Ever since the first Surface Book was released, Microsoft somewhat reinvented the term “laptop convertible”. Instead of offering a 360-degree hinge, which allows you to use the entirety of your laptop as a tablet, they are using a snap-on feature, which ultimately enables you to detach the display from the rest of the machine.

Expectedly, this is easier said than done. As you may know, most of the laptop’s internals are located in the base – the battery, the processor and the motherboard, as well as pretty much everything else. However, in order to make a notebook of this type, Microsoft had to shuffle things a bit. Instead of inside the base, the processor (Ice Lake CPUs onboard), along with the motherboard, is located inside the display assembly. It also has its own battery.

On the other side, the notebook comes with the GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q, and there is no chance they could have crammed it inside of the display, without making it extremely heavy. That’s why it is located inside the base, and there is an additional battery that would boost your autonomous times. So, without further ado, let’s see whether Microsoft is actually delivering on what seems to be a very opportunistic design.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/microsoft-surface-book-3-13-5/

Contents


Specs Sheet

Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5″) – Specs


OS


Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro


Dimensions


312 x 232 x 15 ~ 22 mm (12.28″ x 9.13″ x 0.59″)

Ports and connectivity

  • 2x USB Type-A 3.1 (3.1 Gen 2)
  • 1x USB Type-C 3.1 (3.1 Gen 2), Power Delivery (PD)
  • Card reader SDXC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Audio jack 3.5 Combo Jack

Features

  • Web camera Full HD
  • Backlit keyboard optional
  • Microphone Dual far-field Studio Mics
  • Speakers Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Optical drive


Keyboard / Dock(Convertible)

What’s in the box?

Unsurprisingly, the Surface Book 3 (13.5) comes in a sleek white box. Inside, you’ll find the laptop, itself, as well as two more white boxes. They contain the mandatory paper manuals, as well as the 102W power brick. By the way, the adapter has a USB Type-A port, so you can charge your phone (or other devices) directly from it. Its charging rate is 7W, and if you get the Core i5 model, you will receive a 65W power brick with 5W USB Type-A charging.

Design and construction

As we are dealing with an extraordinary notebook, we had to check its extraordinary functions. Most obviously we are talking about the attachment mechanism and the hinges. As you can imagine, the latter is nothing in common with the usual stuff we see on most laptops. Actually, it works pretty similarly to that of the Lenovo Yoga 920, but yet looks a lot cooler, thanks to the tank chain track-like design. Ultimately, the most interesting part here is the place where the base attaches to the display portion (we’re going to call it the “tablet”). It uses strong magnets to secure the tablet in place and there are three connectors for both power, and connection to the secondary circuit board.

Respectively, this means you can use the laptop as a conventional device, or as a standalone tablet. However, Microsoft designed the notebook in such a way, that you can turn the tablet upside down and use the full power of the machine, with the display facing upwards in a closed position. Pretty neat. However, we found out that when your tablet battery is drained and you connect it to the base (which still has some juice), the dedicated button on the keyboard won’t let you disconnect the tablet until it is charged to a specific percentage.

By the way, there is a significant crease when you close the notebook, which makes it easier to handle the laptop, but also means that any residual junk in your backpack is going to make its way in between the lid and the base.

As of the design of the Surface Book 3 (13.5), it is made out of what feels like metal and has an anodized finish, which results in a matte finish, that is extremely prone to fingerprints. As you can see, there is a camera on the lid of the device, and it has an 8MP sensor, which can capture Full HD videos. Depending on the processor you choose, the tablet part of this abomination will be either 13mm (Core i5) or 15mm (Core i7) thick. On the other side, the entire device has a thickness of 23mm and weighs 1.64 kg (1.53 kg for the Core i5 model).

Interestingly, the lid opens easily with a single hand, and what do we find above the display? Another camera. This time, the unit is 5MP and can also record 1080p video. Moreover, it is Windows Hello-certified and with the help of its IR blasters, you can log in easily with only your face.

Then, there is the keyboard, which is a pretty comfortable unit, having decent key travel and clicky feedback. Also, you have a three-stage backlight, and its touchpad has perfect tracking and a glass surface. Our only comment would be about its size. We would have loved seeing a larger unit, as even manufacturers like MSI are heading the Apple way.

