The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio Review: Dynamic Design

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 2400×1600 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
CPU Core i5-11300H
4 core 8 Thread
3.1-4.4 GHz
35W TDP
Core i7-11370H
4 core 8 Thread
3.3-4.8 GHz
35W TDP
GPU Intel Iris Xe
1.3 GHz
80 Execution Units
Intel Iris Xe
1.35 GHz
96 Execution Units

NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti/RTX A2000
4GB GDDR6 128-bit
2560 CUDA Cores
80 Tensor Cores
20 Ray Tracing Cores
32 ROPS

RAM 16 GB LPDDR4x 16GB / 32GB LPDDR4x
Storage 256GB / 512GB PCIe 512GB / 1TB / 2TB PCIe
Display 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow LCD
2400×1600 (201 PPI)
120 Hz variable refresh
3:2 aspect ratio
Dolby Vision Support
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
Bluetooth 5.1
I/O 2 x Thunderbolt 4
Surface Connect
Headset jack
Camera 1080p webcam
Windows Hello 2.0 IR
Battery 56 Wh
65W AC Adapter (5W for USB-A charging)
56 Wh
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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