The Surface Laptop 3 made me love laptops again

Let me start with saying that I’m not a MacBook hater. I used them for years and somehow even liked the butterfly keyboard, but due to quality issues with MacBooks I have switched to Windows. And that’s not only because of keyboard issues. No, most of my MacBooks had a severe amount of issues. My 15” 2014 MacBook Pro had it’s display replaced twice because of staingate and my 11” MacBook Air died due to a faulty SSD. The 13" MacBook Pro 2017 had keyboard problems and the 15" MacBook Pro 2018 had a dying trackpad. Nonetheless I still like macOS, but the crappy hardware forced me to move away from Apple MacBooks. I didn’t want a Hackintosh so I made the jump to Windows.

The search for a good Windows laptop

The transition to Windows was a multi year process, because it was al but easy to find a Windows laptop that I wanted to use. First I tried a Razer Blade Stealth from 2018. The look and feel was great but after a few days a fan issues occurred that made the fan sound like a loud rattlesnake.

After the Razer I tried a Dell XPS 15 (FHD, i7, 16GB RAM, GTX 1050Ti, 512GB SSD), also from 2018. This one was also plagued with issues like coil whine, broken keyboard and lots of backlight bleeding.

At that pointed I didn’t want to try another Windows laptop and bought the 2018 15” MacBook Pro. This was a great laptop for me at first and I decided to stick with it, so I stopped looking for a Windows laptop. Until it was about a year old and hardware issues started. Not again. This time it was the trackpad. It started with a strange noise, followed by malfunctioning.

Black Surface Laptop 3 with the lit open and a screensave of Alita

It infuriated me that a € 3.000 machine couldn’t last for more than a year without breaking. The MacBook had to leave! Perhaps it will be back in the future, but that will depend on Apple.

I started looking for a Windows laptop. Again. I already had a MSI gaming laptop which I loved so I knew that Windows would work for me. For a short time I tried to make the MSI my only laptop but it was to bulky and battery life was too short to be my mobile office. My girlfriend sighed. She knows how picky I am about laptops and didn’t want to experience this process all over again. But it had to be done.

After a short flirt with a Dell XPS 13 I aimed at the 13" Surface laptop 3. It lurked at me since its launch in 2017 and now with the third generation I decided to make the jump. Microsoft solved most cons with the third version of the Surface Laptop. Reparability improved, new quad-core processors, adding USB-C, an even better keyboard and trackpad and the Alcantara fabric was an option instead of default. I didn’t want it to be too expensive, because I still had my MSI at home for more heavy lifting, and bought a the black version with the i5, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD.

Black Surface Laptop 3 with the lit open and a screensave of Alita

Daily use

After almost four months of use I can tell you that the Surface laptop 3 is great. And even better than great. I love this little machine. I played with the Surface Laptop 2 in the past, but this one is better on all fronts and I can’t tell you why exactly. Although I hated the Alcantara fabric on previous versions. But the fact is that the Surface Laptop 3 does it job perfect.

I use the laptop daily mostly for office work, web design and some graphic design. My most used apps are Visual Studio Code, Evernote, Microsoft Edge Chromium, Firefox Developer, Microsoft Office, Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo and Typora.

The Surface Laptop 3 performance performance very well. Even with just an i5 and 8 GB of RAM. It didn’t have any serious issues (not even with Windows updates!). I open up the lit and it just works. The only issue I have is that sometimes it has trouble to connect to wifi when it wakes up. In fact, I like this laptop so much that I barely use my iPad Pro for office tasks anymore. I do use the latter a lot for handwritten notes (and some design work) which makes the iPad Pro now an expensive old school notebook and e-reader.

Windows Hello!

Unlocking your laptop with your face is one of the best features a laptop can have. I love it on the iPad Pro which unlocks after double pressing the spacebar and seeing my face and the Surface Laptop does that even better. When I’m in a meeting and I open the laptop it is ready to go as soon as the screen is lifted. Windows Hello sees my face and boom, it is unlocked. It makes unlocking your laptop with a finger feel ancient.

A real Magic Keyboard

Apple says it has added the Magic Keyboard to the new 16" MacBook Pro, well they should go back to school and ask Microsoft to tutor them. Because the keyboard on the Surface Laptop is the one that’s magic. It is perfect and it has no useless touchbar that freezes. They keys feel good with the right amount of feedback and not too much noise. I can type on it for a long time without any trouble. A nice bonus with the keyboard is that you the FN key can be locked. I love this option and use it all the time when I’m working in VS Code.

Touchscreen. Why?

The Surface Laptop comes with an excellent display. It is bright and most of the time during the day it’s on 50% brightness. Colors are nice although it is not the most color accurate screen. My iPad Pro does a better job at that point. The laptop also has a touchscreen and I agree with Apple on this subject. Why do people want a touchscreen on a “traditional” laptop? The only time I used it was to test it and it doesn’t make any sense to me. Reaching for the screen is uncomfortable and you could achieve the same result, quicker and easier, through the trackpad.

A trackpad that does the job

Speaking of trackpads. The lack of good trackpads was one my main reasons in the past to ignore Windows laptop. Well, the trackpad on the Surface does its job flawlessly and perhaps that’s the reason why I don’t use the touchscreen that much. It can’t match the one on the MacBook, but it is good. It has a nice soft click and never really fails on me.

Black Surface Laptop 3 with the lit open and a screensave of Alita

Performance

I don’t use the Surface Laptop for heavy lifting and I guess that the model with the i5 processor and 8gb of RAM will do the job for most people. It is fast enough for email, browsing, typing editing websites and even some photo editing. But for the latter you might prefer a larger display. The same goes for design work. On the other hand, most of my design work is done on the Surface Laptop now. So I guess it’s good enough, but I wouldn’t choose this laptop if you’re main job is editing photos.

Battery life

The Surface is my laptop when I’m on the go, and more and more at home, so battery life is important. I can’t tell you how long it takes before I need to recharge it, because it lasts me day with ease and I never take the charger with me.

Conclusion

Microsoft nailed it with the Surface Laptop 3. It’s an evolution of previous models and I absolutely love it. I think this is the best Windows laptop for most users with the right mix of portability and power. It just works.

Read more about my Windows journey