In 2015, Microsoft introduced the Surface Book in one of the most noteworthy product reveals ever. With its never-before-done detachable display, later iterations of Surface Book delivered the power of a modest workstation but the flexibility of a tablet PC when required. The idea seemed ingenious, almost too good, and yet years later, the idea has fizzled as people questioned its practicality and tradeoffs in performance.
Surface Laptop Studio is the spiritual successor to Surface Book and, and in many ways, feels just like it did. It's a bigger, heavier, and indeed, a more powerful PC compared to Surface Laptop 4.
This time, the Microsoft trick is that new pull-it-forward display, one Acer and Sony VAIO, have been dabbling in for years. However, unlike those PCs this is a Surface. Everything is more premium with unique features like a 120Hz display, haptic pen and touchpad, quad-audio, a distinctive design, and balance between all the components. It all adds up to an incredible machine despite a few odd choices and early rough edges.
Aimed at mobile creators and engineers I've spent the last few days with Microsoft's most expensive mobile PC yet. I've learned quite a bit about what it can do and what it can't, with a lot of detail that you won't find elsewhere. So, is Surface Laptop Studio a boom or a bust?
Let's find out.
Surface Laptop Studio
Bottom line: Surface Laptop Studio delivers a powerful, flexible, workstation-style PC perfect for artists, engineers, and some light gaming. No other laptop currently does everything it can do at this level. But, like all Surfaces, you pay for that experience.
- Exceptionally engineered
- Very good performance and battery life
- Excellent keyboard, haptic pen
- Bright, color accurate, 120Hz display
- The best touchpad on any PC
- Thunderbolt 4
- Reflective display
- Charger is underpowered
- Audio needs more bass
- Bluetooth can be finicky
- No SD card reader
- Switching postures can be awkward
Surface Laptop Studio: Price, availability, and specs
Surface Laptop Studio is now available in the U.S. and Canada, with 47 additional markets coming sometime in early 2022, with the delay due to the ongoing chip shortage.
Consumers can purchase the laptop through Microsoft, Best Buy, or Amazon, while those wanting the commercial version can order through Microsoft, or through retail partners.
|Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM, 128GB storage, Iris Xe||$1,599|
|Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, Iris Xe||$1,799|
|Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti||$2,099|
|Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB storage, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti||$2,699|
|Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 2TB storage, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti||$3,099|
Pricing begins at $1,599 for a Core i5 processor with integrated graphics (Intel Iris Xe), 256GB of storage, and 16GB of RAM.
The Core i7 models ship with a more powerful NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics processor, while the commercial version uses an identical NVIDIA GeForce RTX A2000 for ISV-certified professional software. Both GPUs have similar architectures, memory, and performance, with the RTX A2000 having a slightly higher GPU boost clock (1,207.5MHz vs. 1,035MHz) and error correction code (ECC) memory. ECC is vital to commercial applications like CAD, video, and 3D programs, but not gaming.
Surface Laptop Studio: Specs
|Category||Surface Laptop Studio|
|OS||Windows 11 Home|
Windows 11 Pro
Windows 10 Pro
|Processor||11th Gen Intel|
|Graphics||Iris Xe (i5)|
NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti Laptop (i7)
NVIDIA RTX A2000 Laptop (i7, commercial)
|Storage||256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB SSD|
3:2 aspect ratio
Up to 120Hz
|Ports||Two Thunderbolt 4|
|Audio||Four Omnisonic speakers|
Two far-field mics
|Pen||Surface Slim Pen 2|
Firmware TMP (consumer)
Hardware TPM 2.0 (commercial)
Up to 19 hours (i5)
Up to 18 hours (i7)
|Dimensions||12.7 x 9.0 x 0.7 inches|
(322.6mm x 228.6mm x 17.8mm)
|Weight||i5: 3.83 pounds (1.7kg)|
i7: 4.0 pounds (1.8kg)
The top-tier configuration for Surface Laptop Studio includes a Core i7, 32GB of RAM, 2TB of storage, and an RTX 3050 Ti GPU costing around $3,100. The same version with an RTX A2000 GPU is $3,800.
The models used for this review feature the Core i7, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, with one using the A2000 and the other 3050 Ti. The cost is around $2,699 for the GeForce RTX 3050 Ti model, while the one with the RTX A2000 is $3,399.
Business editions also ship with Windows 11 Pro or Windows 10 Pro (+$100 license), while the consumer variants use Windows 11 Home.
Pricing also does not include the new haptics-enabled Surface Slim Pen 2, which is an optional $130 purchase.
There's nothing like it
Surface Laptop Studio: Design and features
The overall look of Surface Laptop Studio is distinct. To my eyes, it continues the "Brutalist design" aesthetics with a hint of Dieter Ram's minimalism we've seen in other Surface products. The top lid looks like Surface Pro. When opened, the rounded corners and edges lend themselves to an Apple MacBook Pro. But peeking underneath it is altogether distinct with a curious pedestal-base and aggressive venting. It reminds me a bit of Xbox One S, which also has a similar stepped design.
