I needed the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 to be great, I’m using the Surface Book Performance Base, it’s three years old and it’s the year I upgrade. I’ve been very loyal to the Surface Book for 4 years, I love the form factor and performance. The Surface Laptop 3 is what Microsoft released to replace the Surface Book and it’s clear that they didn’t make it for a content creator like me.
That doesn’t mean that the Surface Laptop 3 isn’t a great device worth considering. As expected Microsoft build a solid tank of a laptop that the average user powerful. The large 15 inch display makes it feel like a true work horse and the 3:2 screen ratio is perfect for browsing the web. The keyboard is decent, the track pad is great and we have facial recognition packed in a lightweight aluminum design.
The model we’ll be looking at today is the Surface Laptop 3 15 powered by the semi-custom Ryzen 5 3580U processor. It’s been dubbed the Surface Edition processor and also the first in its family to carry AMD options as an alternative to the usual Intel SKUs. We’ll get into all the ways this chipset disappoints, but the issue that cannot be overlooked is that Adobe does not support AMD. So all video editing happens on the CPU, the GPU isn’t involved. The Intel alternatives have been working on IRIS graphic integration with Adobe for well over 5 years, so Intel has AMD beat when it comes being optimized for Adobe software.
The Surface Edition Processor by AMD just isn’t powerful enough to be attractive to someone who edits video. The Surface Book line came with an Nvidia graphics card option which made it a work horse for anyone who needed powerful graphics. Don’t get me wrong, the AMD processor is fast enough for 80% of the power users out there, but as a video editor and not without Adobe support.
The Surface Edition Processor by AMD, the Ryzen 5 chip in the base model has roughly the same performance an 8th Generation Intel i5, the Ryzen 7 is almost in line with 10th Gen Intel i7-1065G7 which it also ships with. Graphics are limited to integrated Intel Iris Plus or AMD Vega with no GeForce MX options. Microsoft has also raised the minimum RAM from 4 GB to 8 GB running in dual-channel mode.
The Ryzen 5 version did not impress when it came to graphics. The Surface Book 2 out performed the laptop 3 in several benchmarks.
In 1280 x 720 Cloud Gate Standard the Laptop 3 got 19342 and the Surface Book 2 29376. Benchmarks usually aren’t that important to me, but I wanted to see just how far apart last years surface book and this year laptop 3 are apart.
If you want to look at the highend, Hexus did a comparison with the Ryzen 7 and the Intel Core i7 edition. Intel edged out the AMD Ryzen configuration in every meaningful test thus far. That includes 3DMark Sky Diver, where the Intel Iris Plus IGP sneaks ahead of the AMD Radeon RX Vega 11, and we’re pleasantly surprised to find that both integrated graphics options have the beating of a dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX250, as featured in the Asus ZenBook 14.
Real World Video Editing Test
This was the year I was going to update my Surface Book Performance Base, because I upgrade every two years. I got the Surface Book 2 from Microsoft to see the difference, the test might be a little unfair because I have the Ryzen 5 not a high end i7. Having said that my Performace base is running on a 6th gen Skylake processor the Surface Book 2 an 8th Gen i7 processor.
However, the results tell a different story.
22min 1080p video clip 30fps .mp4 format, with 50 cuts over 3 layers with some color correction.
Performance Base – 13min
Surface Book 2 – 7min
Laptop 3 – 18min
The Laptop 3 also had a whistle when it exported, it was only using the CPU since the GPU is not supported by Adobe.
My other big complaint isn’t specific to the Laptop 3, but at the Ultrabook form factor in general. Laptops are getting fewer and fewer connectors, but the Surface Laptop 3 is really lacking ports, it only has one USB A and one USB C. This seems extreme and the lack of SD card reader was killing me then I got a WiFi connected SD card and I’ve never been happier. So thanks Microsoft for bullying me into the future!
The dedicated mini DisplayPort is gone and so users will have to rely on DisplayPort over USB Type-C or the $200 Surface Dock for connecting external monitors. Port positioning is otherwise excellent with the few options available.
Microsoft and AMD have developed a great processor that’s been fine tuned to Windows and it delivers great battery life. Running PC Mark 8 it lasted nearly 8 hours and 10 running a mix of online and local videos. For comparison the 15” Macbook Pro only got 7 hours of mixed media playback.