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Microsoft's Surface Laptop 3 Feels Like a MacBook (And That's a Good Thing)

Microsoft is shaking things up with Surface Laptop 3. The new clamshell notebook now comes in both a 13-inch and 15-inch versions and a new sandblasted aluminum finish is a refreshing alternative to the device's traditional Alcantara fabric. 

We spent some time with the Surface Laptop 3 and are now very excited to get the metal 15-inch model in for review. 

The 13-inch and 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 will start at $999 and $1,199, respectively. You can preorder both of them right now, and they will be available on October 22.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 specs

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13-InchMicrosoft Surface Laptop 3 15-Inch
Starting Price$999$1,199
Display13.5-Inch, 2256 x 150415-inch, 2496 x 1664
CPUIntel Core i7-1065G7Intel Core i7-1065G7 or AMD Ryzen 7 3780U
RAM8GB, 16GB8GB, 16GB
GraphicsIris Plus graphics 950Iris Plus graphics 950 or AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics
Storage128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB SSD128GB/256GB/512GB SSD
PortsOne USB Type-C, one USB Type-A, headphone jack, Surface Connect Port
Size12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches13.4 x 9.6 x 0.57 inches
Weight2.76~2.89 pounds3.4 pounds

The Surface Laptop 3 with a 13-inch display starts at $999, but can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and an Iris Plus graphics 950 GPU.

Meanwhile, the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 will start at $1,199 and can boast the same specs as the 13-inch (minus the 1TB SSD), but can sport an AMD Ryzen 7 3780U processor and an AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 GPU along with the Intel components.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 design

Microsoft added a new color to the Surface Laptop 3 lineup called Sandstone, which looks stunning. There's almost a magic trick going on where the deck of the laptop looks rough but feels smooth. I was partial to the new aluminum material over the Alcantara fabric (which can get dirty of time) even if it makes the Surface Laptop 3 look a lot like the MacBook Pro. That comparison is only amplified by the laptop's smooth surfaces and large touchpad. 

I got my eyes on the black, silver and new Sandstone color, all of which looked fantastic. 

Perhaps the biggest change to the Surface Laptop 3 is the addition of a 15-inch model. Although it's significantly larger than the 13-inch model, the 15-inch laptop still felt very portable because of how lightweight it is. I had no problems holding it with one hand and would have no objections with sliding it into my backpack on a long trip. 

The 13-inch Surface Laptop 3 (2.76~2.89 pounds, 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches) is incredibly light and slim, matching the previous Surface Laptop 2 (2.7 pounds, 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches). The 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 comes in at 3.4 pounds and 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.57 inches, impressively maintaining the same Z-height.

Both systems feature one USB Type-C port (finally), one USB Type-A port, a headphone jack and a Surface Connect Port. That's not a lot of ports for a 15-inch laptop, but hey, at least USB-C is making an entrance. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 display

The Surface Laptop 3 comes in a 13.5-inch and 15-inch panel.

Its 13.5-inch screen has the same resolution as the previous generation, at 2256 x 1504, while the 15-inch boasts a screen resolution of 2496 x 1664. We'll do more rigorous testing during our full review, but both 13-inch and 15-inch panels looked bright and vibrant under the dim lights of this event space. That isn't surprising considering that the Surface Laptop 2 had one of the best displays we've ever seen. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 keyboard, touchpad and pen

The 13-inch and 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 will feature Alacantara fabric or aluminum on the keyboard, which offers 1.3 millimeters of key travel. Taking a jab at the MacBook Pro's keyboard durability, Microsoft has enabled the Alacantara keyboard to be completely removed in order to be more easily repaired.

I can also say with some confidence that the Surface Laptop 3's keyboard is more comfortable to use than Apple's faulty component. I did a bit of typing on the Surface Laptop 3 and found that they have a nice snappiness to them and decent key travel considering how thin the laptop is. 

The Surface Pen features 4,096 levels of pressure, tilt sensing and 0.1mm precision. According to Microsoft, it has the best-in-class latency

The Surface Laptop 3's touchpad is 20% larger than the previous generation, at 115 x 76.66 mm. The difference is notable and reminded me a lot of the MacBook Pro's trackpad. The Laptop 3's touchpad is also made out of glass and supports five-finger multitouch gestures.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 battery life

Microsoft claims that both the 13-inch and 15-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 can survive up to 11.5 hours on a single charge, which would be an excellent improvement over the Surface Laptop 2's 9:22.

Outlook

I was really impressed with the Surface Laptop 3 during my brief period with the new clamshell device. I wasn't initially thrilled with the idea of a new finish (I'm a big fan of the Alcantara), but those fears vanished once I got my hands on the gorgeous aluminum model.

But the best thing about the Surface Laptop 3 is that it will now be offered with a 15-inch display, making it more competitive against Dell's XPS laptops and Apple's MacBook Pros. We're bummed by the lack of ports on the 15-inch version, but an ultraportable design and vivid display can make up for that shortcoming. 

We're excited to get both the 13-inch and 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 through our lab to see what they're really made of. Stay tuned for our full review and benchmarks. Also, keep an eye out of our coverage for the Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro X, Surface Neo and Windows 10X.

As soon as Rami Tabari sprung out of the College of Staten Island, he hit the ground running as a Staff Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline in Tom’s Guide, taking on the latest Souls-like challenge.