Few have wondered if that base would detract from use in the lap or cause it to be unbalanced. It does not. That stepped design gives some extra grip points when grabbing the laptop, and the larger front lip lets the Surface Slim Pen 2 magnetically stick while being completely flush and out of the way. I think it's an ingenious, functional layout and makes this PC unlike any other in the world.
For the first time, Microsoft is using a pull-it-forward display in a Surface PC. The concept isn't new as Acer first tried it with the Aspire R7 in 2013 and VAIO in 2014 with the VAIO Duo 13. HP used it with the 2018 Spectre Folio. Indeed, Acer is still making such devices like its ConceptD Ezel series.
But Microsoft is the first to do it this way and at such a premium level.
The pull-it-forward concept is straightforward. You use Surface Laptop Studio like an average workstation laptop, but with a flick, you can bring the screen forward ("stage mode") where the keyboard is hidden, but the touchpad is still visible for navigation. This configuration is ideal for watching a video, conference calls, immersive reading, and light sketching. The shift brings the display about 7 inches closer to you, significantly altering the viewing experience.
It doesn't stop there. Pull it forward again, and now you can lay down the display at a slight angle ("studio mode"), which makes it ideal for extended drawing sessions or manipulating onscreen data using the Surface Slim Pen 2.
You can do all these postures without ever lifting the Surface Laptop Studio off your lap or desk, which is cumbersome on 14- and 15-inch laptops. And, unlike a PC with a 360-degree hinge, the keyboard never gets dirty when in stage mode nor pushes back from taps because it locks into place thanks to some magnets.
If this all looks familiar, it's because Microsoft effectively combined the concepts of its desktop-bound Surface Studio, the tablet-like Surface Pro, and the portable power of Surface Book into one device.
And the idea works. This kind of flexibility with this much power is not unprecedented (see Acer), but it is rare.
Surface Laptop Studio weighs 4 pounds (1.8kg), not light but not too heavy. It's a very dense machine, and unlike Surface Book, there is no gap thanks to the hinge. While Surface Book felt a bit fragile due to that curved, unfolding hinge, Surface Laptop Studio feels tough. It is easy to carry, and the lid opens with one hand.
There isn't much for ports, just two Type-C on the left-hand side, while on the right, there is the magnetic Surface Connect for charging or use with the Surface Dock and a headphone jack.
But, for the first time, Microsoft made those Type-C ports Thunderbolt 4. It's a big deal as it means you could use Surface Laptop Studio with an external GPU (eGPU). Still, the most likely use is for Thunderbolt 4 docks, like the new Surface-certified Kensington SD5750T, or a Thunderbolt external drive where I was able to transfer 7.3GB of videos in just nine seconds. It's a long-overdue technology for Surface and one its target audience will relish.
The keyboard is excellent and is closer to the Surface Laptop with its non-metal dark gray keys and snappier feel than the slightly mushier metal keys on Surface Book. There are four levels (one being off) for backlighting, and the contrast makes these keys easy to see in any condition.
The touchpad is the best of any Windows PC, period, and it feels very similar to what Apple uses in the MacBook Pro. That's because this is Microsoft's first haptic touchpad, which means it doesn't move or click. Instead, it simulates clicking. I've written extensively on this topic as haptic touchpads solve many problems — they can be huge, don't break, are more accurate, and are configurable. While Microsoft takes credit for it, I can reveal that Sensel, whom I have interviewed previously, is behind the technology here. This touchpad is massive, super smooth, and under Settings, users can set how much "kick" the touchpad gives. It's simply phenomenal, and every PC maker needs to adopt this technology now.
The audio is excellent, but it needs a bit more bass and fullness. It is undoubtedly loud as Microsoft uses quad speakers for the first time. Two (bass) push out from the sides while the other two (mids and highs) emanate under the keyboard like Surface Laptop. The result is no visible speaker grills anywhere, which is something unique to Microsoft.
The sound profile also changes based on the posture of the display, which is fascinating. When audio is playing, the mids and highs become more prominent if you shift from laptop to stage mode. Microsoft believes the sound should match the current mode of Surface Laptop Studio, and it is another excellent example of the amount of detail that went into executing this design. Sound is also augmented with the inclusion of Dolby Atmos for increased spatial performance.
The single front-facing camera is a 2.1 MP full HD one. I've said it before, and it still holds that Microsoft makes the best web cameras on any laptop, and that applies here. Color, aspect, and sharpness are all well above average and class leading.
Flanking the camera are dual microphones and infrared sensors for Windows Hello to allow logging in to Windows 11 with face recognition, which is exceptionally fast.
Interestingly, Microsoft skipped Xbox Wireless for directly connecting to an Xbox controller (it was included with Surface Book 3 15-inch). But Microsoft notes that Bluetooth 5.1 advanced so much it was unnecessary. Indeed, connecting an Xbox controller with Bluetooth gave force feedback, something that only Microsoft's proprietary Xbox Wireless could do previously. That said, I did experience some disconnects with the controller, which was frustrating.
