Microsoft has reinvented the laptop again with its Surface Laptop Studio, but is it worth buying and how does it compare to the Surface Book?
Microsoft made a somewhat surprising announcement at its product event this year by revealing the Surface Laptop Studio, a new type of Windows device. Mimicking the Surface Studio, this product took the place of the Surface Book 4 that was expected. Whether Microsoft is discontinuing the Surface Book line remains unclear, but a comparison with last year’s model will help to determine where the new Laptop Studio fits in the Surface lineup.
Microsoft’s first Surface Book launched in 2015, showcasing a remarkable new concept for a 2-in-1 with a magnetically attached keyboard. This sturdy design turned the very large 13.5-inch tablet into a laptop. An upgraded keyboard base offered expanded capabilities and a dedicated graphics card made it a powerful mobile device. With the second generation, Microsoft added an even larger 15-inch option. Overall, while the Surface Book 3 brought fewer changes, the specifications improved and there were even more graphics options. Each model includes a notable armadillo-like hinge that is meant to provide greater durability, although the hinge prevented the device from folding flat.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio is a brand new product that rethinks laptop design, offering a few possibilities that were awkward to achieve with the Surface Book. First off, this is not a tablet and there is no option to remove the keyboard base. A 13.5-inch or 15-inch tablet is quite unwieldy and perhaps that is why Microsoft kept the 14.4-inch Surface Laptop Studio as a single piece. It can convert into different forms, however, and the design makes it like a smaller, portable version of the Surface Studio. The bottom of the display can slide forward, hinging at the middle with the keyboard tilting upward to a better viewing angle, or tipping all the way back to lay flat for drawing with the optional Surface Slim Pen. The angle is fully adjustable, allowing the user to decide what is best for viewing and using the touchscreen.
Surface Laptop Studio Price & Specifications
Microsoft’s newest high-end laptop starts at $1,600, the same price as the Surface Book 3 when it first launched. There’s an integrated Intel Core i5 processor that includes Iris Xe graphics, 16 gigabytes of memory, and a 256-gigabyte solid-state drive. At the most expensive configuration, the Surface Laptop Studio costs $3,100 and packs an 11th Gen Intel Core i7, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card, 32 gigabytes of memory, and 2 terabytes of storage. The Surface Slim Pen 2 costs $130 more, and Microsoft boasts that it provides the same feel as a ballpoint pen on paper. Older Surface Pens will also work, however. Microsoft used top-of-the-line components, making this more powerful than the Surface Book 3, which was criticized for including a disappointing four-core CPU and even in the larger 15-inch size.
While the Surface Book has the ability to detach the screen from the keyboard and become a tablet, the battery life drops and the graphics performance decreases, making this a less appealing option. With the Surface Laptop Studio, Microsoft makes it clear that this is meant to rest on a desk or table and provides some useful configurations that don’t require any sacrifices. It can be used for work and play, providing enough graphics power for uncompromising laptop gaming when choosing the configuration that includes an Nvidia graphics card. Adding a Surface Pen transforms it to a digital canvas for artists, with an adjustable screen that makes drawing easier. With an adaptive 120 hertz refresh rate and Dolby Vision support, Microsoft surpassed the screen quality of the Surface Book in the most important ways, providing a rich, fast display with good sharpness. Speakers also improved, making this a good all-purpose laptop with nice movie playback abilities.
While keeping the same $1,600 starting price, Microsoft has launched an interesting new form factor for laptops. The Surface Book line was beginning to stall creatively and Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio offers a fresh new take, increases the power and flexibility of the device, and is more attractive overall.
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