Microsoft Surface Book 3 review: High speed, dated design

The Surface Book 3.

Jordan Novet | CNBC

Microsoft has barely changed the design of its Surface convertible tablet since its introduction in 2012.

Today, the company uses a similar strategy with the Surface Book, a laptop from which you can remove the screen and use it as a tablet. This month, the company is releasing updated versions of the Surface Book, available with 13.5-inch and 15-inch screens, and they look exactly like the models released in 2017 – and the original that debuted in 2015.

Microsoft could be more experimental with this product. The company continues to ship fewer PCs than Dell, HP, and Lenovo, and the Surface Book doesn’t have the brand recognition that the Surface Pro tablet does (although it has a follow-up among Microsoft attorneys due to the resemblance of the screen to a legal stamp). Sales of Microsoft devices have increased less than 1% year over year in the past three quarters, according to the company’s latest income statement. Many other areas of the business have grown faster.

But for now, Microsoft is choosing to refine a good laptop, rather than rethinking it.

Can you tell which one is Surface Book 2 and which one is Surface Book 3?

Jordan Novet | CNBC

The big changes Microsoft made in Surface Book 3 are all inside. Microsoft offers up to 32 GB of memory for the first time, longer battery life than any previous Surface, and the fastest solid-state storage drive it has ever stuck in a computer. Microsoft has added powerful Intel Core chips inside, as well as graphics cards using Nvidia‘s enhanced technology.

The Surface Book 2 was already fast when I tested it in 2017. This time, Microsoft sent me a 15-inch model of the Surface Book 3 with 32 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage and a Core i7 chip- 1065G7. A model with these specifications would cost around $ 2,800, and it is clearly faster for tasks such as web browsing, working with spreadsheets, playing games, and playing videos.

Which is good

Here’s just about all the good news: the performance is excellent. The computer stays quiet and cool to the touch while managing workloads that can test smaller machines.

Also, it takes three seconds to detach the screen, compared to about four seconds on the Surface Book 2. It’s good if you frequently remove the screen to write or scribble with a stylus, or just read in a more comfortable position. .

Browsing the web can be more comfortable in tablet mode.

Jordan Novet | CNBC

If you liked the previous Surface books, there is more good news.

The case is still made of smooth magnesium like a river rock. The keyboard remains pleasant to type. The screen is just as bright and clear as before. The 1080p front and rear cameras are the same, the weight is the same and the ports are the same as the previous versions.

What is bad

If you want to show off your new purchases, you probably won’t appreciate that the Surface Book 3 looks and feels almost exactly like the products it replaces. There’s something to be said for an approach like Apple takes with the iPhone, where it regularly updates internal components, but also deploys new visually obvious designs with each revision, so people always know who is wearing the latest model.

The Surface Book could use a little design refresh. The frames around the screen seem a bit dated, for example, because other Windows notebooks from manufacturers like Dell have almost eliminated the screen bezels.

I usually have about six and a half hours of battery life on the Surface Book 3. This is disappointing because I have almost seven and a half hours on the previous model and because Microsoft touted the battery gains with this update .

Microsoft has reorganized the keys on the keyboard’s function line. Directly to the right of the escape key are the keyboard backlight and mute buttons, rather than the keys to lower and increase the screen brightness. If you want to upgrade to this model from an older version, you will need time to acclimatize to the change.

New nodes on the F4 and F8 keys can help you quickly increase the volume or take a screenshot.

Jordan Novet | CNBC

You don’t have all of the software box functionality that you did on the first and second Surface Books. Microsoft ships Surface Book 3 with Windows 10 Home, not Windows 10 Pro, which includes features like BitLocker encryption and Hyper-V to run virtual machines. An upgrade to Windows 10 Pro costs an additional $ 99.

As was the case with older Surface Books, this is not particularly suitable when it comes to hardware upgrades. A few months ago, Microsoft introduced improvements to the Surface Laptop that make it easier to switch device storage. The company has made no such changes to the Surface Book.

Finally, the price of a Surface Book 3 can be high if you want a more powerful configuration. If you don’t feel attached to the design of the Surface Book, you might be happy with something less versatile. A Dell XPS 15 or Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme with specifications similar to the Surface I had would cost less than $ 2,500.

Iterative is good, but not exciting

Do not mistake yourself. The Surface Book 3 is not a bad PC. If you need a new PC, you could do worse.

It’s just iterative and no longer looks fresh. It’s not a big step forward for Microsoft’s most powerful PC. When Microsoft redesigns the Surface Book and gives this otherwise very good laptop a modern look, it will be easier to justify the madness.

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