Surface Laptop Studio review: A better Surface Book–mostly
Well, most of them instead of over engineering, a way to have a detachable screen on a powerful tablet. The surface laptop studio screen just tilts forward. You just have to press it down and it comes towards you over the keyboard press it down even further, and it turns into a digital easel, similar to the big surface studio that hinge screen isnt entirely unique weve seen it on the leather, hp, spectre, folio and Some acer laptops, but still you know, cool enough to justify a spot in the surface family. So why even have a new laptop at all? It turns out. Microsoft, just really ran into a wall with the surface book line uh with the book 3 that i reviewed last year. It was a really cool design, but it was clear that that cpu, just really couldnt compete with other ultra powerful laptops out there, and the reason for that is because the surface book was always a tablet. The pc guts were behind the screen they docked into base which had a battery or an additional gpu, but the pc had to fit behind that screen and that really just constrains what you can do in terms of power and thermals. It was a cool design and it was a really smart way to just make a detachable screen on such a powerful notebook, but it just didnt have much of a lifespan so enter the surface laptop studio, which is effectively the books successor and you know at first It looks like a direct macbook pro competitor and even before the screen starts moving around it still looks a little unique.
The bottom half basically looks like two tablets: stacked together, theres a you know, one in the center and one slightly on the outside, and that basically gives you, you know a very thin edge to hold on to, but a little more vertical space in the center to Actually fit in more powerful hardware, its also 3.8 to 4 pounds, depending on the cpu that youre getting, which is about a half pound heavier than the 15 inch surface laptop for um. Its clearly not trying to be an ultra portable. But it also feels like microsoft. Is trying really hard not to make this feel like a very heavy gaming notebook? So four pounds basically just seems like the limit they set for themselves. The star of this notebook, like most surface laptops, is really the screen its 14.4 inches across and its a bit sharper than 1440p. It has a 2400 by 1600 resolution and notably its one of the first productivity pcs with a 120 hertz refresh rate thats, something microsoft. Also brought to the surface pro 8, and that just is a really unique thing to see on a pc, typically thats technology reserved for gaming laptops, because a higher refresh rate means you can. You know, see things more quickly on your screen. You can get a headshot more quickly for productivity pc. It means that scrolling – and you know, jotting things down with the stylus just looks really smooth and its a nice effect and something i want to see on more laptops, moving down the line and, of course, high refresh rates, are a pretty big feature on the ipad.
Pro so it does kind of make sense why microsoft is going here too. In its standard, laptop orientation, the surface laptop studio screen just looks fantastic. It looks like it fits right alongside the rest of the surface line. It also supports dolby vision, so youll get hdr support for those really extreme brights, and you know nuanced darks and video and some games – and you know all together between that and the high refresh rate it just makes for a really nice looking screen. Everything looks fantastic on it, especially video, but i also just enjoyed browsing the web even after working on my review for this, which took me a long long time. I felt less eye strain because that high refresh rate means that you know my eyes. Dont have to work as hard to catch up with text, thats scrolling or things as im typing. It is a nice benefit that i dont think a lot of people think about too much when it comes to screens, even though its surrounded by some chunky bezels, which honestly is a thing, were seeing microsoft, finally get away from with pro 8. its still a very Entrancing display and thats, even before i started messing around with the hinge, it takes just two fingers to pull the surface laptop studio screen forward and it magnetically rests right below the keyboard between the keyboard and the trackpad, its a nice secure position and thats a good Spot for you know, watching video in bed or just hanging out with the laptop where you dont also want to touch the touchscreen.
Maybe youre eating something and youd rather interact with the touchpad. Is a nice, stable orientation just for watching videos. Another bonus for the laptop studio. It has some really surprising sound. It has two subwoofers. It spits low end out the sides of the laptop and two tweeters that push sound out through the keyboard, so thats actually more hardware than we typically expect on a laptop and the resulting sound just is. It sounds really realistic and it almost sounds like you have a decent pair of bookshelf speakers with you. They wont replace putting on headphones, or you know plug into a better pair of speakers, but you know for what it is for listening to a movie in bed or something it actually sounds. Pretty good theres. Also dolby atmos support for virtual eye surround sound, which works. Fine, i dont typically really enjoy that on the laptop, but hey its something you can get into the easel mode by pulling the screen out even further and just laying it flat across the bottom, where at that point, its just sitting at an angle which is really Great for drawing or sketching notes, if i was taking notes in college or something or in a class, i would really love this for actually taking hand drawn notes and microsoft didnt really advertise as much, but you can also take the screen and flip it all the Way over to the back, so that its basically facing an audience which is really great if youre doing presentations or something its much easier than flipping around your computer and thats, also something other convertible laptop screens can typically do too.
