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De.Central Review | 15″ Surface Book 3

Microsoft’s 15″ Surface Book 3 is available today and it’s time to review Microsoft’s most unique Surface. We will take a look at its history, examine its merits, compare its specs to the previous generation 15″ Surface Book 2 and compare its features and specs with the current 16″ MacBook Pro. Hold on and let’s dive in.

Surface Book History

Microsoft just #NailedIT with their new Surface lineup - IT Central Point

When the Surface Book first arrived on the scene back in October of 2015, our only notion of what a Surface looked like was a Surface with a kickstand. The original intro video showed the display detaching from the keyboard, it blew our socks off. At 13.5 inches, the Surface Book was Microsoft’s largest Surface.

Then came along the Surface Book 2, Microsoft offered for the first time a 15″ model alongside the 13.5″ model. It also added USB-C, along with internal hardware upgrades. The 15″ model offered the largest and highest resolution display on a tablet at 3240 x 2160 pixels. The 15″ Surface Book tablet really is a sight to behold.

Surface Book 3 is Microsoft’s most powerful Surface device, with configurations packing up to an Intel Core i7, 32GB of RAM, 2TB of Storage and up to NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 graphics.

Surface Book 3

The original Surface Book and today’s Surface Book are basically the same design, which adds value to the design itself, timeless if you will. Microsoft decided to create a detachable laptop, so the user would not have to choose between a laptop, tablet or a heavy un-detachable convertible laptop.

Microsoft’s solution to get into digital sketching mode is to hold a button down on the keyboard until the UI on the screen says it is unlocked, also you can hear when it is unlocks. The reason why you have to unlock it this way is because there is an NVIDIA graphics card inside of the keyboard base. Normally detaching a GPU from a computer would require you to turn it off, not so with Surface Book.

The use cases for the Surface Book are digital sketching, hardware intensive professional tasks and gaming. Surface Book’s convertible nature enables a variety of modes to suit any task. When you detach the tablet, you can lay it down flat by itself and sketch or re-attach it backwards, fold it down and sketch on it at a very low angle.

A more elegant solution to get into sketching mode would be a 360-degree hinge, but would result in a heavy tablet. The 15″ Surface Book 3 tablet is just 1.59 lbs. Surface Book has many angles that the tablet can be positioned at when attached, but the wobble creates a drawing surface that is unstable, so you will find yourself sketching at its lowest angle, like in the image above.

Surface Book 3 has made significant improvements to every part of the internal hardware, making it even more compelling in 2020. Even with so many calls to rid the Surface Book of its Surface Connect port in favor of USB-C, Microsoft added USB-C to the second generation while retaining Surface Connect.

Surface Connect enables a connection to Microsoft’s Surface Dock and Dock 2. The second-generation Surface Dock packs 4 USB-C ports, one ethernet port, a headphone jack, Two USB-A ports, a Kensington lock and a barrel connector for the Surface Dock’s own power cable. Surface Connect is a magnetic connector that will detach from the connection when tension is applied. So, if you trip on your cable you won’t pull your laptop off your desk.

Surface Book 2 (15) vs Surface Book 3 (15)

Surface Book 2 (15″)Surface Book 3 (15″)
Processor8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7
RAM8GB, 16GB LPDDR38GB, 16GB, 32GB LPDDR4x
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Display15″, 3240 x 2160 pixels,
3:2 aspect ratio,
260 PPI
15″, 3240 x 2160 pixels,
3:2 aspect ratio,
260 PPI
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
Intel Iris Plus
GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (Max-Q)
NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000
Portsx2 USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen1)

x1 USB Type-C w/ video, power in/out and USB 3.1 (Gen1) data

x1 Full-size SDXC card reader (UHS-II)

x1 3.5mm Headphone jack

x2 Surface Connect ports (1 in tablet, 1 in keyboard base)
x2 USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen1)

x1 USB Type-C w/ video, power in/out and USB 3.1 (Gen1) data

x1 Full-size SDXC card reader (UHS-II)

x1 3.5mm Headphone jack

x2 Surface Connect ports (1 in tablet, 1 in keyboard base)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Blueooth 4.1
Xbox Wireless
Intel Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax
Bluetooth 5.0
Xbox Wireless
Camera5MP Front-facing 1080P sensor

8.0MP Rear-facing AF 1080P sensor
5MP Front-facing 1080P sensor

8.0MP Rear-facing AF 1080P sensor
BiometricsIR cameraIR camera
Battery80WHr
Up to 17 hours
80WHr
Up to 17.5 hours
Charger102W127W
Dimensions343 mm x 251 mm x 15-23 mm (L x W x D)
13.5 in x 9.87 in x 0.57 to 0.90 in
343 mm x 251 mm x 15-23 mm (L x W x D)
13.5 in x 9.87 in x 0.57 to 0.90 in
Weighti5 total: 3.38lbs
i7 total: 3.62lbs
Tablet: 1.59lbs
i5 total: 3.38lbs
i7 total: 3.62lbs
Tablet: 1.59lbs

Geekbench 5

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Surface Book 3 (15″)i7-1065G75,24318,747
Surface Book 2 (15″)i7-8650U5,04414,239

Surface Book 3 (15) vs MacBook Pro (16)

The Surface Book 3 doesn’t live in a vacuum, the people that buy this will be looking at other high-performing, well-designed laptops like Apple’s 16″ MacBook Pro.

