Surface Laptop 3 vs. Surface Book 2: Which should you buy?

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

Both the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Book 2 are two great devices from Microsoft, but they serve two different roles. The Surface Laptop 3 (as the name implies) is more of a traditional clamshell experience, while the Surface Book 2 is a versatile 2-in-1, allowing you to use it as a tablet or laptop.

Surface Laptop 3 vs. Surface Book 2 tech specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Laptop 3Surface Book 2
Processor13.5-inch10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G710th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G715-inchAMD Ryzen 5 3580UAMD Ryzen 7 3780U13.5-inch7th Gen Intel Core i5-7300U8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U15-inch8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U
Display size13.5-inch13.5 inchesTouch15-inch15 inchesTouch13.5-inch13.5 inchesTouch15-inch15 inchesTouch
Display resolution13.5-inch2256 x 15043:2 aspect ratio15-inch2496 x 16643:2 aspect ratio13.5-inch3000 x 20003:2 aspect ratio15-inch3240 x 21603:2 aspect ratio
Graphics13.5-inchIntel Iris Plus15-inchAMD Radeon Vega 9AMD Radeon RX Vega 1113.5-inchIntel UHD Graphics 620NVIDIA GTX 105015-inchNVIDIA GTX 1060
Ports1x USB-C1x USB-A3.5mm audio1x Surface Connect1x USB Type-C2x USB Type-A3.5mm audio2x Surface ConnectSD card reader
BiometricsIR camera for Windows HelloIR camera for Windows Hello
Battery13.5-inchUp to 11.5 hours15-inchUp to 11.5 hours13.5-inch70 Wh15-inch80 Wh
Dimensions13.5-inch12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches(308 x 223 x 14.5mm)15-inch13.4 x 9.6 x 0.57 inches(339.5 x 244 x 14.69mm)13.5-inch12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51 - 0.90 inches(312 x 232 x 13 - 23mm)15-inch13.5 x 9.14 x 0.59 - 0.90 inches(343 x 251 x 15 - 23mm)
Weight13.5-inchFrom 2.84lb(1.28kg)15-inchFrom 3.40lb(1,54kg)13.5-inchFrom 3.38lb(1.53kg)15-inchFrom 4.20lb(1.90kg)

Gorgeous Surface design

Both Surface devices are stunning examples of Microsoft's current design. Because they're designed for different uses, you'll find slight differences here and there. For instance, the Surface Laptop 3 sports a clamshell design, which restricts the hinge movement, so no tablet mode there. That's fine for most consumers, but not so if you want a versatile device.

This is where the Surface Book 2 shines in that you can not only use it as a notebook but also detach the screen part itself for a tablet experience. The Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Book 2 come in two sizes, 13.5 and 15 inches. The specs sheet looks similar across both devices, too, aside for a few components like the processor, GPU, and display.

You'll be able to enjoy a similar battery life, log in to Windows with the IR camera, and hook up all your accessories with USB Type-C and Type-A connections. In terms of weight and size, the Surface Book is a little heavier with all the extra moving parts and the fact you can detach the display from the keyboard half.

Comparing two stunning displays

Surface Book 2

Surface Book 2 with Dial (Image credit: Windows Central)

Whether you pick the Surface Laptop 3 or Surface Book 2, you'll be buying a device with a stunning display. Both devices house a 3:2 aspect ratio panel, but resolutions differ slightly. While the Surface Laptop 3 comes with a resolution of up to 2496x1664, the Surface Book 2 simply packs more pixels into the display, coming in at up to 3240x2160.

Should you be picking up a new Surface for creative work like video editing, the Surface Book 2 may make more sense with the extra screen real estate. That isn't to knock down the Surface Laptop 3's display, however, as it's still a killer if you don't mind sacrificing a few pixels.

Winning the performance race

Regardless of choice, you'll manage to get through even more demanding workloads. Both the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Book 2 are designed for heavy tasks like video editing and even some light gaming. You can kit out the Surface Book 2 with an Intel Core i7 processor with a dedicated NVIDIA GTX 1050 GPU, unlocking some serious performance.

The Surface Laptop 3 isn't quite as powerful as the Surface Book in the GPU department but comes rocking newer 10th Gen Intel Core processors, and you can even choose the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 with AMD Ryzen CPUs — these come with integrated Vega GPUs, though they aren't quite as good as the GTX 1050 mobile GPU.

Both devices are more than capable enough for most tasks you'll throw at them.

If you prefer the traditional clamshell design

Surface Laptop 3 is now better than ever thanks to the latest Intel and AMD processors, providing you more choice. It's also at a more reasonable price than the Surface Book 2, though you'll be missing out on more versatility.

Go Surface Book 2 for something a little different

The Surface Laptop 3 is a great notebook, but if you want a more unique Surface device, the Surface Book 2 is what you need thanks to a versatile design that allows for a variety of different modes.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a 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 on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.