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Surface Book 2 vs. Surface Book 3: Which is a better buy?

Surface Book 3 Context
Surface Book 3 Context (Image credit: Microsoft)

The choice between Surface Book 2 and Surface Book 3 primarily comes down to your available budget. The bump in specs is nice for those seeking a new, powerful PC with the latest from Intel and NVIDIA, but if you simply need a decently powered 2-in-1 Windows PC from Microsoft, the Surface Book 2 is still worth considering.

The display remains the same, so do the ports and webcams. In fact, there are more things the same than different with the Surface Book 3. But where there are improvements, they're considerable, making it one compelling portable PC.

Surface Book 2 vs. Surface Book 3 specs

Surface Book 2 (13.5)Surface Book 3 (13.5)
Processor7th Gen Intel Core i5-7300U
8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U
10th Gen Intel i5-1035G7
10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7
RAM8GB LPDDR3
16GB LPDDR3
8GB LPDDR4x
16GB LPDDR4x
32GB LPDDR4x
Storage256GB
512GB
1TB
256GB
512GB
1TB
Display size13.5 inches
Touch
13.5 inches
Touch
Display resolution3000 x 2000
3:2 aspect
267 PPI
3000 x 2000
3:2 aspect
267 PPI
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
Intel Iris Plus
GeForce GTX 1650 (Max-Q)
PortsTwo USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen1)
One USB Type-C w/ video, power in/out and USB 3.1 (Gen1) data
Full-size SDXC card reader (UHS-II)
Headphone jack (3.5mm)
Two Surface Connect ports (1 in tablet, 1 in keyboard base)
Two USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen1)
One USB Type-C w/ video, power in/out and USB 3.1 (Gen1) data
Full-size SDXC card reader (UHS-II)
Headphone jack (3.5mm)
Two Surface Connect ports (1 in tablet, 1 in keyboard base)
ConnectivityMarvel Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1
Xbox Wireless
Intel Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax
Bluetooth 5.0
Xbox Wireless
Camera5MP Front-facing 1080P
8.0MP Rear-facing AF 1080P
5MP Front-facing 1080P
8.0MP Rear-facing AF 1080P
BiometricsIR cameraIR camera
Battery70WHr
Up to 17 hours
70WHr
Up to 17.5 hours
Charger39W (Core i5)
95W (Core i7)
65W (Core i5)
102W (Core i7)
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
WeightTotal: 1,905 g (4.20 lbs)
Tablet: 817 g (1.80 lbs)
Total: 1,905 g (4.20 lbs)
Tablet: 817 g (1.80 lbs)
Surface Book 2 (15)Surface Book 3 (15)
Processor8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7
RAM8GB LPDDR3
16GB LPDDR3
8GB LPDDR4x
16GB LPDDR4x
32GB LPDDR4x
Storage256GB
512GB
1TB
256GB
512GB
1TB
2TB
Display size15 inches
Touch
15 inches
Touch
Display resolution3240 x 2160
3:2 aspect
260 PPI
3240 x 2160
3:2 aspect
260 PPI
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
Intel Iris Plus
GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (Max-Q)
NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000
PortsTwo USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen1)
One USB Type-C w/ video, power in/out and USB 3.1 (Gen1) data
Full-size SDXC card reader (UHS-II)
Headphone jack (3.5mm)
Two Surface Connect ports (1 in tablet, 1 in keyboard base)
Two USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen1)
One USB Type-C w/ video, power in/out and USB 3.1 (Gen1) data
Full-size SDXC card reader (UHS-II)
Headphone jack (3.5mm)
Two Surface Connect ports (1 in tablet, 1 in keyboard base)
ConnectivityMarvel Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1
Xbox Wireless
Intel Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax
Bluetooth 5.0
Xbox Wireless
Camera5MP Front-facing 1080P
8.0MP Rear-facing AF 1080P
5MP Front-facing 1080P
8.0MP Rear-facing AF 1080P
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: 1,533g (3.38lbs)
i7 total: 1,642g (3.62lbs)
Tablet: 719g (1.59lbs)
i5 total: 1,533g (3.38lbs)
i7 total: 1,642g (3.62lbs)
Tablet: 719g (1.59lbs)

New internals for the same excellent Surface Book

Externally, nothing changed with the move from Surface Book 2 to Surface Book 3. If you put one of each side by side, you'd be hard-pressed to tell any visual difference. It's all about what's under the hood, which is where the considerable price difference comes into play.

The newer Surface Book 3 is updated for 2020, though there are some omissions like Thunderbolt 3. For CPUs, we've got the choice of up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7, a very capable mobile processor used in many modern Ultrabooks.

GPUs were also given a bump with the 15-inch able to take on a GTX 1660 Ti with 6GB GDDR6 RAM. It's powerful, clocking in a 40% performance boost over the Surface Book's GTX 1060. There's even an NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 GPU option for creatives and professionals.

Next up is Wi-Fi, which is now Wi-Fi 6, and thanks to Microsoft switching to Intel for wireless connectivity, we also have Bluetooth 5.0. And, of course, Microsoft included Xbox Wireless. Finally, we have RAM and SSD improvements. Surface Book 3 swaps out the slower DDR3 RAM for LPDDR4x. SSD performance has also been bumped.

Overall, the Surface Book 3 is essentially a Surface Book 2 with everything turned up to 11. If you dig the Surface Book design and don't want it to change, this new generation will please you. But if you're holding out for a design refresh, you're going to have to wait a little longer.

Surface Book 2 is better for tighter budgets

If you simply do not have enough funds to splash out on the Surface Book 3, but still desire a Surface Book of your own, the Surface Book 2 is still a good buy. It can be configured with an 8th Gen Intel Core-i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, and an NVIDIA GTX 1050 GPU.

Surface Book 3 is the star pick with better internal hardware

If you want the absolute best Surface Book, there's only one choice. Surface Book 3 has better internal components, is newer, and has support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. It's just a shame that Microsoft couldn't evolve the external design a little.

Rich Edmonds
Rich Edmonds

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.