Surface Laptop 3 13.5Source: Windows Central

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.

13- and 15-inch options available

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Get yours while it's hot

The Surface Laptop 3, available in both 13.5- and 15-inch configurations, is sure to please anyone looking for a premium Ultrabook.

What's new with Surface Laptop 3 13.5?

Surface Laptop 3 13.5Source: Windows Central

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.

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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)
Front camera 720p 720p
Security Windows Hello face authentication camera, Firmware TPM Windows Hello face authentication camera, Firmware TPM
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 5
Bluetooth 5.0
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
Instant On
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.

Surface Laptop 3 13.5Source: Windows CentralSurface Laptop 2 (left) vs. Surface Laptop 3 (right) reveals the darker color grey and larger trackpad.

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

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

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 Laptop i5-7200U 3,725 7,523
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

GPU

Geekbench 5.0 OpenCL (higher is better)

Device GPU Compute score
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

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

Device Read Write
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

Surface Laptop 3 13.5Source: Windows Central

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.

13- and 15-inch options available

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Get yours while it's hot

The Surface Laptop 3, available in both 13.5- and 15-inch configurations, is sure to please anyone looking for a premium Ultrabook.

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