’ll additionally benefit from the 60-day return coverage and yr of in-store technical assist in the event you purchase from an area Microsoft Retailer, which is an actual plus. The 1-year guarantee, although, is normal and fewer spectacular.

Must you purchase it?

Sure. It’s 2-in-1 design and highly effective graphics make it a one-of-a-kind laptop computer.

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