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What’s the difference between the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Book 3?

After a long wait, and in the same week Apple refreshed its 13-inch MacBook Pro, Microsoft has finally given us the high-end Surface Book 3.

If you’re agonising over which Surface model is for you, we’re here to help. With the new Surface Book 3 now official, it’s important to see how it compares to Microsoft’s other ‘laptop’ option – Surface Laptop 3.

Of course, we’re yet to fully review the Surface Book 3, so this is purely a look at some of the specs and features we know about.

The Microsoft Surface Book 3 is available to pre-order now, with shipping commencing May 21. Prices will begin at $1599, while current prices for the Laptop 3 start at £999.

Related: Surface Book 3

The Surface Book 3 retains its unique, hybrid design

Aside from the markets that they are aimed at, the biggest differential between these two machines is the form-factor. 

The Surface Book 3 retains the hybrid style of its predecessors, with a display that pops off so it can be used separately from the keyboard. It also has a clever hinge mechanism that has become a unique design element helping the Surface Book stand out from the crowd.

The Surface Laptop 3, on the other hand, is much more of a typical laptop. You can’t remove the display or swivel it around.

Both come in two sizes: 13-inch and 15-inch, giving you a choice depending on your needs. In terms of resolution and screen quality, both machines use the PixelSense branding, with the Laptop 3 offering a 201ppi across both models and the Book 3 upping that to 267ppi (13-inch) and 260ppi (15-inch).

Related: Surface Laptop 3 15-inch review

Surface Book 3

The Surface Book 3 is all about power and battery

If you’re eyeing up the Surface Book 3 over the Surface Laptop 3, or even an older Surface Book, then it’s likely due to the power on offer. Of course, until we get all the details and benchmark these laptops, we’re just going off what Microsoft is claiming.

Inside the Surface Book 3 you’ll find a discrete Nvidia GPU along with 10th-gen Intel chipsets. RAM is available up to 32GB (you’ll find a 16GB maximum on the Laptop 3), and Microsoft says inside you’ll find the “fastest SSDs we have ever shipped”. It looks likes gamers will be taken care of too – “Surface Book 3 15 has an Nvidia GeForce GPU with enough power to play the top Xbox Game Pass for PC titles in 1080p in a smooth 60 frames per second.” reads the press release.

Microsoft claims the Surface Book 3 is the fastest laptop it has ever shipped, with 50% more performance than the outgoing Surface Book 2. Oh, and there’s also an Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 option, which Microsoft is aiming at commercial users and higher education institutions.

Inside the Surface Laptop 3, you’ll find either 8 or 16GB RAM, either a 10th-gen i5 or i7 chipset (the 15-inch version ditches this for Ryzen processors) and either Intel Iris or AMD Radeon graphics. It’s the graphics department where the Surface Laptop 3 struggles to compete though, with the Surface Book 3 offering far better GPU grunt for gaming and creative work. 

Microsoft is making big statements about the battery life for the Surface Book 3 too, claiming up to 17.5 hours of juice. Of course, this will vary wildly, and we’ll have to get the various versions of the Book 3 in for review before we can make a firm statement regarding battery life.

In our Surface Laptop 3 13 review, we said, “The Surface Laptop 3 13 saw mixed results in terms of battery life performance. With an intensive workload via PowerMark and brightness turned down to 150 nits, the laptop could only muster around six hours before running out of juice.”

This isn’t an automatic win for the Surface Book 3 in terms of battery though, as manufacturers frequently over exaggerate the battery performance. It’s likely the Surface Book 3 battery will see a similar real-time battery performance to the Surface Laptop 3, especially with a battery-draining GPU installed. 

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