The PC industry has introduced some remarkably exciting designs over the last five years or so. Some of those designs, such as the thin-bezel laptop, have been adopted by almost all players in the industry. Microsoft has certainly been an innovator in the space as well, and the Surface Pro series has become the baseline for an entire category that did not exist in any volume before their launch.

But almost certainly, one of the quirkiest designs to come out of the Surface group has been the Surface Book. First launched in 2015, the Surface Book took an unusual approach to convertible laptops, incorporating an electromechanically detachable screen, and putting processors in both halves of the laptop. The original Surface Book was succeeded by the Surface Book 2 in 2017, and recently Microsoft launched the third generation of their most powerful notebook computer.

With Surface Book 2, Microsoft first introduced the 15-inch version of the notebook, and for 2020, the company is continuing to offer both 13.5-inch and 15-inch models. The electromechanically detachable tablet portion is certainly the highlight feature, and one which the entire design hinges on, pun intended. Microsoft’s Dynamic Fulcrum hinge, which expands the footprint of the base as the laptop is opened, is what provides the Surface Book with its very unique look and feel. Fittingly, for Surface Book 3, Microsoft has opted to keep chassis virtually identical to its predecessor.

Instead the Surface Book 3 is all about the internal upgrades, and they are all significant. The new Book gets an infusion of Intel's Sunny Cove CPU architecture in the form of their newest Ice Lake platform. Built on the company's 10 nm process, it is the first major architectural change since 2015's Skylake, and brings with it more performance, better power management, and a much-improved iGPU. Microsoft has also included the latest NVIDIA GPUs targeting laptops in 2020, with the smaller 13.5-inch Surface Book 3 offering an optional GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q, while the larger 15-inch model sports the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q, both of which are nice steps up in performance over the previous generation's GTX 1050, and GTX 1060 offerings. Also in a first for Surface, the new Book 3 is also optionally available with a NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000, one of the company's professional-focused GPUs.

The move to Ice Lake also means that for the first time, the Surface Book 3 is now available with up to 32 GB of LPDDR4X RAM, double the maximum capacity versus the previous generation. The 16 GB limit was a function of previous Intel laptop CPUs only supporting LPDDR3, and for a laptop that competes against powerful opponents, this is an important addition.

Microsoft Surface Book 3
  13.5 No GPU 13.5 GPU 15
As configured: 32GB / 512GB / $2799.99
CPU Intel Core i5-1035G7
Quad-Core w/Hyperthreading
1.2-3.7 GHz 6MB Cache 15W TDP
Intel Core i7-1065G7
Quad-Core w/Hyperthreading
1.3-3.9 GHz 8MB Cache 15W TDP
GPU Intel Iris Plus G7 Intel Iris Plus G7 + NVIDIA GTX 1650 Max-Q 4GB Intel Iris Plus G7 + NVIDIA GTX 1660Ti Max-Q 6GB
Storage 256 GB to 2 TB
Display 13.5" PixelSense
3000x2000 3:2 sRGB
Touch and Pen enabled
15" PixelSense
3240x2160 3:2 sRGB
Touch and Pen enabled
Networking Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax
Bluetooth 5.0
Audio Stereo Speakers (front facing)
Dolby Audio Premium
Battery 78 Wh / 103 W AC 85 Wh / 127 W AC
Xbox Wireless No Yes
Right Side Surface Connect
USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 with USB Power Delivery
Headset Jack
Left Side 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
SD Card Reader
Dimensions 312 x 232 x 13-23mm
12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51-0.90 inches
343 x 251 x 15-23 mm
13.5 x 9.87 x 0.57-0.90 inches
Weight 1.53 kg
3.38 lbs
1.64 kg
3.62 lbs
1.90 kg
4.2 lbs
Cameras 8.0 MP Rear-facing camera with autofocus
5.0 MP front-facing camera with 1080p video
Windows Hello IR camera
Pricing Starting at $1599.99 USD Starting at $2299.99 USD

Although Microsoft still seems reluctant to include Thunderbolt 3 support, they did add a USB Type-C connector on the previous Surface Book 2. That port is now upgraded to USB 3.2 Gen 2, as are the Type-A ports. The Surface Connect charging / docking connector also gets a substantial upgrade as well, and now finally allows two UHD 60 Hz display connections via the new Surface Dock.

As for wireless connectivity, Microsoft if finally moving away from Marvell network adapters as well. As a result, the Surface Book 3 goes all-Intel, using the company's AX201 adapter with Wi-Fi 6.

Past this, the Surface Book 3 sees a relatively minor refresh for 2020, with no cosmetic changes, but certainly welcome changes under the hood. When the Surface Book first launched, it was one of the most interesting laptops on the market. Now, five years later, let us see how that design holds up with some fresh internals.

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  • TheinsanegamerN - Tuesday, June 9, 2020 - link

  • Spunjji - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    I haven't ever had a work laptop with a screen resolution higher than 1080p. Your comment is invalid.
  • Deicidium369 - Friday, June 5, 2020 - link

    Our previous Dell 13 2-in-1 had the 4K screen - utterly unusable - opted for the 1920x1200 in the new 13 2-in-1s. much more usable
  • schujj07 - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    While high resolution screens are nice, in the end you wind up with the equivalent space of 1080p because of DPI scaling. I have a 13.3" laptop with a 3200x1800 screen. I run it at 1080p to reduce GPU load and without DPI scaling everything is too small. Before you say I just need glasses, I have 20/10 vision.
  • cpufrost - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    Scaling is fine. I'm typing this on a Dell XPS 13 9370 with 3840x2160 screen scaled to 250%. The text is super crisp like typeset quality. Lower resolution displays make the text look horrible like I'm trying to read a newspaper through a screen door.
  • Spunjji - Friday, June 5, 2020 - link

    Yeah I'm never sure what's going on when people bag on Windows scaling. It's been usable since 8.1 and probably the best in the industry since 10. I run my 4K displays at 200% for a nice balance between screen real estate and text clarity.

    Some apps still don't like it - for some reason people blame Windows, not the apps.
  • schujj07 - Friday, June 5, 2020 - link

    I'm not ragging on Windows scaling. I was just stating that as soon as you use 250% DPI scaling you get rid of all of the extra screen real estate that you get from the higher resolution. Even at 1080p with a 15" monitor the text is nice and crisp. Granted if you have a junk monitor it won't matter. For example a 15" screen at 1080p has a PPI of 146.86, that is higher than the PPI of my 34" 1440p ultrawide. That is also equal to the PPI of a 30" 4k screen.
  • watzupken - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    I don't disagree there is little reason to go for a high end ultrabook/ slim laptops nowadays. However PC manufacturers still reserve higher end components, i.e. monitor, bigger battery, etc... So I think it really depends on your needs. In terms of performance, I feel there is little difference whether its low, mid or high end, since cooling is sorely lacking to give emphasis on a slim build.
  • eastcoast_pete - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    The split of the CPU and GPU into display/tablet (CPU) and keyboard (dGPU) is actually one of the smarter design elements of the Surface Pro, as that alleviates some of that "too much heat in not enough space". However, one of those in 15" with a Ryzen 4700 or 4800u even without the dGPU would be what I'd like to see, especially for less money. If one could then add the dGPU later on to the keyboard part, it could even provide an upgrade path.
  • s.yu - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    Technically you should be correct, but according to this guy(the author) even a 2060 is "a bit too much" for this 15" device. He seems so wrong on the whole GPU picture I don't know where to start.

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