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Surface Laptop 4 vs. Surface Book 3: Which is a better buy?

Surface Book 3 Lead
Surface Book 3 Lead (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The new Surface Laptop 4 features the latest 11th-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, or a customized version of AMDs Ryzen 4000 series R5 or R7 chips. While the Surface Book 3 is rocking Intel's last generation Intel chips, it still have a more powerful GPU in the form of the NVIDIA GTX 1650 and 1660 Ti Max-Q cards. Also, the Book 3 is a 2-in-1 detachable, and has a higher-resolution display. Both are some of the best Surface PCs on the market, but which one should you get?

Surface Laptop 4 vs. Surface Book 3: Specifications

Surface Laptop 4Surface Book 3
Processor11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7
11th Gen Intel Core i5-1145G7
11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7
AMD Ryzen 5 4680U
AMD Ryzen 7 4980U
10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G7
10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7
RAM8GB LPDDR4x
16GB LPDDR4x
32GB LPDDR4x
8GB LPDDR4x
16GB LPDDR4x
32GB LPDDR4x
Storage256GB
512GB
1TB
256GB
512GB
1TB
2TB
Display size13.5 inches
15 inches
Touch
13.5 inches
15 inches
Touch
Display resolution2256x1504 (201 PPI)
2496x1664 (201 PPI)
3000x2000 (267 PPI)
3240x2160 (260 PPI)
Aspect ratio3:23:2
GraphicsIntel Iris Xe
AMD Radeon
Intel Iris Plus
NVIDIA GTX 1650 Max-Q
NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q
Ports1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack1x USB-C, 2x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack
BiometricsIR cameraIR camera
BatteryUp to 19 hoursUp to 17.5 hours
Weight13.5-inch from 2.79lbs (1.27kg)
15-inch from 3.40lbs (1.54kg)
13.5-inch from 3.38lbs (kg)
15-inch from 4.20lbs (kg)

What's new with the Surface Laptop 4

  • Intel 11th Gen Core processors with Iris Xe Graphics
  • AMD Ryzen 4000 and Radeon Graphics (Surface Edition)
  • Up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB storage (Intel only)
  • No more 128GB option (256GB or higher)
  • Dolby Atmos spatial-audio
  • Ice Blue with Alcantara (13.5-inch Intel only)
  • Up to 70% performance improvement
  • Battery improvements
  • Slightly faster Windows Hello login
  • 15-inch models are only Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7
  • AMD models now have Wi-Fi 6 and LPDDR4x

Surface Laptop 4 vs. Surface Book 3: Design & Display

The designs of the Surface Laptop 4 and the Surface Book 3 couldn't be more different. One is a traditional ultrabook laptop, and the other is a 2-in-1 detachable with a unique hinge design. They're both available in 13.5-inch and 15-inch variants, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.

Surface Laptop 4 features an aluminum chassis, with some models coming with an Alcantara fabric keyboard base. You can also get the Surface Laptop 4 in multiple colors including Platinum, Black, Sandstone, and Ice Blue. The Surface Book 3 featurs a magnesium chassis, with no option for an Alcantara keyboard deck and only one color to choose from: Platinum.

The display's are also quite different, with the Surface Book 3 featuring a noticably brighter and higher resolution screen. That doesn't mean the display on the Surface Laptop 4 is bad, but if you're looking for the best display on a Surface, the Surface Book 3 is the one to go for.

Surface Laptop 4 vs. Surface Book 3: Performance

Surface Laptop 4 Family Crop Press

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

The Surface Laptop 4 ships with Intels latest 11th-generation Core i5 and i7 processors, but you can also get it with a specialized Microsoft Surface Edition AMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 4000 series processor. These chips are quite the jump in performance over the 10th-generation chip found in the Surface Book 3, offering better single and multi-thread app performance for a smoother multitasking and data processing experience.

That said, the 10th-generation chip in the Surface Book 3 isn't bad at all, and you won't really notice a difference in performance in day-to-day tasks. It's a different story in the graphics department however, as the Surface Book 3 ships with dedicated NVIDIA graphics, unlike the Surface Laptop 4 with its Integrated Iris Xe and RX Radeon graphics.

The integrated graphics are a huge improvement over the Surface Laptop 3, but compared to the Surface Book 3, it's no contest. The dedicated GTX 1650 and 1660 Ti Max-Q will outperform the Surface Laptop 4 every time. So, if you want to do heavy video editing of even some gaming, the Book 3 is the one to get.

Surface Laptop 4 vs. Surface Book 3: Pricing

Microsoft is pricing the Surface Laptop 4 at $999 for the base model, which is consideribly less than the starting price for the Surface Book 3, which comes in at $1,599. The entry-level Surface Book comes with just 8GB RAM and is without the dedicated graphics card, so you might be better served with the cheaper Surface Laptop 4 at that point.

Surface Laptop 4 is a beautiful Ultrabook

If you're looking for a traditional laptop with the latest specs, great battery life, and a beautiful design, the Surface Laptop 4 is an excellent choice.

Buy the Surface Book 3 for more graphics power

If you're in need of a 2-in-1 device that's also a great laptop, with a beautiful high-resolution display and real graphics power for on-the-go work and play, the Surface Book 3 is for you.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.