By balancing price, performance, portability, and design, the 13.5-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop became one of the best notebooks of 2017, and the company barely bothered to tweak that formula for 2018’s Surface Laptop 2. But with the just-announced Surface Laptop 3, Microsoft is actually changing the laptop’s design in a few key ways — including the long-awaited USB-C port so you can finally plug in loads of peripherals, docking stations, and chargers instead of relying on Microsoft’s proprietary connector.
Here are some other highlights from Microsoft’s event today:
- No, Microsoft hasn’t messed with the gloriously tall 3:2 aspect ratio touchscreen that’s a Surface trademark now. But you’ll be able to buy an even larger 15-inch Surface Laptop instead of just the 13.5-inch model. Previously, if you wanted a 15-inch laptop from Microsoft, you’d have to spend a princely sum for the Surface Book with its detachable screen and stylus.
- The 13.5-inch model has a quad-core 10th Gen Ice Lake Intel Core processor that Microsoft claims makes it twice as fast the Surface Laptop 2 and three times as fast as a MacBook Air.
- But the 15-inch model has two new AMD — not Intel — processors inside. They’re semi-custom “Ryzen Surface Edition” chips that the company’s calling “the fastest processor for any laptop in its class today,” by which Microsoft means thin 15-inch laptops (max 20mm height) that use 15-watt processors. Apple’s entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro uses a 15-watt chip, for comparison. Microsoft says it has extra integrated graphical oomph over a standard Ryzen chip, with an additional graphics core.
- What was traditionally the Surface Laptop’s most striking feature, its Alcantara fabric covering the keyboard deck, no longer comes standard on every model. The fabric’s not gone for good, but the company’s opted for a plainer machined aluminum finish as an option for some models.
- Microsoft says you can open it with a single finger — even though it doesn’t have a finger scoop — and it’ll instantly be on. They’re also touting no speaker holes or rubber bumper around the metal model’s screen (you know, to protect it from smashing into your keyboard deck) as additional proof of a meticulous design.
- It’s actually got reduced key travel at 1.3mm, compared to 1.5mm in Surface Laptop 2, but has a 20 percent larger trackpad with Windows Precision drivers (of course). Microsoft claims the keys make for near-silent typing.
- Despite being a thin machine, Microsoft’s touting a removable hard drive in the Surface Laptop 3 — a stab at Apple’s laptops where the drive is generally very hard to replace.
- Microsoft’s promising 11.5 hours of battery life from either model, though that’s apparently with the screen brightness set to a fairly dim 150 nits.
- The proprietary Surface Connector isn’t actually gone — Microsoft says it’ll help you charge up the battery to 80 percent in under an hour. Hopefully that’s true via USB-C as well.
They’ll start at $999 and $1,199 for the 13.5- and 15-inch models, respectively, with preorders open today, shipping October 22nd.
Update, 12:52PM ET: Also updated with more specs. Previously corrected that the Surface Laptop 2 actually had slightly higher key travel at 1.5mm, according to a Microsoft fact sheet. We momentarily wrote it had the same key travel.
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