Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 VS. Surface Book 3!
Microsoft makes 2 amazing laptops currently: the Surface Laptop 3 and the Surface Book 3. Which one of these Microsoft computers should you buy?
Microsoft is a company known for their computers recently, and if you were in the market for a new laptop from this company, the 2 you would be looking at are the Surface Laptop 3 and the Surface Book 3. The Surface Book 3 is the more pro-heavy of the two laptops, and the Surface Laptop 3 is the sleek, slender laptop, that everyone craves. I will be comparing both laptops in 6 different categories: Design, Display, Performance, Keyboard/Trackpad, Battery Life, Price/Value. These categories are the pillars of a good laptop, and assessing laptops using these categories is a good benchmark on which to base your decision off of.
Microsoft makes well-built laptops, and it’s one of their main reasons why their hardware has become so successful. That said, I do think that the Surface Laptop 3 has a better design than the Book 3, and that is because it is more elegant. The Surface Book 3 is thicker, heavier, and larger in form factor, which makes it a little less nice to use than the Surface Laptop 3. The Book 3 weighs 3.62lb with a dedicated GPU, compared to the 2.79lb on all models of the Surface Laptop 3.
The bezels on the Surface Book 3 are pretty thick for 2021, and the color is also pretty bland, as you can only get silver on this. The Surface Laptop 3, on the other hand, comes with many colorful options, and some of them also have a soft to the touch Alcantara keyboard. However, the Surface Book 3 has a detachable display, which is very cool because you can play games, and watch content, all without the keyboard. This is a feature that a lot of people might like, and you can also buy a stylus alongside the Book 3 if you would like to.
With that said, the Surface Book 3 has its detachable display, and the Surface Laptop 3 has a sleek and slim design that weighs much less. All in all, these two have different designs and excel in their own ways, which is why this category is a tie.
Winner: Tie (Both)
Let’s start with the things both of these displays share. They both feature a touchscreen and a 3:2 aspect ratio, the latter of which is very useful for media consumption and article reading. I personally like a touchscreen on my laptops, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me. Aside from these similarities, the Surface Book 3 excels over the Surface Laptop 3.
The Book 3 has a very dense and accurate display, with a 3000 x 2000 resolution, and it packs an extremely clear panel and gets plenty bright. The Surface Laptop 3 has a 2256 x 1504 resolution, which isn’t bad, but it is a step lower than the Surface Book 3’s awesome display. As I said earlier too, the Surface Book 3 has a detachable display, which is a nice bonus to the already stellar display.
Winner: Surface Book 3
The CPUs on both laptops are plenty powerful, but they do not have anything extra like the M1 MacBook’s or the 6-Core configurations you can find on the XPS 13. However, this doesn't mean that these computers are bad in this department, in fact, they are still really good. You get a 10th Generation Quad-Core i5 processor to start with, and you can upgrade to an i7 if you want as well. One added benefit to the Book 3 is that you can get 32GB of RAM on it, whereas the max on the Surface Laptop 3 is 16GB of RAM. A good rule of thumb that I follow is that you can never have too much RAM.
The graphics department is what Microsoft focused primarily on the Surface Book 3, and it shows. You can get a dedicated GPU on the Surface Book 3. Yes, on a 13" laptop. It’s something very rare for an ultrabook, but Microsoft has packed a dedicated GPU into this, which is very useful for gamers, video editors, and any activity GPU-based. The graphics cards are good, too.
The base Book 3 comes with an Iris Plus GPU, but the higher models offer an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 w/4GB GDDR5 vRAM, or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 w/6GB GDDR6 vRAM, which is even better. These GPUs blow any other ultrabook out of the water, including the Surface Laptop 3, which only comes with Iris Plus graphics cards. Hence, the Surface Book 3 wins this category.
Winner: Surface Book 3
Keyboard & Trackpad
The keyboard on both models is for the most part the same. Both machines have tactile keys, with good key travel for a comfortable typing experience. One thing I prefer on the Surface Laptop 3 is having the option to get an Alcantara keyboard, which is soft and warm to the touch, and it is much better to rest your hands on than cold metal.
The trackpad is largely the same, because both of them use Windows Precision Drivers, and they feel good too. However, the Surface Book 3 has a small trackpad, and sometimes there is not enough space to move around on that small pad. The Surface Laptop 3 has a much larger trackpad, and this is very useful if you are scrolling through documents, doing some gestures, etc. Because of the slightly better trackpad and the Alcantara finish, I give this category to the Surface Laptop 3.
Winner: Surface Laptop 3
Both of these laptops have good battery life, but one has the definite edge, and it’s the Surface Book 3. The Surface Laptop 3 has 10 hours of screen time, which is fine, but it doesn’t stand out, and it isn’t anything exceptional. The Surface Book 3 on the other hand gets 12 hours of screen time. This would be considered very good if it wasn’t for the 20-hour battery life on the M1 MacBook Pro that came out in November. What’s impressive is that the Surface Book 3 has a denser display and a much more battery-consuming one than the Surface Laptop 3, yet it still gets more battery life than it.
Winner: Surface Book 3
There are two routes you can go when speccing these models. You will either have to go for the base models or shell out much more money for the higher-end models. The Surface Laptop 3 starts at $999 for a 10th Quad-Core i5, an Iris Plus GPU, 8GB RAM, and 128GB of storage. The best thing for most people to do is first upgrade to 256GB, and then increase the RAM, because more RAM is always beneficial. The model with 256GB of storage will run you $1299, which is a reasonable price for a high-end ultrabook, but still expensive.
The Surface Book 3 is a much more expensive device, for the base model and the higher-end configurations. The base model costs $1599, and this is for a 10th Quad-Core i5, an Iris Plus GPU, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of storage. If you want a dedicated graphics card, it will cost a minimum of $1999, and this comes with a 10th Quad-Core i5, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 w/4GB GDDR5 vRAM, 16GB RAM, and 256GB of storage. This is a very high-specced model, and professionals will love the detachable display, added to this amazing performance. However, this higher-end model is still VERY expensive at $1999, and this will cost a pretty penny.
The winner here is undoubtedly the Surface Laptop 3, because it is cheaper at almost every variant, and the Surface Book 3 gets very expensive at the high-end options as well. Additionally, $2000 is a large sum to pay for a 13" ultrabook in my opinion.
Winner: Surface Laptop 3
The Surface Book 3 takes 3 of these categories, whereas the Surface Laptop 3 took 2, and they tied on the design category. The Surface Book 3 is the better laptop, for numerous reasons. It has a better and detachable display, better performance, battery life, and more options for people who need more power. However, the main difference is pricing, and this is where you have to make the choice.
If you need the power, and that is very important to you, the Surface Book 3 is the way to go, albeit it will be a bit expensive. If you were looking to get one of the highest specced models, with a dedicated graphics card, it will run you over $2000. The Surface Laptop 3 is for the people out there who do not need that much power and want more of a nice design, still good display, but mainly a cheaper price. A well specced Surface Laptop 3 can be bought for $1299, which is a very reasonable price for the nice hardware you are getting with the Surface Laptop 3.
However, between the two, the Surface Book 3 is the undoubted winner.
Overall Winner: Surface Book 3
If you want the most power and bleeding-edge technology, buy the Surface Book 3. If you are in the market for a simple, well-made, and solid computer, the Surface Laptop 3 is the one for you.