Surface Laptop 3 15 Review

The Surface Laptop 3 15 brings Microsoft’s popular laptop series to a new size

Verdict

The Surface Laptop 3 15 is a 15-inch premium laptop you can't ignore; it's remarkably built and an attractive bit of kit. The AMD Ryzen processor options tackle everyday tasks with ease, but this isn't a device for high-end design work or gaming, while the battery performance is a major let down.

Pros

  • 3:2 display is perfect for productivity
  • Ultra-premium design
  • Excellent keyboard and trackpad
  • Blasts through everyday tasks
  • Super fast charging

Cons

  • Not suitable for high-end video editing or gaming
  • Disappointing battery life
  • Lack of Thunderbolt 3

Key Specifications

  • 15-inch 2496 x 1664, 3:2
  • AMD Ryzen 5 / 7 processor
  • Radeon RX Vega 9 / 11 graphics
  • 8GB / 16GB RAM
  • Up to 1TB SSD
  • Windows 10 64-bit
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What is the Surface Laptop 3 15?

The Surface Laptop 3 15 is the latest entry into Microsoft’s range of premium lifestyle laptops. The Surface Laptop 2 provided a small but decent iterative update to the original formula, but the Surface Laptop 3 15 marks a bigger change thanks to more powerful processor options.

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Surface Laptop 3 15 design and build – Small and light, it’s the perfect Windows companion

The Surface Laptop 2 was anointed ‘best for style’ in our Best Laptops 2019 guide, and design-wise, the Surface Laptop 3 remains largely unchanged. However, one key feature has seen the already stunning laptop receive a boost in the looks department.

Throwing no shade on Alcantara, a design decision I believe helped the laptop stand out from rivals, the change to metal adds to the ultra-premium look and feel of the Surface Laptop 3 15.

While Apple’s MacBook Pro 2019 is one of the most elegant and sleek designs on the market, the Surface Laptop 3 15 looks more industrial and, in some ways, more professional. When it comes to looks, the MacBook Pro is a supercar; the Surface Laptop a Bentley Continental.

Surface Laptop 3 15

The Surface Laptop 3 15 is by no means too large or a hassle to lug around – the footprint of this 15-inch device has to be one of the smallest and lightest for its size.

It weighs in at around 1.3kg and is just under 15mm thick. If you’ve ever wrestled with the conundrum of wanting a large Windows laptop but not wanting to feel like you are transporting a brick, the new Surface Laptop is in your wheelhouse.

For ports, you get a USB-C 3.2 (not Thunderbolt 3 disappointingly), USB-A and headphone jack – not the worst selection, with many modern laptops ditching full-size USB-A ports, but it still isn’t great. The Surface Connect is there for charging, and keeps the spirit of MagSafe alive – popping out if trodden on or yanked.

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Surface Laptop 3 15 display – The 3:2 aspect ratio provides a stunning view

The 3:2 aspect ratio of the Surface Laptop 3 15  is definitely something you’ll have to get used to and with the 15-inch screen size, it’s extremely striking.

As a first-time 3:2 user, I initially found the display too overbearing; bordering on off-putting. This feeling didn’t last for long.

Following extended use of this laptop as my primary device, I’m fully on the 3:2 bandwagon. Its productivity benefits are remarkable: whether its multi-window use or just reading web pages, this large 15-inch 3:2 display offers up so much more information than a screen sporting a more typical 16:9 aspect.

Surface Laptop 3 15

The 2496 x 1664 PixelSense display is impressive for everyday tasks – Microsoft Office and Chrome web pages have rarely looked this good. My feelings towards video playback were more hit and miss, with brightly coloured videos often looking stunning, but darker footage not afforded the same quality.

The display scores well for brightness, reaching up to 388 nits at maximum brightness, surpassing the 300-nit average of lifestyle laptops.  Meanwhile, the contrast ratio came in at 1332:1, which explains why colourful pictures stand out so well. A standout display result was the display having a visual colour temperature of 6373K, which is extremely close to the 6500K that best simulates natural light for a clean and pure picture. 

The Surface Laptop 3 15 display sees colour coverage of 90.3% sRGB, 62.3% Adobe RGB and 64% DCI-P3. The scores reflect a display that can present productivity related software crisply, but that lacks the accuracy for professional photographers and video editors.

Ultimately, the display may not knock your socks off if you’re looking to use it for video playback or want to dabble in media editing, but it’s stunning during everyday productivity tasks, which is the true purpose of the Surface Laptop 3 15.

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Surface Laptop 3 15 keyboard – The ideal essay basher

The Surface Laptop 3 15 keyboard is a top contender for the best feature of this laptop. It blows the competition out of the water, especially for laptops sporting the Surface’s degree of slim.

Keys are well spaced out, ensuring little chance of fumbling mistakes. The keys themselves also offer plenty of travel and a satisfying clicky sound. Once again, it’s hard not to highlight the thinness of this laptop and how that makes the keyboard performance even more impressive.

