Skip to main content

I swapped out my Macbook for the Microsoft Surface 3, here's what happened

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The PC vs. Mac battle is among the fiercest in the tech world and I'd rarely participated in it much until I became a Mac user. 

For those of us who don't have a vested interest in their laptop for a specific purpose such as gaming, coding or anything else that requires running intense programming, the stakes just don't seem that high. If it connects to the internet and can pull up some kind of word document you're probably good to go. 

This was my thinking, until I got my Mac.  

As a true Apple convert, I started off getting an iPhone and then quickly saw how integrating my entire life into the Apple ecosystem was not just likely but almost inevitable. As a result, on purchasing my Macbook Pro I quickly became an Apple evangelical. 

It's been a good four years since I've laid hands on a PC and so my week-long departure to test out the Microsoft Surface 3 felt like it was going to be a harrowing experience. 

Much to my surprise the it was more enjoyable than I had originally expected, especially once my muscle memory gave over to the fact that there is no command button and started using shortcuts correctly. 

The journey starts with opening the newly arrived Surface 3 box. 

Getting started

(Image credit: Future)

A big thing with Apple is that you never feel like you're doing labour when setting up your new devices and my big concern was the effort of having to start from scratch on a PC.

I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get started. The laptop starts up immediately when you open it and setting up my Google account and logins was very simple. 

The Surface 3 uses Windows Hello facial recognition. This nifty addition uses an infrared camera next to the webcam to identify when you're looking at your computer. This means when you open it, it picks this up quickly and opens without you having to do a thing.

After a short set-up process it felt like it was entirely my laptop. Since I'm not an Android user and couldn't use the Your Phone feature to sync to the laptop I did miss the phone/laptop connections that you get with all the Apple integration, nothing felt like it was out of reach and I had access to all the basic necessities when it came to getting my work done. 

Sleek design

MacBooks are known for being the prettiest laptops on the market and were designed that way intentionally. Sitting in a coffee shop with your MacBook Pro became a stereotype and status symbol for a reason. 

The Surface Laptop 3 definitely rivals the MacBook in design. A particular win for me was that it comes in black, my all time favourite colour especially for tech. 

In addition to looking good, it also is quite light for a 15-inch laptop, weighing in at under 2kg. I could easily tuck it under my arm or slip it into my handbag to take out to a coffee shop for some enviable stares and earnest writing.

The 3:2 aspect ratio gives you more screen that you can even handle (which does make it seem like the all the patrons around you can see what you're doing). The display is sharp and makes it possible to do just about anything with the laptop, from writing to drawing to watching Netflix in bed. 

The touch display is also a great addition, though likely to be under-utilised by someone like me who finds a trackpad perfectly fine.  

Some downsides however include the very few ports, single charging side and heavy trackpad clicks. 

While my 13-inch MacBook drives me crazy with only two USB-C ports, the 15-inch version has more than enough to go around on either side. This makes plugging in multiple extensions and charger a breeze. 

By comparison, the Surface 3 is definitely valued for having both a USB-A and USB-C port but only one of each would becoming frustrating over a longer period of time. 

The charger design was also frustrating as it is a dedicated socket and so can only be plugged in one side. 

The keyboard and trackpad are beautiful, with the keyboard specifically being an ice improvement on the ordeal that is the Macbook Pro flat keyboard. It was nice to have a little bit of spring back in my keys. 

The trackpad is beautiful and smooth but requires quite a heavy push to get it to respond, at least my comparison to the extremely sensitive Macbook trackpad. 

Incredible battery life 

The battery life is really the big showstopper on the Surface Laptop 3. I managed around one and a half days work on it before I had to charge it up.

This is impressive since my MacBook struggles to last while running my millions of open tabs and background apps. To say I put my computer to work is an understatement. 

Since battery life is the big contender when it comes to laptop, finding the balance between power and longevity is always key for companies, and Microsoft found it. 

This was especially a test for the processor designed in collaboration with AMD and it passed with flying colours. 

Although not my favourite design, the fast charging easily makes up for the dedicated charger input as I put it on charge and could start moving around freely in an impressively short amount of time. 

Software

I was given a year-long trial of the Office 360 suite, which made downloading all the necessary extras like Word and Outlook easy. However, none of this is necessary with my MacBook as it comes pre-installed. 

While this could be a negative for those who really use these applications, even on Mac I use the Google's online suite rather than installed options like Pages and Numbers. This made the difference between working on the Surface 3 and my Macbook about the same. 

While not actual software, I can't let the opportunity go by and not complain about Explorer Edge. Despite my best efforts to give this browser a shot, the continuous crashing from having to support multiple tabs got too much and I downloaded Google Chrome to avoid the frustration headaches I was getting. 

Not that this is a Surface problem, just something to note as changing your default browser will be a necessity.  Then again, it's not like I use Safari on Mac either.

The verdict

Using the Laptop Surface 3 was a great experience as it shook me out of my Apple bubble and bias just enough. 

The laptop is a great size with beautiful design, with only minimal flaws. The powerful processor means great output for day to day work and activities.

While I'm not switching to the PC life anytime soon, the experience out of the Apple universe was a worthwhile experience with this very impressive laptop.