Microsoft Surface Book 3 13.5 review: A bold but ageing beauty


The Microsoft Area Reserve three.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Have you viewed the first thirteen-inch 2015 Area Reserve, or its 2018 followup? Then this new version is going to look and really feel incredibly acquainted. In truth, you’re very likely to be underwhelmed by the structure. Which is not because it’s bad, but relatively because it’s the exact. It truly is not unconventional for Apple to release three samey-wanting MacBook Pros in a row, or for Dell to do so with its XPS line, but these laptops arrive out every yr. The Area Reserve, Windows’ laptop-tablet hybrid, has retained the exact structure language considering that 2015.


  • Versatile and one of a kind laptop-tablet-convertible structure
  • Exceptional graphical electric power for a laptop of its dimension
  • Fantastic keyboard and three:two display

Do not Like

  • Design is becoming stale
  • Speakers are significantly far too delicate
  • No Thunderbolt three port

That jumped out, because this is an bold product that combines the entire electric power of a laptop with the removable portability of a tablet (oh and double batteries). It truly is even 1 of the few removable two-in-1 Windows units that can make additional sense as a laptop. 

The Area Reserve three is certainly high-class — its wonderful build good quality is apparent from the instant you touch it. Nevertheless seducing purchasers with a hot new structure is clearly not Microsoft’s prepare. As an alternative, it’s hoping brute electric power is adequate.

You get a tenth-technology Intel chip no make any difference what configuration you buy, a pleasant increase from its predecessor’s eighth-gen CPU. The array commences at $1,599 (AU$two,649, £1,599) but that variant comes with just a Core i5 processor and integrated graphics. You might be significantly greater off dropping additional to get an i7 chip and, additional importantly, an Nvidia GTX 1650-Max Q graphics card ($1,999, AU$three,399 and £1,999). This is an enhancement about the Reserve 2’s GPU and Microsoft also offers designs with 32GB of RAM ($two,499, AU$four,129, £2,449), double the Area Reserve 2’s amount.  

The Area Reserve three isn’t low cost. But though it asks a ton from you, it provides a ton far too. A removable display screen can make it each a laptop and a tablet, significantly handy for creatives when paired with the Area Pen (which disappointingly isn’t provided, it’s an additional $99). It provides welcome gaming and video processing electric power which is unconventional for a laptop of this dimension. And, least hot but perhaps most crucial, it’s an excellent clamshell laptop, with a significantly snug keyboard and a stunning display.

Still, as good as a laptop as it is, it’s prohibitively high-priced for these of you who are simply just wanting for a laptop to ship email messages, make spreadsheets and look at Netflix on. But if you’re just after a thirteen-inch laptop with electric power normally reserved for equipment 15-inches and up, or if you’re a fan of the OG Area Reserve or its successor and have particular will need for the additional electric power supplied here, the Area Reserve three is a delight. If gaming is your key issue, on the other hand, we have a managing listing of excellent gaming laptops less than $999 you ought to consult. 


A nearer look at the Area Book’s “fulcrum hinge”.

Ian Knighton/CNET

A one of a kind take

Though the Area Reserve three is equivalent in several approaches to the Area Reserve two and the two to the first, the Area Reserve line alone is one of a kind. There are plenty of tablet/laptop hybrids out there, but most, like the excellent HP x360, are laptops at coronary heart that enable you to fold the keyboard powering the display, producing it a tablet. Many others, like Microsoft’s Area Professional and Apple’s iPad Professional traces, take strong tablets and enable you clip on keyboards. A clamshell laptop with a detaching display is completely Area Reserve territory.

It performs perfectly, though there are trade-offs. The most conspicuous 1 is visual: The fulcrum hinge that connects the laptop foundation to the display screen. I personally like it, as distinguishing characteristics like it are exceptional in laptops, but several will come across it a transform off. And considering that the display is also a absolutely working tablet, with its individual components and battery, it’s substantially thicker than a standard laptop’s.


It has a stunning three:two display.

Ian Knighton/CNET

There are also small functionality sacrifices. The Intel i5 and i7 chips used, because they reside in the tablet relatively than the foundation, are 15w relatively than the standard 45w variations (Y series vs. U series). This isn’t a massive offer, but it does imply functionality will be a little inhibited for sure duties. (This was mirrored in benchmarking, the place the Area Reserve three carried out perfectly for one-main assessments but significantly even worse for multi-main.)  Much more rankling, the speaker is also inside the tablet. Not only is it softer than my entry-amount, 2017 MacBook Professional, even my phone’s speakers are louder.

Now enjoying:
Check out this:

Microsoft Area Reserve three evaluation: A tiny stale, but…


Display time

Modest challenges like these apart, this is an exceptionally perfectly-built product. 1 of the very best items about the Area Reserve three is its spectacular display screen — its three:two ratio feels just correct and (vs. the normal widescreen 16:9), with a three,000×2,000-pixel resolution and plenty of brightness, its display is satisfyingly crisp — which translates straight into a satisfying tablet experience.

As a tablet, there are certainly areas for enhancement. You will only get about two hrs of use when using the Area Reserve three as a tablet, a portion of what you would get in an iPad Professional. At thirteen.five-inches, it’s far too significant to comfortably use any place, whenever, a problem significantly additional pronounced in the 15-inch design. But once I got used to the dimension and form, I quickly started to relish executing my morning studying using the Area Reserve three as a tablet. All over again: The display screen is fantastic.

Creatives will get the most use out of it, though again, the Area Pen is an additional $99 (AU$139, £99).


You will find a individual battery in the display screen, though it’ll only final a few of hrs.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Graphics run up

Aside from the detaching display, the Area Reserve three has one more welcome characteristic that, though not one of a kind, is exceptional. It truly is frequent to get discrete graphics in 15-inch laptops, but unconventional in thirteen-inch types. Even then, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card that comes with all but the entry-amount Area Reserve three is noticeably additional strong than the graphics chips usually used in thirteen-inch equipment. The only other thirteen-inch laptop to provide that type of graphical grunt is the Razer Blade Stealth ($1,549 at Amazon).

Which is not adequate electric power to make it a really serious gaming laptop per se. Though you are going to be equipped to participate in most video games, you are going to have to lower the resolution or element amount to get demanding types to operate easily. And it’s not really strong adequate for large-close imaginative get the job done, like 3D rendering. But it’s adequate electric power to do and participate in noticeably additional on this as in comparison to pretty much any other thirteen-inch laptop. I was equipped to participate in Rise of the Tomb Raider easily in Complete High definition, albeit with graphical configurations switched down, which is a authentic luxury for a laptop of this dimension.


The thirteen.five- and 15-inch Area Reserve 3s. 

Ian Knighton/CNET

Aside from its dazzling display and appreciated electric power, I was also consistently struck by how large-quality the keyboard is: The Area Reserve three is significantly bigger than other thirteen-inch laptops, but the upside of this is that the keyboard is refreshingly roomy. It truly is 1 of the most snug I have at any time used on a laptop. The trackpad is a tiny small, but flawlessly responsive. Battery life is much less superlative, but nonetheless higher than ordinary.

But at these types of a hefty price, the Area Reserve three ought to be fantastic in all these approaches. That price can make it really hard to propose to just anyone. It truly is not that the Area Reserve three is far too high-priced, relatively that the ordinary human being is not likely to take edge of its several luxuries. But if you are 1 of these folks — a imaginative, somebody wanting for a graphically able thirteen-inch laptop, or just a human being wanting for a deluxe product to indulge in — the thirteen.five-inch Area Reserve three turns into a substantially simpler suggestion.