We tested and compared the Microsoft Surface 3 versus LG Gram 17 in terms of Performance, Price, Display Quality, Portability, Battery life & more.
Above you can see the Ranking with the Results and below you will find the in-depth test reports of the two Laptops.
Ranking First: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
- Best Performance for Multitasking and heavy load Software (Edit Software)
- Awesome Display Quality
- Great Battery life
- More expensive than LG Gram 17
On May 7th the Surface 3 was released in US stores. I have already received a copy with TypeCover for testing and would like to give you an understanding of the new tablet.
The Microsoft Surface 3 is the new tablet of the Redmond company and, at least by name, the official successor of the Surface 2, but the interior has changed a lot, so that the Surface 3 can be seen as an offshoot of the Surface Pro 3.
While Microsoft used an ARM processor for Surface 2, Surface 3 is based on an x86 processor. This is pleasing, because now a full Windows 8.1 runs on the tablet. The times of Windows RT seem to be over.
The Microsoft Surface 3 offers a 10.8 inch display that comes in a 3:2 format. The FullHD resolution offers a pixel number of 1920 x 1280 pixels. Compared to its predecessor, the tablet has grown a bit, but this has some positive aspects.
The new Intel Atom x7-Z8700 quad-core processor, which is clocked at 1.6 GHz, works inside the tablet. It reaches a peak performance of up to 2.4 GHz in turbo boost. The memory of our test device is 128 GB, 4 GB RAM is available in this version. Furthermore, there is also a somewhat cheaper version with 64 GB memory and 2 GB RAM.
The Surface 3 is a little thinner than its big brother – the Surface Pro 3 – with just 8.7 millimetres, but there is still room for a full USB 3.0 port. On the right side of the tablet there is also a mini-display port, with which the Surface 3 can be connected to an external monitor or TV with the appropriate cable.
This can also be made possible by Miracast, of course a Miracast receiver is required – the Xbox One will become a Miracast receiver with an upcoming update and can thus display the picture of the Surface 3 on the TV.
Furthermore, Gigabit-WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy is supported. Currently, the Surface 3 is only available with WiFi, but a version with SIM card slot is already announced and will follow later.
The Surface 3 also offers 2 cameras, the rear camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels and an integrated autofocus. The front camera has a resolution of 3.5 megapixels and is well suited for video telephony.
New on the Surface 3 is the built-in digitizer. While this feature was initially reserved for the larger Pro version, Surface 3 can now be used in conjunction with the stylus as a digital notepad and handwritten notes can be made on the tablet.
The housing of the Surface 3 is made of a magnesium alloy. The silver-coloured metal surface has an extremely high-quality feel and gives the Surface 3 that special something to make it a premium product. The stability is very good, nothing can be bent or twisted. Thanks to the matt surface, the case is also almost completely resistant to fingerprints.
Microsoft continues to pursue the concept of the kickstand with the Surface 3. However, in comparison to the Surface Pro 3, it is limited in its adjustment possibilities. The integrated stand can now only be folded out in 3 fixed positions and is no longer continuously adjustable.
But this was no problem in my test, because the set-up angles were well chosen for all applications. On my lap, in the lecture hall on the folding table, or on the desk, the Surface 3 stood firmly and without slipping at a comfortable angle.
In combination with the keyboard covers that Microsoft already delivered with the older Surface models, the Surface 3 is the perfect laptop replacement.
In our test configuration, Microsoft supplied us with a type cover in addition to the stylus, which offers a full QWERTY keyboard and a clickable touchpad. The type cover is also backlit. It is attached with a magnetic strip that docks to the bottom of the Surface 3 with a click.
Furthermore, the cover has a second bend and a second magnetic strip, through which the keyboard nestles against the tablet at a slight angle. The magnetic strip adheres to the lower side of the tablet.
The screen of the Surface 3 is only slightly larger than its predecessor. It measures 10.8 inches diagonally and comes in 3:2 format. The new display format looks a bit unfamiliar at first glance, but it has the advantage that there is now more space available for content.
This also has a very positive effect in portrait mode, because the screen contents don’t seem as squeezed as in a 16:9 format.
The resolution of the display is specified by Microsoft as FullHD. However, the actual resolution is somewhat higher due to the aspect ratio, as it is 1920 pixels in width and 1280 pixels in height, which corresponds to a pixel density of 214 PPI. The image is therefore 200 pixels higher than with FullHD resolution.
This is particularly noticeable with movies, because HD movies have black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. But these are not negative, because the black values of the display are quite good.
