Take the new hardware. The Surface Book 3 features Intel’s quad-core 10th generation Ice Lake CPUs, which max out at a 3.9GHz Turbo Boost speed. (Those chips also appear in the Surface Laptop 3, an ultraportable that doesn’t even pretend to handle heavy lifting). The MacBook Pro 16-inch, on the other hand, offers Intel’s recent six and eight-core CPUs, including the monstrously powerful 5GHz Core i9. Dell’s XPS 15 can also be configured with similar chips reaching up to 5.1GHz. You do the math. There’s just no way the Surface Book 3 can compete in a CPU fight.
At least Microsoft is competitive on the graphics front. You’ve got NVIDIA’s GTX 1650, GTX 1660 Ti and Quadro RTX 3000 as options, the latter of which is much faster than the MacBook Pro 16-inch’s Radeon GPUs. You’ll have to jump through a few more hoops to get that Quadro GPU though, as it’s only available to corporate customers.
I’m not saying the Surface Book 3 isn’t impressive. It still looks and feels like a high-quality machine, though the design hasn’t budged at all since the last model. There’s the same all-metal case, the unique bulbous hinge (that leaves a slight gap open when closed), and a large 15-inch screen. But since we last saw the Surface Book, most PC makers have started seriously slimming down their bezels to fit in larger displays and reduce weight. The Book 3, unfortunately, still has thick screen borders that make it look like a notebook from 4 or 5 years ago.
Previously, I also knocked the 15-inch Surface Book for being heavier than its competitors at 4.2 pounds. But, ironically enough, Apple ended up making the MacBook Pro 16-inch a bit chunkier as well, so it now slightly outweighs the Book 3. But as you’ll see, I think Apple justifies its heft a bit more. And the MacBook Pro is also significantly slimmer — the Book 3 is up to 23 millimeters thick, while the MacBook Pro maxes out at 16.3 millimeters. As usual, Microsoft’s curved hinge makes things stick out quite a bit.
One benefit of being so large, though, is that the Surface Book 3 is able to fit a wide keyboard and roomy touchpad. It’s all the same hardware we saw a few years ago, but they’re still excellent. The keys have plenty of depth and responsiveness, making them a dream to type on. And the smooth glass touchpad is among the best I’ve used on a Windows notebook.
So sure, there’s a lot to love about the Surface Book 3. But if you want to know why I’m being so critical of its new hardware, just look at the benchmarks. In PCMark 10, it scores a notch below Dell’s recent XPS 13. And even more damning, it scores only a few hundred points higher than HP’s Elite Dragonfly, a 2-pound PC whose performance we called “middling.” If you’re trying to be a powerhouse machine, this isn’t the company you should be keeping. Its Geekbench 5 multi-core speeds also fell behind the new MacBook Pro 13-inch, and it was once again bested by the XPS 13. The Surface Book 3 fared better in Geekbench 5’s Compute benchmark, where the NVIDIA GPU brought it in line with ASUS’s excellent Zephyrus G14 (a much cheaper machine with far better CPU scores).
The GTX 1660 Ti is clearly the lynchpin of the Surface Book 3’s performance, and it also means the notebook can finally handle some decent gaming. Running in 1080p, I clocked between 110 and 130 FPS in Overwatch with “epic” graphics settings. The Hitman 2 benchmark also delivered a solid 72 FPS with maxed out settings. To be clear, you can get similar performance from gaming notebooks that cost half as much. But at least Book 3 owners will be able to get some fragging done alongside their creative work.
Lenovo’s 7-inch Google smart display is on sale for $80 at Best Buy
While both smart screens have 7-inch displays, Lenovo’s model throws in both more powerful speakers as well as a camera with a privacy shutter and microphone mute button. You can use this for more than checking the weather or playing a YouTube video, in other words. While it’s not going to replace a beefy speaker or a larger display like the Nest Hub Max (which does have a camera), it should be more than enough to waft music through a room or keep in touch with friends and family.
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NASA orders Lunar Gateway’s crew cabin from Northrop Grumman
NASA already awarded space technology company Maxar a $375 million contract to develop the PPE last year. The agency says launching both components at the same time reduces costs and technical risks, since it will eliminate the need to dock two separate elements in the orbit where the Gateway will operate.
The $187 million contract NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman is enough to finalize the design of all systems and subsystems for a preliminary review expected to happen by the end of the year. If everything goes well, the company will sign a second contract to fabricate and assemble the actual HALO module that’s scheduled to blast off to space in 2023.
When the NBA returns it may use ‘NBA 2K’ for crowd noise
The NBA is moving toward restarting its season with 22 teams playing games at Disney World in Orlando, now that the NBA Player’s Association has approved further negotiations on the plan. One issue they’ll face is playing games without fans in the arena, and according to a report from The Athletic
NBA 2K also serves as the platform for the league’s official esports series and has already simulated its own end to the 2019-2020 regular season, and its attention to details of the basketball experience may help fill in the blanks. Some leagues that have returned to action during the coronavirus pandemic already use piped-in sound, including Bundesliga soccer, and Sky Sports is planning to use EA’s FIFA 20 game to a similar effect on Premier League broadcasts.
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