At the beginning of last October, our MC colleagues were wondering if Microsoft was taking some steps to become a second Apple. The reason? The celebration in New York of the most important Surface event in its history.
A real celebration of hardware in which Redmond presented no less than six devices: Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro X, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Neo, Surface Duo and Surface Earbuds.
While for the newest devices you will still have to wait almost a year (Surface Neo, Surface Duo) the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is already here, available for both home users and professionals.
It is the third review of what is that “made by Microsoft” laptop and with which the company expects to start competing little by little, without making too much noise, against its own OEM partners.
Why? Because following the strategy that Google opened with its Pixel and Android, Microsoft wants to show the world that it is about this machine on which the best Windows 10 experience can be offered . Let’s see if he succeeds.
- 15 ″ PixelSense touch screen. Resolution: 2496 x 1664 (201 dpi).
- RAM: 8 GB or 16 GB DDR4 RAM
- Internal storage: SSD 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1TB
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3580U / AMD Ryzen 7 3780U
- Graphics card: Radeon Vega 9 Graphics / Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics
- Battery life: up to 11.5 hours
- Connections: 1 x USB-C, 1x USB-A, Take 3.5 mm headphones, Surface Connect.
- Audio / Video: 720p webcam (compatible with Windows Hello), Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio Premium sound.
Designed to impress
As soon as you take it out of its box, there are two sensations it conveys: having a laptop much lighter than expected and really beautiful. Let’s start with the first. Microsoft delivers in its 15 ″ model a laptop 14.69 mm thick and 1,542 kg of weight. And this, for a team we insist 15 inches is little, really little.
To give you an idea, the Dell XPS 15 ″ , one of the direct competitors of this team, weighs 1.8 kg, the same as the HP EliteBook 850, while its equivalent in Lenovo (basically the ThinkPad X1 family) They only get down to 1.7 kg. In other words, Microsoft presents a 15 ″ laptop with a portability very similar to the one we are going to find in a 13 ″ one.
And as we said, very much to Apple, the Surface Laptop 3 is a certainly beautiful and well designed laptop. It presents in this sense a unibody chassis built in aluminum and in the case of the model we analyze, finished in platinum color (also available in matt megro color) with metal palm rest.
And this in novelty because in this the 15 ″ model Microsoft has said goodbye to that Alcantara material that it had both defenders, especially detractors and that it maintains that, as an option in its 13 ″ model.
Each part of the equipment has been designed to offer an image of minimalist continuity, in which the trackpad and keyboard form a whole with the chassis (and not on the chassis) and in which the polished aluminum of the rear part is only interrupted for a minimal version of the brand logo.
And if we stayed here, we could say it loud and clear: the Surface Laptop 3 competes with Apple’s MacBook Pro on any Starbucks table. So in this section, nothing to object.
Our impression changes slightly however when we analyze more closely what the company does with that 15 ″ body. Because one thing is to praise their minimalism but another very different is to be Spartan. And Microsoft on this team is.
Why? First, its connectivity options are very limited. A single USB-C port and a single USB-A port. We could ignore it in a 13 ″ laptop but it is not what we expect to find in a team of this diagonal . Perhaps to compensate, the company offers that Surface Connect that remembering the old MagSafe thanks to its magnetized head, will save us from more than an accidental fall while charging the battery. Secondly, although we certainly applaud the commitment to that Windows Hello that also works really well on this computer , it is necessary to recognize that there is more than enough space to also include a fingerprint reader.
A productivity machine
Microsoft has long, except obviously on its Xbox consoles, has set its sights on the company. He does it with Office 365, he does it with Azure and yes, he also does it with his hardware, both in his Surface Pro (the Go is perhaps out of this equation) and in his Laptop .
He does it in this case, prioritizing those elements that people will value most when working: great screen quality, a flying keyboard and a trackpad with which you can not go wrong.
Starting with the screen, the declaration of intent begins with the format. Microsoft is committed in this case by a 3: 2 ratio much more suitable for consulting documents and working with long rows of Excel than to consume multimedia content. Its resolution 2496 x 1664 (201 PPI) is excellent offering vivid and natural colors, great viewing angles, absence of reflections even outdoors and extreme softness in its tactile response (with multitouch capacity in up to ten points), in addition to being compatible with the surface pencil.
