Gadgets & apps

This article was published on October 3, 2019

Hands-on: The Surface Laptop 3 is the Surface for people who don’t want a Surface

No nonsense

Hands-on: The Surface Laptop 3 is the Surface for people who don’t want a Surface
Surface Laptop 3
Napier Lopez
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Napier Lopez


Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in his free time. Follow him on Twitter.

If I were to rank my personal favorite Surface products, the Surface Laptop would be near the bottom of the list.

This isn’t to say the Laptop is bad; it’s one of the first products I recommend for people looking for a new laptop. It’s just not what I like about Surface hardware, which is to say versatile form factors. The Surface Laptop is the normie of the family, the one for people who don’t care for detachable screens or a flappy keyboard. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Surface Laptop 3 continues in that basic-but-good tradition, except now you can buy it in a 15-inch size too. From my brief time with it, it still has one of the best keyboards on the market, the excellent trackpad is now 20 percent larger, and the speakers still seem surprisingly loud (as far as I could tell in the crowded venue, anyway). Though the bezels are rather large by 2019 standards, the display is still great too.

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More importantly, the Laptop 3 addresses two of the ‘quirks’ that were potential caveats with previous generations. For one, the laptop finally supports USB-C, catching up with literally every competitor in the premium laptop space. For another, it’s now available in a boring but more durable all-metal design, ditching the fabric palm rest in some configurations.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a very pretty laptop. In particular, I love that the laptop is so meticulously engineered that Microsoft doesn’t need a notch to help you open the lid. The lid sticks out almost imperceptibly when folded, which, when combined with the precisely tweaked hinge, gives you just enough purchase to comfortably lift the screen with one finger.

But if you ask me, the Alcantara palm rest is the best thing about the Surface Laptop. It just feels cozy in a way few laptops ever do, and in my experience, it’s held up well over the years with minimal maintenance. Luckily, you can still buy the Surface Laptop with Alcantara, but now only in the Blue and Silver colorways, and only on the 13.5-inch model. Fine by me, as the Cobalt blue is the best color ever used in a laptop, but I’m sorry, people who like red.

Still, at least you do have some options. Next to a lack of USB-C, worries over aging fabric is one of the main reasons I’ve seen for people opting against buying a Surface Laptop. I expect Microsoft will be able to pull in a new set of buyers thanks to these two changes. As a nice bonus, the laptop is easier to service now too, including a removable top-plate and an SSD that’s fairly easy to access despite the externally screw-less design.

13.5-inch vs 15-inch

In case you’re wondering, the 15-inch Surface Laptop is pretty much exactly what you’d expect. It’s bigger. The keyboard and trackpad are identical to the smaller version – which is to say some of the best ever put in a laptop (the trackpad is 20 percent larger now on both models too). But it’s surprisingly light, at just 3.4 lb – lighter than the 15-inch MacBook Pro (4.02 lb). I just wish it had more ports than the single USB-A and USB-C, though at least the latter makes it easier to add more accessories.

Of course, I couldn’t gauge anything about performance or battery life in such a short time – I’m especially curious to see how the AMD chip in the 15-inch model performs. If the Surface Laptop has already tickled your fancy, you can pre-order one here starting at $999 for the 13.5-inch model and $1,199 for the 15-inch one. Stay tuned for our review once we get our hands on production units.

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