Surface Laptop 3 15

The trackpad of the Surface Laptop 3 15 is nothing to sniff at either, even if it is overshadowed by the best-in-class keyboard. The glass trackpad is responsive across its well-sized surface area and also has satisfying click. 

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Surface Laptop 3 15 speakers – Time to get the party started

While the keyboard was always expected to be a stand-out feature of this laptop, the speakers prove a big surprise. The sound that comes out of the Surface Laptop 3 is astonishing.

You won’t often turn to a laptop as an obvious choice for playing some music or watching a movie, but the Surface Laptop 3 makes this a reality. I’ve rarely experienced a laptop that achieves this much bass and sounds this good. 

The volume this device can reach is beyond belief, with distortion kept to a minimum – so much so, that it’s barely noticeable. In fact, it wouldn’t be a crazy idea to set this up as a main speaker at a house party.

Surface Laptop 3 15 performance – A top performer for productivity

It’s difficult to discuss the performance of the AMD Ryzen-sporting Surface Laptop 3 15 – especially at the range’s high-end – without noting the existence of a somewhat awkward-to-find Intel version.

You can purchase Intel versions of the Surface Laptop 3 15 from the Surface for Business store. Intel confirmed to us: “consumers are free to order from this store without issue or special registration requirements.”

We’ve tested both the £2129 Intel Core i7-1065G7 model and the £2049 AMD Ryzen 7 3780U version for comparison, so you can see which option is best for you. You certainly shouldn’t be put off by the business tag, since the laptops are almost identical besides the processor. 

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Surface Laptop 3 15

With four models in the range, only the top-spec version features AMD Ryzen 7; the other three come with a 2.1GHz AMD Ryzen 5 3580U equivalent. The base model comes with the AMD Ryzen 5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage – getting bumped up as you close in on the most expensive model – for £1199.

Cracking on with our review unit, this Surface Laptop 3 15 includes a 2.3GHz AMD Ryzen 7 3780U Microsoft Surface Edition processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The combo of AMD Ryzen 7 and 16GB of RAM means it decimates even the most rigorous of productivity tasks. It took upwards of 12 tabs in Chrome before the device’s fans kicked into action. 

If you intend to use this laptop for everyday software such as Office, web browsing, messaging and movie watching, this laptop is a top performer. You’ll notice below that the Intel edition scored superior benchmark results. The performance difference isn’t blatant to day-to-day use, but you’ll certainly get a noticeable when using intensive applications. 

PCMark 10 Geekbench 4 (single core) Geekbench 4 (multi-core)
Surface Laptop 3 15 (AMD) 3818 4073 11,858
Surface Laptop 3 15 (Intel) 4573 5761 19,334
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 3438 4770 16,055
LG Gram 17 3425 4973 13,559

While both processor options include integrated graphics, neither laptop can tackle graphics-heavy tasks. This laptop isn’t built for video editing or gaming. For the latter, I managed to eke out some games of Fortnite at low graphics settings, but don’t expect to play any AAA video games. In our 3DMark: TimeSpy tests, the AMD scored 1053 while the Intel came in at 925 – low scores that very much reflect our experience.

Some may be left disappointed at the fact that you don’t get more bang for your buck when it comes to those tougher tasks, but with the Surface Laptop 3 15, you’re really shelling out for a high-class productivity machine in a premium chassis.

Surface Laptop 3 15 battery – We expected more for the money; but superfast charging helps

The battery on the Surface Laptop 3 15 is quite disappointing, especially given the device’s price and positioning as a premium productivity machine.

Microsoft touts up to 11.5 hours of battery life for typical device usage. Our benchmark testing (via Powermark) saw the Surface Laptop 3 15 survive 5hrs 38mins, which was borne out in real-world use too. You’d expect more from a device this pricey, but there is a silver lining.

The Surface Laptop 3 offers super-fast charging via the Surface Connect cable. This topped up the battery from 0% to 100% in around an hour and a half. So, while battery life isn’t ideal, you’re at least safe in the knowledge you can power up the Surface Laptop 3 15 in no time at all.

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Surface Laptop 3 15

Should I buy the Surface Laptop 3 15?

Microsoft has pulled out an ace on the design front of the Surface Laptop 3 15. However, across the range, you’ll find a Dell XPS 15 with comparable, if not better, specs for a similar price.

The difference isn’t so insignificant that you’d be unreasonable to pick up the Surface Laptop 3 15 if you’re a big fan of its looks, but the lack of Thunderbolt 3 and a poor battery performance should definitely be factored into your buying decision. 

While we’d certainly recommend some of the cheaper models of the Surface Laptop 3 15 for productivity tasks – whether you’re a student or an office worker – the high-end configurations are a tougher sell since there’s a lack of graphical grunt and professional-grade display to merit the sky-high prices.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

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