Earlier this month, Microsoft announced the Surface Book 3 alongside several other updates to devices in the Surface lineup. Like the Surface Pro 7, which we previously reviewed, the Surface Book 3 is mostly just a spec refresh. Except for an extra microphone hole in the display and reorganized function key shortcuts, Surface Book 3 features the same design as it’s predecessor. Though many people were disappointed by the iterative nature of this release, a refresh was overdue for the Surface Book line. (Surface Book 2 was released more than two and a half years ago.)
Despite the mundane nature of this refresh, I’ve gone ahead and picked up a Surface Book 3 to replace my aging (still going strong!) Surface Book 2. A comparison between the two is the obvious thing to do, so I picked up the model from the same tier my Surface Book 2 was on when it was released. This is the 13.5″ Surface Book 3 with NVIDIA GTX 1650 graphics, 256GB of storage, and 16GB of RAM. This model goes for about $2000 at the Microsoft Store, from which $200 may be taken off if you qualify for Student or Military discounts.
The Surface Book can detach its screen into what Microsoft calls the “Clipboard”. This detach mechanism is what defines the Surface Book. Because of the importance of this mechanism, Microsoft has reduced the time it takes to detach which each generation of Surface Book. Having only just unboxed the Surface Book 3, it’s already apparent just how much more quickly you can detach the screen.
Surface Book 3 features Intel’s 10th generation i7 1065G7 CPU with Iris Plus graphics, which brings it in line with the Surface Pro 7. Unlike the Surface Pro 7, however, the 1065G7 in the Surface Book 3 does not have a cooling fan. The fanless design of the new Surface Book has the advantage of keeping the device totally silent at the expense of more restricted thermals. Ironically, because the Surface Pro 7 does have a fan to cool its 1065G7, it may actually outperform the CPU on the Surface Book 3 under load. I view this as a design flaw, however, I’ll have to use the device more to see how exactly this affects real-world performance.
On a positive note, the Iris Plus graphics integrated into the new CPU will give the Surface Book 3 a considerable boost in general graphics performance. Even though the Surface Book has a separate, more powerful dedicated graphics card, it’s only used when running applications with big enough workloads to demand that extra power. For everything else, including web-browsing, word processing, or even the Windows UI, the CPU’s integrated graphics do all the work.
For more intense graphical workloads, the 13.5″ Surface Book 3 also has a GTX 1650 with Max-Q design. This new graphics card should be much quieter and less power-hungry than the one it replaced while offering better performance.
How will all of these changes affect how the Surface Book 3 actually performs? Does this design still make sense in 2020? I’ll have to use it more to be sure. Be sure to stick around for our full review.