The Surface Pro 8, with its larger screen and performance improvements, is the star of Microsoft’s Surface lineup. But for those who prefer true laptops rather than convertible tablets, there’s a new member of the family worth a look: Surface Laptop Studio.
Like the old Surface Book, the Surface Laptop Studio wants to be a regular laptop, with the option to move the keyboard out of the way when it’s time to draw or write with the Surface Pen. But where the Surface Book’s screen can be completely removed from its base, the Laptop Studio has an attached screen with a folding hinge—not quite unlike the older Surface Studio desktop that’s named.
So where does the Surface Laptop Studio fit into the new Surface lineup? How does it stack up to the old Surface Book design? And how does it compare to other premium large-screen laptops from other PC makers?
Table of Contents
- A Solid, If Weird, Laptop
weird design choices
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A replacement for the Surface Book? not enough.
Surface Slim Pen 2. a note on
Performance and Battery Life: Quad-Core Crisis
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
A Solid, If Weird, Laptop
The Laptop Studio inherits the rock-solid, all-aluminum design from the older Surface Book. The way the metal is treated makes it softer to the touch than the aluminum finish on a MacBook Air or Pro, and it feels good against my wrists and palms.
But the Surface Book’s awkwardly bendy-straw hinge is gone, which makes the Laptop Studio look more like a regular laptop. I say “more like” because it’s still an odd design—most high-end pro laptops have some sort of taper or curve to their design that minimizes hard lines and their shape. The Surface Laptop Studio is distinctly flat and slab-like, rounded on all four corners but aggressively angular everywhere.
Viewed from top to bottom, the Surface Laptop Studio’s design looks like a traditional laptop, with a 14.4-inch 2400×1600 screen with a backlit chiclet-style keyboard, a large one-piece trackpad, and a similar, narrow-ish bezel . . Like other Surface devices, the screen uses a 3:2 aspect ratio instead of the usual 16:9 (or the increasingly common 16:10), creating extra vertical space for photos and documents.
The screen supports a fast refresh rate of 120Hz, which makes the new animations of Windows 11 attractively smooth. Unlike the Surface Pro 8, the Laptop Studio uses that faster refresh rate by default. According to our i1DisplayStudio colorimeter, the screen has an excellent (for an IPS panel) 1675:1 contrast ratio and a maximum brightness of 506 nits.
The only downsides are the screen’s high reflectivity and its color gamut coverage, which supports 100% of the sRGB gamut but only 84% of the DCI-P3 gamut. Many laptops in this price range from Apple, Dell, Lenovo, HP and other PC makers can display this wide color gamut, but most devices in the display-focused Surface lineup still don’t.
The keyboard and trackpad are both great, as they usually are on Microsoft’s products. The strength and travel of the chiclet keyboard is roughly on par with Dell’s most recent XPS 13 and 15 laptops or Apple’s post-butterfly MacBook keyboards. The trackpad may be more irritating to some people, though it will feel very familiar to longtime Mac users: The trackpad doesn’t have a physical hinge, so it doesn’t “click” in the traditional sense. As Apple has been doing in its MacBooks for years, Laptop Studio uses haptic feedback to simulate the feeling of a physical click.
After years of using a MacBook, I don’t mind the feeling, and I sometimes even prefer a trackpad like this because the “click” effect feels exactly the same way across the trackpad—and because it Makes much less noise than physical clicking. But if this is your first experience with the Haptic Trackpad, it may take some time to get used to it. Windows settings allow you to tune the persistence of haptic feedback; I think it looks best with Haptics, which is how I set it up in macOS, but you can make it lighter or even turn it off entirely if you prefer.