Microsoft Surface Book 3 Review

September 10, 2020 at 9:20pm
By Jason Stettner

It was great to be able to get my hands on the latest iteration of this particular Surface device. This is of course the Microsoft Surface Book 3, a generally great device that brings some stellar performance. This latest version is very similar to its predecessor in terms of the chassis, with the interior being almost entirely revamped.

For context, I was loaned the 15” model with a 13.5” also being available. Some slight variations are present in regards to components, but the options are very similar. I will also note that this is a two in one sort of device. The screen detaches from the laptop base for a separate touch screen option if you so choose. When attached the device weighs 3.62lbs.

It’s a great feature that you can split the two if you’d like a lighter offering. It’s really quite a brilliant display that you can walk around with. It was nice for browsing, or casual usage when I wasn’t interested in the laptop form factor. It’s also quite a sensitive touch screen, being great for those artists wanting to use it for drawing or similar work. This disconnect is made possible by the special hinge.

This allows you to really position the device however you’d like when it’s attached. Still, this is a feature I’d like to see innovated further to some degree in the future. It’s got a sort of awful sound to it when being adjusted. I make this note in comparison to my previous coverage of the device since it’s basically the exact same design. It’s a good model, but for those upgrading I’m sure they’d want them to push the envelope a bit more in some areas.

Don’t get me wrong, it works very efficiently. It just could be cooler, but it does keep things very cool while having minimal sound when being really pushed. If it’s not working hard, the thing is silent for hours which is beautiful. Silence is a lovely thing to have from modern electronics. Since I’m focused on the split feature, the keyboard is quite heavenly. It’s a lovely offering and possibly the best I’ve ever used.

It feels great, and works well during the day or even at night with a few backlight options. I would like the track pad to be a tad quieter though, it’s kind of noisy. I may have some nitpicks within this review, just keep in mind that this is a very premium offering so it’s fair to have some notes on it outside of it being really quite great for work or play.

Since this was a fresh setup, I chose to use the Windows Hello feature which basically uses the camera to know who you are. It works quite well and was a feature I thought I'd mention for those that were curious about it. Basically the same as most modern mobile devices have, it’ll save passwords input. The audio is quite loud and clear. It could have had a stronger bass element to it. I do appreciate the Dolby Atmos support though.

Both cameras feature 1080p capture with the front having 5.0MP and the back with 8.0MP, I would have liked better quality for the cameras. The webcam camera video recording is only capable of 30fps on either side. I feel they could have pushed for 60fps as an option, it’s becoming more standard. I also really think they need to increase the quality for the internal camera. It’s what you primarily use for the webcam experience and it’s not great. It’s ok, but for a growing reliance on this type of usage in a COVID lifestyle they can do better at this price point.

There's one USB type-C and two USB type-A ports present. You get a classic 3.5mm headphone jack with Windows Sonic support, two Surface connector slots and a full SDXC card reader. Basically, it'll handle all of your work needs connection wise. Just so you are aware, the screen is a 3:2 aspect ratio so it might be a tad different than what you’re used to screen wise, but it works well and gives lots of space to play around with.

The Surface Book 3 runs very quiet, I've rarely ever heard it work very hard despite running games or just having it going for an extended period of time. I find that rather impressive as my original Surface Pro gets quite loud very quickly, the technology has advanced a ton in a short period of time which is good to see.

The operating system was obviously Windows 10, on the latest iteration version as of late 2020. The OS has certainly continued to mature and it runs perfectly fine with this device, as it should being one of the company's flagship devices. I tried a number of typical programs from software to games. I also watched some video content that was both stream and natively placed on the device, it looks wonderful.
Microsoft Surface Book 3 review
This is due to the 3240x2160 (260 PPI) resolution display. I should also mention this was the 15" version powered with an Intel i7-1065G7 CPU. This gave some super snappy performance, and graphics wise it had a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB GDDR6 which is more than fair for this type of offering. The memory present here is either 16GB or 32GB with the fifteen inch model, which is good for this period in time. It’s 3733Mhz LPDDR4x for further context.

The storage is 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD which helps with performance a lot. I’m definitely impressed with what this could do and how well it would run visuals particularly in games. It has a noted seventeen and a half hours of video battery life. It basically hit that mark, just keep in mind certain tasks are more draining than others. When it comes to games I was impressed by the visual quality and the performance.

I used Gears Tactics as a benchmark which has been my game of choice this year with excellent optimization testing options. There were pre-set options at 1440p and it ran beautifully hitting essentially a 60fps the whole way through. I was impressed. I also ran Minecraft on this getting a great rendering distance with solid performance. This also supports a special Xbox Wireless capability, but only on the 15” model.

The Conclusion

The Microsoft Surface Book 3 brings a snappy level of performance that’s powerful and feels great to use. I just wish they had pushed the exterior further, as it’s essentially the exact same as the previous iteration. I had expected more of a jump as this Surface technology is typically so ground breaking within its various categories.

I like the hinge idea, I would like the creak to be adjusted on it. It’s mostly smaller things about the device that I have any real complaints about. If you’ve never owned a Surface before you’ll likely be blown away by what’s being offered here. If you’re coming from the Surface Book 2 you won’t notice much of a difference aside from the internal experience which is significantly better.

It handles games far better and has some level of optimization already present for them. It’s very fast across the entire OS, that SSD really does help a lot with that. It’s just very snappy if that makes sense, and so fluid which I loved. It was awesome to detach the screen for casual usage, or give the keyboard a good typing effort for more intense work. This is just a really great option whether you’re using it for work or fun.

It would be grand for school, a job site or even the modern at home lifestyle that’s become a thing. It’s stacked with high end features, and it’s very neat. I loved getting another whirl with one of these devices. I just mostly wanted to see some further innovation as that’s what I enjoy most about the Surface family of devices. There’s also something unique and different about them within whatever category they’re tackling.

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Surface Book 3 Review product loaned by Microsoft tested with Games, Video and Streamed Content. Games; Gears Tactics, Minecraft

Rating Overall: 8.0

Gamerheadquarters Reviewer Jason Stettner