This is just its very simple: you just flip it over, and it seems just fine and when you flip it over that way, you also get a clear view of the hinge and everything that microsoft set up for this computer and its definitely unique. Among the surface line, theres kind of a fabric covering everything and the hinge itself is completely covered and shielded from the screen. It seems strong. It feels very sturdy to me, and microsoft says that you know they went through years of testing with this and all of their hinges, so it should last for the lifetime of the laptop. But you know just looking at this thing. I can imagine a kid or toddler is playing with this laptop trying to pull the screen and just some sort of disaster happening, so it definitely seems more fragile overall than a typical laptop. You know keep it away from kids, especially with anything that folds or has a hinge its a recipe for disaster. My big takeaway with the surface laptop studio, is that its just so much nicer than the surface book and it kind of fixes a lot of the problems i had with that machine, its just so much more comfortable to maneuver the screen and you know bring it Into different orientations, the surface book required you to hit an eject button, wait for the operating system to like release the screen. You have to pull it out, put it back in right in place, it was just kind of confusing and it didnt always work properly and also led to like some potential issues for surface book users.
So this one avoids that entirely. It is a lot more seamless, and you know the new design also leaves room for slightly more powerful hardware, but maybe not powerful enough. The laptop studio is powered by quad core intel, 11th gen cpus, either the i5 11 300h or the i7, 11, 378. and theyre. Both a big step up from the tension hardware in the book 3. But its really curious to me that microsoft didnt push for six or eight core gpus its just a really curious limitation. When dell can squeeze a six core cpu into the xps 13, which is incredibly thin, were seeing eight core processors and gaming laptops and a lot of other productivity notebooks like the xps 15., it seems, like microsoft, has just kind of hamstrung itself by limiting itself to Quad core chips like this, and when we asked microsoft about this, they said that you know in their surveys and their research. A quad core chip, along with a dedicated gpu, is typically what a pro user would want from the surface line. I dont know about that. This one also has nvidias rtx 3050 ti at a lower wattage than most gaming laptops, so thats fine, its decently usable, but i know a lot of creative professionals and media folks, and all they want is power. You know theyll take a slightly heavier laptop if it means being able to render video a couple minutes faster or something so so i dont really know if microsofts strategy with the surface laptop studio really makes sense uh if youre going to make something for pro users.
Just go all the way, i think theyll be fine, with the weight and personally its just kind of hard for me to recommend a quad core system, thats directed at pro users when theres just so much other power in competing systems. You know at least microsoft is using intels beefier h35 chips, which are meant for ultra portable gaming laptops our benchmark show the laptop studio is a big step forward from the book 3, but it doesnt stand a chance at all against the razer blade 14. A similarly sized computer with an 8 core amd cpu and up to nvidias rtx 3080 gpu thats, really just crazy when the blade 14 tops out at 2800, whereas the comparable laptop studio model is 2700. The only downside for razer is that it doesnt fit up to 32 gigabytes of ram, like the surface does, but that sheer power for a laptop that expensive just seems crazy, that you would have such a huge downside with the surface now. Im thinking like microsoft could be planning to have a 60 inch laptop studio. Eventually, the surface book came in 13.5 and 15 inch orientations and really 14 16 inches where the entire industry is headed. If you look at the macbook pro 16 inch, i really like that thing when it came out a couple years ago, im thinking microsoft is maybe waiting and seeing what apple does with the refresh for that machine before it rolls out another laptop studio with hopefully better Hardware, you know its going to be bigger, so its going to have room for better cpus, maybe well see an acor.
