The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 in both 13.5 and 15-inch versions is now available. I reviewed the 15-inch one featuring an AMD chip , but the original 13.5 has also been refreshed. Microsoft didn't send us a loaner review unit, so I trekked to our local Microsoft Store to buy one and give it a spin. It has been less than 24 hours, so I'm not ready for a full review, but here are some quick thoughts and early benchmarks.
What's new with Surface Laptop 3 13.5?
In a similar case to the Surface Pro 7, many of the changes to Surface Laptop 3 13.5 are on the inside, where they actually make a big difference. But there are also a few on the outside that are interesting.
Here is what we know and have noticed so far:
- Intel 10th Gen 10nm processor.
- DDR4x RAM (low-power version of DDR4).
- 20 percent larger trackpad, also quieter.
- Platinum Alcantara is now significantly darker.
- Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201.
- Bluetooth 5.
- Toshiba BG4 for SSD (some models).
- Instant-On technology.
- AC Fast Charge.
- Dual Studio Mics.
- USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 2.
- Replaceable SSD.
- Antenna lines are now hidden.
There's a lot to unpack there if you are new to the Surface Laptop or are coming from a previous model.
I picked up the Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The total price is $1,300 without tax.
The processor is an Intel 10th Gen Core i5-1035G7, which is a slight change from the Core i5-1035G4 found in the Surface Pro 7. The G7 has a slightly higher base-clock of 1.20 GHz, versus 1.10 GHz found in the G4. The G7 also has a slightly beefier GPU with 64 execution units versus 48 in the G4.
The updated Surface Laptop also comes in a darker platinum colored Alcantara fabric, which is a subtle but significant change. Not only does it look better with higher contrast, but it stays cleaner looking, too. The outside platinum chassis, however, is the same as previous models.
|Category||Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch)||Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home||Windows 10 Home|
|Display||13.5-inch PixelSense, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2256x1504 (201 PPI)||15-inch PixelSense, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2496x1664 (201 PPI)|
|Processor||Intel 10th Gen||AMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 custom CPU|
|GPU||Intel Iris||AMD Vega 9
AMD Vega 11
|Memory||8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x||8GB, 16GB, or 32GB LPDDR4|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (replaceable)||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (replaceable)|
|Security||Windows Hello face authentication camera, Firmware TPM||Windows Hello face authentication camera, Firmware TPM|
|Ports||1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack||1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack|
|Battery||Up to 11.5 hours
|Up to 11.5 hours|
|Weight||Up to 2.79 lbs||Up to 3.4 lbs|
|Colors||Sandstone metal, Matte Black metal, Platinum w/ Alcantara, Cobalt Blue w/ Alcantara||Platinum metal, Matte Black metal|
DDR4x is a big deal, because while it is not appreciably faster than DDR4, it does consume about 30 percent less power by many estimates. That's important for laptops and mobile devices. Microsoft is now using DDR4x in Surface Laptop 3 13.5, Surface Laptop 3 15 (with Intel), and Surface Pro 7 with the unfortunate omission in Surface Laptop 3 15 (AMD) which only has DDR4.
Microsoft is continuing to shift away from Marvel for wireless to Intel across its lineup (except for AMD Surface Laptop 3 15, which is Qualcomm Atheros). By going with Intel, Microsoft can utilize next-gen Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 ax) and Bluetooth 5, which help with connectivity and power improvements.
The Larger trackpad offers quite the experience on the 13.5 model. It is massive. It's not Apple-huge, but you certainly notice it. Microsoft also took away the loud "click" that came when pressing down on previous models. It is now significantly quieter and gentler.
