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Intel Surface Laptop 3: AMD vs Intel, Which is right for you?

by Nicole on May 11, 2020
Surface Laptop 3 Intel Edition
Positives
  • Excellent battery life - Even better than the AMD version
  • Missing SD card reader forced me to get a WiFi enabled SD card, which I now love!
  • Great build quality and design
  • Compared to the AMD version the price to performance ratio is more reasonable.
Negatives
  • Not enough ports
  • Lacking power for graphically intense activities
  • Not a Surface Book 2 replacement
  • Bezels are quite thick for 2019/2020
  • Hynge feels solid but it could be a little firmer considering I use the touch screen all the time.

Intel has launched their Surface Laptop 3 with two different versions of processors. It’s more than just price, there is a difference in performance. If you like the form factor, which you should, the build quality is top notch, we’re going to help you figure out which model is right for you.

At the start of lockdown I moved into the Surface Laptop 3 and have been using it as my work from home, workhorse. I reviewed the AMD versions a few months back, and as you can see in my review, I was underwhelmed with the performance. “Surface Laptop 3: It’s not for video editors” was the name of the review. I expected more. I edit video and found the lack of support for Adobe to be a deal breaker for my workflow. If you need Adobe, you don’t need to keep reading, the Intel version is the one for you. If Adobe isn’t a program you need, the decision won’t be as clear cut.

Both versions of the Surface Laptop 3 have similar external components, just by looking at them you won’t be able to tell the difference. So the difference is really under the hood, where if we’re honest, is what matters most. Oh, and the price, the AMD Ryzen 5 3580U edition, which is what we tested, will set you back 1.485€ the 1770€ So there is a difference in price.

Performance

The difference between these two machines is significant. This will be because the Ryzen 5 is closer in performance to the Intel i5, but these are the two machines we were able to get our hands on so we’re putting them head to head. In the price section I discuss the Ryzen 5 vs Intel i5.

At the launch event, I thought that the AMD edition was going to be the powerhouse. I couldn’t have been more wrong, the Intel model is faster by every measurement and crushed the AMD model in our benchmark tests.

The Surface Laptop 3 for Business, equipped with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor and 16GB of RAM, scored a 19,834 on the Geekbench 4.4 overall performance test, much higher than the 11,212 scored by the Surface Laptop 3 with an AMD Ryzen 5 3580U CPU and 16GB of RAM. Only the Intel model topped the premium laptop average of 16,312.

Graphics is where I thought AMD was going to crush Intel. It’s not a fair fight, since Adobe doesn’t support AMD graphics. Regardless, I exported a 22min 1080p video clip 30fps .mp4 format, with 50 cuts over 3 layers with some color correction.

Export times

Intel Surface Laptop 3 – 2min
AMD Surface Laptop 3 – 18min

Surface Book Performance Base – 13min
Surface Book 2 – 7min

The Laptop 3 also had a whistle when it exported, it was only using the CPU since the GPU is not supported by Adobe. The Intel version did not make any sounds while exporting.

The Intel Iris Plus graphics in the Surface Laptop 3 helped the laptop score a 112,670 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark. That narrowly tops the Radeon Vega 9 integrated graphics in the AMD model (100,522) and the premium laptop average (96,787).

There are more powerful Ryzen laptops than the one we tested, a Ryzen 7 model which will be more in line benchmark wise, but you’re looking at 2,070EUR.

Battery Life

Not only is the Intel version faster, but it has longer battery life.

On the AMD version running PC Mark 8 it lasted nearly 8 hours and the Intel version gave me 9.5hr. That’s 1.5Hr more! you’ll be getting a laptop with longer battery life than the average premium laptop (8:42).

Price

The base AMD model costs 1,649€ (currently 164.90€ off) so 1,484.10€ and comes with a Ryzen 5 3580U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. For 200€ more or at it’s discounted price of 1,664.10€, you can upgrade to a 256GB SSD. The high end Ryzen 7 with 16GB of RAM and 512GB is 2,069€, which is still more expensive than the base model of the Intel edition which starts at 1,770€.

In Germany, the Intel version is not available on the official Microsoft website, we suspect it’s because AMD and Microsoft struck a deal. The AMD version is actually a Surface Edition processor, this is a problem because Microsoft’s after care package is like Apple’s when they first got started. If you get the 2 year extended warranty you one get a no questions asked swap, I was able to upgrade from the Surface Book to the Performance based on the same purchase. It’s a common story from Mobile Geeks readers who have followed my advice.

Moving on from this detail of availability in Germany and Microsoft/Intel/AMD politics, the base version of the Intel edition with an i5, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage starts at 1,520€. So the question you now must have is, how does the i5, stack up against the Ryzen 5 and the i7?

Ryzen 5 vs Intel i5

I had to dig through some benchmark sites for this data, so it’s not first hand, but I research so you don’t have to!

The Core i7-1065G7 SKU is marketed as Microsoft’s fastest Surface Laptop 3 configuration. It competes directly with the AMD Ryzen 7 3780U in the same way that the Core i5-1035G7 SKU competes with the Ryzen 5 3580U.

In PCMark the Intel i5, scores are 6 percent to 20 percent higher than the Ryzen 5 SKU depending on the benchmark.

A 6% difference isn’t significant, and this was in Digital Creation, this suggests that the real-world performance difference between Iris Plus and the Vega series isn’t as wide as Intel would like you to believe. If your programs support AMD, then this could be something to consider. Adobe users you could get it working, but the patching is not stable. I don’t suggest it, system crashes during an edit are no one’s friend.

Overall the difference in performance between the Ryzen 5 and Intel i5 found in the Surface Laptop 3 is about 20%, the battery life will be on par, if not more.

The Intel i5 is a much better deal! At 1,520, it’s only 35 more! It’s an easy decision to pick the Intel edition.

 

Rating
Design / 8
Camera / 8
Battery Life / 9
Software / 8
Price / 7.5
Editor's Choice / 8
Hardware / 8
Display / 8
Surface Laptop 3 Intel Edition

AMD is priced lower, which is unavoidable when you see the difference in battery life and performance. If you need the power, battery life is important picking the Intel edition is easy.

We we compare the score card of the AMD edition, it got a 7.6 the Intel version scored a higher 8.1. The performance, hardware and price changed to reflect the increased value of the device with the more powerful processor.

If you aren’t as concerned about power and battery life, I would still suggest going Intel. The base versions aren’t that different in price and the more powerful your laptop is, the longer you’ll be able to hang on to it without feeling like you need to upgrade.

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