So close to perfect
Surface Laptop Studio: Display and inking
Microsoft uses a unique 14.4-inch 2400x1600 touch display with 201 pixels per inch (PPI) and a 120Hz refresh rate. That size falls between Surface Book 3's 13.5-inch and 15-inch screen with a higher 3000x2000 (267 PPI) and 3240x2160 (260 PPI) resolution, respectively. I wouldn't be shocked if Microsoft makes a bigger 16-inch version of Surface Laptop Studio down the line.
Like all Surface products, it has a tall 3:2 display aspect instead of 16:9 or the increasingly common 16:10, making it ideal for inking, but less so for watching 16:9 movies.
I can't say I've noticed a difference in PPI and resolution between Surface Book and Surface Laptop Studio; however, some may be dissatisfied. Microsoft tried to find the right balance between audience, price, and battery life like all laptop makers. While higher resolution would be preferred, it also increases the cost of the device while reducing how long the laptop lasts off the plug.
Color accuracy is better than any mobile Surface product to date and is above average for this class. It measures at 100% sRGB, 81% AdobeRGB, and an impressive 88% DCI-P3. That's a big improvement over Surface Book 3's 97% sRGB, 72% AdobeRGB, and 72% DCI-P3. Those results are still behind the Dell XPS 17 with 100% sRGB, 100% AdobeRGB, and 97% DCI-P3, but are ahead of the Dell XPS 13 and its impressive 3.5K OLED display.
Brightness is also decent. Whereas Surface Book 3 was 495 nits, this measures 508, just above Microsoft's 500 claims. Likewise, this screen can get incredibly dim at just 2.0 nits, making it ideal for working in a dark room late at night.
For the first time, Microsoft is also using Dolby Vision, a form of high-dynamic-range (HDR), which enhances contrast with video content. When combined with movies graded for Dolby Vision, you get deeper blacks, better contrast, and richer colors.
By default, there are no settings for Dolby Vision, but users can install the Dolby Access app in the Microsoft Store. That app can tune audio (Dolby Atmos), and video (Dolby Vision) with some presets.
The display bezels are thin, though not the thinnest, but at least are proportionally equal all around. It's a good look and balanced.
The 120Hz refresh rate is striking and set as default out of the box (unlike Surface Pro 8, which is 60Hz by default). Users can go into settings and reduce the display to 60Hz to save on battery. Windows 11 now supports Dynamic Refresh Rate, which lets displays instantly shift between 60Hz (idle) and 120Hz (scrolling, inking). Disappointingly that feature is not yet enabled, although Microsoft expects a firmware update later to allow it to. The same applies to "Wake on Approach."
That 120Hz is also responsible for the lack of latency with Surface Slim Pen 2. The higher refresh lets the ink "flow" better, simulating a real inking experience. That pen also supports haptics, a type of "force feedback." Haptic inking only works if the app supports it, but there are quite a few that already do, including:
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Journal
- Microsoft Whiteboard
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Adobe Fresco
Users can control how strong the haptics feel under Settings, as well as turning it off. By default, it is set to 50% though I found turning it up to near 100% is a better experience. The feature makes it feel like friction when writing simulating using a pencil on paper. Changing to pen or marker changes it again. And the pen gives a little "kick" when using Adobe Fresco and the lasso tool when you are nearing the grab points.
Pen haptics is a neat feature, but not quite jaw-dropping either as it's subtle. But when combined with the new pen tip in Surface Slim Pen 2, it positively enhances the overall experience. Toss in 120Hz refresh for no latency, the ability to tuck it away under the Laptop Studio's keyboard deck (where it also recharges), and the whole set is a very impressive advancement in digital inking.
Curiously, while Surface Laptop Studio does include an auto-brightness sensor, it does not feature one for adaptive color found in Surface Pro 8. Microsoft explained why when asked, which makes sense:
I am pleased to report that Microsoft does now let users disable Intel's "adaptive contrast," long a bugaboo of Surface fans. Adaptive contrast dims blacks and reduces contrast to decrease power consumption, making it a valuable feature for the battery conscious. However, the experience can create jarring shifts in brightness when jumping between a primarily white web page and something predominantly black.
Another clever trick not publicized is "Wake on Touch," and it is available as an option under Settings > Bluetooth & devices > Touch > Touch the screen to wake. It works when the laptop is in stage or studio modes, and the power button is obscured. Users can tap the display, which wakes up the computer and kicks in Windows Hello to log back into Windows automatically. Attention to detail, indeed.
My only complaint with this otherwise exceptional screen is Microsoft's doggedness to omit an anti-reflective (AR) layer to reduce eye strain. HP, Dell, Lenovo, and especially Apple use AR in their pen-enabled products like the iPad Pro. AR keeps contrast and color accuracy while making the device more comfortable to use under bright lights or even outdoors. It's a frankly baffling oversight, and Microsoft has been unable to provide me with a justifiable answer for its absence.
