In brief: The new Surface Laptop 3 comes with a much-awaited USB-C port and the option of a metal finish instead of Alcantara. There's also a larger, 15-inch variant that is powered by an AMD CPU co-developed with Microsoft, and it's now possible to add in a larger SSD.
A "pumped" Panos Panay introduced the third generation Surface Laptop this morning at a Microsoft event, boasting of a number of design changes that people have been asking for since the first generation.
The company has kept the overall formula the same with the 3:2 aspect ratio display that is also a touchscreen, but now you can also opt for a 15-inch Surface Laptop if you think the 13.5-inch model has less than the ideal screen real estate you need. The smaller variant weighs 2.8lbs -- similar to a MacBook Air -- while the 15-inch model weighs 3.4 lbs.
The first two generations of the Surface Laptop have come with an Alcantara fabric covering the palm rest and keyboard, but not everyone liked the idea of having to maintain it. That's why Microsoft will also offer the Surface Laptop 3 with a metal finish on both models. A signature design feature isn't going away for now, but at the same time it's no longer a deal-breaker for many. In terms of colors, you can choose between Black, Platinum, Cobalt, and Sandstone, but the 15-inch model only comes in either Black or Platinum.
Panos says you can open the lid using one finger despite the fact the new device lacks a finger scoop. The Surface Laptop 3 also lacks a rubber bumper between the display and the metal frame, and there are no speaker or microphone holes either. These all make for a much cleaner looking design, but we'll have to wait and see if they stand the test of time.
The keyboard features the same quiet keys with slightly reduced travel at 1.3 mm and a 20 percent larger trackpad.
In terms of internal hardware, the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 is powered by Intel's 10th generation quad-core CPU for ultrabooks and up to 32 GB of RAM. This offers a great bump in performance compared to the Surface Laptop 2 and the MacBook Air, both equipped with dual-core CPUs.
Interestingly, the 15-inch variant comes with AMD's Ryzen Surface Edition processor, which Microsoft claims is the fastest that can be found in ultrabooks of this size. Most importantly, it should offer decent integrated graphics performance for light gaming, an area where Intel has been making significant progress as of late.
Another notable feature is the replaceable SSD. Panos touted the repairability of the Surface Laptop 3 on stage by taking the top lid off the device, but did admit that it's still pretty hard to do it yourself. This was most likely a jab at Apple's latest MacBooks, which are very hard to service and repair. The RAM in the new Surface Laptop is still soldered though, so keep that in mind if you plan on buying one.
The battery life is rated at 11.5 hours and there's also the option to fast charge the new Surface Laptop, which should give you an 80 percent charge in one hour. There's now a USB-C port in addition to USB-A and the proprietary Surface connector, which should offer some future-proofing.
The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 starts at $999 with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 128 GB of storage, while the 15-inch variant starts at $1,199. The privilege of maxing out the 13.5 inch version with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage will cost you $2,399. The first orders will ship on October 22.