A Surface Laptop 3 newcomer's impressions: I have a newfound love for any work needs

Surface Laptop 3 Sam Image
Surface Laptop 3 Sam Image (Image credit: Windows Central / Samuel Tolbert)

I've never used a Surface laptop before. Honestly, the number of laptops I've used in general could be counted on one hand. I've always been a desktop enthusiast, a fan of my home office, and having everything I need all in one place. The restrictive, more closed-off nature of a laptop has always been something I forced myself to allow rather than accepted willingly. Whenever I had the option, I'd simply re-invest in my desktop.

Still, covering press events meant being away from my desk. Continued technological obstinance was no longer a possibility. After weighing some different suggestions from my coworkers, I took a plunge and decided on the Surface Laptop 3. Specifically, I went for the Black Metal 15" Ryzen 5 model.

It's important to really emphasize: I'm not just a newcomer to the Surface Laptop 3, I'm a newcomer to the entire Surface brand. In the following weeks of usage, the increased options and relaxed productivity have changed my mind on laptops moving forward, as well as rapidly making me a new fan of the Surface line of hardware.

What I like about my Surface Laptop 3

Source: Windows Central / Samuel Tolbert (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Samuel Tolbert)

One concern I had was, "how easy will it be to haul a laptop around when traveling?" That fear was quickly put to rest, as the thin form factor is impressive, as is the tiny charging cord. The last time I used a laptop, the charging cords were still bulky. Here, it's a thin magnetized charger, and it's remarkably quick. The battery life is also commendable, easily lasting several hours without me needing to charge it.

Typing also feels nice, as the keys stay cool even when I've got 30 tabs open, and I'm writing all day. I haven't noticed any strain in adjusting to and using the keyboard either, despite usually working on a large keyboard that was very much designed for gaming, which speaks volumes to the excellent design here.

Considering how small it is, I'm seriously impressed with the specs.

It's allowed me to gain a bit of flexibility with how I approach my workday. Instead of being cooped up in front of my monitor, I can work anywhere! Yeah, yeah, "you can do that with any laptop," I know, but the super-thin form factor and complete lack of weight here completely elevate the Surface for me. It's not "just" a portable PC. It's everything I expect and need from my PC for work in a nearly unnoticeable design. It's both sleek and capable.

Considering how small it is, I'm seriously impressed with the specs. The CPU and RAM are a notch below what I have in my PC (and obviously the Surface isn't meant for gaming, lacking a dedicated graphics processing unit). Still, I don't see a noticeable difference between work performance on my PC and my Surface.

The Microsoft Account features are a nice touch as well, syncing photos and images easily between my Surface and my PC. If I have a bunch of pictures downloaded on one device, picking up and working somewhere else is borderline seamless.

What I dislike about my Surface Laptop 3

Source: Windows Central / Samuel Tolbert (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Samuel Tolbert)

Honestly, not much at all has bothered me so far. I've had one small recurring issue, where whenever a Windows Update was needed, the ability to change my brightness with the slider disappeared. If the update came at a time when I really needed to work and change my brightness for a new environment — say, working at 7 a.m. in the dark versus 1 p.m. in the bright midday light — this could definitely be annoying. This strange problem aside, I've had no real issues with my Surface.

The other issue is naturally the price. Paying for a Surface means, at some level, paying a premium price for the brand. If that's important to you, then that's fine, but still. It's also very clearly meant for productivity, with a CPU and RAM designed around work. Playing anything other than games several years old or heavily, heavily lowered settings isn't happening here.

My Surface Laptop 3 overall thoughts

Source: Windows Central / Samuel Tolbert (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Samuel Tolbert)

Overall, it would be extremely difficult for me to be happier right now. Picking up this laptop has not only made me interested in the Surface line moving forward but even more friendly to the concept of laptops in general (I know, get your laughs in). Obviously, picking up something like this won't be in line with everyone's possible price range, but for those who can, I think you're going to be happy.

Adjusting to laptops after vehemently avoiding them for years has been interesting, and I'll definitely be paying more attention to new Surface announcements in the future. So far, well done Microsoft, well done.

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.

5 Comments
  • I feel the same way about my SL3. I think it is held back by thermals. In a pinch I use it for some Visual Studio projects that I work on (ordinarily it is for other kinds of office productivity, research, note taking etc.). The biggest issue is that after a while it throttles down. But for regular "Office" style tasks and web browsing, reading PDFs, etc. it is perfect. I think that if it had LTE - it would be a perfect machine for hauling around! I don't miss my Surface Pro at all when I travel. The keyboard on this computer is exquisite. The trackpad is wonderful. I use my Alienware m15 R2 as a desktop replacement these days -- or if I am traveling and need the horsepower for my consulting work. But I usually take the SL3 with me. Wonderful machine.
  • If all you needed was to take notes during press events, why not just get a cheap laptop? Any one would do.
  • "I've had one small recurring issue, where whenever a Windows Update was needed, the ability to change my brightness with the slider disappeared" I don't know how to say this without possibly coming off as snobby... but did you happen to notice the keys to change the brightness on your keyboard? They're right there.. just touch it and voila!
    I think they're above the 6 and 7, or maybe 7 and 8? I dont remember as I'm on my desktop at work right now.
  • There was an actual issue for a while where unless you reboot the thing it didn't matter how you tried to change the brightness. Keyboard, slider or from settings didn't work. On my 13" it appears to have been fixed with a firmware update a few weeks ago.
  • My partner has a 13" SL3 and she has the same issue. It doesn't matter what method she uses to try to change the brightness under those circumstances. She's a shocker for not rebooting and leaving updates pending for ages too. Haven't seen a firmware update here in Australia so far but will look out for it.