Surface Laptop Studio: Performance and battery
Microsoft uses a unique processor with Surface Laptop Studio: A quad-core Intel 11th Gen Core i5-11300H or Core i7-11370H. We haven't seen many of these chips used in laptops as they fall between Intel's U-series chips found in Ultrabooks and the 6- to 8-core 45-watt H-series processors. That makes them more efficient than what is used in the Dell XPS 15 and more powerful than the 10th-Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 used in Surface Book 3.
Measuring pure CPU performance (no GPU) in Cinebench 23 Surface Laptop studio matches Apple's MacBook Pro with an M1 processor for single-core performance (Intel's strength). Still, it falls dramatically behind devices with 6- or 8-core CPUs, as one expects.
Things improve with PCMark 10, which measures total Windows performance for productivity (but not gaming), blending CPU and GPU in various tasks, including photo and video editing. As a result, it is accurate to say Surface Studio Laptop is identical to the Razer Blade 15 (late 2020) gaming laptop with the 8-core i7-10875H processor and slightly ahead of the HP ENVY x360 with AMD Ryzen R7 5700U. That's very good.
On 3DMark Night Raid, which is more GPU intensive, the Surface Laptop blows everything else away. But that test is meant for comparing Ultrabooks with integrated graphics, not discrete GPUs per se. It's included because Surface Laptop Studio falls between Ultrabooks and beefy workstations, making classification difficult. But if you were curious if Surface Laptop Studio is much more powerful than Surface Laptop 4, the answer is a decisive yes.
Putting Surface Laptop Studio up against appropriate laptops with discrete GPU, it falls in the middle. In 3DMark Time Spy, it pulls ahead of the last-gen XPS 15 (9500) with a GTX 1650 Ti and octa-core processor but is far behind proper gaming PCs like the HP OMEN 15 or Razer Blade 14 and 15 laptops.
That's the takeaway message for performance: Surface Laptop Studio is a powerful Windows laptop for work, but only a mediocre one for gaming. That experience fits with Microsoft's intended use of Surface Laptop Studio.
Another strong point, for once, is storage. Microsoft typically has mid-range SSD performance, but Surface Laptop Studio ranks near the top. The user-replaceable SSD came fourth in our tests with an impressive 3,500MB/s sequential read and 3,225MB/s sequential write result, even beating the Apple MacBook Pro (M1). Storage performance is vital as when combined with faster LPDDR4x RAM and a decent CPU/GPU it can result in excellent overall system performance, which is what we see.
Related to that SSD, I did hear some minor coil whine when plugged in and set to max performance while transferring data, but it is a non-issue in other scenarios.
For those interested, we didn't find much difference in performance between Surface Laptop Studio with GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics and RTX A2000 with ECC and a slightly higher GPU boost clock. On PCMark 10, again, measuring overall system performance, the model with the A2000 scored 5,746 while the one with the 3050 Ti garnered a very similar 5,698. In Time Spy, the A2000 got 5,034, and the 3050 Ti got 5,077, which is within the margin of error/sampling. Microsoft notes that the A2000 has a "net higher performance throughput," so in some cases it may edge out the 3050 Ti, but only marginally. But for companies with ISV-certified software (CAD, 3D rendering, etc.), the A2000 with ECC is critical and an excellent option.
One exciting change by Microsoft is power profiles. When plugged in, Surface Laptop Studio automatically shifts to "best performance," but when unplugged, it goes back to "recommended" (which balances battery with performance). Users can, of course, override the behavior in Settings, but I think this is the right move with this laptop class.
Fan noise is also very good. The dual fans absolutely kick in when gaming or doing intense GPU work, but there is no high-pitched whine, just a lot of air being pushed. It is audible but also better than gaming laptops, mainly because the intakes and exhaust are all on the sides and not the bottom. During regular Windows usage (web, Office, email, video), the fans are silent.
For temperature, under intense load, the entire keyboard deck does get warm but never hot. Temps never peaked above 104°F (40°C) even at the exhaust points, which is remarkably good. Many PCs, including Surface Pro 8, get a skin temperature around 108°F (42°C) while gaming laptops can hit a scorching 123°F (51°F) on the bottom.
While Surface Laptop Studio is not a gaming laptop it can game. In loading up Destiny 2, you can easily play full resolution (2400x1600) and still hit 46-65 frames per second with medium graphics. Knock that down to "Full HD" 1920x1200 and 70-95 FPS achievable leveraging that 120Hz display.
In a disappointing move, Microsoft includes a 102W Surface Connect charger for Surface Laptop Studio. That's the same charger that shipped with Surface Book 2, but not the larger 127W one that came with Surface Book 3. And yes, that means under heavy gaming like Destiny 2, you will lose around 2% battery for every 10 minutes of gameplay. That's not awful, as even after an hour, you may only be down 15%, but it's a weird choice.
Of course, you could spring for that 127W charger on Amazon ($94) and problem solved (I tested), but that's still lame.
