In early October Microsoft revealed their new line of Surface products at an event in New York City. The event was a showcase of their latest innovations and they positioned the new Surface Laptop 3 as a premium, portable powerhouse. The Surface Laptop 3 is Microsoft's answer to the MacBook Pro and just like Apple's laptops, the design is sleek, slim and simple. But does the 15-inch version of the Surface Laptop 3 provide value for money?
Design and battery life
Unlike most Windows laptops on the market, the Surface Laptop 3 is free of unnecessary trial software and stickers on the unit. The 'Instant On' feature is a real timesaver, allowing you to open the lid and start working instantly. This is Windows in its purest form.
The best feature in the Surface Laptop 3 is the keyboard. It's not something I would usually pay attention to but the solid thunk when tapping on the keys is satisfying. Each key is perfectly spaced and there's a decent amount of key travel. The Macbook keyboard is noticeably worse in comparison.
The design isn't without its flaws. There are only two ports (one USB-C and one USB-A) and there is no SD card reader. The trackpad is too small and battery life is good but not great. The battery lasted roughly eight hours with continuous web surfing but is reduced when gaming or editing video. I was able to get about an 80 per cent charge when plugging it in for an hour.
Display and sound
The large 15-inch display produces vibrant colours and excellent viewing angles. It's also a touchscreen and compatible with the Surface Pen. The display has a 3:2 ratio which might not be for suitable for everyone. If you spend most of your time writing emails and surfing the web then you will enjoy the taller screen but viewing video isn't the best experience. Most videos have a 16:9 aspect ratio which means you'll have bigger black bars surrounding on the top and bottom of the screen.
As part of the minimalist theme, you won't see any visible speaker grills on the laptop. The hidden speakers produce surprisingly clear audio but they are lacking bass. The Surface Laptop 3 has quiet fans which makes the audio experience more enjoyable.
My review unit has a 256GB SSD, 16GB of RAM and a custom AMD Ryzen 7 processor. It's the first Surface product with an AMD processor and one of the few laptops that doesn't have an Intel chip. It's great to see competition in the market but AMD isn't quite matching Intel in terms of performance. The Surface Laptop 3 struggled to smoothly play a 4K 60FPS Youtube video without stuttering and dropping frames. A 20-minute H.264 video from Adobe Premiere Pro took 9 minutes, 35 seconds to export and the same file took 7 minutes and 30 seconds on a Macbook Pro with similar specs. Overall, the Surface 3 laptop should give most people no issues but it's not ideal for video editors or gaming at high frame rates.
If you're looking for a reliable Windows device that looks and feels premium then the Surface Laptop 3 is worth considering. If you spend most of your time surfing the web, listening to Spotify and using Office then this laptop is hard to beat. I'd recommend going for the base configuration as the top-tier model is expensive and there are better options for those who demand performance.