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Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review: Cool but niche

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review: Cool but niche

Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is a premium Windows 2-in-1 notebook with an unusual convertible design. Dubbed the most powerful Surface Laptop, it puts capable hardware into a well-made and attractive metal body. Microsoft's latest Slim Pen 2 stylus, which should really be included, is also a pleasure to use with this laptop. While I can see its appeal to designers and creative folks, its price — my review set is over S$3,000 — could be a sticking point for the casual crowd. Professionals, on the other hand, may want something a bit more powerful.

Quick specs

  • 14.4-inch (2,400 x 1,600 pixels, up to 120Hz) touchscreen
  • Intel Core i7-11370H processor with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD
  • 2x Thunderbolt 4, headphone jack, and Surface Connect port
  • 58 watt-hour battery

What sets the Surface Laptop Studio apart from other Windows convertibles is how its screen and hinge are designed, though it's not exactly unique. I recall Acer doing something similar several years ago. But basically you pull the Studio's display forward such that it covers the keyboard like a tent. Dubbed Stage mode, this screen-forward arrangement is great for watching videos and playing touch-based casual games. Continue pulling the screen forward to convert to Studio mode. This tablet-like mode is useful for creative tasks involving the stylus, like sketching and drawing. Magnets keep the screen in place in each mode. The hinge also feels very sturdy. However, the Surface Laptop Studio itself isn't the most mobile. At around 1.8kg, it's hefty for a 14-inch notebook. But you do get a metal chassis that rivals the premium Apple MacBook Pro for solidity and build quality.

Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop
In Studio mode aka tablet mode, there's a slight tilt for better writing/drawing with a stylus. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

Like the Surface Pro 8, the Studio has a 120Hz touchscreen. While I had to manually toggle between 60Hz and 120Hz for my review set, the laptop could soon switch its refresh rate automatically. Microsoft is already testing a dynamic refresh rate feature for early Windows 11 users. Besides ensuring a smoother browsing experience, the 120Hz refresh rate also makes a difference for writing or drawing with the Microsoft Slim Pen 2. This optional stylus has a subtle haptic feedback that makes it feel like a real pen. It's definitely my favourite pen at the moment, though it's an extra S$179. On the other hand, I'm not a fan of the haptic feedback for the Surface Laptop Studio's touchpad. The vibrations just can't replicate the feel of a standard touchpad.

Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop
The Microsoft Slim Pen 2 stylus can be attached and charged by placing it under the front lip of the Surface Studio. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

Another grouse I had are the limited ports. There are just two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a proprietary Surface Connect port. Most users will probably end up using a dongle. In terms of performance, my review set has a dedicated Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics chip. It's what you'll usually find in budget gaming notebooks like the Aftershock Apex 15S. In other words, the Surface Laptop Studio will run most games at medium to high settings. More importantly, its graphical horsepower will be handy in content creation apps like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere. But you're out of luck if you want a beefier graphics chip. The Surface Laptop Studio's CPU is also an older 11th-gen model that's decent enough in PCMark 10 (4,988), but falls well short of the Apex 15S (6,662) and its 12th-gen Core i7 chip.

My Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review set lasted 6hr 10min in our video-loop battery test at maximum brightness. It's not bad for a laptop with a dedicated graphics chip, but there are obviously more mobile (and portable) notebooks out there. To be fair, this uptime is longer than the HP Spectre x360 16 convertible. What you can't easily find is something as unique-looking as the Surface Laptop Studio. Not to mention that besides turning heads, it's also a premium and capable device that's very nice to use, especially with the Microsoft Slim Pen 2. But then again, seeing as my Core i7 model costs S$3,088, you should expect a good experience. While it's definitely a very good laptop, I feel it will appeal most to those who can afford expensive and pretty things.

See Also

Note: Review unit provided by Microsoft.

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Cool-looking but expensive Windows convertible.

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