Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: Everything you need to know

Surface Laptop 3
Surface Laptop 3 (Image credit: Windows Central)

At the big Surface event in October, 2019, Microsoft unveiled the Surface Laptop 3, sporting a range of upgrades. Not only did the Surface Laptop 3 expand to two models — across 13- and 15- inch versions — it also picked up some custom AMD chips, in the form of the "Surface Edition Ryzen."

Here's everything you need to know about the latest laptop from Microsoft.

Surface Laptop 3 What's new?

The Surface Laptop 3 doesn't revolutionize the formula, but has instead made some meaningful iterations based on user feedback. Now, the Laptop 3 comes in two models: 13 inches and 15 inches. No longer will Surface fans that want a bigger display have to opt for the more expensive and specialized Surface Book line.

The Laptop 3 still sports inking as an option, despite not being able to lay down flat for anything serious. You can still use the pen to annotate and sign documents on the screen, if you so choose. Other refinements pertain to the keyboard, which is now slightly recessed with improved travel. The trackpad has also grown by 20 per cent, making it more comparable to Apple's MacBook laptops.

The Surface Laptop 3 13.5 supports the newer Wi-Fi 6 standard, but the larger Surface Laptop 3 15 only gets Wi-Fi 802.11ac, or Wi-Fi 5 due to the limited chip choices by going with AMD.

Finally, Microsoft is now including USB-C in this thing. No Thunderbolt 3, but it will offer similar throughput to the Surface Connect port for additional dongles, monitors, hubs, and general connectivity. The RAM has been bumped up to faster DDR4, and Microsoft is also offering both Intel and AMD "Surface Edition Ryzen" processor variants. The AMD versions come with more potent Vega 9 and Vega 11 graphics for some modest gaming clout, while the Intel models sport Intel Iris Plus. Whichever model you pick up, apps like Photoshop and Adobe Premier should perform well, although the Vega 9 and Vega 11 should prove better options for more intensive projects.

Microsoft has also dropped the Alcantara as standard, offering full alluminium options in various colors.

Surface Laptop 3 Specs

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CategorySurface Laptop 3 (13-inch)Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)
Operating SystemWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 Home
Display13.5-inch PixelSense, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2256x1504 (201 PPI)15-inch PixelSense, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2496x1664 (201 PPI)
ProcessorIntel 10th GenAMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 custom CPU
GPUIntel IrisAMD Vega 9
AMD Vega 11
Memory8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x8GB, 16GB, or 32GB LPDDR4x
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (replaceable)128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (replaceable)
Front Camera720p720p
SecurityWindows Hello face authentication camera, Firmware TPMWindows Hello face authentication camera, Firmware TPM
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible
Wi-Fi 5: 802.11ac compatible
Ports1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack
BatteryUp to 11.5 hoursUp to 11.5 hours
WeightUp to 2.79 lbsUp to 3.4 lbs
ColorsSandstone metal, Matte Black metal, Platinum w/ Alcantara, Cobalt Blue w/ AlcantaraPlatinum metal, Matte Black metal

Surface Laptop 3 Preorders and release date

You can preorder the Surface Laptop 3 right now at the Microsoft Store, ahead of its October 22, 2019 general launch date. Many of the configurations may only be available to buy online from Microsoft, though at least a few will be available from other brick-and-mortar and online retailers, as well as physical Microsoft Store locations.

Surface Laptop 3 Which should you buy?

Surface Laptop 3

Surface Laptop 3 (Image credit: Windows Central)
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13.5", Platinum (Alcantara®), Intel Core i5, 8GB, 128GB$999.00
15", Platinum (metal), AMD Ryzen 5 3580U, 8GB, 128GB$1,199.00
13.5", Sandstone (metal), Intel Core i5, 8GB, 256GB$1,299.00
15", Platinum (metal), AMD Ryzen 5 3580U, 8GB, 256GB$1,499.00
13.5", Sandstone (metal), Intel Core i7, 16GB, 256GB$1,599.00
15", Platinum (metal), AMD Ryzen 5 3580U, 16GB, 256GB$1,699.00
13.5", Sandstone (metal), Intel Core i7, 16GB, 512GB$1,999.00
15", Platinum (metal), AMD Ryzen 7 3780U, 16GB, 512GB$2,099.00
13.5", Black (metal), Intel Core i7, 16GB, 1TB$2,399.00

Which Surface Laptop 3 configuration is right for you depends on a few factors. If you're planning light productivity work in Office, with some media consumption on the side, you could quite easily go for the base $999 model. 128GB of storage is fine if you're only storing documents and photos, and you can always expand that out with a Office 365 cloud storage OneDrive subscription (starting at 1TB).

All of the 13-inch models come with Intel chips that range up to the potent Core i7 line with Intel Iris Plus graphics. You won't be doing any serious gaming on these, but they will run well-optimized contemporary games like Minecraft and Fortnite, if you're willing to compromise on visuals.

The 15-inch models tend to come with beefier specs, all the way up to Ryzen 7 with 16GB of RAM for $2,099 with Vega 11 graphics. We won't know for sure what customizations Microsoft has made with its "Surface Edition" chips until we go hands-on. In terms of performance, though, we expect the Vega 11 will be relatively comparable to the NVIDIA MX150 chips that were used in the original Surface Book, albeit with better battery performance, theoretically. This means that you will be able to get some relatively decent gaming out of this thing, as well as decent performance in more intensive productivity apps like Photoshop and Adobe Premier.

Bottom line: For Office, social media, and Netflix, go cheap. For light gaming and more intensive productivity tools, go high. If your wallet will allow you to, that is.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!