There’s nothing wrong with the brightness of the screen. The display is still easy to read even when working outdoors in direct sunlight.
Another positive thing to note is that the display can also be darkened very much so that you aren’t dazzled by it at night. The viewing angles are also really good and the display content is still clearly visible even at very steep angles.
As it is the case of the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 is now also able to be used as a digital notepad, as Microsoft installs a digitizer in the display. In combination with the new stylus, which is technically almost identical to its bigger brother, the Surface 3 is the perfect companion for me as a student at university.
Compared to the previous models, writing on the display is very natural, because the pen hardly drags. Thanks to the more than 250 pressure levels, different line widths can also be achieved, almost like a pencil with which you sometimes press down more and sometimes less.
With the button on the top, the tablet can be taken out of standby and OneNote is started directly. This is very handy if you want to make a quick note, but is a bit annoying if you accidentally press the button.
For example, when I stuck the pen on the cover, OneNote was repeatedly started and the tablet was taken out of sleep mode – even though the cover was above the display.
The Surface 3 comes with a built-in Intel Atom processor, the exact designation is Intel Atom X7-Z8700. This offers a clock rate of 1.6 GHz and can be clocked up to 2.4 GHz in turbo boost. The performance sounds a lot on the datasheet, but this is still an Atom processor, which lags behind the larger Intel i-Cores in performance.
However, the performance is sufficient for everyday applications. With several tabs open, surfing the web is smooth and even opening apps from the store is very fast. I also couldn’t find any performance problems in the video rendering of FullHD material, at least in the version with 4 GB RAM that we have.
Working with Office is also no big problem for the Surface 3. Word, Excel and co. start quickly and run without problems.
However, it becomes critical with more complex applications, like graphics or video editing, or with newer games, because here the Atom processor with its limited graphics performance reaches its limits.
This should be clear to everyone before buying, because the Surface 3 is primarily intended for the usual, everyday things and definitely not a gaming tablet, but that doesn’t mean that playing on the Surface 3 can’t be fun. Games that use a less complex 3D engine can certainly be enjoyed on the new tablet from Microsoft.
But the Atom processor also has advantages, as the processor gets by without active cooling. Thus, the fan slots known from the Surface Pro 3 are omitted and the tablet is once again a bit thinner. The Atom processor also has a positive effect on the battery life.
The Surface 3 achieves average results in the benchmark. In the WorkTest with PCMark 8, the configuration with 128GB memory and 4 GB RAM achieved a score of 1609.
The Surface 3 scores 19863 points in the 3DMark Icestorm Performance Test – in comparison, the Surface Pro 3 with i3 scores 32327 points in the Icestorm Test and 2346 points in the PCMark 8 WorkTest. Thus, the performance of the Surface 3 is about two thirds of that of the Surface Pro 3 with the i3 core.
Sound & Camera
The speakers are mounted on the front side of the Surface 3. They can be found on the left and right in the upper part of the display. They have a good sound, but are a little more powerful.
In closed rooms the volume is still sufficient to enjoy videos or music without headphones, but as soon as you move outside and street noise is added, the speakers are no longer sufficient and quickly become too quiet.
The Surface 3’s two cameras are surprisingly good. The picture quality of the 8 megapixel main camera can keep up with that of a standard digital camera. So if you want to take a quick snapshot and don’t have a smartphone or digital camera at hand, the Surface 3 with its autofocus is the ideal replacement, at least in good light conditions. In darker rooms, the pictures tend to be noisy, as known from smartphone cameras.
The front camera is also convincing in the test. It offers a resolution of 3.5 megapixels and is thus primarily suitable for video telephony.
Both cameras record videos with 1080p, but you have to keep in mind that a steady hand is required because an optical image stabilizer is missing at this point.
Thanks to the x86 processor, Surface 3 now runs a full Windows operating system, unlike its predecessor. It currently runs Windows 8.1, which is no different from Windows on other tablets or desktops – an update to Windows 10 will be available for the Surface 3 free of charge as soon as the new Windows is ready.
The tile-look start screen is now, I think, familiar to everyone, there’s not much new to say here. Only in connection with OneNote, the Surface 3 got an innovation, because, as already mentioned, OneNote can be started quickly by pressing the upper button of the stylus.
The Surface 3 is still accompanied by a one-year office license. With this you can use the full extent of the Office 365 Suite after activation. Furthermore, the PDF editing tool Drawboard is pre-installed, which allows you to make notes directly in PDF documents with the stylus.
