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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  • Xex360 - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    It's very disappointing that they didn't use Ryzen APUs.
    But anyway it's very slow to do any real work on it, plus in their wisdom (or absence of thereof) didn't include a proper keyboard with keypad.
  • thesavvymage - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    numpad laptops are a thing of the past. Anybody who NEEDS one probably works at a desk with a dock and can use a USB one. They take up a huge amount of keyboard space and rarely get used.
  • drothgery - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    This is going to be a comment on every premium laptop review until either Intel gets an 8-core U-series part out on 10 nm or smaller or Ryzen starts showing up in premium notebooks, isn't it?

    Anyway, no one's using Ryzen in premium laptops right now. Ryzen 4xxx is the first AMD notebook chip worthy of being in a premium laptop, erm, ever (even when AMD was stacking up quite nicely vs Intel on the desktop, low power parts were another story), and premium laptops have a longer lead time than simpler value and gaming designs. Come back again next fall, especially if Intel doesn't show plans for an 8-core/15 Watt Tiger Lake.
  • alufan - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    Funny that despite the AMD being a better product Dell etc still put intel into the best chassis with the best components wonder why that is...rebates perhaps
  • Deicidium369 - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    Most likely in response to customers... I know it's hard to believe - but the world sees AMD as a bargain bin brand - right or wrong, that is the perception.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    "Brands have no power to change customer perceptions of value through the products they sell" is a bold claim.
  • Retycint - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    It's not an instant transition, especially for the average consumer that doesn't follow tech news. Ryzen and AMD still has some catching up to do with regards to brand equity.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    On that front I agree completely - but if that were the only obstacle, you'd expect to see Dell beginning the transition. Asus have with the G14.

    It's a fairly simple equation - you draw on your existing brand credibility and add a new option. You advertise its strengths. Consumers who don't follow tech news don't know the difference between AMD and Intel, but they know what "same design, more cores, faster performance, less heat" means.
  • Deicidium369 - Friday, June 5, 2020 - link

    Asus itself is not perceived as a premium brand - I have never owned an Asus laptop and avoid their motherboards and video cards like the plague - but have had several Asus monitors over the years - they had the first true GSync monitor way back when.
  • ExarKun333 - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    This. AMD made huge inroads on this from 2000-2005 and really positioned themselves as the market leader. As a big user of this site and AT's BB then, we all jumped on much earlier but that was more from enthusiasts. Then Intel's Core arrived in 2006. And Intel swiftly started shifting back the performance brand, image and raw performance leads. 5 Years ago, AMD laptop marketshare was barely existent. As someone waiting to buy a gaming laptop right now, I really want a Ryzen-powered laptop with a Nvidia GPU, which isn't available above a 1660/2060. Ill bite when it is. :)

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