Instant-on is also superb. Closing the laptop for the night, the following day, Surface Laptop Studio logged me into Windows 11 in three seconds.
The 56.3WHr battery is shockingly good. In synthetic benchmarks using PCMark 10 Modern Office, classified as "light and medium office work," including a "realistic balance of writing, web browsing, and video conferencing," Surface Laptop Studio yielded an impressive 11 hours and 19 minutes. That was with the display set to 50%, auto-brightness/adaptive color/contrast disabled, and 120Hz refresh. Repeating the same test at 60Hz yielded 11 hours and 41 minutes — not a huge difference when doing basic work.
Going to the other extreme during PCMark 10's gaming battery rundown test, which is consistent and very GPU heavy, Surface Laptop Studio eked out two hours and six minutes of constant gaming. That's with the display at 120Hz, 50% brightness, max performance, and no auto-brightness enabled. That's not a lot, but better than most gaming laptops, which often fall below two hours.
Keep in mind, factors like display brightness and whether you are using 120Hz for the refresh rate will significantly impact your experience. Tasks like gaming, rendering, or compiling (aka GPU-intensive scenarios) will also considerably affect those results. In our tests, we disabled battery-saving features like auto-display brightness and adaptive contrast, but we also kept brightness at 50%. If you regularly use Surface Laptop Studio at 120Hz at 90% brightness while playing DOOM Eternal, you'll cut those results in half.
A few choices
Surface Laptop Studio: Competition
Despite being a unique device without much competition, a few alternatives to Surface Laptop Studio are worth considering.
The most obvious is the Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel. The models sport a pull-it-forward display design, support Wacom EMR inking, and have Pantone-validated screens. They can be configured with much more powerful internals, including an Intel Core i7-11800H processor and up to an RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. You also get many, many more ports. Pricing is unannounced, but Acer is known to be much more affordable. You don't get Windows Hello, a haptic touchpad, the haptic pen, or a 3:2 display aspect, but you can get a 4K display. Audio and the webcam will be much worse, fans are louder, and the build quality (all plastic) is also where corners get cut.
The HP Spectre x360 14 (and newer 16-inch model) are also 2-in-1s but with 360 hinges. They support inking (pen included, but no storage), look amazing, and have excellent software tweaks. The 14-inch model is one of our top-rated Ultrabooks. You do give up a discrete GPU and don't get any haptic pen or touchpad.
HP also has the excellent Elite Folio, but it's ultra-mobile with a much weaker ARM processor. However, you get the same pull-it-forward display and design with pen storage and options for 4G LTE and even 5G.
If you want much more power and just gaming, the Razer Blade 14 with AMD is a good bet, whereas the XPS 17 is good if you want a near-perfect 17-inch display in a 15-inch laptop. Both are straight clamshell laptops with no inking.
Microsoft's own Surface Pro 8 is perfect if you want many of the same features, including a 120Hz display, haptic Slim Pen 2, excellent touch display, but in a smaller package. You can even get it with LTE later in December 2021.
Finally, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme has a model with a touch screen and even inking. It's not a convertible, however, and it is still running 10th Gen Intel parts making a Gen 4 refresh imminent. It won't perform as well with its older 1650 Ti GPU and has weak battery life.
Should you buy the Surface Laptop Studio?
Who it's for
- Social content creators (editing video or photos)
- Professional designers and creators (CAD, 3D, drawing)
- STREAMi (Science, Technology, Research, Engineering, Arts, Maths, innovation)
Who it isn't for
- Those who want a gaming PC
- Those on a tight budget
- People who just need a clamshell laptop
Microsoft is clear about who should buy Surface Laptop Studio. It's for those who work with data, engineers, designers, scientists, creators, and developers. It's a professional piece of hardware. While it may look fantastic if you don't need to draw or design, it is overkill at best and useless at worst. Microsoft touts the i5 model (no NVIDIA GPU) for "social content creators," i.e., those doing lighter work who do need a pen for drawing or sketching up ideas, and I think that makes sense for those who want more than a Surface Pro 8.
What can I say if you're not in those lines of work besides that this PC isn't for you? If you want a "Surface gaming laptop," this is not it. Like Surface Book, you can game on it (and it's darn enjoyable), but at this price, you better be able to justify usage of that display that heavily leans on inking or those other two postures.
As far as a successor to Surface Book, this laptop fixes a lot of things. There's Thunderbolt 4, a much stronger CPU, a better (and replaceable) SSD. The audio is louder, touchpad is better, and the display is more accurate. There's Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos now to enhance music and movies. The new haptic pen is superb. And I think this laptop-style is much better than 360-degree hinges.
Turning to the "theory" of Surface Laptop Studio, I think Microsoft nailed it. This design highlights the best of 2-in-1 PCs in an exquisitely premium package. It pushes boundaries with that high refresh 120Hz display and embraces haptics. The design is both unique, but also functional. And like Windows 11, it's not cluttered or complex. It's a tool with purpose. Yeah, it's a bit awkward to transition back from studio mode to laptop mode, but that tradeoff is worth it for the functionality you gain.
