Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: A cheat sheet

Here's everything you need to know about the third version of Microsoft's Surface laptop, available in both 13.5-inch and 15-inch models.

Microsoft's new Surface devices are loaded with 'impressive engineering' Microsoft's seven-year-old Surface line welcomes a slew of new and updated devices--including a few surprises. Ed Bott walks us through the highlights.

Microsoft's Surface Laptop 3 is a thin, lightweight, midrange Windows PC designed to compete with rival devices such as the Apple MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. Announced at Microsoft's Surface event on October 2, 2019, the Surface Laptop 3 also aims to outshine its two predecessors with beefier specs and more versatile features as well as a choice of a 13.5-inch or 15-inch screen.

This guide will describe the details of the new Surface Laptop 3, and it will be updated on a regular basis as new information becomes available. 

SEE: All of TechRepublic's cheat sheets and smart person's guides

What is the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3? 

The Surface Laptop 3 is the third generation of Microsoft's midrange Apple MacBook challenger, following the original Surface Laptop in 2017 and the Surface Laptop 2 in 2018. The Surface Laptop 3 comes in two flavors: A 13.5-inch model with a price tag that starts at $999 and a 15-inch model starting at $1,199. Currently available for preorder, the two models start shipping on October 22, 2019.

Additional resources

What are the new features in the Surface Laptop 3?

The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 is powered by a quad-core 10th-generation Intel Ice Lake processor, which Microsoft says is twice as powerful as the chip in the Surface Laptop 2 and three times more powerful than the chip that drives the MacBook Air. The 15-inch model boasts an Advanced Micro Devices Ryzen 7 Microsoft Surface Edition processor, which Microsoft calls "the fastest processor for any laptop in its class today." The graphics on the 15-inch unit are powered by an AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 processor.

ryzen.jpg

Advanced Micro Devices Ryzen 7 Microsoft Surface Edition processor

Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

The new Precision Trackpad is 20% larger than the one on the Surface Laptop 2. The keyboard has a reduced key travel distance of 1.3mm vs. 1.5mm in the Surface Laptop 2. Microsoft says that the keys were designed for a relatively silent typing experience.

There's no need to push a power button and then wait for the laptop to boot up--with the new Instant On capability, opening the lid immediately turns on the Surface Laptop 3. The new machine adds a USB-C port, which the Surface Laptop 2 does not have, so you can connect to all the latest USB peripherals and accessories; a USB-A port is also available to connect to older devices. A fast charging connection promises to charge the computer to 80% in less than an hour.

SEE: Mobile device security: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The Surface Laptop 3 is designed with a machine aluminum finish. For the interior, you can choose between a metal palm rest and an Alcantara material palm rest. The laptop's modular design should make it easy to replace the removable hard drive. To swap out the drive or another component or have the laptop serviced for repairs, the keyboard deck come off easily with the right tool. That's a distinct contrast with Apple's MacBook laptops, which can be difficult to take apart to replace or repair internal components. In the interest of design, the Surface Laptop 3 has no speaker holes or rubber bumpers around the screen.

The Pixel Sense Display comes with a touch screen. Omnisonic speakers deliver the sound, and Studio mics serve as the microphones. Weighing in at 3.4 pounds, the Surface Laptop 3 is a half a pound lighter than its predecessor.

Microsoft promises all-day battery life on a single charge, which is the same claims it made for the original Surface Laptop and the Surface Laptop 2.

The Surface Laptop 3 is available for consumers and for businesses. The core design and physical characteristics are the same for the consumer and business models; however, certain components either differ or are optional on one versus the other. For example, the 15-inch consumer model comes with the AMD Ryzen 7 CPU and the AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 graphics chip, but the 15-inch business model uses the quad-core 10th-generation Intel Ice Lake processor and an Intel Iris Plus Graphics processor. Windows 10 Pro comes standard on the business model, but costs $99 extra with the consumer edition. Please refer to the information below to see the differences between the consumer and business models.

Additional resources

What are the specs for the Surface Laptop 3 for consumers?