Geekbench 5.0 (CPU) (Higher is better)
|Device||CPU||Single core||Multi core|
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||i5-1035G7||1,177||4,413|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||Ryzen 5||769||2,720|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||i7-1065G7||1,336||4,893|
|Surface Laptop 2||i5-8250U||909||3,372|
|Surface Pro 7||i5-1035G4||1,191||4,441|
|Surface Pro 6||i7-8650U||1,113||3,519|
|Surface Pro 6||i5-8250U||904||3,440|
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390||i7-1065G7||1,209||3,571|
|Dell XPS 15 7590||i9-9980HK||1,176||7,624|
Geekbench 4.0 (CPU) (higher is better)
|Device||CPU||Single core||Multi core|
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||i5-1035G7||5,265||17,345|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||Ryzen-5||3,985||12,079|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||i7-1065G7||5,727||19,593|
|Surface Laptop 2||i5-8250U||4,203||13,233|
|Surface Pro 7||i5-1035G4||5,245||17,350|
|Surface Pro 6||i7-8650U||5,037||13,864|
|Surface Pro 6||i5-8250U||4,287||14,031|
|Surface Pro 5||i5-7300U||4,302||8,482|
|Surface Pro 5||i7-7660U||4,513||9,346|
|Surface Pro 4||i5-6300U||3,319||6,950|
|HP Spectre x360 15||i7-9750H||4,968||18,790|
|HP Spectre x360 15||i7-8565U||5,246||16,272|
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390||i7-1065G7||5,459||19,097|
|Razer Blade Stealth||i7-8565U||5,139||16,339|
|Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1||i7-8665U||5,469||15,800|
Geekbench 5.0 OpenCL (higher is better)
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||Iris Plus||9,811|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||Vega 9||11,334|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||Iris Plus||10,497|
|Surface Laptop 2||Intel UHD 620||5,514|
|Surface Pro 7||Iris Plus||7,613|
|Surface Pro 6||Intel UHD 620||5,396|
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390||Iris Plus||10,406|
|HP Spectre x360 15||GTX 1050Ti||82,576|
|HP Spectre x360 15||MX150||47,284|
|Dell Precision 3541||NVIDIA Quadro P620||12,469|
CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||2,338 MB/s||1,583 MB/s|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||2,028 MB/s||806 MB/s|
|Surface Laptop 2||1,509 MB/s||811 MB/s|
|Surface Laptop||486 MB/s||244 MB/s|
|Surface Pro 7||2,040 MB/s||809 MB/s|
|Surface Pro 6||1,632 MB/s||814 MB/s|
|Surface Pro 5||847MB/s||801 MB/s|
|Surface Book||1,018 MB/s||967 MB/s|
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390||2,400 MB/s||1,228 MB/s|
|Huawei MateBook X Pro (new)||3,416 MB/s||2,779 MB/s|
|HP Spectre x360 13t||3,085 MB/s||1,182 MB/s|
|LG gram 14 2-in-1||558.1 MB/s||523.1 MB/s|
The Toshiba BG4 (ball grid) for the 256GB SSD is noteworthy. Ball-grid storage is a smaller form factor that has been around for a while, but the Toshiba BG4 is brand new. It was announced at CES 2019 but only became available this quarter, earning strong reviews. I only mention this because Microsoft sourced SK Hynix for the Surface Laptop 3 15. Sourcing different SSDs is quite common for manufacturers, but at least, in this case, the Toshiba gives a significant boost in performance, especially in write speeds, over the SK Hynix (both are 256 GB).
The Type-C 3.1 Gen 2 port replaces the Mini DisplayPort of previous Surface Laptops. It can transfer data, power two 4K displays at 60Hz (DisplayPort 1.4), and it supports Power Delivery (PD). PD lets users charge the Laptop 3 with a Type-C charger, including anything from a phone charger (slower charge) up to rarer 90W or 100W chargers with fast-charge support.
Finally, Instant-On is a huge deal. This advancement is part of Intel's Project Athena that focuses on mobility. What it means is the Surface Laptop 3 (only Intel versions) never really hibernates. As such, every time you open the lid, the display turns on instantly, and Windows Hello is ready to log you into Windows 10. Currently, almost every other laptop enters a "deep sleep" state after a few hours, and it can take up to 30 seconds to resume. With Instant-On, the Surface Laptop 3 behaves more like your smartphone or iPad than a traditional PC.
Surface Laptop 3 ... so far, so good
I'll dive deeper into the Surface Laptop 3 13.5 in my full review, but so far, I adore the changes. That's noteworthy, because I definitely am not blown away by the 15-inch version.
Battery life seems good, with the laptop only losing three percent battery overnight even with that Instant-On working. The audio sounds the same with the Surface Laptop 2 – that is, excellent – and it is better than Surface Laptop 3 15. Whether that has to do with Alcantara or not, I am not sure.
On that note, I like Alcantara. That said, I am glad Microsoft is offering it as a choice this year, as I understand the criticism and concern.
The processor is noticeably quick, and while I don't yet have a Wi-Fi 6 router, I like the idea that this is ready for one.
Some of my complaints about the Surface Laptop 3 15 and Surface Pro 7's displays being too glossy, or not supporting HDR, still stand. I'll have color gamut details in the full review.
Finally, there is just a size difference. I find the 13.5-inch form factor nearly perfect, which is one reason I disliked the 15-inch version for my use – it felt a bit too large, with no tangible benefit besides that slightly bigger display (the battery sizes are the same, for example).
Overall, though, I really like where Surface Laptop 3 13.5 is going. Leave me a comment on what you want to know about this laptop for the review.
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