Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio: Packs a lot in – for a price

More versatile than the Surface Laptop, more comfortable than the Surface Pro

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
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Price: €1729
Where To Buy: Harveynorman.ie

The Microsoft Laptop Studio promises a lot. The hybrid device is part laptop, part tablet, a powerful studio that can adapt to everything from work and productivity to school work and leisure, including gaming and video streaming.

That’s a lot to pack on the shoulders of one slim laptop.

It also has the pressure of being the follow-up to the Surface Book, Microsoft's two-in-one that flipped between a tablet and a laptop at the touch of a button. While the former had its flaws, it was an interesting departure in design for the tech giant.

As far as its task as a replacement for the Surface Book goes, I’m not immediately convinced by the Surface Laptop Studio. At first glance it has more in common with the Surface Laptop than the Surface Book; there’s no detachable screen, for a start.

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But it has a couple of hidden features. The most notable of these is the screen. The giveaway is the discreet line across the casing, which allows you to angle the screen and use it in “stage” mode, or fold right back and use it as a portable studio. The latter will require the Surface Slim Pen 2, which is an extra and doesn’t come in the box.

The device comes with a 120Hz 14-inch display, with a slim bezel that accommodates the Windows Hello camera for authentication, the front-facing web camera and two studio mics.

That display is sharp and renders everything from text to video brilliantly, reacting well to touch when you need it.

Angling the screen feels a bit awkward at first, but you quickly adapt; it hides the keyboard and snaps magnetically to the case so you can take notes on the screen or play a game without feeling as if the screen will snap back away from you.

Fold it down into Studio mode, and you can sketch, create documents, edit video and photos or carry out other creative tasks with ease.

The other design feature that marks the Surface Laptop Studio out as different is the platform underneath the keyboard. The Surface Laptop Studio has a lip and a small platform on its underside. That houses the fans for the device, and also gives you somewhere to charge the aforementioned Surface Slim Pen. Magnets under the front of the keyboard securely store it and charge the device, and it’s less likely to get knocked off as you use the laptop.

That keyboard is surprisingly pleasing to use. It’s a good size, is comfortable and has decent travel on the keys and, given its status as a portable studio, the large Precision Haptic touchpad is welcome. It can be used with Windows 11 gestures, if you decide to go down that particular route. I experienced few, if any, accidental palm presses, too, which made working on the device less frustrating than others I’ve tested in the past.

Speaking of work, the Surface laptop Studio is pitched as a good device for business users. It comes in a few different specs, from the Core i5 and i7 to additional RAM and up to 2TB solid state drives. I’ve been using a system with the Core i5 processor and 16GB of RAM as a work device for the duration of the review, and the device has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with ease. I find it more versatile than the Surface Laptop, and more comfortable than the Surface Pro. If you want something that sits in between the two, yet still delivers on performance, the Surface Laptop Studio fulfils that brief.

But that, inevitably, comes at a price. If you want the Surface Laptop Studio, you'll have to pay a minimum of €1,729 for the device. That's the Core i5 processor, which comes with Intel Iris X graphics. For the Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics, you'll need to bump the spec up to the Core i7, which adds another €510 to the price, but also doubles the size of the SSD to 512GB. For the more serious creatives, that may be a necessary upgrade.

If you don’t need that extra power, though, the Surface Laptop 4 is still a solid performer – and much easier on the pocket.

The good

The Surface Laptop Studio certainly is versatile. It works well as a laptop, with a solid hinge and the folding screen seems sturdy. It’s difficult to accidentally fold the screen too. The keyboard is comfortable to use.

Performance wise, it can handle business, creative and leisure tasks with ease.

Aesthetically, there is an echo of Apple’s MacBook here. In general, the Laptop Studio is well designed, packing a lot into its case. The 14.4-inch display is also a high point.

Sound is also good, with Microsoft’s Quad Omnisonic speakers and Dolby Atmos built in.

The not-so-good

It’s not a budget buy. That’s to be expected, given the specs and Microsoft target market for the machine. But annoyingly, the Surface Pen is still an add-on, so you’ll have to pay extra to effectively use this device as a studio.

While it has advantages over the Surface Book, it is also less versatile when it comes to using it in place of a tablet. The size and bulk of it mean you won’t be using this for video streaming while lounging around, although the design means you can prop it up for media viewing without a stand.

The rest

The Surface Laptop Studio comes in Core i5 and i7 versions, with 16GB or 32GB RAM and an SSD that ranges from 256GB to 2TB, depending on how deep your pockets are. Battery life is up to 19 hours, although I found that I didn’t quite hit that with my own use.

There are two ports, both USB-C on one side of the case and a headphone jack and power connection on the other.

The verdict

An expensive but solid device that will suit business users and creative alike – as long as they have deep pockets.

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Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist