Hands on: Surface Laptop 3 13 Review

The Surface Laptop 3 is Microsoft's answer to the MacBook Air

First Impressions

Microsoft’s 13.5 inch Surface Laptop 3 looks like a fantastic ultrabook for those wanting a Windows 10 alternative to the MacBook Air. A slim, ultra-portable and gorgeous design, coupled with Intel’s brand new Ice Lake processor, makes this device feel outstandingly modern and premium. Battery and performance tests will determine whether the Surface Laptop 3 13 truly is one of the best ultrabooks to buy, but all the signs are looking very promising so far. 

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £999

What is the Surface Laptop 3 13?

The Surface Laptop 3 13 is a new laptop from Microsoft which carefully balances performance with portability. With Intel’s recently-launched Ice Lake processors running the show, this 13.5-inch portable is lavished with modern features including integrated graphics, Wi-Fi 6 and support for Thunderbolt 3.

Microsoft has also made several improvements compared to 2018’s Surface Laptop 2, with fast charging, a 20% larger trackpad and USB-C integration all providing incentives to upgrade. 

Overall, this seems the ideal portable for students and office workers who want a high-performance laptop for work on the go. I went hands-on with the Surface Laptop 3 13 to see whether its remarkable design and specs stand up to scrutiny. 

Related: Best Laptop 2019

Surface Laptop 3 13

Surface Laptop 3 13 price – How much will it cost? 

There are five configurations of the 13.5 inch Surface Laptop 3 available, with the cheapest costing £999. 

The most expensive, meanwhile, will set you back a whopping £2349 and will get you 1TB storage, 16GB RAM and a Core i7 Intel Ice Lake processor. 

Surface Laptop 3 13 release date – When is it available?

The Surface Laptop 3 13 is available to pre-order right now, hitting stores on 22 October. The 15 inch Surface Laptop 3, Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro X will all be available to buy on this date too.

Related: Best Student Laptops 2019

Surface Laptop 3 13 specs – What’s the specification?

Display 13.5-inch touchscreen (2256 x 1504)
CPU Intel Core i5-1035G7 / i7-1065G7
Graphics Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM 8GB / 16GB
Storage 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Battery Up to 11.5 hours
Dimensions 308 x 223 x 14.51 mm
Weight From 1250kg 

Surface Laptop 3 13

Surface Laptop 3 13 preview 

Photos don’t do the Surface Laptop 3 justice. Microsoft’s latest laptop is gorgeous in person, with various colour options – including Matte Black, Sandstone, Platinum and Cobalt Blue – ensuring Microsoft’s portable look far more alluring than the standard portable PCs you find on shop shelves. 

The lovely Alcantara fabric laptop design makes a comeback, but you now also get the alternative options of straightforward aluminium, following customer feedback. Both look incredibly slick, although my personal favourite is the Alcantara-styled Cobalt Blue. 

The Surface Laptop 3 13 is also remarkably thin and lightweight, measuring in at 14.51mm thick and hitting the scales at 1250kg (or 1310kg for the metal-only designs). Such an ultra-portable frame keeps the Surface Laptop 3 competitive with top-of-the-line ultrabooks (such as the Dell XPS 13 and LG Gram 14).

Despite being so thin, I have no fear of the Surface Laptop 3 snapping or breaking during a tumultuous day in my rucksack. The whole device feels properly premium, including the glass trackpad (20% size increase from the Surface Laptop 2) and the keyboard, which has a satisfying 1.3mm key travel. 

The keys also have subtle indents for a comfortable typing experience. I didn’t spend a very long time with the laptop during my hands-on experience, but I reckon it would be the keyboard would be ideal for students and office workers who write up a conveyor belt of essays. 

Microsoft revealed its hidden the Omnisonic speakers underneath the keyboard to reduce the laptop’s size as much as possible. You’d think having the keys sitting on top of the speakers would have a negative impact on the audio quality, but this isn’t the case at all. A Microsoft representative played Adele’s Someone Like You, turning the volume up to the very top, and it honestly sounded just as good as my Amazon Echo speaker. 

Related: Intel Ice Lake

Surface Laptop 3 13

The Surface Laptop 3 model I spent time with had an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor. This is one of the very first laptops to feature an Ice Lake CPU, which is an exciting landmark on its own. 

A Geekbench 5 test saw the laptop achieve a single-core score of 935 and a multi-core score of 3297, which is impressive – outperforming the new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. Of course, this benchmark result was achieved in Microsoft-controlled testing conditions, so we will be redoing these benchmarks once we get our own review unit. 

Nevertheless, the Surface Laptop 3 looks to boast a great performance, as overloaded it with multiple browser tabs, words documents and Teams chat windows and never saw performance slowdown. 

Intel’s Ice Lake chip isn’t intended to be for powerhouse workstations though, instead offering a slew of useful features such as extended battery life and integrated graphics for low-demanding games and creative applications. I was unable to test either of these features though, so you’ll have to wait for the final review to hear our final verdict. 

Early verdict

Microsoft’s 13 inch Surface Laptop 3 looks a fantastic ultrabook for those wanting a Windows 10 alternative to the MacBook Air. A slim, ultra-portable and gorgeous design, coupled with Intel’s brand new Ice Lake processor, makes this device feel outstandingly modern and premium.

Battery and performance tests will determine whether the Surface Laptop 3 13 truly is one of the best ultrabooks to buy, but all the signs are looking very promising so far. 

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