The screen real estate is just worlds apart from the smaller Surface Laptop 3 in terms of split view multitasking. 15-inch laptops just feel more natural to the human eye. It’s like you’re viewing two documents side-by-side during split view mode. While 13-inchers are perfectly capable of this as well, some might find it difficult to do so without squinting.
It’s not a surprise, therefore, that a laptop line that’s always been marketed as the ultimate in productivity, to launch a 15-inch version as well. This endeavour comes in the form of the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3.
Let’s start with the most obvious departure from Surface Laptop 2 – the screen. It’s important to note that Microsoft also still offers the 13-inch Surface Laptop 3. The sales team at Microsoft is just so obviously pushing for the 15-inch models. But they’re probably doing so more for another reason than just the screen real estate. More on that later…
As for now, let’s focus on the screen size.
The 15-inch screen is just a blessing for the fans of the Surface Laptop line. The combination of the screen size and the 3:2 aspect ratio is just a match made in mobile productivity heaven. We’ve seen this in the high-powered Surface Book 2 but those hybrids are aimed at a different set of audience. Both the Surface Book 3 models are aimed squarely at the regular user, not the creative professionals that the Surface Book is trying to woo. In both computers, though, the extra vertical space means more information is always available on your browser.
The difference is subtle between the 16:9 and the 3:2, but once you go back to a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, you’d know what you’re missing.
Yep. You read that right. Microsoft finally has an AMD-equipped laptop coming out of their stables. The consumer editions, meaning the ones that are going to be available to the general public, are going to be powered by either a 3rd generation Ryzen 5 or a 3rd generation Ryzen 7. For Enterprise consumers, however, they’re sticking with Intel. Why this is the case is anyone’s guess.
If you’ve been following news on desktop CPUs, you’d probably know that Ryzen has, for the first time in years, been beating Intel in terms of sales and in terms of raw processing power. This should mean that going the Ryzen route would be a good move for the Surface Laptop 3. However, the fact of the matter is that mobile CPUs are not the same as desktops. Ryzen is still playing catch up to Intel in this field.
In terms of processing power, the two brands are about equal. Intel wins only ever so slightly over its AMD counterpart. However, in terms of power efficiency, the Ryzen-equipped Surface Laptops are no match for the Intel ones. Despite having a considerably low-powered chip at 15W, battery life is still surprisingly about 1 hour shorter than the Intel models for Enterprise users. Because the Surface Laptop 3 is primarily a mobile device this, is a huge win for Intel. It’s important to note, however, that even the Ryzen-equipped Surface Laptop 3 has an above average battery life for 15-inch laptops.
It’s just that for the measly $100 price increase if you can get your hands on an Enterprise Surface Laptop, it’s a no brainer choice. The Surface Laptop 3 with Intel processors are much better laptops than the ones available for consumers.
The APUs on the desktop chipsets of the Ryzen processors have also been praised by a lot of customers. Unfortunately, the AMD and Microsoft partnership didn’t come up with a similar concoction. Instead, some early users have complained that they've been experiencing random crashes while putting load on the GPU.
This is pretty unfortunate because Microsoft is obviously pushing this product hard on its customers. The website for the Laptop 3 even has a dedicated page for their partnership with AMD in making these chips.
Build Quality and Aesthetics
As it has always been for Microsoft hardware, build quality on the Surface Laptop 3 is excellent. It has a boxy silhouette dominated by straight lines and sharp edges. If I were to compare it to a car, it would be the Lamborghini Diablo from the 90s.
Whether you’re in to that sort of aesthetic is up to you.
What’s sure that everyone would like is the durability of the device. Of course, we couldn’t test this part but sometimes, it's enough to be able to hold it and immediately feel that the product is premium. Furthermore, the hinge is still as solid as ever. It’s still openable with just one hand which is a feature that more and more people seem to appreciate in their Ultrabook.
The weight distribution of this device, on the other hand, is top-notch. Dave 2D, a famous YouTuber, claims it's one of the easiest to spin on his fingers. This means it'll be easy to travel with especially if you're just going carry it around by hand tucked between your arm and hip.
However, it doesn’t seem that they’ve changed much in terms of physical features except, of course, for the addition of the long-awaited USB Type-C It’s the third version that they’ve used this chassis and it’s already showing its age.
Despite the 13.5-inchers having four different material and colour finishes, the 15-inch Surface Laptops are strictly offered in metal and in just two colours – matte black and platinum. This way, Microsoft nudges it towards a more professional crowd. They wouldn’t be out of place in the middle of a conference room. The louder colours like sandstone and cobalt blue, however, are more at home in a more relaxed environment.
At the end of the day, the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 is a great mobile productivity device. However, the fact that there’s an even better device from the same company seems like a cheap shot from Microsoft. Hopefully, the Intel-equipped laptops can be made available to the rest of us as well in the near future.