Display

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch

  • Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense Display
  • Resolution: 2256 x 1504 (201 PPI)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Surface Pen enabled
  • Touch: 10 point multi-touch


Surface Laptop 3 15-inch

  • Screen: 15-inch PixelSense Display
  • Resolution: 2496 x 1664 (201 PPI)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Surface Pen enabled
  • Touch: 10 point multi-touch

Memory

  • Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch: 8 GB or 16 GB LPDDR4x RAM
  • Surface Laptop 3 15-inch: 8 GB or 16 GB DDR4 RAM

Processor

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch

  • Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G7 Processor
  • Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 Processor


Surface Laptop 3 15-inch

  • AMD Ryzen 5 3580U Mobile Processor with Radeon Vega 9 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition 
  • AMD Ryzen 7 3780U Mobile Processor with Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition

Storage

  • Technician removable solid-state drive (SSD)6 options: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB 

Battery life

  • Surface Laptop 3 13.5": Up to 11.5 hours of typical device usage
  • Surface Laptop 3 15": Up to 11.5 hours of typical device usage

Graphics

Surface Laptop 3 13.5"

  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics

Surface Laptop 3 15"

  • AMD Radeon Vega 9 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition 
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition    

Connections

  • 1 x USB-C
  • 1 x USB-A
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • 1 x Surface Connect port
  • Compatible with Surface Dial off-screen interaction

Cameras, video, and audio

  • Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)
  • 720p HD f2.0 camera (front-facing)
  • Dual far-field Studio Mics
  • Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium

Wireless

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch

  • Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible 

Surface Laptop 3 15-inch

  • Wi-Fi 5: 802.11ac compatible
  • Bluetooth Wireless 5.0 technology

Security

  • Firmware TPM  
  • Enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello face sign-in

Exterior

  • Casing: Aluminum

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch Colors:

  • Sandstone with metal palm rest
  • Matte Black with metal palm rest
  • Platinum with Alcantara material palm rest
  • Cobalt Blue with Alcantara material palm rest


Surface Laptop 3 15-inch Colors:

  • Platinum with metal palm rest
  • Matte Black with metal palm rest

Software

  • Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 10 Pro ($99 extra)
  • Microsoft Office 365 30-day trial

Sensors

  • Ambient light sensor

What's in the Surface Laptop 3's box?

  • Surface Laptop 3
  • Power Supply
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Safety and warranty documents

Weight

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch

  • Sandstone and Matte Black: 2.84 lb (1,288 g)
  • Cobalt Blue and Platinum: 2.79 lb (1,265 g)

Surface Laptop 3 15-inch

  • Platinum and Matte Black: 3.40 lb (1,542 g)

Warranty

  • 1-year limited hardware warranty
  • Support from Microsoft Store
  • 30-day return policy
  • 90 days of free technical phone support
  • 12 months in-store support and technical assistance
  • 1 free training session to transfer data and optimize performance   

What are the specs for the Surface Laptop 3 for business users?

Display

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch

  • Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense Display
  • Resolution: 2256 x 1504 (201 PPI)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Surface Pen enabled
  • Touch: 10 point multi-touch


Surface Laptop 3 15-Inch

  • Screen: 15-inch PixelSense Display
  • Resolution: 2496 x 1664 (201 PPI)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Surface Pen enabled
  • Touch: 10 point multi-touch

Memory

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch: 8 GB or 16 GB LPDDR4x RAM
Surface Laptop 3 15-inch: 8 GB, 16 GB, or 32 GB LPDDR4x RAM

Processor

  • Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch: Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G7 Processor
  • Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch: Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 Processor 

Storage

  • Technician removable solid-state drive (SSD) options: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1TB

Battery life

  • Surface Laptop 3 13.5": Up to 11.5 hours of typical device usage
  • Surface Laptop 3 15": Up to 11.5 hours of typical device usage

Graphics

  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics

Connections

  • 1 x USB-C
  • 1 x USB-A
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • 1 x Surface Connect port
  • Compatible with Surface Dial off-screen interaction

Cameras, video, and audio

  • Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)
  • 720p HD f2.0 camera (front-facing)
  • Dual far-field Studio Mics
  • Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium 

Wireless

  • Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch: Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible
  • Surface Laptop 3 15-inch: Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible
  • Bluetooth Wireless 5.0 technology

Security

  • TPM 2.0 chip for enterprise security
  • Enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello face sign-in 

Exterior

  • Casing: Aluminum
  • Power and Volume buttons on keyboard


Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch colors

  • Sandstone with metal palm rest 
  • Matte Black with metal palm rest 
  • Cobalt Blue with Alcantara material palm rest 
  • Platinum with Alcantara material palm rest

Surface Laptop 3 15-inch colors

  • Matte Black with metal palm rest
  • Platinum with metal palm rest

Software

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 1 month trial for new Microsoft Office 365 customers 

Sensors

  • Ambient light sensor

What's in the Surface Laptop 3's box?

  • Surface Laptop 3
  • Power Supply
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Safety and warranty documents 

Weight

  • Surface Laptop 3 13.5" in Matte Black and Sandstone: 2.84 lb (1,288 g)
  • Surface Laptop 3 13.5" in Platinum and Cobalt Blue: 2.79 lb (1,265 g)
  • Surface Laptop 3 15" in Platinum and Matte Black: 3.4 lb (1,542 g)

Warranty

  • 1-year limited hardware warranty

How do the Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch, 15-inch, and the Surface 2 compare?

