The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio Review: Dynamic Designby Brett Howse on October 5, 2021 9:00 AM EST
- Posted in
- Surface Laptop Studio
Microsoft’s Surface team has produced some amazing designs over the years, taking to focusing on convertible devices to highlight the adaptability of Windows. That being said, over the last several years the design team has been largely held in check, as Microsoft has opted to focus on further refining their convertible designs. Thankfully, for 2021 the team is back to innovation as well as refinement with their latest device, the Surface Laptop Studio. With its dynamic woven hinge, the Laptop Studio is a true convertible device, as well as the spiritual successor to the now-defunct Surface Book.
The Surface Laptop Studio’s unique feature is most certainly the tiltable display. And while the idea of being able to tilt the display on a laptop is not unique, Microsoft’s dynamic woven hinge is. The hinge mechanism provides the ability to convert the laptop into three modes, which Microsoft is calling Laptop, Stage, and Studio modes. The genius of the design though is that Microsoft’s hinge provides these modes without a significant amount of bulk, so unlike most convertible devices, the extra functionality does not come at the cost of compromising the laptop experience. The Surface Laptop Studio is first and foremost a laptop computer, and not conceding that capability to add the extra functionality is a big win.
As a successor to the Surface Book, performance is also a key in the Surface Laptop Studio. To that end, it is equipped with Intel’s H35-series 11th Gen Core processors – a higher powered version of Intel’s quad-core “Tiger Lake” CPUs, along with their Iris Xe integrated graphics. And with the Core i7 model Microsoft goes one step further by adding a discrete GPU; either NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti for consumer models, or if you opt for a commercial model, the professional-focused RTX A2000. For memory, the base model comes with 16 GB of LPDDR4x with a 32 GB option on the i7. On the storage front Microsoft offers from 256 GB to 2 TB of PCIe 3.0 solid state storage, which is also user replaceable.
All of this drives the new 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow display. The exciting news here is that the Surface Laptop Studio features a 120 Hz display to improve the laptop's smoothness and responsiveness. At a 2400x1600 resolution, the panel is not quite as high density as the outgoing Surface Book, but still offers a respectable 201 pixels per inch.
|Surface Laptop Studio
As tested: Core i7 / RTX 3050 Ti / 32 GB / 1TB / $2699.99
|Component||Core i5||Core i7|
4 core 8 Thread
4 core 8 Thread
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe
80 Execution Units
|Intel Iris Xe
96 Execution Units
NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti/RTX A2000
4GB GDDR6 128-bit
2560 CUDA Cores
80 Tensor Cores
20 Ray Tracing Cores
|RAM||16 GB LPDDR4x||16GB / 32GB LPDDR4x|
|Storage||256GB / 512GB PCIe||512GB / 1TB / 2TB PCIe|
|Display||14.4-inch PixelSense Flow LCD
2400x1600 (201 PPI)
120 Hz variable refresh
3:2 aspect ratio
Dolby Vision Support
|Networking||Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
|I/O||2 x Thunderbolt 4
Windows Hello 2.0 IR
65W AC Adapter (5W for USB-A charging)
102W AC Adapter (7W for USB-A charging)
|Dimensions||323 x 229 x 17.8 mm
12.7 x 9.0 x 0.7 inches
|Weight||1.74 kg / 3.83 lbs||1.82 kg / 4.00 lbs|
|Starting Price (USD)||$1,599.99||$2,099.99|
The Surface team has been slow to adopt USB-C on their products, and when they did finally acquiesce to the demand, they chose not to enable Thunderbolt in their past products. Thankfully, for the Surface Laptop Studio, they have finally changed their stance. The Surface Laptop Studio now features two Thunderbolt 4 ports for expansion, as well as the now-traditional Surface Connect port for charging and docking. This finally brings Surface up to modern times, although there will likely be some that are disappointed to see USB Type-A ports dropped entirely. With the design of Surface Laptop Studio, there just is not room for the larger port. What would have been nice to see is the included Type-A charging port built into the charger also allow data, but that is not the case. Still, if there is one thing Surface has been called out on in the past it was their port selection, so it is nice to see the most modern options here on the new design.
It should come as no surprise to see Wi-Fi 6 support, powered by the Intel AX200 adapter. Although it is a bit of a surprise to not see the newer AX210 with Wi-Fi 6E support, since it is the latest model.
Microsoft calls the Surface Laptop Studio the successor to the Surface Book, which was their previous performance notebook. With an optional GPU and 35-Watt Intel processors, the Surface Laptop Studio is the most powerful Surface portable they have built. Let’s take a look at the design and see how it compares to its predecessors.
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nico_mach - Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - linkI don't think you'll get a clear statement from MS. That said, they indicated that this is the successor, so I wouldn't count on another Book release.
And, yes, that is all they said, there is no definitive 'The Book is dead' statement anywhere.
Daeros - Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - linkJust curious as to why no comparisons were made to other ‘H’ sku offerings from Intel and AMD, or the Apple M1.
It seems like a no-brainer that a CPU with >2x thermal dissipation and external GPU is faster than the ~15w platforms in this review.
Brett Howse - Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - linkHi Daeros. I've not been sampled the Apple M1 in a laptop so it is not in our database.
Most of the "H" series we've tested are bigger gaming systems with much larger GPUs. This is called an H35 but really it's more of a U-series with some headroom.
That being said, feel free to compare the Laptop Studio against any other device we've tested in our online Bench database here:
ingwe - Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - linkSo perhaps a stupid question: based on what I see from the battery life and charge time page, charging only happens through the Surface Connect port and not through Thunderbolt at all? Correct? If so, that is annoying as it means a normal Thunderbolt dock is next to worthless with this.
Brett Howse - Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - linkThe charger that comes with it is the normal Surface one but that doesn't mean you can't charge over the other ports.
rogantastic - Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - linkI picked up my Surface Laptop Studio yesterday and confirmed you can charge with any standard PD charger over Type C on both ports, this is a requirement to be called "Thunderbolt" if less than 120 watts I believe (I could be wrong on the wattage number). I have a 65 Watt PD charger and it works GREAT.
ikjadoon - Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - linkExcellent battery life for a 56 WHr 35W GPU + ~35W dGPU; these idles states are working well.
And great to see, from the surface, a quite decent SSD (as I don't think SK Hynix makes QLC or DRAMless SSDs, do they?).
But, *quite* disappointed to see not a single type-A port and a silly, selfish omission. Following Apple's worse trends: "$1600 MSRP system with a dGPU and not a single USB type-A port."
The oddities are those browser benchmarks.
Either Windows 11, Edge, or some system timers are either beyond amazing or beyond borked. That 192 Speedometer 2.0 score for an i7-11370H (4.8 GHz Turbo) is 34% faster than AnandTech's CPU Bench all-time record of 143 by the i9-11900K (5.3 GHz Turbo).
Also would've liked an M1 comparison at least for battery life or CPU performance, though the main seller here is the hinged touchscreen.
ikjadoon - Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - link* 35W CPU
* Apple's worst
SirDragonClaw - Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - linkNo one needs a old usb type-a port these days. Leaving it on would be foolish.
alanh - Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - linkI find it curious that you talk about the new "unique hinge design" and then neglect to include any detailed pics of the hinge on the "Design" page.