The Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro 7 Revamps Are One Port Short of Ideal

Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

While Microsoft may have stolen its own thunder with the announcement of the Surface Neo and Surface Duo, the company’s workhorse laptop and 2-in-1 also got some straightforward but still very meaningful upgrades.

The big addition to the Surface family comes in the form of the new 15-inch Surface Laptop 3, which provides a larger and more powerful alternative to the newly refreshed 13-inch model. Additionally, unlike the 13-inch Surface Laptop 3, the 15-inch model will be the first Surface device to offer both Intel and AMD-based configurations (the 13-inch Surface Laptop 3 only gets 10th-gen Intel chips.)

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Both systems get the choice of Core i5-1035G7 or Core i7-1065G7 chips, while the 15-inch also gets an AMD Ryzen 5 3580U config with Vega 9 graphics or Ryzen 7 processor with Vega 11 graphics.

However, Microsoft hasn’t messed with the super simple (almost spartan design) of previous Surface Laptops, maintaining their clean lines and slim bezels, while avoiding potential eyesores like speaker grilles by hiding the Surface Laptop 3's speakers beneath its keyboard. And even though the Surface Connect port hasn’t really changed, Microsoft says the Surface Laptop now has fast charging capable of going from zero to 80 percent battery in under an hour.

Microsoft even chose to forgo its signature Alcantara covered keyboard deck on the sandstone/rose gold version of the 13-inch Surface Laptop 3, while the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 doesn’t get the option for Alcantara at all. (The blue 13-inch Surface Laptop 3 is only available with a cloth deck, there’s no aluminum-only version.)

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Aside from the Surface Connect port on the other side, this is all the connectivity you get on the Surface Laptop 3.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

But perhaps the biggest upgrades in terms of usability is that both the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro 7 now support USB-C (but not Thunderbolt 3). However, if we’re honest, I don’t think Microsoft went far enough because simply swapping out the old Mini DisplayPort for USB-C just isn’t enough.

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Regardless of which size Surface Laptop 3 you choose, all you get is one USB-A port, one USB-C port, a headphone jack, and Microsoft’s Connect port for charging/docking. This limited selection for connectivity feels especially bad on the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3, which ostensibly is designed for creative types who will probably want to connect a number of peripherals like external mice, hard drives, or monitors.

Thankfully, the Surface Pro 7 does slightly better in the port department, because in addition to its new USB-C port, it also has a microSD card slot, Surface Connect port, headphone jack, and one USB-A port. Unfortunately, further hardware upgrades for the Surface Pro 7 sort of stop there, because aside from new 10th-gen Intel CPUs, Microsoft’s mainstream 2-in-1 is almost identical to last year’s Surface Pro 6.

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As someone who appreciates the streamlined chassis and no-frills installs of Windows 10 you get on both the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop lines, neither machine really needed a major overhaul. But at the same time, that almost makes what little Microsoft actually did somewhat disappointing, as having just one more USB port would make a huge difference for everyday usability. The specs bump on the Surfaces are nice, but at this point, you kind of already know what you’re getting.

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The Surface Pro 7 and both models of the Surface Laptop 3 are available for pre-order now before they officially go on sale on October 22nd. The Surface Pro 7 starts at $750 (sans Type Cover), while the 13-inch Surface Laptop 3 and 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 start at $1,000 and $1,200, respectively.

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About the author

Sam Rutherford

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.