Ports

As a whole, the notebook has two USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 2) ports, an SD card reader (on the left), a USB Type-C 3.1 (Gen. 2) port, and a proprietory magnet charging plug (on the right). And of course, its Power button and volume rockers are placed above the display

Display quality

Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5) is equipped with an IPS panel, TDM13O56 (INT3480). Its diagonal is 13.5-inch (34.3 cm), and the resolution – 3000 х 2000p. Additionally, the screen ratio is 3:2, the pixel density – 267 ppi, their pitch – 0.095 х 0.095 mm. The screen can be considered Retina when viewed from at least 33 cm (from this distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).

Viewing angles are comfortable. We offer images at different angles to evaluate the quality.

The maximum measured brightness is 370 nits (cd/m2) in the middle of the screen and also 358 nits (cd/m2) average across the surface with a maximum deviation of 11%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen and at maximum brightness is 6600K – almost matching the 6500K temperature for sRGB.
In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from uniformity perspective. The illustration below shows how matters are for operational brightness levels (approximately 140 nits) – in this particular case at 63% Brightness (White level = 139 cd/m2, Black level = 0.1 cd/m2).
Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work (a maximum tolerance of 2.0 ). The contrast ratio is very good – 1450:1.

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5)’s color gamut coverage.

Its display covers 88% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.

Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can compare the scores of Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5) with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.

Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa.

We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 30 ms.

Health impact – PWM / Blue Light

PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5)’s display doesn’t use PWM for brightness adjustment at any level, which makes it comfortable and safe in this aspect.

Blue light emissions

Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Conclusion

Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5)’s display has a touchscreen 3K (3000 x 2000) panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio, comfortable viewing angles, and good contrast ratio. Moreover, it covers 88% of sRGB and with the help of our Gaming and Web design profile, it has extremely accurate color representation. Let’s not forget that it doesn’t flicker at any brightness level.

Buy our profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5) configurations with 13.5″ TDM13O56 (INT3480) (3K, 3000 × 2000) IPS panel.

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia’s products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work - screen profile

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming - screen profile

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard - screen profile

Health-Guard

THealth-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

All

Sound

Despite having some deviations from clarity, the speakers of the Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5) produce sound with decent quality.

Drivers

Usually, you would receive all of the updates for this device automatically. However, you can also find the download link here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=100429

Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This notebook lasts around 10 hours of Web browsing and 11 hours of video playback. However, if you disconnect the tablet from the base, you will get only around 3 hours of Web browsing, which is sad.

CPU options

In terms of processors, you can pick the laptop with either the Core i5-1035G7 or with the Core i7-1065G7.


Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5″) CPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the CPUs that can be found in the Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5″) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5″) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different CPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / CPU.


GPU options

If you choose the first CPU options, you are only left with the integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics G7, however, if you go for option number 2, you’ll receive the notebook with the Max-Q version of the GeForce GTX 1650.


Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5″) GPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the GPUs that can be found in the Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5″) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5″) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different GPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / GPU.


Gaming tests

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Temperatures and comfort

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.

Intel Core i7-1065G7 (15W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5) 3.35 GHz (B+158%) @ 99°C 3.04 GHz (B+134%) @ 99°C 1.89 GHz (B+45%) @ 70°C
Acer Spin 5 (SP513-54N) 2.40 GHz (B+85%) @ 72°C 2.38 GHz (B+75%) @ 86°C 2.12 GHz (B+63%) @ 92°C
HP Spectre x360 13 (13-aw0000) 2.93 GHz (B+125%) @ 97°C 1.97 GHz (B+52%) @ 76°C 1.85 GHz (B+42%) @ 76°C
HP Pavilion 15 (15-cs3000) 2.94 GHz (B+126%) @ 93°C 2.03 GHz (B+56%) @ 77°C 1.91 GHz (B+47%) @ 67°C
Dell Inspiron 15 3593 2.78 GHz (B+114%) @ 97°C 2.31 GHz (B+78%) @ 93°C 2.04 GHz (B+57%) @ 90°C