As far as grumbles, this is a first-gen device, and while it is incredibly stable and performant with Windows 11, there are some hardware quirks. Leaving out an SD card reader when rumors are Apple is bringing it back is a dumb move. I've harped on no AR for the display. A real "floating" screen like Surface Studio would be even more fascinating (Acer already does this). Bluetooth could use a driver update to fix some disconnection issues.
But these are minor grievances. The design, feel, look, and execution of Surface Laptop Studio is much better than the first Surface Book, which was plagued with software and hardware bugs. It didn't even get a real GPU until version 2, and by then, people were already questioning the usefulness of the detachable display. And like many of Microsoft's hardware creations, Surface Laptop Studio's design is polarizing, but I'd argue that's the point of Surface — to challenge computing norms. Sometimes that works (Surface Pro 3), and sometimes it doesn't (Surface Book).
The jury is still out on Surface Laptop Studio, but it is fairing much better so far.
That brings us to the ultimate question of who buys Surface Laptop Studio. While there is piqued curiosity, it remains to be seen whether people will pay for it, especially at this level. Time will tell. But putting hoity toity questions of economics aside, if you're wondering whether it's a banger of a laptop that most people would enjoy using every day? The answer is a decisive yes. It's awesome.
Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.
Excellent review! First review for Surface Laptop Studio and this device looks promising. Though sadly the missing things like SD Card reader would be a bummer for me, especially when I'm out for taking photos and I need a trusty laptop for that without having to carry another accessory as much as possible. Sadly this one will require me to get an external SD card reader. Anti-Reflective display is also a missed opportunity for this to be used outdoors or bright office/studio. For the pen, haptic is pretty interesting and would be nice to use it on, though the snap feedback when grabbing resize points would be useful, the rest are not sure for me until I try. Though I wonder about the pen performance in regards to jitter and taper control which is my concern if I'm doing a line art. So far looks great and pretty nice replacement to Surface Book for the most part. Though I will really going to miss the detachable aspect though, which I use at times for occassional reading, casual browsing and lightweight note taking. Well at least this is more powerful and Thunderbolt support is finally is here for better docks with better support for 4K monitors, ultra fast storage and eGPU in the future.
Agree with you about the pen. Lisa Gade demonstrated much improved diagonal line jitter, but it's not nil yet.
For what it's worth it's fi e in an office setting if your light source is from above, but it's not great
I think this will be the perfect device for me. Can't wait to write the Great American novel on it 😁 thank you for a great review
The Surface Book had an iconic look from the venting to the hinge. Laptop Studio feels generic aesthetics wise - a MBP base hack to a transforming display. Having the detachable display that was lighter than the Surface Pro was super convenient for reading. I'm older now and being able to bring the screen close without lugging the entire laptop was really nice. I'll probably go back to the Surface Pro line when it's time to upgrade the SB2. and just use whatever work issues as a laptop for the full laptop experience. Shame, the SB really had it all for me.
"Laptop Studio feels generic aesthetics wise", I think you can say a lot about the laptop studio but calling it generic seems strange to me with the whole pedestal look.
Agree. It only looks generic when it is opened up and in clamshell/laptop mode. So, if all you have seen of this laptop is the second photo, yeah, seems generic. But closed, from the sides, from the bottom, in stage or studio mode? It looks like nothing on the market.
Dan, for those who prefer the initial design I'm sure there's some inventory that will need to be sold so they can grab one of those.
A basic productivity battery life of 11h+ on a device with that kind of performance is insane. At 120 Hz! I guess the gaming test at 2h tells us we can expect something like 6 or 7 hours for many productivity scenarios, but will have to wait and see for even more in depth reviews. Can you imagine drawing all day on this thing in a coffee shop? And then come Monday doing all your crazy engineering computing on it? Great review.
It's interesting that the battery life is reported at 120Hz. Really interested to see what the coming update (allowing variable refresh rate) will do to battery life as well. There's no need for 120Hz when watching a video for instance.
Maybe lack of thunderbolt support made them choose intel over superior AMD chip. it's obvious that it's just an ultimate surface laptop but not a true replacement of surfacebook as it can't detach. But surfacebook itself was niche device due to it's battery capacity 30-70% distribution between clipboard and keyboard dock. Microsoft should just redesign keyboard dock with optional dedicated gpu like surfacebook's fulcrum hinge dock but for future surface pros so that there is no need for surfacebook to be exist in future. And relaunch surface neo as new surfacebook because the name suits that product more now.
Is there an AMD-based system that can do these benchmarks AND get 11h of battery life?
There must be plenty of systems like HP envy x360 , Pavillion Aero, surface laptop 4 15 etc. as we can see in benchmarks of this article.
Current amd chips are built on 7nm compared to Intel's 10nm++ process & offers superior multicore performance at 25 watt compared to 35 watt CPU of surface laptop studio.