Sin, however, in two details that should be improved in future revisions. The first, some frames that are too thick for the times (and not that we ask for an Infinity to Dell but Microsoft would have tried harder) and a hinge path that ends only at 115 degrees.
The design of the keyboard and trackpad reminds a lot of what Apple has been doing on their laptops for years. Spaced keys, low profile and short travel, complete with a generous and sensitive trackpad at different pressure intensities.
Microsoft continues to opt for the classic scissor mechanism, which shows those of Cupertino that it is possible to be minimal without reinventing the wheel (with all the “dislikes” that this has given the brand ) and achieve both a good performance.
As for the trackpad, it works as it should, fast and accurate, also making it very easy to “draw” all kinds of gestures such as zoom, turn the page, etc. If we add a touch screen to these two elements with which it is very easy to scroll, select text, etc. We have almost all the ingredients of that productivity machine that we have announced.
And we say almost all because although we promised them very happy with those 11.5 hours of autonomy that Redmond’s promise in their technical specification sheet, the reality has turned out to be very different .
In our tests, which to measure this parameter have been limited to a very light but continuous use (Office, Internet browsing, music playback on Spotify) the low battery alert has jumped at five hours. It is true that the illumination of the screen was at maximum and the work we insist has been continued (if it is not, we can stretch it until seven hours maybe) but still, it is far from the announced values.
A litmus test for AMD
While in its 13 ″ model Microsoft has opted for the classic “Wintel marriage (Windows + Intel)” in the 15 ″ model, it has surprised almost everyone opting for AMD. Similarly surprisingly, the results are below expectations.
We notice it first in our daily work. A session with Google Chrome (12 open tabs) and Office seems to work normally at first, but little by little we noticed some “pulls” and not that feeling of fluidity that we could expect from the AMD Ryzen 5 3580U and 8 GB of RAM. So we decided to restart the computer and try again … with the same result.
As it intrigues us, we pass some synthetic tests. And the benchmarks in this case do not deceive, there is more than a slight difference. Geekbench offers a total performance for this team of 11,612 points , which may not say much but if we take into account that the equivalent MacBook Pro gives a score of 31,012 points and the XPS 15 ″ 28,882 points, we begin to see where the problem is . Even when compared with an ultraportable such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, it falls short, in this case reaching 17,000 points.
To this we must add the decision of Microsoft to include a slow SSD disk again. Against the 508.9 MB per second that for example copies the XPS or even the 424 MB per second offered by the Thinkpad, the Microsoft team stays at 282 MB. For users who do office work, photo editing, multimedia content consumption, etc. neither the performance of AMD nor the SSD of this equipment should become a real problem and in fact they can work without noticing . However, going one step further is perhaps entering a somewhat more complicated terrain.
AMD partially compensates with its graph. Without of course having the quality of a dedicated graphics, the truth is that the Vega 9 and Vega 11 included in these models far exceed their Intel companions. We noticed it from the first moment when running some games and later the tests confirm it.
The 3DMark test results in a more than interesting 100,522 which allows you to clearly overcome any competitor in the market with integrated graphics (but not the XPS that includes a dedicated Nvidia Geoforce 1650 graphic) and in a game like Dirt 3 it behaves fluid form at 56 frames per second, above the measure found in premium laptops with integrated graphics.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 of 15 ″ is a laptop that has many ingredients to become one of the great releases of this season (design, portability, screen, keyboard, trackpad, speakers) but that ends up sinning optimism (lack of connectivity , little autonomy) or that you risk too much when you should not (processor).
It is a very good laptop for those who need a team that performs almost perfectly in daily tasks but above all, they need to combine portability with a large screen. In this sense it would not be unusual to find this equipment under the arm of all those executives for whom the train (or the plane) is an extension of the table in his office.
And yet despite its benefits, we can not help feeling that Microsoft in this case has failed to take one more step, a push to compete on equal terms with the best of Dell, Lenovo or HP in this segment .
So if at the beginning of this analysis we were wondering if Microsoft is offering on this laptop the best experience that can be found with Windows 10, the answer would be an already half depends. It is a clearly promising laptop but it has to keep improving.