Surface Laptop Studio Review: Rebooting The Laptop
I learned something about myself this week and tell me if you think this applies to you as well. When it comes to my technology, i like devices that change state a wearable camera whose remote turns into a tripod a drone that collapses to be carried a phone that converts into a tablet or a pocket square. To me, tech is at its most exciting when it can physically change based on my needs at the time. Microsoft is no stranger to that approach. Having kicked out three generations of its surface book over the past half decade or so, and ive just spent a week with the convertible that replaces it. This is the surface laptop studio, a windows 11 pc that can transform into your digital drafting table or a top notch youtube tablet, but which i mostly use as a pretty powerful, pretty pricey conventional laptop first thing to understand about this machine is no its, not as Bulky as you think it is the extended hardware bay below the main chassis looks ungainly on video, but you dont notice it while using the laptop and even while closed. I had no more trouble making this fit into my peak design backpack than i do. My 16 inch macbook pro speaking of the macbook lots of people on twitter seem to think this looks like one, and i guess i see the point, but just speaking for myself, i prefer the surface. The platinum finish on the magnesium and aluminum casing combines with the floating slab nature of the base and the subtly scored seam that hints at its transformative nature, to make this a much more intriguing laptop.
I love the displays, rounded corners. I find great relief in the trackpads, sensible size and pretty much perfect haptics and the keyboard is the most comfortable ive ever used. Yes, even counting the google pixel book go and thankfully it also passes the one handed opening test while im going to get a little deeper into the optional surface. Slim pen 2. In my upcoming surface, duo, 2 review stay tuned, its worth a quick mention here because of how well it integrates with the rest of the machine when youre finished with it. You just slide it under the lip of the laptop until the magnets catch it which they do with a solid clack. Of course, there are a few hardware compromises, while the surface laptop speakers are very good, approaching my macbook pro and getting even closer in the tent posture. Thanks to the virtual subwoofer effect, it doesnt quite reach the volume or spaciousness of the apple product, theres no skip or previous buttons on the keyboard, either, which is probably a big deal. Only to me, a bigger ono is in io, though microsoft has finally ditched not just the sd card reader, but also a type, a usb port, leaving only the surface connector and two thunderbolt ports to keep that three and a half millimeter headphone jack company. On the bright side, if you forget your surface charger, you can still top up the battery via either of those type c ports ill, be at a somewhat slower rate.
Now, in terms of hardware, you can see that leaves us with pretty much just the webcam left to talk about here, which tops out at 1080p and is generally, you know fine if you can live with a slightly warmer than usual flesh tone, at least on skin. Like mine, oh thats, well and good, but what about the thing that makes this a studio well convert to that right after this? Are you completely sick of hearing how life since 2020 has been a brutal crucible that challenged all of us yeah me too, but heres? The thing its true and being sick of something doesnt really help you process it well, this video is sponsored by better help whose entire mission is to help you through lifes challenges. Look talking with your friends is great, but sometimes you need a professional someone. Whos literally trained to listen and help you its not a crisis line, its not self help its professional counseling without having to go into a physical office just to sit in a waiting room, see betterhelp matches you with one of over 20 000 licensed professional therapists, and It all happens online. That means you can get help anytime and anywhere. Just by sending a message better help is available worldwide. You can start talking to your therapist within 48 hours after signing up and its more affordable than traditional counseling better. Yet you can get 10 percent off your first month if you sign up at betterhelp.
com, mr mobile thats betterhelp help dot com, slash mrmobile, thanks to betterhelp for sponsoring this video, its an absolutely bizarre feeling to transition this machine from laptop to studio. The first time you do it the magnets that anchor the screen are strong, so you almost feel like youre breaking it and, at the same time the so called dynamic, woven, hinge, doesnt offer much resistance. Actually, i find it strange that microsoft chose the name dynamic to describe that hinge because its not its fabric, so it cant actually hold the display in place by itself. Instead, those magnets do the job, locking the machine into laptop, tent or easel postures. Everything in between is floppy town, usa. Its a shame because you know sometimes id like to tilt my display without changing the position of my keyboard, but a more complex hinge would have added thickness or weight as weve seen on similar pcs with this design. So, as usual, everythings a trade off ill, be straight with you. I have found over the past week almost zero reason ever to use this thing in tablet mode. The one time i did, i was walking down the street and needed to create a new google calendar in a hurry which google makes you do on the desktop. So it was handy for that, but at four pounds its the bulkiest heaviest tablet. You can imagine its not designed for that. Its designed for applications like i saw david cogan demonstrating in the office one day using it like an easel to crop and trim graphics in photoshop ill link to his real world test below or for actual artists.
Like this guy, who did a whole video review of the drawing experience, a hat tip to dan seifert for turning me onto that, video, which i will also link below one aspect, thats unfortunate, the 14.4 inch display is not quite bright enough to use outdoors its too Reflective as well and its also polarized in such a way that using it while wearing sunglasses, is impossible indoors, its well suited for the job, though, with its 120 hertz refresh rate and spacious, three to two aspect ratio and the surface slim pen, two i covered earlier – Has built in haptics for supported applications to give writing a little more tactility. If my workflow is pen based, this is absolutely the machine id go for, but since its not, i generally find myself using this as more of a surface laptop pro. If that makes sense and thats where it kind of breaks down for me a little bit im grateful the option exists to buy this thing with a discrete gpu, but its a mid range one and the h series intel cpus available are middle of the pack as Well, i could play star wars squadrons just fine, but at maximum settings the frame rate got low enough for me to notice which hasnt happened on any other machine. Now this isnt, a gaming laptop but for the prices were talking. I still found that disappointing ditto. The choice to ship the machine with 102 watt power, brick instead of the bigger one that came with the surface book 3, which, as dan rubino points out in his review, can mean that, if youre pushing the machine, real hard, youll gradually lose power.
Even if youre plugged in as for the day to day this is my first machine with a non beta version of windows – 11 home – and i really like the direction microsoft is going here. It wakes up quickly and runs very smoothly, but more than that, its design is fluid as well. The rougher edges of windows 10 have been replaced with pleasant, translucent textures. That to me suggest a modernized attempt at the old aero design language from the vista days. Im. Not wild about the new start, menu kind of feels like a ui from an amazon fire tablet or something and the settings menu definitely still needs work. To be honest, ive never experienced a build of windows that felt as cohesive and complete as windows. Xp service pack. 2., but im going to stop myself before i get any further down that particular old guy rabbit hole. Finally, battery life, its on the low side of fine flirting with mediocre. Two weeks of testing got me an average of five and a half hours away from the wall, with my usual office type workload, not great, not terrible, and also not a surprise. This is a core i7 with a discrete gpu, not an arm powered ac pc. After all, if that sounds like a weird combination of compromise and capability for a price of between 1600 and 3100 dollars well, it should also sound quite familiar because that weirdness is where a lot of surface products have always lived.
Pragmatic buyers should look elsewhere for maximum value, such as microsofts own surface pro 8.. The surface laptop studio seems more about blending niche features with standout design to produce something that designers and engineers will love to use, instead of just put up with something that gives microsoft. A little more cachet and cool factor and gives its manufacturing partners something to build upon if niche weirdness is your kind of tech. Folks stay tuned for my surface duo, 2 review coming up soon and for a much deeper dive on the surface laptop studio check out. My buddy daniel rubinos coverage over at windows, central this review, was produced following about eight days with a review sample provided by microsoft, but i never give manufacturers editorial input, copy approval or even an early preview of my reviews.