With Microsoft’s Ryzen 7-powered 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 joining the Ryzen 5-powered 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 already in our lab, we have an opportunity to answer the question: Does the upgrade justify the price premium? Our answer: Probably not, though we’ve provided several metrics to help you decide for yourself.

It’s not an academic question. At the time of the review, the AMD Ryzen 7 3780U cost $400 more than our Ryzen 5-based review unit—though that factors in a 256GB bump in the SSD size, too. Because our performance benchmarks don’t factor in storage space, we can make clear comparisons between each model. Jump to the performance section using our table of contents if you want these answers.

Other than the CPU, RAM, and storage variations, the Surface Laptop 3 units we’ve tested are largely identical. Here’s a quick summary: Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 now swaps out the miniDP port for a modern USB-C connector and expands the touchpad. While the keyboard seems to have taken a step backware, the real disappointment is the battery life, which is about the same with either processor in our tests. We still say that the superior option may be an Intel Ice Lake-based Surface Laptop 3 for Business, but the top-of-the-line Ryzen 7 chip performs rather well.

Now, for the specs in greater detail: 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3  alt hero Mark Hachman / IDG

The Surface Laptop 3 in Matte Black.

Surface Laptop 3 basic specs

We reviewed the “consumer edition” of the Surface Laptop 3. Business users don’t receive the option of the AMD Ryzen Surface Edition processor, the custom chip that both AMD and Microsoft helped design. Instead, both the 13-inch and 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 for Business use either an Intel Ice Lake quad-core Core i5-1035G7, or a Core i7-1065G7 chip.

Pay close attention to the Surface Laptop 3 prices, though: There’s a massive $400 bump between the Ryzen 5 and the Ryzen 7 configuration, partly because of the the SSD change. One of the newer features of the Surface Laptop 3 is its ability to swap out the SSD, though it’s not exactly user-serviceable

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 fabric or metal Mark Hachman / IDG

Metal or fabric? It’s your choice, though which you choose also determines which configuration of the Surface Laptop 3 you’ll receive.

A sleek, lovely design

Whereas the Surface Laptop changed little from the original to the Surface Laptop 2, a number of new updates set the Surface Laptop 3 apart: the new 15-inch form factor, of course; the AMD-based “Surface Edition” mobile Ryzen processor option; and new color and chassis options. We were offered the Matte Black 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 for review, but we also liked the dusky Sandstone option we saw at the launch.

Surface Laptops have always aspired to be more than just computing devices, and the sleek swathes of metal that inform the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 are lovely both to view and to hold. The Surface Laptop 3 joins other laptops in its class that have moved to lighter materials, and slimmed down their internal components. It feels surprisingly light. Even Microsoft’s 65W charger is tiny. We didn’t notice any differences between the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 models in terms of weight or physical design, nor did we expect to.

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