Microsoft's latest 15-inch Surface Pro 3 laptop is sleek without compromising power

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  • Microsoft’s 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 is slim and light and a great choice for people who like big screens but don’t want something big, chunky, and overpowered.
  • It’s among the best-looking Windows 10 laptops I’ve used. The screen, keyboard, and touchpad are great, and it handles my intense workload without issue. The battery life isn’t anything to write home about, though.
  • While it handles what I do admirably, it’s not the best option for those who demand raw power, like video editors.
  • There are cheaper 15-inch laptops out there with more power that pose better value, but they’re typically not as slim and light as the Surface Laptop 3.
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For some reason, laptop makers think that people who like big laptop screens only want raw performance, and they add powerful processors and graphics chips that add weight and call for chunkier designs.

To be honest, these companies are likely responding to the demand. But what if I want regular laptop performance in a portable laptop package that also happens to have a nice, big 15-inch screen? I often wish laptop makers would just make 15-inch versions of their slim and light 13-inch laptops, but they rarely do.

Microsoft is one of the few companies that makes 15-inch laptops that remain slim and light and aren’t overpowered. And the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 is a beautiful blend of portability, a large 15-inch screen, and enough power and performance to satisfy most people.

I’ve seen several disappointed reviewers comment on the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3’s performance not matching its price, which starts at a pricey minimum of A$1,599. They’re not wrong and certainly have a point. Other 15-inch laptops have way more power for lower prices. But they’re often things you should keep on a desk rather than lugging around in a backpack. And slimmer, lighter, and prettier gadgets like the Surface Laptop 3 tend to be more expensive than chunkier, heavier ones.

Microsoft is currently selling the Surface 3 Laptop at 15% off, starting at A$1,599, as well as the slightly more portable Surface Pro 7 from A$1,061.65.

The Surface Laptop 3‘s gets a lot of other things right – and some less right – too. Check it out:

The all-metal Surface Laptop 3 is clean, sleek, and minimalist. It’s one of the best-looking Windows 10 laptops there is, in my opinion.

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This thing is sleek. There’s a smoothness and premium rigidity to the Surface Laptop 3’s design that only magnesium can seemingly achieve, at least compared to aluminium, plastic, and even carbon fibre.

It’s slim and lightweight for a 15-inch laptop, too. Most 15-inchers come in at about 1.8kg or more. The Surface Laptop 3 weighs 1.5kg, and it’s a hair slimmer than Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro. That means it’s among the slimmest 15-inch laptops around.

It’s the most minimalist design on a laptop in recent memory, too. There are no speaker grills anywhere and no air gaps underneath or on the sides (they’re on the very back). Except for the ports, touchpad, and keyboard, this thing is all “surface.”

The battery life is nothing too stellar. It’s good enough that I’m rarely surprised that I need to plug in to charge, and I don’t feel like it hasn’t lasted long enough on a single charge.

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The screen is touch-enabled and can be used with Microsoft’s Pen stylus. It’s bright, crisp, and clear, giving you the sense that you’re using a premium machine. It’s more squarely shaped than regular laptop screens, which not everyone might like.

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The touchpad is smooth and accurate, and the keyboard is fantastic. It’s one of the best touchpad-keyboard combos I’ve used on a Windows 10 laptop. But the touchpad could have been a little larger.

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The Surface Laptop 3 is pretty minimalist with ports, but it’s arguably all you really need. And it’s lacking one big feature that makes it less useful for certain people.

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The Surface Laptop 3 has a USB-C port for connecting docking stations, where you can plug in a variety of USB accessories, power, and even other monitors. It also has a regular USB port, which is a huge plus when you’re mobile and don’t have access to a docking station or adapters.

The Surface Laptop 3 also comes with a charging cable that connects to the proprietary Surface Connect port, and you can also use the port with a Surface Dock to connect your accessories and peripherals. But it’s wildly expensive at A$299.95, and it doesn’t offer significantly more, if anything, than a regular docking station that connects to a USB-C port.

The one thing that’s missing on the Surface Laptop 3 is Thunderbolt 3 support in its USB-C port. It’s not a huge deal for most people, but if you ever did want to add more graphics power to the Surface Laptop 3 with an external GPU for things like video editing and rendering, you don’t have that option. It’s odd that Microsoft continues to omit Thunderbolt 3 from its laptops and devices.

One of the more interesting things about the Surface Laptop 3 is that it runs on a custom chip from AMD rather than Intel. It’s been controversial for some reviewers, but it’s the perfect chip for most people.

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The custom AMD chip inside the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 is an all-in-one chip that includes a regular processor as well as a lightweight graphics chip for lighter graphical workloads.

It may not be enough for a discerning professional – which is where an external GPU supported by Thunderbolt 3 would be great. At the same time, even though it’s lightweight, it’s actually more than most people need, at least those who typically run regular apps like web browsers, chat apps, and things like Microsoft Office.

Still, being all-in-one, it doesn’t necessarily add to the heft and size of the laptop. It affords a more portable design.

The Surface Laptop 3 I’ve been using is the A$2,379.15 mid-range model that runs on the AMD Ryzen 5 3580U and 16GB of RAM. For my workload, including lots of tabs in Chrome, Slack, and the occasional lightweight Photoshopping, the Surface Pro 3 has performed admirably.

It’s true that you can get a cheaper 15-inch laptop with similar performance in the base-line A$2,498.99 Dell XPS 15 that comes with an Intel Core i5, and even better performance in the A$2,633.98 that comes with an incredibly powerful Core i7 and an Nvidia graphics chip. In fact, the Surface Laptop 3 is technically poor value compared to the XPS 15 if you’re comparing specs.

But then again, the Surface Laptop 3 is thinner, lighter, and more portable, while the XPS 15 feels more like something you should keep on a desk rather than carry around.

The only thing that prevents me from recommending the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 outright is its price tag. It depends on whether you value performance or portability more.

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The 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 feels like a portable laptop, whereas some other 15-inch laptops are so thick and heavy that they feel more comfortable on a desk. With portability often comes a trade-off – less performance for a higher price tag.

So it all depends on what you value. For most people, the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 should be literally an attractive option for those who seek the screen real estate that a 15-inch laptop offers in a slim, beautiful package that will handle pretty much anything you ask of it. For the fickle, especially when it comes to value and performance, the Surface Laptop 3 probably won’t quite cut it.

Get the Surface 3 Laptop here at 15% off, starting at A$1,599, as well as the slightly more portable Surface Pro 7 from A$1,061.65.

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