The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio has to be one of my favourite computers. Though it’s on the pricier end of the Surface lineup, this is the first laptop from the range that I’ve been thoroughly impressed with.
This machine has it all. With a fully-hinging screen, a 2K touch display, Windows Pen support and an RTX 3050 Ti GPU in some models, I think this laptop could fill a few roles. This could be a device for an artist, a gamer or an office worker with a need for a no-lag machine.
The Surface Laptop Studio is a rocket.
The Surface Laptop Studio
WHAT IS IT?
The top of the line Surface laptop.
$2,399 to $4,649
Terrific performance, a beautiful screen, build quality is great and it’s a nice design. Great productivity, artistic and gaming functionality. The price seems right too.
Battery performance is a little sus and fans can get a little loud.
Scratching the Surface
The Surface Laptop Studio is perfect in so many ways that the average laptop user wouldn’t appreciate. It has all the specs you need to not worry about when it comes to performance, bar its battery life.
As I type, the Surface Laptop Studio is undergoing a Google Chrome tab test. With seven tabs open, each playing a different YouTube video, the Surface Laptop Studio doesn’t see any lag. Moving on to 14 and I’m starting to see some lag when switching between tabs. At 21 tabs, the lag becomes much more noticeable, taking between half a second and a full second to load a tab I’ve switched to. At 25 tabs, the laptop started to stutter, with a full system freeze and tab loading taking over a second.
I’m very impressed by this. Before I upgraded my own personal gaming PC, It would have struggled to open this many tabs before stuttering or freezing.
But the Surface Laptop Studio is a different beast to a gaming PC. The Surface Laptop Studio exists to be easy, without problems and sleek with the grace of a MacBook Pro (that’s the closest laptop you could compare this PC to).
In terms of gaming performance, you could definitely have worse results. Benchmarking Forza Horizon 5, I achieved an average of 55 FPS, with a recommended “High” preset. This is a pretty decent score, all things considered, however, I’d stress to you that this computer gets hot. The sound of the internal fans are reminiscent of a passenger plane flying overhead and you might want to avoid having this machine sitting on your lap for too long. Detailed benchmark scores are below.
Additionally, I tested the processor in Cinebench. In the single-core test, the laptop scored 842 points and ninth position, whereas in the multi-core test, the laptop scored 3,879 points and 11th position. That’s really great, indicating that this laptop could handle some strenuous, multi-application tasks (like photo-editing and video production).
When testing the battery, however, I was unimpressed. Chucking Avengers: Endgame on, at full brightness, highest resolution, highest volume and streaming from Disney+, the battery was whittled down from 100 per cent to 25 per cent over the movie’s runtime. By the one hour mark, the battery was down to 77 per cent and by the two-hour mark it went down to 53 per cent.
For context, Avengers: Endgame is a three-hour movie, so to drop from 100 per cent down to 25 per cent in three hours isn’t exactly inspiring. I saw similar battery performance in other places during the time that I played with it – an hour of video calling on Google Meets brought the battery down by 30 per cent, and playing a mix of Cities: Skylines and Forza Horizon 5 brought the battery down from 100 per cent to 20 per cent in two and a half hours.
Please take these battery tests as indicative of a new product and not a product owned after a year or so. I’d expect performance like this in a laptop between six months and a year old, so I’m sceptical of how the Surface Laptop Studio’s battery will perform in a year’s time.
Everyone is invited
Microsoft reckons that this is the Surface for professionals, creators, office workers and business people.
I’m hesitant to agree with such a broad pitch. If your job is to write in Google Docs or Microsoft Word all day with the odd run of Chrome tabs up on a side monitor, that’s probably the hardest workout you’ll ever practically give your laptop. That’s why I’m hesitant to give this computer a glowing endorsement simply because it ran well during my day job.
If you’re buying a machine this powerful, then I urge you to consider what you’ll actually do with it. Conveniently, Microsoft is selling five versions of the Surface Laptop Studio, depending on your budget and what you need from a laptop.
As earlier said, an RTX 3050 Ti is not a weak graphics card (despite being the weakest of the RTX 30 series range). Backing up the model I’m reviewing, the machine had an 11th generation Intel i7-11370H processor, 32GB RAM and Windows Pen support on its 2K touch screen. This is an animal for people that give computers serious workouts, although cheaper and more expensive models are available.
Personally, my testing mostly revolved around gaming and content viewing. Forza Horizon 5 ran really well below 60FPS, unfortunately undercutting the 120 Hz display this thing packs. Game loading was noticeably slow (especially for a 1TB SSD). My other testing game, Cities: Skylines, produced similar results. Slower than expected loading, but performance was about what I expected.
A user could also expect some pretty great quality visuals on the Surface Laptop Studio. Packed with a 2K screen (2400 x 1600 with HDR, to be specific) I really enjoyed watching stuff in bed with this device. Part of my lineup was Peacemaker and, of course, Avengers Endgame, both of which looked great on this screen.
While we’re at it, I’ll mull over some basic use stuff. It rules. I don’t know what else to say beyond “Yeah, it does it without any problems”. Though my gaming PC significantly outpaces this laptop in terms of, as you’d expect, gaming, there are so many moments when using this laptop just feels so much smoother.
For example, Chrome is lightning quick and loading applications (bar the earlier mentioned games) are almost instantaneous. An early performance pet peeve I had with this device was the haptic feedback chaos pad. Personally, I’m not a fan of the feedback it provides, however, this is easily adjusted or disabled in the settings.
Let’s put it into context
I would use this computer over a MacBook Pro. For work, I mostly use the 2021 model MacBook Pro, the last one to include the touch bar at the top of the keyboard. With a 14.4-inch screen, the closest modern MacBook Pro competitor would be the 14-inch 2022 model, available for either $2,999 or $3,749. The Surface Laptop Studio undercuts this at $2,399 and goes up to $4,649 depending on the specs (the model I reviewed translates to $4,049).
That price matters too, considering Apple absolutely dominates the laptop space. I think laptops like the Surface Laptop Studio, and the Huawei MateBook Pro, definitely stand up to the MacBook in more ways than one.
But you have to ask yourself if you really need everything the Surface Laptop Studio does for the price Microsoft is asking.