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch

Surface Laptop 3 15-inch

Surface Laptop 2

Processor options

Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G7 Processor
Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 Processor

AMD Ryzen 5 3580U Mobile Processor with Radeon Vega 9 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition 
AMD Ryzen 7 3780U Mobile Processor with Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition

Intel Core 8th Gen i5 or i7

Hard drive options

128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB

128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB

128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB

Memory options

8 GB or 16 GB LPDDR4x RAM

8 GB or 16 GB DDR4 RAM

8 GB or 16 GB RAM

Display

13.5-inch PixelSense screen, 2256 x 1504 pixels

15-inch PixelSense screen, 2496 x 1664 pixels

13.5-inch PixelSense screen, 2256 x 1504 pixels

Graphics

Intel Iris Plus Graphics

AMD Radeon Vega 9 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition 
AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition

Intel UHD Graphics 620 (i5)
Intel UHD Graphics 620 (i7)

Connections

1 x USB-C
1 x USB-A
3.5 mm headphone jack
1 x Surface Connect port

1 x USB-C
1 x USB-A
3.5 mm headphone jack
1 x Surface Connect port

1 x full-size USB 3.0
3.5 mm headphone jack
Mini DisplayPort
1 x Surface Connect port

Dimensions

12.1" x 8.8" x .57"

13.4" x 9.6" x .57"

12.13" x 8.79" x .57"

Battery life

Up to 11.5 hours of typical device usage

Up to 11.5 hours of typical device usage

Up to 14.5 hours of local video playback

Starting price

$999

$1,199

$899

What are the Surface Laptop 3's main competitors?

The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 competes with Apple's MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, while the 15-inch model competes with the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The Macbook Air starts at $1,099, and the MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 for the 13-inch model and $2,399 for the 15-inch model.

Below are the specs for the Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch and 15-inch and the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro:

Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch

Surface Laptop 3 15-inch

MacBook Air

MacBook Pro

Processor options

Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G7 Processor
Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 Processor

AMD Ryzen 5 3580U Mobile Processor with Radeon Vega 9 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition 
AMD Ryzen 7 3780U Mobile Processor with Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition

1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5

13-inch:
1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, configurable to 1.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, configurable to 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
15-inch:
2.6GHz 6-core Intel Core i7, configurable to 2.4GHz 8-core Intel Core i9
2.3GHz 8-core Intel Core i9, configurable to 2.4GHz 8-core Intel Core i9

Hard drive options

128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

256GB, 512GB, 1TB

13-inch: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
15-inch: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB

Memory options

8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x RAM

8GB or 16GB DDR4 RAM

8GB or 16GB LPDDR3 RAM

13-inch: 8GB or 16GB
15-inch: 16GB, 32GB

Display

13.5-inch PixelSense screen, 2256 x 1504 pixels

15-inch PixelSense screen, 2496 x 1664 pixels

13.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS, 2560 x 1600 pixels

13.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS, 2560 x 1600 pixels
15.4-inch LED-backlit display with IPS, 2,880 x 1,800 pixels

Graphics

Intel Iris Plus Graphics

AMD Radeon Vega 9 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition 
AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics Microsoft Surface Edition

Intel UHD Graphics 617 with support for Thunderbolt 3–enabled GPU

13-inch: Intel Iris Plus
15-inch: Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
Intel UHD Graphics 630, configurable to Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory

Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
Intel UHD Graphics 630, configurable to Radeon Pro Vega 16 with 4GB of HBM2 memory or Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory

Connection

1 x USB-C
1 x USB-A
3.5 mm headphone jack
1 x Surface Connect port

1 x USB-C
1 x USB-A
3.5 mm headphone jack
1 x Surface Connect port

Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports with support for: Charging, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, USB-C 3.1 Gen 2

Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports with support for: Charging, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, USB 3.1 Gen 2

Dimensions

12.1" x 8.8" x .57"

13.4" x 9.6" x .57"

11.97" x 8.36" x .61"

13-inch: 11.97" x 8.36" x 0.59"

How can I get the Surface Laptop 3, and how much does it cost?

The Surface Laptop 3 (13.5") is available for pre-order now in US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK.

The Surface Laptop 3 (15") is available for pre-order now in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK.

Prices start at $999 for the 13.5-inch model and $1,199 for the 15-inch model. Both models start shipping on October 22, 2019.

Additional resources

surfacelaptop3.jpg

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Image: Sarah Tew/CNET