The battery of the Surface 3 is charged via a MicroUSB port. This is new, because Microsoft previously used a proprietary magnetic power connector here.
The new MicroUSB port has the advantage that you can now use any charger with a MicroUSB port that provides sufficient charging current. The disadvantage is that it takes much longer to charge than with the Surface Pro 3.
The battery lasts, according to the data sheet, up to 10 hours. In my test, I used it for about 7-8 hours on average, surfing the internet with several tabs and taking handwritten notes with PDF Annotator. Besides that, I streamed about 1-2 hours of music via Deezer. I set the display brightness to about 70-80%. So the capacity of the battery is sufficient to easily get through the university day.
If the power goes down, the Surface 3 has to be plugged in. If you want to continue working, you are confronted with the problem that the power of the charger is just enough to keep the device running during operation.
The battery charges very slowly. The Surface 3 should therefore always be plugged in overnight to ensure that you have enough battery power for the next day.
The Surface 3 is the perfect companion for students or pupils, but it is also ideal for normal office tasks. In combination with the stylus, which unfortunately has to be purchased separately, the tablet is the first step towards a paperless life.
Taking notes at university is no problem, and thanks to the OneNote button on the pen, you can take quick notes wherever you go. The performance of the Surface 3 is sufficient for everyday things, but if you want to do more complex things, you will soon reach the limits of performance.
With a price of $2800, for the 1 TB version with 32GB RAM the Surface 3 is not really cheap, if you consider that you have to buy the type-cover and the stylus separately, which make the tablet the ideal companion for working in between.
Nevertheless, I like the Surface 3 very much and if you know what you need, then you should accept the extra charge compared to other Windows tablets, you finally buy a premium product that is unrivalled, which is the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is ranking first versus LG Gram 17.
Ranking Second: LG Gram 17
- Sharp, high-quality WQXGA display
- Better price than Surface Laptop 3
- No performance throttling when using battery mode only
- Below average CPU performance, short-lived Turbo Boost
Almost as light as the XPS 13, the Gran 17 defies the trend that 17-inch notebooks have to be big and heavy. At only 2.95 lbs, it is even significantly lighter than most 14- and 15-inch Ultrabooks, yet offers many features that the competition can also come up with, including Thunderbolt 3 and a long battery life.
If you think that a 17-inch notebook can’t possibly be portable, you should take a closer look at yourself. Because with the Gram series, LG has some of the lightest upper class Ultrabooks with Intel’s U-class CPUs in its range, starting with the 13.3 inch small Gram 13 up to the 17 inch large Gram 17.
Even a 2-in-1 convertible is on offer. The latter was only officially introduced at the CES 2019, but was already leaked in advance.
Today in review: The Gram 17 with Core i7-8565U (Whiskey Lake), 512 GB SATA III SSD in M.2 format, 16 GB RAM and a rather unusual 17 inch WQXGA display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600. In the USA LG demands between 1,500 and 1,600 US dollars.
Considering the fact that you can already get a powerful gaming laptop with a GeForce RTX GPU for this, it becomes clear that LG makes the extremely low weight very expensive. At the time this article was published, our test device was the only model available.
Comparable 17.3-inch multimedia notebooks are the Acer Aspire 5 A517, Lenovo Ideapad 330-17IKB, HP 17 and the Asus VivoBook Pro 17.
Design & Ports / Interfaces
As with the Gram 15 and Gram 13, the Gram 17 is also made of aluminium and is certified according to MIL-STD 810G. The matt surface hides fingerprints very well, especially compared to the carbon fiber surfaces of the XPS 15 or the dark plastic of a traditional ThinkPad. The comparatively thin screen edges on all four sides make the Gram 17 look smaller than it actually is.
Unfortunately, the price for the thin, chic and light design is very high. Like the Gram 13 and Gram 15, the Gram 17 didn’t resist our twisting attempts excessively and was therefore easier to twist than most other laptops.
This is particularly evident in the Gram 17, as it is much larger than the Gram 15 and the leverage is therefore much greater. For weight reasons, the mirrored screen lacks any kind of stiffening in the form of Gorilla Glass – LG has clearly prioritized weight and thickness over case stability. The result: an extremely unstable case lid and a base that creaks quietly but audibly when trying to twist it.
The overall workmanship was excellent. Only on the left hinge were the gaps slightly uneven, as can be seen in the photo. It may not be the most robust 17 inch notebook on the market, but at least it looks high-quality.
