Microsoft Surface Book 3 – Ideal laptop and tablet?

It's been five years since Microsoft introduced the Surface Book. The third variant is now for sale. The concept has remained the same: a laptop that you can also use as a tablet. Is this the best of both worlds?

Microsoft Surface Book 3

Price € 2799 (from € 1799)

Processor Intel Core i7-1065G7

RAM 32GB

Storage 512GB SSD

Graphic Intel Iris Plus and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q

Screen 13.5 inches (3000 x 2000 pixels)

OS Windows 10

Connections 2x USB 3.0, SD card reader, 3.5mm headset jack, usb-c

webcam 5 megapixel (front), 8 megapixel camera (rear)

wireless 802.11ax, bluetooth 5.0

Dimensions 31.2 x 23.2 x 1.3 – 2.3 cm

Weight 1.5 kilos

Battery 18 + 51 Wh

Website www.microsoft.nl 7 Score 70

  • Pros
  • Build quality
  • Screen
  • Battery life
  • Good keyboard
  • Opportunities
  • Negatives
  • No Thunderbolt
  • Graphical Troubles

Outwardly, the Surface Book 3 is identical to the Surface Book 2 and it was almost the same as its predecessor. In terms of design, the Magnesium Surface Book 3 is therefore not surprising and the laptop consists of a tablet plus a keyboard into which you click the tablet. The tablet itself is equipped with a 3.5mm headset connection and charging connection via the dock connector. All other connections can be found on the keyboard and include two USB, USB-C, a card reader and a charging connection. In addition to the supplied charger, you can also charge the device via USB-C. The three USB connections all neatly support the higher Gen2 speed and you can connect a screen to the USB-c connection. Unfortunately there is no support for Thunderbolt.

The build quality is still fine. The design stands out because of the ribbed hinge and the wide gap that is visible when you close the Surface Book. That gap is intended to prevent the device from overheating when you use it folded as a desktop. The hinge is unique, but the screen does wobble more than on a normal laptop, which is annoying when you touch the screen. The backlit keyboard with three brightness levels and touchpad are also of excellent quality. The Surface does not have a fingerprint scanner, but a camera with facial recognition is provided.

Tablet with dock

The spearhead of the Surface Book is that it is a combination of tablet and laptop in which you click the tablet into the keyboard. The connection between tablet and keyboard is impressively strong and it is simply impossible to pull it off. Unpairing is only possible by pressing a key on the keyboard (or via software), after which the Surface neatly logs off the connected devices, after which the lock unlocks and you can pull the tablet loose. According to Microsoft, decoupling is now slightly faster than with the previous model. And it does seem to run a little smoother. A disadvantage is that you can only unlink if you are logged in to Windows. The majority of the hardware, including the processor and storage, is in the tablet. As mentioned, the keyboard dock contains almost all connections. In addition, the keyboard contains an extra battery and optionally an extra graphics card.

In addition to the normal orientation, you can also click the tablet backwards into the dock. Handy if you want to watch a movie or draw on the screen with the optional pen. You can even use it as an extra thick (and heavy) tablet if you need the second GPU.

Powerful hardware

The review copy that Microsoft sent us is the second most expensive version (€ 2,799) of the 13.5-inch variant. This means that a Core i7-1065G7 is combined with 32 GB of ram, a 512 GB ssd and that the keyboard is equipped with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650. The ssd is an nvme copy from SK Hynix that, given the maximum read speed of 2071 and write speed of 825 MB/s is certainly not one of the fastest SSDs on the market. In practice, however, you will not notice that. In PCMark 10, the laptop scores a decent 3899 points, an excellent result.

You won't hear the fan during normal work, but it will be clearly audible when you play games, for example. As a laptop, you can count on a battery life of about 10 hours for typical office tasks. The separate tablet lasts a lot shorter with 3 hours. The battery capacity of both batteries is shown as one percentage in Windows, but by clicking on this you can see the percentages of the individual batteries.

Good screen

The screen of the Surface Book 3 is identical to that of the previous model and that means a 13.5-inch screen in a striking 3:2 aspect ratio with a resolution of 3000 x 2000 pixels. It is a pleasant aspect ratio to work on, with more workspace especially in height than you are probably used to. The image quality is excellent and the maximum brightness is pleasantly high. The screen edges are remarkably wide for a modern laptop. That looks old-fashioned (the design is also five years old), but in tablet mode, those wide edges are quite handy to grab the tablet. In addition to a normal touchscreen, the Surface Book also offers support for an active stylus. Depending on your work, that can be a big plus. The Microsoft Surface Pen works well, but will cost you 110 euros extra. You actually have to buy that pen, because it is one of the features that ultimately justify the high price of the laptop.

Graphical Troubles

In addition to the Intel Iris Plus integrated into the processor, the keyboard dock of the Core i7 model in the form of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 contains an additional graphics card. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 is the minimum card you need to be able to play modern games somewhat decently, and an Nvidia card also comes in handy for some graphics programs such as Photoshop to speed up tasks. Thanks to Nvidia's Optimus technology, both GPUs are seamlessly integrated with each other and the GPU is chosen depending on the graphical power that an application needs. If you need little graphic power, the Intel GPU is used and you have the best battery life.

So much for the theory, because unfortunately this system on the Surface Book 3 does not always work flawlessly because sometimes the Nvidia card is no longer detected. You will not receive an error message about this and the system will work normally. Only when you start a graphically more demanding application such as a game you notice that something is wrong. The Nvidia driver also knows to report that there is no Nvidia hardware in the system. The only solution is to disconnect the tablet part and then reconnect it. A thorny issue, which has been reported in the Surface Book 2 by multiple users on support forums as well. We have, of course, installed all updates including firmware updates for testing. There could be a problem in the graphics drivers, for example, but Microsoft doesn't allow installing the universal Nvidia drivers. The trouble is, the device usually works fine, but in the few weeks that I've been using the Surface Book 3, I've had four issues with missing graphics.

Conclusion

The Surface Book in the third version is still an interesting device that is somewhere between a laptop and a tablet. One plus one is not two, because for a laptop the Surface Book is a bit bulky while the tablet has a low battery life. Still, it is a usable, sturdy and smooth device, especially if you need the pen for your work. The not flawless operation of the extra Nvidia GPU is, in my opinion, a downside. With a laptop of 2799 euros that is aimed at graphic professionals, that should always work well, that is especially true for a third generation product.

Recent Posts