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
RAM Up to 32GB LPDDR4X
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.

Design
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  • Spunjji - Friday, June 5, 2020 - link

    All of this is true, but none of it really applies to a Surface Book.

    It's not built to the same standards as a Lenovo X200. Yes, it does use premium materials and yes, many of its features (screen, keyboard, overall fit and finish) are notably superior to something like an Acer Swift 3. On the flip side, though, the price difference doesn't result in the same unambiguous increase in reliability as a Thinkpad.
    Reply
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  • onlineiotap - Wednesday, July 8, 2020 - link

    Nowadays laptops come in more than 20 GB RAM... https://online.iotap.co.uk/ Reply
  • zmatt - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    Does it outrun an AMG?

    its a silly comparison at any level because the performance game in cars is over and irrelevant. The new corvette is faster than a Ferrari Enzo. If you are buying on performance alone then you can get "fast enough" at any budget today. More important things matter.

    That's different than PC's where performance is still improving and price/performance is a valid measure.
    Reply
  • sonny73n - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    @Redshirt4life
    You and the sheep deserve this overpriced junk. Meanwhile, the rest of the world’s getting Ryzen 4700u 16GB RAM 512GB SSD for around $750.
    Reply
  • deil - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    its not for normal person that care for the cash, its for those who dont care how pricy this is same as apple.
    it's just as poor "mimic apple" try as all other MS products.
    its mediocore priced as cancer cure.
    Reply
  • temps - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    yeah, sure, in a piece of crap fragile plastic case with a bad display. You apparently didn't notice but people pay extra for nice form factors - have you ever heard of the word "premium" before?

    I still don't understand how the smartest, most detailed and honest tech review site has a comment section absolutely packed with idiots.
    Reply
  • sweetca - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    An enigma that has confounded me for ages. Reply
  • sonny73n - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    Funny that a 10 years old Mercedes costs less than a 10 years old Civic.

    Mercedes: overpriced, heavy, waste gas, electronic system is a mess, very high maintenance cost and lose value quickly.

    This Surface Book’s design is much better than the Mercedes’s you’re comparing to.
    Reply

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