Surface Book 3 offers a touchscreen that detaches to give you a very large tablet that is great for watching movies and sketching with, whereas the 16″ MacBook Pro does not, if you want an Apple tablet you have to buy an iPad. Good luck finding an iPad as large as the 15″ Surface Book tablet.

Surface Book 3 packs the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with Max-Q or NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 in the business model, which is available to the public on Microsoft’s business site. The display resolution on 15″ Surface Book 3 is 3240×2160 pixels whereas the 16″ MacBook Pro is only 3072×1920 pixels. Book 3 does support Wi-Fi 6 whereas Apple’s 16″ MacBook Pro does not.

Apple’s 16″ MacBook Pro offers 45W 6-core and 8-core Intel Core processors whereas Microsoft only offers a 15W (max TDP is 25W) quad-core Intel Core i7. The 16″ MacBook Pro offers up to an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory.

Apple offers up to 64GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM whereas Microsoft only offers up to 32GB of 3733 MHz LPDDR4x RAM. On the Surface Book 2, Microsoft only offered 16GB of RAM so 32 is certainly an upgrade but compared to its rival, it’s just not enough. Apple offers up to 4TB of storage whereas Microsoft only offers up to 1TB of storage.

15″ Surface Book 316″ MacBook Pro
OsWindows 10 Home, PromacOS Catalina
Display15″, 3240×2160 pixels, 260 ppi, 3:2 aspect ratio16″, 3072×1920 pixels, 226 ppi
CPU4-core Intel Core i7, 1.3GHz-3.9GHz6‑core Intel Core i7, 2.6GHz

8‑core Intel Core i9, 2.3GHz

8‑core Intel Core i9, 2.4GHz
GPUIntel Iris Plus Graphics in Tablet

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with Max-Q Design w/6GB GDDR6 graphics memory

NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 (accessible through business website for everyone)
AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory and automatic graphics switching

Intel UHD Graphics 630

Configurable to AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory

AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory
Memory16GB of 3733 MHz LPDDR4x

32GB of 3733 MHz LPDDR4x
16GB of 2666MHz DDR4

32GB of 2666MHz DDR4

64GB of 2666MHz DDR4
Storage256GB, 512GB, (1TB, 2TB M.2 2280) PCIe512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB
Connectivityx2 USB-A version 3.1 Gen 2

x1 USB-C version 3.1 Gen 2

x1 3.5mm headphone jack

x2 Surface Connect ports (one on keyboard base, one on tablet)

x1 Full-size SDXC card reader
x4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) version 3.1 Gen 2

x1 3.5 mm headphone jack
NetworkingWi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible
Bluetooth Wireless 5.0 technology
Xbox Wireless built-in (15” only)
802.11ac Wi‑Fi wireless networking
IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible

Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
Weight4.20 lbs. including keyboard4.3 lbs.
ColorsPlatinumSilver, Space Gray
Starting Price$2299$2399

After reviewing the specs side by side for the 15″ Surface Book 3 and Apple’s 16″ MacBook Pro we can see that the 16″ MacBook Pro offers a more powerful processor options for only $100 more. Microsoft is still using 15W Intel processors, even though Apple is utilizing 45W Intel Core processors. Microsoft does offer great graphic performance in the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with Max-Q or the NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000, so depending on your needs one factor could trump the other. The capability to sketch on the Surface Book is create for digital artists and designers alike, in order to have the same experience with a MacBook you would need to buy an additional $999, 12.9″ iPad Pro.

Conclusion

Microsoft’s 3rd Generation Surface Book is more of an iteration, a refinement if you will. There is no question that Surface Book 3 is a kick ass laptop with the added benefit of having a detachable tablet for a display, especially a 15″ one! The key travel is superb, it has a unique look all unto itself, it can handle intensive CAD and Video applications with ease and AAA game titles, albeit at moderate frame rates.

The decision on whether to get this over other laptops on the market is going to come down to a number of elements. Do you value the timeless design where your Surface Book looks cutting edge even when it is one or two generations old unlike many other PC OEM’s? Do you value the detachable tablet feature? Each one of us have different needs and value different things over others, so it will come down to have you see Surface Book 3 fitting into your life.

What are the deciding factors for you? Let us know in the comments.

13.5″ Surface Book 3

15″ Surface Book 3

A former industry insider and tech industry enthusiast.

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