A highlight of the Gram 17 is certainly its light weight. At just 2.95 lbs, it is almost 1.54 lbs lighter than the current XPS 15 9570 despite the larger screen, and at just 17.8 mm it is also one of the thinnest 17-inch notebooks on the market. In everyday use, the Gram 17 was surprisingly easy to take along, especially considering how huge the screen is.
Connector selection and positioning are the same as for the Gram 15, including the USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3. Although most Ultrabooks are now charged exclusively via USB-C, a proprietary charging port is still available. LG could have taken the last step and given the Gram 17 a second USB-C port instead.
This is because the Gram 17 already has the corresponding capabilities in conjunction with a third-party USB-C charger, even though charging via USB-C must first be activated in the LG Control Center.
Even if we do approve of the Gram series’ spring-loaded microSD card reader, this doesn’t mean that LG couldn’t have given the large Gram 17 a full-size SD card reader. The transfer rates were comparable to those of the Gram 13 and Gram 15 and were around 85 MB/s in connection with our UHS-II reference card. Copying 1 GB image files to the desktop took about 14 seconds, almost twice as long as with the XPS 13.
Intel’s 9560 is a WiFi card quite common in high-end ultrabooks and offers transfer rates of up to 1.73 Gbps as well as integrated Bluetooth 5, compared to only 867 Mbps and Bluetooth 4.2 in older generations. We couldn’t find any problems or failures during the entire test period.
In the USA, the device comes with a one-year warranty. Due to a lack of official availability, we were not able to clarify what this looks like in Europe at the time of publication of this article.
Keyboard & Touchpad
Key size, feedback and layout are congruent with the Gram 15’s equipment, so our previous remarks regarding this backlit keyboard still apply unchanged. The feedback is still average or even somewhat spongy and quieter than in most other notebooks. The HP Spectre and ThinkPad keyboards are significantly firmer and crisper than those of the LG-Gram series.
It’s a pity that LG doesn’t use the additional space left and right of the Gram 17 keyboard for larger keys. Thus, the Enter key and the number pad are still smaller than usual.
The large clickpad is larger than that of the Gram 15 (10.3 x 6.9 cm) with a surface area of 12 x 8 cm, but corresponds to it in terms of gliding and speed-independent precision. It can’t be distinguished from the rest of the case in terms of color, but it is clearly smoother than this one.
Unfortunately, the integrated keys weren’t quite as impressive as the touchpad itself. The feedback turned out quite spongy and the click was therefore anything but satisfactory. Dedicated mouse keys would have been quite appropriate given the large case.
The only display currently available runs at a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. Neither FHD nor 4K are optionally available. Not surprisingly, LG relies on an in-house IPS panel called LG170WQ1-SPA, which we haven’t found in our database yet. Contrast, color rendering and brightness were excellent and better than in many other 17 inch multimedia notebooks.
Because there is no thick layer of glass above the display, it is extremely sharp. The color display also visibly benefits from this. Texts and colors appear sharper than in many a high-resolution 4K UHD display, as for example in the Alienware m17 or MSI WT75. Their matt screens are visibly more grainy.
We could detect slight backlight bleeding in the corners of our test device. Fortunately, this turned out to be very low, so that it didn’t bother us in practice. The black-to-white response time was average and thus a bit faster than on the XPS 13. Consequently, ghosting was also a bit less.
If you want maximum brightness in battery mode, you shouldn’t forget to disable the “Display Power Savings” in the GPU settings. Otherwise the maximum brightness in battery mode is limited to 322 cd/m².
The color space coverage was around 97% sRGB and 61% AdobeRGB, which is worse than Sharp’s IGZO panel, but still good enough to satisfy most artists and creative professionals. The LG Philips IPS panels of the Asus VivoBook and Acer Aspire 5 had a slightly lower color space coverage.
Further measurements with an X-Rite photo spectrometer already resulted in a fairly accurate display of colors (sRGB) and grayscales ex works, which we could improve even further with calibration.
As can be seen from the results below, the delta E values for grayscale and color were then just 1.1 and 1.03. Thus, the Gram 17 was more accurate than many other Ultrabooks.
Even though the display is quite bright, it would have to be much brighter for outdoor use due to its size. In direct sunlight the colors looked washed out and reflections were unavoidable even in the shade. Thanks to its low weight, however, it is less complicated than other 17 inch laptops to minimize reflections by repositioning it.
Currently, only the Core i7-8565U with integrated UHD Graphics 620 is available. To keep the weight as low as possible, there are also optionally no dedicated GPUs for the Gram 17.
