What is perhaps most striking about the new 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 is just how much it mirrors the smaller model. It keeps the striking lines, sharp edges, and thin dimensions of the original 13.5-inch model. It’s an iterative design, but iterative from a design that was already a great looking laptop. Microsoft offers a thicker, heavier, but more powerful laptop in the Surface Book range, but for those that prefer the larger display size, but still like a thin and light, more traditional laptop, this should be a welcome addition to the lineup.

The Surface Laptop 13 and 15

Microsoft doesn’t offer the thinnest display bezels in the industry here, but the extra vertical space from their 3:2 aspect ratio really adds a lot of display real estate, and the display bezels are well-matched on all sides. Some of the thinnest display bezels on the market provide thin sides, a somewhat thicker top, and often a pretty large chin on the bottom, but the Surface Laptop 3 is perfectly proportioned. The extra height at the top also provides room for the Windows Hello IR camera, along with a 720p webcam.

Opening the laptop up takes just a single finger, which was one of the design requirements by the Surface team, and the hinge is incredibly smooth. Despite the light opening force, it still works well with touch too, with some wobble that is to be expected, but not an excessive amount. The opening weight is individually tuned on every single Surface laptop, with a robot on the production line that measures the opening force required on every single device and changes the magnets which hold the display down to adjust the opening pressure. This may sound excessive, but it results in a perfect feel when opening. In order to open the device, the Surface team has not added a scalloped opening for your finger either, since that would break up the lines of the device. Instead, they’ve given the top a miniscule amount of overhang, providing just enough area to let your finger grab it without issue. The Surface Laptop doesn’t offer any of the convertible functionality of literally every other Surface PC, but it is areas like this where the choice to keep this as a more traditional laptop pays dividends.

The weight balance of the Surface Laptop 3 is also spectacular, despite the newer 15-inch model adding dimensions. The 3:2 aspect ratio helps Microsoft here again, squaring up the design compared to the typical 16:9 laptop, so hanging onto it on the side doesn’t quite have the leverage of a wider device. And, despite the larger size, the 15-inch laptop is still incredibly light in the hand, weighing just 3.4 lbs / 1.54 kg, which is only about 0.5 lbs / 250 grams heavier than the 13.5-inch model.

Microsoft has adjusted the keyboard slightly on the Surface Laptop 3, offering a slightly shallower throw, but firming up the keys, while at the same time tuning down the noise as well. Microsoft’s Surface lineup has some of the best keyboards around, and the new Laptop 3 certainly keeps that tradition going. The new key feel is great. The black keys on the review unit also offer great contrast with the white backlighting, which can be adjusted to three levels, meaning it can just be left on all the time, unlike the platinum model which can cause wash-out on the keys if the backlighting is on in a bright environment.

The trackpad on the new Surface Laptop 3 is generously sized, dwarfing the trackpad found on the 15-inch Surface Book 2, but as tends to be the case on Surface devices, the trackpad works flawlessly, and the extra size doesn’t really get in the way when typing thanks to excellent palm rejection.

There’s still not a lot of connectivity on the Surface Laptop, but the addition of USB-C in place of the DisplayPort connector is a tremendous help. The previous model certainly felt constrained with just a single USB port. The lack of Thunderbolt 3 is unfortunate, but only in that it would allow a single cable to drive two UHD displays (the laptop can do it, now, but only in a clunky manner with USB and Surface Connect cables). Adding USB-C does help with travel though since you can charge the device with a USB-C charger, along with most phones. It is worth mentioning that it is great to see that Microsoft has continued to offer the older USB-A port, since most USB devices still use the old connector.

The Surface Laptop 3 is a gorgeous laptop, with beautiful lines, a thin and light frame, and some fantastic attention to detail by the Surface design team. The lack of Alcantara on the 15-inch model is somewhat of a shame, and hopefully they will provide it as an option in the future, since that was one of the unique features of the original device, and it felt great to use. Overall though, Microsoft has done a great job iterating the design of the 13.5-inch laptop and expanding it to the 15-inch form factor, keeping the weight down, the weight balance perfect, and keeping the design aesthetic of the previous model. The new USB-C port is sort of a “finally” moment, but adding it adds a lot of versatility to the device, including the ability to charge on the go without bringing the Surface Connect charger.

