If you are in the market for a 2-in-1 device and are particularly interested in the Surface line from Microsoft, you have several excellent options. The Surface Go 2 rounds off the lower end and the 15-inch Surface Book 3 marks the upper end. But in the middle where most people shop, it gets cloudy.
The Surface Pro 7 and the Surface Book 3 13 are somewhat more equivalent. They have different sizes and different approaches for a laptop to function as a tablet. So the choice between them can still be confusing. Which one suits your needs better? Here you will find everything you need to know.
Both the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Book 3 are well-built laptops – one of the best you can buy. They are in no way inferior to the MacBook series in terms of fit and workmanship and are robust with their magnesium housing and brilliant technology. They also look good with their simple and elegant, but modern, silver aesthetic, which identifies them as members of the same family.
But they are also very different: The Surface Pro 7 is a removable tablet and the Surface Book 3 13 is a hybrid laptop with a tear-off display that houses most of the components of the laptop. Only the discrete GPU, if any, is in the keyboard base, along with a lot of battery capacity. You can do the same thing with any laptop, that is, do your productivity and media consumption tasks with dedication, but you will do it differently. The Surface Pro 7 is ideal as a tablet thanks to its robust stand that opens up to 135 degrees and lies almost flat. However, the clip-on keyboard does not offer the highest stability when you are in a lap.
The Surface Book 3 is the opposite – it works well in a round and functions as an excellent clamshell machine, but its tablet has a real limitation. It's thin and light enough for convenient use, but there's no stand to hold it upright on a surface. It also only has about 3 hours of battery life. So what is preferable depends on whether you want a tablet that can serve as a laptop if necessary (Surface Pro 7), or a laptop that can occasionally function as a tablet (Surface Book 3).
Both laptops offer excellent displays in a productivity and tablet-friendly aspect ratio of 3: 2. The Surface Pro 7 has a 12.3-inch IPS display with a resolution of 2,736 x 1,824 (267 PPI or pixels per inch), an excellent contrast and excellent brightness as well as average color depth and accuracy.
The Surface Book 3 has roughly the same overall display quality and aspect ratio at 13.5 inches and 3,000 x 2,000 (also 267 PPI). Both displays use Microsoft's PixelSense technology, which makes them as thin as possible and is also one of the most responsive touch displays at all. Both also support the superb Surface Pen with 4,096 pressure sensitivity and tilt support levels. You can't go wrong with either display, so it just depends on what size you prefer.
The keyboards are a non-trivial starting point. The Surface Book 3 13 has one of the best keyboards in the world – it offers a lot of travel and a precise mechanism that is also quiet. Compare this to the Surface Pro 7's Type Cover, which is supported at an angle, but still has a bit of spring, while enjoying decent travel and a snappy feeling at the same time.
The Surface Book 3's touchpad is slightly larger than the version embedded in the Type Cover, but both are accurate and support Microsoft's Precision Touchpad protocol. You'll have more fun typing and swiping on Surface Book 3 than Surface Pro 7, but both are enough for productive input.
In terms of connectivity, the Surface Book 3 includes two USB-A 3.1 ports, a USB-C 3.1 port, an SD card reader and the Surface Connect port for charging and connecting to the new Surface Dock 2. The Surface Pro 7 has a single USB-A 3.1 connector, a USB-C 3.1 connector, a microSD card reader and the same Surface Connect connector. Both laptops support Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. Neither include Thunderbolt 3.
The Surface Pro 7 starts with a 10th generation Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU and is equipped with the Core i7-1065G7. The Surface Book 3 starts with the 10th generation Core i5-1035G4 and shares the same Core i7 at the upper end. At least on paper, CPU performance is similar because you spend more on each device. With the Surface Book 3, however, you start with faster performance.
The GPU options are the main performance difference. The Surface Pro 7 offers maximum integrated Intel Iris Plus graphics, while the Surface Book 3 offers up to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q. This makes the Surface Book 3 much faster for creative apps that can use the GPU and can also perform light game tasks.
We tested the Surface Pro 7 with the Core i5 and the Surface Book 3 with the Core i7 and therefore cannot provide an objective comparison of apples to apples. However, the Surface Book 3 performed quickly compared to other similarly equipped laptops, and we suspect that with the same CPU, it will be faster than the Surface Pro 7. If performance is your goal, you should choose the Surface Book 3 .
Riley Young / Digital Trends
The Surface Book 3 is significantly larger and heavier than the Surface Pro 7, mostly due to the former design, which uses thicker frames and a pivot hinge that extends the laptop in depth to accommodate the heavier display. The Surface Pro 7 is 0.33 inches thick like a tablet, and the Type Cover attachment makes it about twice as thick. The tablet alone weighs 1.74 pounds, and of course the Type Cover adds a bit more weight.
The Surface Book 3, on the other hand, is 0.59 inches in front and a whopping 0.91 inches in size and much thicker than the Surface Pro 7 with the Type Cover attached. The Surface Book 3 weighs 3.62 pounds including the keyboard base. You will feel the Surface Book 3 in your backpack more than the Surface Pro 7.
If the battery life is important to you, the difference is just as big, only in favor of the Surface Book 3. The battery life is excellent and is 90 minutes longer than that of the Surface Pro 7 when surfing the Internet, almost twice as long when watching videos and 90 minutes longer in our demanding Basemark web benchmark test. Surface Book 3 lasts more than an entire day, while Surface Pro 7 may not quite make it.
As a tablet, however, the Surface Pro 7 lasts hours longer in tablet mode than the Surface Book 3. So if you use your 2-in-1 device more as a tablet than a laptop, the Surface Pro 7 has the advantage.
The Surface Book 3 is the better laptop, the Surface Pro 7 is the superior tablet
The Surface Pro 7 costs from $ 750 for a Core i3, 4 GB RAM and a 128 GB SSD and costs a maximum of $ 2,100 for a Core i7, 16 GB RAM and a 1 TB SSD. The Surface Book 3 is more expensive and costs only $ 1600 for a Core i5, 8 GB RAM, a 256 GB SSD and Intel Iris graphics. You can spend up to $ 2,700 on a Core i7, 32 GB of RAM, a 1 TB SSD, and the Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU.
The Surface Book 3 is clearly the more expensive machine. However, the option for a discrete GPU is important and makes it the better option for those who need extra power or want to play something on the side. If extreme portability and tablet use are your main concerns, the Surface Pro 7 is the clear choice.