There, maybe well see better in video hardware there, too, ignoring how it competes just on a benchmark level. You know the surface laptop studio is fine for daily productivity tasks. It does everything i needed to do very quickly. It never really hung up on me or you know, caused any stalls. I was also able to play overwatch at the native resolution of the laptop studio with ultra graphic settings between 90 and 100 fps, which is pretty impressive. You know this. It has a dedicated gpu, but its not as powerful as the ones you typically find on gaming laptops. We saw something similar on the xps 15 and overwatch could barely get to like 70 fps there. So clearly, like microsoft, is doing some great work here when it comes to the graphics card and just getting more out of that system. I just really wish that cpu could compete with everybody else. I think the thing thats just really hanging me up is when i look at these benchmarks – and i see like how the laptop studio compares to the surface pro 8, which is a tablet in geekbench 5 scores its only slightly faster and there should be a bigger Gulf there – and i was similarly annoyed by just how limited the laptop studio is when it comes to ports. There are only two usb c ports, thankfully theyre thunderbolt 4 capable so you can plug in multiple 4k monitors. You can plug in an external gpu theres a lot you can do with those ports, but uh yeah microsoft got rid of the sd card slot from the book three, which is really useful for videographers and photographers, and everything so thats a real shame.
Its also really weird to me that microsoft put an expandable, ssd uh as secondary storage on the surface pro 8., its in this little slot right below the system, whereas the laptop studio doesnt have that at all and you can upgrade the ssd. But that involves opening up the computer, replacing the current one and shoving a new one in there. So it is just a lot less flexible than the pro 8, which just seems weird to me. So thats a few big strikes against the laptop studio, but im grateful microsoft brought over one of the book. 3S best features that fabulous keyboard. This thing is wide. It has some really great key travel, its very responsive, its basically one of the best keyboards ive ever felt in a laptop. So to have that back, and you know in a machine like this, thats lighter and a little more you know easy to use. Is a nice thing to have? I just couldnt stop typing on it, its rare to find a keyboard and a laptop thats. This good microsoft is also moving over to a precision haptic touchpad with the laptop studio, which means it has no moving parts. It just kind of gives you the sense of clicking when you press down on it with haptic feedback thats, not new technology, either apple has done that since 2015., we are finally beginning to see that in pcs, its also going to be on some lenovo laptops as Well again, not new, but a nice thing to have less moving parts means things wont, break as easily and thats always been a big problem with touch pads.
The new surface, slim pen, 2, is also a really nice addition to. You know those great accessories. The only problem is that its an extra 130 dollars like most surface accessories, unfortunately, the slim pen 2 – is just really easy to hold. It has a nice weight to it, it kind of feels like a ballpoint pen, and it also has its own haptic feedback too. So that gives you the ability to you know actually feel like youre putting a pen or pencil to paper when youre writing on the screen. Its a nice feeling – and it really makes jotting down notes, just feel very organic in a way that other surface pens and styluses really havent. It also sits right below the bottom lip of the laptop studio, which is nice to have it wirelessly charges there, and that magnetic connection is also strong enough. Where you know the pen didnt go flying when i threw it in the bag, or i helped. You know brought it around the house, so its a nice secure spot. I just wish that pen came with the laptop. The laptop studio also excelled when it came to battery life in 120 hertz mode. It lasted for 12 hours and 25 minutes in our battery benchmark. When i knocked that down to 60 hertz, it lasted for 17 hours and 15 minutes thats nice to see, but really just keep 120 hertz on your eyes will. Thank you so heres the thing i really like the surface laptop studio.
It has a great keyboard that screen is really gorgeous and nice to use, and you know its just a nice step forward for the surface line in general, but i cant help but want more, especially after seeing the book lines struggle for so many years with a Starting price of sixteen hundred dollars, the surface laptop studio, directly competes with dells xps 15, the macbook pro 16 inch and the razer blade, but youd have to shell out at least 2100 to get the nvidia gpu, which puts it up against far more powerful gaming laptops. So heres the question: how much is a tilting screen worth to you if its more important than having the best cpu and gpu around then the surface laptop studio is perfect for you, but if you want more power for the same price, just get the razer blade. 14 already stay tuned gadget.com for more of our laptop reviews.