I can't find one like that in the benchmarks. 7nm is a plus but it's not everything. Also, AMD chips tend to have big performance differences when unplugged.
Interesting take not to include the Surface Book 3 in the GPU benchmarks.... as it would have been interesting to compare it to the device it is replacing... no? No doubt the Surface Laptop Studio would have lost out on many of those benchmarks though based on my testing... why hide that fact though?
You confuse hiding the fact with simply not having older data. See my Book 3 review and you wont' see that data there either as I didn't run those tests.
"No doubt the Surface Laptop Studio would have lost out on many of those benchmarks though based on my testing."Name the benchmarks and I'll run them. You think a 1660 Ti is going to lose to a 3050 Ti? How?
Sorry I was loosely insinuating you were "hiding", I just would have expected that data to be there.
The 1660 Ti could beat it because 55-60 watts + 6GB VRAM vs 50 watts max w/ dynamic boost + 4GB VRAM See anandtech's review:
https://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph16993/126524.png Looks like it trades blows overall though; pretty equivalent between the two GPUs though... obviously the 3050 Ti is more energy efficient and has RTX, so I'd still prefer it, although the 2GB less VRAM is something to consider as well. Also... your data is right here: https://www.windowscentral.com/benchmarks-surface-book-3 Surface Book 3 15 GTX 1660 Ti Time Spy 4,979
Surface Book 3 15 GTX 1660 Ti Night Raid 9,448
Surface Book 3 15 GTX 1660 Ti Fire Strike 3,406 Looks like the Timespy in your testing favors the Laptop Studio by a few points (4979 vs 5034) in timespy... so thats good for the SLS! Thanks for the reply.
Yup, I'm running them on the Book 3 RN. Will update graphs with new data. Thanks.
Daniel, please note the Lenovo Helix had a detachable screen and this predated the Surface Book.
Sure and there were others too. But Surface Book is arguably the first mainstream one that lived a few generations.
That is not really relevant I think since what made the Surface Book unique was also the big excellent 3:2 screen and separate graphics card (and some other features like good keyboard and touchpad for a detachable), in contrary to for example the Lenovo Helix or Dell Venue (and like what Daniel said countless others)
Great review! What did you use to benchmark the hard drive? I want to check it vs the 1tb SB3. Luckily for me I didn't use the SD Card Reader much on mine and bought a TB3 External Hard Drive for my wife's iMac so that transition was already a done deal. Hoping I get mine tomorrow and can sell my SB3 soon to lessen the blow to my wallet.
Thanks. They're all using CrystalDisk Mark looking at sequential. I know some people gripe about that, but it's consistent and matches often what manufacturers advertise for drives.
Thanks looks like it comes in at about 3500 Read and 3000 write (did a full windows 11 install this morning) on my SB3 so in the same neighborhood. hopefully this performance is across all SLS models and not just the 1tb and higher like it was for the SB3
As an artist I really liked the multiple angels that the Surface Book gave me on a hard surface and I loved the light weight detachable screen when drawing in a more lounged position. The new design is interesting but doesn't work like the Surface Book. My SD card slot is always used. And when is someone going to use up the extra space on the sides to expand the keyboard size and slightly give it an ergonomic curve. The laptop Studio looks great... for someone, but it's not my update.
Yeah, that was my take too. For a device that’s allegedly about drawing, I think the Surface Pro is better suited, now it has Thunderbolt. I genuinely don’t know what ‘creative’ this Laptop Studio is for. Sort of waiting for a 15 inch Laptop Studio Pro that has 6/8 core CPU, more drafting angles, SD card port, and 2 more Thunderbolt ports (or an HDMI)
Just wanted to say thank you for all of today's reviews, Dan. It's hard to get in-depth reviews from a lot of tech journalists and I definitely appreciate all the work you put into yours!
Thanks! Glad you appreciate it. It's exhausting, but I also love doing it.
Seconded! Fantastic deep dives into the widest array of features. Thanks so much Dan, great work
Rubino's are among the best laptop reviews you can get, maybe the best. I also like Lisa Gade's work.
Book 2 owner here. Was disappointed by the performance of the Book 3 and held out for Book 4.
I am one of the few who does detach the screen but can live with it permanently attached. I would have been happier with a Laptop Pro with maybe a redesigned Book hinge (that hinge is a thing of beauty) to allow it to close flat. And now the Laptop Studio is an interesting machine. The cloth hinge is something I need to keep an eye on before I buy. Will it be durable in the long run?
The battery life sounds nice but others are reporting worse numbers. I was hoping for a genuine improvement here, not one massaged by Microsoft’s optimistic numbers (which they seem to do for all devices). So I guess I’ll wait and see how this device plays out and jump in in a few months or late next year. In the meanwhile, time to buy replacement batteries for my Book 2 or maybe pick up a Book 3 on sale
Interesting, are the Book 2 batteries replaceable? Battery life was the best thing about it, but mine are starting to get a little weak
Technically is but near impossible to actually replace them
Can you flip the screen backwards (with display auto-rotation) and reverse the laptop to use it that way to put it at any angle to watch content?