Interesting. The Surface Book 3 (13.5) pushes its CPU to the limit for the first two benchmarks, thus providing exceptional power in the short run. However, after the 10th minute mark, the clock speed falls just below 2.00 GHz, while the temperature stabilizes at 70C.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min)
Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5) 1480 MHz @ 66°C 1476 MHz @ 68°C
MSI Prestige 15 1408 MHz @ 70°C 1388 MHz @ 74°C
MSI GF63 10SCXR 1230 MHz @ 77°C 1250 MHz @ 78°C
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 1345 MHz @ 69°C 1343 MHz @ 72°C
ASUS ZenBook 15 UX534 1229 MHz @ 77°C 1221 MHz @ 78°C

On the other side, the GeForce 1650 Max-Q runs at the highest clocks and the lowest temperature we’ve seen as of now.

Comfort during full load

Well, needless to say, the tablet heats up quite drastically under heavy load. However, it is silent. On the other side, the base produces a quiet, but clearly audible noise from its fans during gameplay, and there is some heat in the middle of the keyboard.

Verdict

Why would you by the Surface Book 3 (13.5)? It is not very cheap, it looks weird and there are a lot of lighter notebooks that you can carry around. However, it has a soul. This laptop is like no other, guys. If we take the older Surface Books out of consideration of course. Its versatility is what makes it special, and also – how often do you see a 13-inch laptop with a GTX 1650 Max-Q inside?

The first thing we have to address here is that the Ice Lake processor and the dedicated graphics card are separated – the former is found inside of the tablet, while the latter is located inside the base. Interestingly, the Core i7-1065G7 is passively cooled, but the huge area manages to disperse the heat very swiftly. Yet, this results in the table heating up, which is not too much, but you can definitely feel it. Then on the bright side, the tablet is completely silent, which is great for noise-sensitive work locations.

By the way, the performance of both chips is incredible and we were particularly impressed by the way the Surface Book 3 (13.5) handles its CPU, beating pretty much every other laptop we’ve tested with it… albeit having only a passive cooler.

Earlier in the review, we mentioned that you won’t be able to detach the tablet if its battery is depleted, and you need to charge it above 20% to be able to do so. Moreover, the battery pack inside of the base doesn’t charge the tablet if it’s not connected to the grid, so don’t rely on that. Okay, but how long does the battery last? Well, if you use the tablet only, browsing the Web will drain the poor guy in just over three hours. However, if you have the entire assembly, this jumps to almost 10 hours. Interestingly, watching videos on the abomination will empty the battery in 11 hours. Also, the battery seems to discharge equally both on the tablet and on the base, when they are connected.

Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5)’s display has a touchscreen 3K (3000 x 2000) panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio, comfortable viewing angles, and good contrast ratio. Moreover, it covers 88% of sRGB and with the help of our Gaming and Web design profile, it has extremely accurate color representation. Let’s not forget that it doesn’t flicker at any brightness level. So, given that it is one of the key selling points, we are happy with the results.

So, if you have to take into account performance and the versatility of the notebook, we can agree with Microsoft that this device is a great assistant to professionals working with Art, design, and even occasional gamers. Can you imagine, instead of connecting your laptop to an external GPU, you are essentially connecting your tablet to 50% of a laptop. Not a bad idea.

Despite that, there are some things like the lack of Thunderbolt support, practically no upgradability, and an unimpressive I/O. On the other side of the scale, you will find the WiFi 6 support, ability to work with a stylus, and pretty much everything else we just said about this device. And it definitely deserves our Editor’s choice award, thanks to its unnatural design and huge versatility.

Pros

  • The most versatile device out there
  • Detachable display (that houses the CPU)
  • Great keyboard and a decently fast dedicated GPU
  • Two M.2 slots
  • The display doesn’t flicker at any brightness level (LM156LF-2F01)
  • Has a high resolution, good contrast ratio and comfortable viewing angles (LM156LF-2F01)
  • Covers 88% of sRGB and has very accurate colors thanks to our Gaming and Web design profile
  • Has an SD card reader, two cameras that can shoot 1080p videos and Supports Wi-Fi 6

Cons

  • Lacks Thunderbolt and other usable I/O
  • Practically nonupgradable

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/microsoft-surface-book-3-13-5/





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