The RAM can be upgraded to up to 24 GB. Next to the firmly soldered 8 GB there is a free DDR4 SODIMM slot.
The Gram 17’s Core i7-8565U delivered about 15% less performance than the average i7-8565U from the 22 samples in our database. The Gram 17’s relatively short-lived turbo boost is probably decisive for this, so the real CPU performance in Cinebench is rather on par with a Core i5-8250U or i7-8550U. We suspect that LG could also easily offer a cheaper variant with an i5-8265U CPU without any significant loss of performance.
Nevertheless, the performance was relatively good under sustained load. During our Cinebench R15 multi-threaded loop, the results were still constant even after over an hour.
In PCMark, the Gram 17 scored comparable to other ultrabooks with a U-class CPU. Interestingly, the result was significantly higher than the LG Gram 15Z980. We couldn’t find any problems with the software or hardware during the entire test period.
Two internal NVMe compatible M.2-2280 slots are available. Our test device was equipped with a 512 GB Samsung PM871b (model MZNLN256HAJQ), which ran with the handbrake on due to its SATA III connector. Given the high price, it’s disappointing that LG apparently didn’t consider it necessary to install the much faster PM981 SSD instead.
The integrated HD/UHD Graphics 620 has by and large remained unchanged for years. Therefore, there are no surprises in the Gram 17 in terms of 3D performance.
Comparable integrated GPUs from AMD, such as the Vega 8 or Vega 10, offer twice the gaming performance of Intel’s integrated graphics solution. At least the playback of 4K video material was fluid.
Noise & temperature levels
When surfing the net or streaming videos, the fans were very quiet. Only under higher load, such as during gaming, did the level rise slowly up to 35 dB(A). Thus, the fan was audible in a typical office environment, but never disturbing. We couldn’t detect any pulsation, sudden increases or decreases in speed. We also didn’t find coil beeps in our test device.
The surface temperatures on both sides were relatively even under low load. The center of the keyboard in the area around the T and Z keys heated up to 40°C under load. Compared to the up to 47 °C of the 17 inch HP 17 with Ryzen, the Gram 17 thus remained relatively cool.
Because the case is considerably larger than that of the Gram 13 and Gram 15, but the U-class CPU is the same, the surface temperatures of the Gram 17 were significantly below those of its smaller brothers. A large part of the notebook, including the wrist-rest, remained in the low to medium 20°C range even under prolonged load.
We exposed each laptop to a high synthetic load in order to test for potential weaknesses and throttling. In Prime95, the CPU clock rose up to 2.9 GHz for a few seconds until the CPU reached a temperature of 90°C. Then the clock rate dropped to only 2.1 to 2.2 GHz and the temperature to around 88 °C.
As the i7-8565U’s base clock is 1.8 GHz, the Gram 17 was thus able to maintain Turbo Boost even under a long lasting load. Nevertheless, it was overall below the average of all laptops with the same CPU, as our CineBench results confirmed.
Neither CPU nor GPU are throttled in battery mode. A run of 3DMark 11 on battery resulted in a score of 6,620 and 1,803 points in Physics and Graphics, compared to 6,729 and 1,813 points when plugged in.
Although the 1.5 W stereo speakers are relatively loud, the audio quality is average at best. The sound reproduction is very tinny – a problem that quite a few small notebooks and cheap netbooks often have.
Our pink noise measurements show a drop at around 1 kHz, which explains the poor bass reproduction. At maximum volume the palm rests vibrate slightly.
Despite the Gram 17’s low weight, the internal 72 Wh battery turns out relatively generous. Combined with the system’s high efficiency, this results in an impressive battery life.
You can definitely count on almost 12 hours of battery life in realistic WiFi use. Thus, the Gram 17 lasted several hours longer than most Ultrabook flagships.
The flip side, however, is the comparatively slow charging of the battery, which took between 2.5 and 3 hours. Most devices here last around 1.5 to 2 hours.
The LG Gram 17 is perfect for users who need a large 17-inch notebook, but don’t want to settle for their usual size and weight. It is extremely lightweight and durable, making it one of the best laptops in its size for travelers.
Those who find that most Ultrabooks don’t offer enough screen space should definitely take a closer look at the Gram 17.
Disadvantages are the spongy keyboard and the soft click pad, which is why the LG Gram 17 is ranking behind versus Microsoft Surface Laptop 3.
The LG Gram 17 is cheaper though and performing well for its’ price class, so if you don’t want to spend so much or don’t need the power and perks of the Surface Laptop 3, the Lg Gram 17 is still a great choice!