Introduction System Performance: AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition
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  • evernessince - Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - link

    You make it sound like last gen Intel mobile products are such a step back when in fact they are identical to current products on the market and Intel's "next-gen" products as well. The performance gains have piddling at best. 8 and 9th gen products for all intents are purposes are the same architecture and nm process. You also left out the fact that an R5 mid range processor is beating some of Intel's i7 high end processors in CPU performance. Battery life could be better but have you done the calculation of performance per mAH of the battery? Or are you just assuming with considering the size of the battery and the performance being afforded? How do Intel laptops with similar performance characteristics and battery size fare? Like any laptop, battery life is dependent on more then just the chip on the device.

    Your comment is misleading, intentional or otherwise.
  • 0ldman79 - Sunday, December 15, 2019 - link

    Nah, AMD's battery life still isn't up to par against Intel's 25th Skylake revision, not even the original release.

    AMD is kicking ass on the desktop but the mobile front is still a bit much. Intel has spent billions making laptops more efficient. They've done well. They got the laptop market under their thumb, even today, while they've effectively lost the performance desktop battle.
  • The_Assimilator - Monday, October 21, 2019 - link

    Not sure why AMD had such a hard-on to get a CPU that is evidently not mobile-focused, into an extremely mobile form factor. No support for LPDDR4, no built-in WiFi, and an iGPU that isn't powerful enough to make any tangible difference to an Intel offering, just makes for a "why".
  • Irata - Monday, October 21, 2019 - link

    Oh, Ryzen's iGPU does offer a tangible real life difference if the reviewer choses to include the right benchmarks and also show's the Intel iGPU results for them.

    Tech Report's and Computer Base's Ryzen 2500u review do and they show that the tangible difference is 50 to over 100% better fps, greatly better frame times, i.e. the difference between a game being playable, or not.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - link

    If you have to include “the right benchmarks” to make your APU look good, your product sucks, and you are engaging in the very behavior you accuse anandtech of. Hypocritical.
  • evernessince - Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - link

    Well that depends. The sample size is this review is rather small. Very small in fact. Adding more certainly wouldn't hurt. It's less about adding the right benchmarks then it is getting a more reliable dataset. If another review is showing data that more appropriately demonstrates the GPU's capability, that indicates that perhaps the test suite used here is not ideal.
  • Irata - Thursday, October 24, 2019 - link

    With "the right" I mean proper benchmarks.

    One of the advantages of having a better iGPU is that it allows you to do things that you cannot do with a weaker iGPU. Casual gaming, particularly e-sports titles come to mind. Same for any GPU accelerated software.

    If you do not include any of those in a review (e.g. just compare them on the basis of surfing the web and watching a few videos), then you are hiding these advantages.

    MS segmented their surface laptops into "business" (Intel) where the better battery life is an advantage when you are using it for email, powerpoint, Word, Excel but most likely not causal gaming or content creation.

    For this you have have the AMD based consumer platform with its faster iGPU - have a look at the PC mark scores to see how it scores there. You can also check other reviews for Laptops with other Ryzen APU to see that they do offer a tangible advantage over Intel's iGPU when it comes to being able to still play a game or not.

    That advantage is paid for with lower battery life in idle / low load situations (not necessarily true for higher load), so it really comes down to what is more important to you. I know that for my work laptop, I would value the extra battery life, for a personal one the ability to do a bit of casual gaming would be worth having a shorter battery life (which is still decent, we are not talking Bulldozer here).

    So not hypocritical imho. Just pointing out that a review should include tests for what it was built for / is aimed at.
  • m53 - Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - link

    All the benchmarks I have seen so far, the ice lake iGPU is equal or better than AMD APUs for same TDP. On the otehr hand the CPU is tangibly faster with much better battery life and connectivity (wifi6 built-in).
  • Fulljack - Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - link

    Intel doesn't have built-in wifi either. current offering actually still use smaller RF module, due to Intel CNVi. I don't get why Microsoft doesn't release AMD with latest ax chipset, because Intel AX200 does works on AMD system too.
  • GreenReaper - Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - link

    Surely it's because it costs more, and this is meant to be the more affordable option?

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