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Surface Laptop 3 is Microsoft's most powerful laptop yet, and it charges fast, too

Microsoft's Surface Laptop 3 has USB-C, a bigger screen and a modular design. It comes in 13.5- and 15-inch models and starts at $999.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft announced the new Surface Laptop 3 on Wednesday at its Surface event in New York. Like the Surface Laptop 2, the Laptop 3 is a 13.5-inch clamshell touchscreen laptop, but will now also come in a larger 15-inch size. They'll also be the first Surface Laptops to have a USB-C port instead of mini-DisplayPort, and will run on Intel's new 10th-gen 10nm processors and unique AMD Ryzen chips.

The event also saw the launch of the Surface Neo dual-screen tablet and Surface Duo dual-screen Android phone, and Windows 10X software for dual-screen devices. More conventional new products included the Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 7 tablets, Surface Earbuds and the SQ1 custom Arm chip.

The two new Surface Laptop 3 models have a 20% larger trackpad and the keyboards have 1.3mm of travel, a 19mm pitch between keys and a subtle dish on the keys, said Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay. 

Microsoft/GIF by Lauren Routt/CNET

Panay used the keyboard discussion to dive into the new serviceability of the design. Instead of accessing the internal components through the bottom, Microsoft designed the keyboard deck to be removable with a tool. This allows for a more seamless design of the aluminum chassis, but you'll still be able to upgrade or repair the laptops. 

Now playing: Watch this: First look at Surface Pro X, Pro 7, Laptop 3

Inside you'll find 10th-gen quad-core 10nm Intel processors which Panay said will make the 13.5-inch Laptop 3 three times more powerful than a current MacBook Air. AMD got involved with the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3, too, creating a Ryzen Surface Edition graphics processor. 

"This is the most powerful mobile processor AMD has ever created," Panay said. "It's actually the fastest processor for any laptop in its class today."

That "class" is a 15-inch ultraportable, so this won't be a graphics powerhouse on the level of a high-end gaming laptop or a MacBook Pro. However, the architecture is based on the Xbox One's GPU and for a 15-inch laptop with up to 11.5 hours of battery under normal use and a weight less than 3.5 pounds, it could be a standout performer. Microsoft said Adobe Lightroom and Premiere Rush for video editing and games like Rocket League, League of Legends and Forza Horizon 4 will run well on the 15-inch Laptop 3. 

Surface Laptop 3 specs

Surface Laptop 3 (13.5-inch) Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)
Starting price $999 (£999, AU$1,699) $1,199 (£1,199, AU$1,999)
Display size/resolution 13.5-inch 2,256x1,504 touch display (3:2) 15-inch 2,496x1,664 touch display (3:2)
CPU Intel Core i5-1035G7 or i7-1065G7 AMD Ryzen 5 3580U or Ryzen 7 3780U
Memory 8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x RAM 8GB or 16GB DDR4 RAM
Graphics Intel Iris Plus AMD Radeon Vega 9 Surface Edition, Vega 11 Surface Edition
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD
Networking 802.11ax wireless (Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ac wireless (Wi-Fi 5), Bluetooth 5.0
Connections USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm combo, Surface Connect USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm combo, Surface Connect
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
See on Microsoft Store Microsoft Store

The new laptops will charge quickly, too. Microsoft worked closely with Intel and AMD to make it possible to charge the Laptop 3 up to 80% in less than an hour.  

The 13.5- and 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 are available to preorder now and ships on Oct. 22. The 13.5-inch starts at $999 (£999, AU$1,699) while the 15-inch starts at $1,199 (£1,199, AU$1,999).  

Read all the news from Microsoft's Surface event here

Now playing: Watch this: Microsoft introduces Surface Laptop 3