Review: Microsoft's Surface Book 3 is a great all-rounder

Microsoft's Surface Book 3 review.
Microsoft's Surface Book 3 15". Photo credit: Newshub.

Microsoft released its Surface Book 3 in New Zealand as the COVID-19 pandemic raged and saw many of us at home a lot more than we normally would be.

The tech giant describes it as the most powerful Surface device yet, with a focus on speed, graphics and long battery life that make it ideal for many customers - including those needing to work from home.

All that power of course comes with a fairly high price tag, so is worth it?

I've been using the Surface Book 3 for the last few weeks and here are my thoughts.

The good

My favourite thing about the Surface Book 3 is its screen, which is just gorgeous.

The unit I've been using is a 15" display with a resolution of 3240 x 2160 - essentially a 3:2 version of 4K (3840 x 2160), or just shy of 7 million pixels.

That's a lot of pixels, and the fidelity they bring to whatever it is you have on the screen is just fantastic.

The 3:2 display is surprisingly effective in feeling like it gives you much more room than a 16:9 display, too. It makes it comfortable to snap various apps to different parts of the screen while multitasking, and means you can read more of a webpage before needing to scroll down.

The cool unique feature of all Surface Books is back and just as handy as always - hit a button and the screen pops off the keyboard, becoming a tablet instead of a laptop.

Microsoft's Surface Book 3 15 inch.
It doesn't stop being cool turning a laptop into a tablet by pushing a key. Photo credit: Newshub.

Of course one of the biggest draw cards of Surface Book 3s is their power.

The unit I've been using has a quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor with 32GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (6GB, Max-Q) graphics card.

What does that mean? Well, that means it plays Call of Duty: Warzone and Civilization VI: Gathering Storm incredibly well.

It also means working from home was far less frustrating than it would be on a less powerful machine. The Surface Pro 3 easily handled running a video editing software programme simultaneously with Photoshop, Spotify, Word, Excel, Zoom and Google Chrome while it had a few dozen tabs open - some on fairly hefty pages like the Adobe Experience Manager interface.

Alt-tabbing between these open apps instead of closing them down and launching them when needed was very satisfying and saved a lot of time.

Most of this beast's engine is in the screen half of it, meaning the keyboard part doesn't heat up like other laptops. If you're using it on your lap for a few hours this is a big plus.

Using Microsoft's Surface Pen is also super helpful in a lot of applications.

I am not a professional user of this sort of thing, but I work with plenty. I brought the Surface Pro 3 into the Newshub graphics department for a bit of a play and they all seemed pretty impressed.

"The pen feels good in the hand and offers almost no lag when drawing with it," said graphics supervisor Jordan Frost.

"The screen heats up slightly after a bit of use, but not enough for it to bother me. It also does a great job of ignoring your palm pressure to avoid accidental touches." 

Review: Microsoft's Surface Book 3 is a great all-rounder.
Using the Surface Pen, a professional graphic designer will find the Surface Book 3 very effective. Photo credit: Newshub.

The battery life is also fantastic, giving several hours of usage no matter what you're doing with it - Microsoft reckons up to 17.5 hours.

The built-in cameras are also great, giving you 1080p on both the front and back. This is fantastic for video conferencing and such, which has obviously seen a boom in popularity this year.

The bad

The cheapest Surface Book 3 you can get in New Zealand is just under $3000. The one I've been using would set you back a little more than $5300.

You're definitely getting a high-end machine for your money, but that's a big chunk of change no matter how you look at it. 

I know there's a trend of putting less and less ports into our devices by companies like Apple and Microsoft these days, in favour of wireless connections, but I don't like it.

Not including a Thunderbolt port is particularly annoying.

Here's what the Surface Pro 3 does offer:

  • Two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports
  • One USB Type-C port
  • One 3.5mm headphone jack 
  • One full-size SDXC card reader

It means you're likely going to have to spend quite a bit on various dongles and peripherals.  

One of those peripherals you're going to want to get is a mouse, as the Surface Book 3's trackpad is really small.

You also need to buy the pen separately. If you get the official Microsoft versions of all these peripherals, that's several-hundred extra dollars to fork out on top of the several thousand you've already spent to buy the thing.

It also seems like it would be cheap and easy to add more than just the two USB-A ports, which would be helpful.

While the screen looks amazing, it's still much smaller than most modern TVs - and given the power of this thing, it'd be nice if it had an HDMI out port.

If you're watching movies or TV shows, or playing games on the Surface Book 3, you're obviously going to be wanting to use headphones with it. But if you don't have any handy, the inbuilt speakers aren't great.

They will be fine for the kids watching The Wiggles on it, but this is a pricey unit to be entrusting to the care of a little one.

15 inch Surface Book 3 keyboard.
The feel of the Surface Book 3's keyboard is great. Photo credit: Newshub.


The Surface Book 3 is a powerful machine that's a great all-rounder. For people who want a laptop to do a bit of work on and a bit of play on, it's ideal.

Hardcore gamers and certain creative professionals will need desktops with more than one screen, but if a laptop will possibly suffice then this is a great option.

And of course this is not just a laptop - it doubles as a tablet that's about as good as tablets get.

It all looks and feels stylish and elegant. I love the feel of the keyboard and even opening and closing this thing - there's never any creaking or anything, and it just feels nice.

But most importantly, playing games on it, watching media on it and working on it is all easily and satisfyingly done.

It's far from cheap, but people looking to invest in a laptop they're going to be using a whole lot should definitely give it a look.