Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch) review: Microsoft's 15-inch laptop is all business

Though we loved the 13-inch Surface Laptop when it first shipped two years ago, a lot has changed for thin and light premium laptops since then. Now the line just doesn’t stand out the way it once did, even the new 15-inch model. At first it isn’t clear who the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is for: Compared to the rest of its many competitors, it’s not particularly light, or fast or feature packed. It’s not inexpensive or full of cutting-edge tech and it doesn’t have a long battery life. But it’s reasonably light, sufficiently fast, looks pleasantly sleek, is partly upgradeable, backward-compatible with previous power supplies and sold by Microsoft. So it probably does make sense for one class of laptop buyers: enterprise.  

The pricing for the 15-inch model starts at $1,199 (£1,199, AU$1,999), but that version has only 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Windows 10 takes 20GB, and if you’re a Microsoft Office shop that will take another 6GB, and with that little memory you’ll run a pretty large swap file. You really can’t run anything on that configuration except maybe cloud-based applications, and even then it’s barely really enough memory to hold Windows and a lot of browser tabs. It’s possible that this configuration was intended to run a lightweight version of Windows rumored to compete with Chrome OS, but who knows.

Our $1,699 (£1,699, AU$2,799) test configuration, with 16GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, is the minimum configuration I could recommend, and even that storage is only enough if you don’t save a lot of files locally or download video for travel. And that’s a lot to pay for what you get compared with competitors: Laptops like the Lenovo Yoga C930, which is smaller at 14 inches but superior in every other way for hundreds less, or the LG Gram 17, which has a slightly larger footprint (a 17-inch display in a 15.6-inch size) but delivers a lot more for the same money. On sale it might be a different story, though.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)

Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)
Price as reviewed $1,699 (£1,699, AU$2,799)
Display 15-inch 2,496 x 1,664 (201 ppi, 3:2 aspect ratio) pen and touch display
PC CPU AMD Ryzen 5 3580U Microsoft Surface Edition
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2667MHz
Graphics AMD Vega 9
Storage 256GB SSD
Ports 1 x USB-C, 1 x USB-A, headphone jack, proprietary power
Networking Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), Bluetooth 5
Operating system Windows 10 Home 1903
Weight 3.4 lbs/1.5 kg

The design is essentially the same as the 13-inch Surface Laptop 3, which means it’s basically a bigger Surface Laptop 2, which was essentially just the Surface Laptop. There are two nontrivial differences: a monitor-compatible-via-dongle USB-C port replaces the mini DisplayPort connector and it’s more easily opened, so the SSD can be upgraded (the memory is still soldered and the battery difficult to remove). It also has a metal keyboard deck rather than the odd Alcantara fabric.

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