Surface Laptop Studio: The Surface Laptop Studio is Microsoft’s creative workstation, which replaces the outgoing Surface Book line with a bit more conventional laptop-like form factor but is still quite unique.
The new top of Microsoft’s laptop line starts at £1,449 ($1,399.99/A$2,399) and is a bulky system designed to replace a desktop rather than a thin and light notebook that you carry around with you.
From the outside, it appears to be a regular laptop built of magnesium and aluminum with a traditional back hinge. With a decent-sized and great-looking 14.4in LCD touchscreen with a snappy 120Hz refresh rate, it bears more than a passing similarity to Apple’s MacBook Pro from the 2010s when you open the lid.
It boasts Windows Hello facial recognition, four decent speakers, a wonderful keyboard, and a new “haptic touchpad” that puts Microsoft’s trackpads on par with Apple’s best-in-class models.
But if you hold the top display and spin it backward, things start to get interesting. The screen magnetically unclips at the bottom, allowing you to put it on magnets directly in front of the trackpad in “stage mode” or fold it all the way down onto the deck in “studio mode.”
Stage mode is for watching videos, while studio mode transforms the laptop into a sketching surface using Microsoft’s fantastic, but optional, Slim Pen 2 stylus, much like the company’s unique Studio desktop computer. It’s a breeze to edit images, draw out ideas, and even mark up documents with it.
When you flip the laptop over, you’ll notice another unique feature: a stepped-back fan base that is hidden when it’s on a desk.
The discrete Nvidia graphics chip and H-series Intel processors are housed in the base, both of which are more powerful and produce more heat than the models found in smaller laptops. The fans weren’t necessary for browsing and light work, but they did kick in after a minute or so of photo editing, making them audible but not annoying.
Surface Laptop Studio Specifications
- Screen: 14.4in LCD 2,400×1,600 (201 PPI; 120Hz)
- Processor: Intel Core i5 or i7 (11th generation)
- Ram: 16 or 32GB
- Storage: 256, 512GB, 1 or 2TB
- Graphics: Intel Iris X or Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
- Operating system: Windows 11
- Camera: 1080P front-facing, Windows Hello
- Connectivity: wifi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, 2x Thunderbolt 4/USB 4, headphones, Surface Connect
- Dimensions: 323.3 x 228.3 x 18.9mm
- Weight: 1,743 or 1,820g
Surface Laptop Studio Feature The Dynamic Refresh Rate
Six months after the Surface Laptop Studio was released, Microsoft has finally begun testing the dynamic refresh rate feature. This allows the laptop’s display to automatically transition between a 60Hz and 120Hz refresh rate as needed, as Microsoft promised when the laptop was first released. However, for the time being, the feature is exclusively available to Windows Insiders.
The dynamic refresh rate setting is now available to Surface Laptop Studio customers that are engaged in the Windows Insider program, specifically the Dev and Beta channels, according to Windows Central. If you fall into this category, you should receive two updates via Windows Upgrade: one is a firmware update (version 10.0.156), and the other is a new Intel graphics driver (version 220.127.116.110).
You should be able to discover the new dynamic refresh rate mode by going into the Settings app and selecting Display -> Advanced display once the upgrades have been implemented.
You’ll now notice a Dynamic (60Hz or 120Hz) option where you used to be able to choose between 60Hz and 120Hz.
Although it appears that these are the only two refresh rates accessible, you won’t be able to obtain 90Hz or even go as low as 10Hz when the screen is idle, it’s still nice to have the option.
When the laptop is idle, it runs at 60Hz, but when scrolling through a page, it switches to 120Hz, according to Windows Central. However, some animations do not trigger the increased refresh rate, resulting in a less-than-smooth experience.
Hopefully, by the time this feature is handed out to everyone, that will have changed. On that note, it appears that this capability is not available for the Surface Pro 8, which also has a 120Hz display. It’ll probably get it someday, too.
If you’re more familiar with the smartphone market, you might find this function to be a little underwhelming. For years, smartphones have boasted about dynamic refresh rates, and some of them offer much more precise control over how low that refresh rate may go to save power. We can only hope that laptops like the Surface Laptop Studio set a new trend and PCs make this type of capability more common.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio With Window 11
Microsoft’s Surface Notebook Studio is another unique and customizable Windows 11 laptop. It may not appear as innovative as the Surface Book it replaces, but it delivers nearly all of the same features in a simpler package.
It’s a tad hefty for an expensive basic laptop, but it’s ideal for using at a desk. Fast, quiet, and equipped with a fantastic screen, keyboard, and the greatest trackpad available on Windows. Unclip the screen, and it converts into a fantastic drawing tablet that rivals any competitor, especially when paired with the great Slim Pen 2 stylus, which should be included in the box rather than sold separately for £120.
Those searching for a truly powerful portable workstation, on the other hand, may find it lacking in several aspects when compared to better-specced, but less versatile competitors at this price point. As a result, the Laptop Studio finds itself in an odd middle ground: it’s too pricey to be a regular laptop, but not powerful enough to be a developer’s or renderer’s closest friend.
The Surface Laptop Studio is the odd Windows 11 machine for you if you require a laptop that converts into a drawing tablet and can also serve as a desktop replacement.
Pros: excellent keyboard and trackpad, excellent screen with articulating options, Thunderbolt 4/USB 4, strong battery life, discrete Nvidia graphics card option, fantastic as a laptop or drawing board, Windows Hello
Cons: bulky, pricey; no 6 or 8-core processor possibilities; restricted port selection; no SD card slot; Slim Pen 2 not included.