You can! Even I didn't think of that but saw someone else using as such when docked.
Thanks very much for confirming!
It would be nice to hear more about that. Maybe a quick FYI article on all the postures?
Interesting. Can it be used to ‘draft’ like that? Or is the hinge not stable enough? I use my Surface Book 2 in what I call ‘tent mode’ to do that
I don't know if any of you remembers Microsoft's concept of a mobile device that docked into a laptop base to be the brain but gives you the screen real-estate when you need it. Picture a standard candybar styled surface phone with top notch specs and camera that would work with their original concept idea. That would likely be a game changer especially when Android apps work with win 11 and a solution is given to those who don't like the start menu in win 11.
Good review. If microsoft listens to you, please tell them to have both Intel and AMD version for Surface laptop studio 2. Why do they always go for only Intel version? If they made an surface book with AMD cpu, they wouldn't have to kill surface book instead they could have packed a 6 core CPU. Even Microsoft could have offered both IPad pro and Macbook at the same time with AMD powered Surface book . Thank God they are working with AMD for windows on ARM, not with Intel. Even surface pro 8 could have a 6 core AMD CPU. But they just wasted the potentiality of a such good devices. I will be buying both surface laptop studio 2 and surface pro 9 only if they come with either ARM CPU or AMD. Really very sad to see wasting beautiful design with underpowered CPUs.
" please tell them to have both Intel and AMD version for Surface laptop studio 2"Thunderbolt 4 is Intel; hasn't been done yet on an AMD laptop likely because Intel won't let them.
Interesting. How did Apple get M1 and TB? Special deals?
Apple and Intel co-developed Thunderbolt. Going back years ago, it was MacBooks that pioneered the technology.
It means Microsoft and AMD developed arm powered laptop won't have TB but I guess TB might not be an issue if the device performs well.
This is expected or you're guessing? I'm expecting the Surface Pro X2 to have USB4. I hope anyway.
AMD can easily do Thunderbolt but they don't want to pay for the controller.
You're making an assumption there and not speaking from actual insider knowledge.
I just don't understand this comment. Is there a single AMD-based system with this level of power AND 11 hours of battery life?
Plus, there is the issue with AMD systems reducing the performance (sometimes by 40% including GPU and SSD) to get good battery life.
This comment is based on what Microsoft and AMD have achieved with surface laptop 4. So in my opinion, AMD should deserve a better chance with best design.
Daniel, I loved your comment about the track pad being the best on any PC. It made me pull out my first Surface RT, with the tiny fuzzy trackpad on the touch cover. Microsoft has certainly come a long way from those first efforts to best trackpad on any PC!
Thanks, yeah, it's a big deal as the touchpad is literally something you use 100% of the time. Big fan of this advancement and I have more coming on the tech behind it.
Here's hoping they finally increase the trackpad size on their Surface Pros. There's still lots of extra space around it that could make it bigger.
"Wake-to-touch" feature is a really nice addition, something I use every day on my phone, and I've used it before on big android tablets as well. Also glad to see the 56Wh battery can pull 11 Hours? I must admit that's surprising. Excited to see how the Surface Laptop Studio's performance stacks up against the upcoming 14" MacBook Pro's.
Excellent review! Mine arrived this morning - can't wait to dive in!
I assume it's an LCD display? I didn't see the review specify LCD vs OLED, so I suspect that implies it's LCD?
OLED would be a big selling point.
I don't agree. OLED can use more battery especially in light themes and the are no 120Hz OLED panels yet for PC. Samsung did just hit 90Hz.
My miswording. I meant, if it had OLED, they'd shout it from the rooftops. They don't say anything, so it must not be OLED.
OLED is bad for professional work unless done really well (/the color profiles are generally not as accurate especially when setting the screen darker or lighter than default). OLED on the Surface Laptop makes mores sense.
Correct, LCD. OLED would be worse for battery and you couldn't get 120Hz.
About the controller disconnects: those may not be caused by Studio or Bluetooth. XBOX consoles have been getting those too so it's not the wireless protocol. Best guess to date it's a bug in the controller's firmware.
Four pounds is too heavy to be a one handed tablet. This is a great design if you plan on using it on a desk or lap. I have an HP 360 and would have to say a 360 design is not that great. When you flip it around to be a tablet, the keyboard is exposed and can be rubbed on surfaces. When using as a regular clamshell, the keyboard does get in the way when inking. This Surface Laptop Studio solves both these problems. Thanks for the keyboard close up. No right ctrl key; come on! I put up with that on a Surface Go due to the undersized keyboard, but there is no reason to omit it on the Studio.
I doubt anyone will be using a Surface Laptop Studio nor 2-in-1 laptops with one hand. Not all tablets have to be held in the hand. Agreed the weight is a problem though. You're going to feel 2Kg/4Lbs on your back. I don't think I've ever used the Right ALT and CTRL keys, what are they used for?
"Four pounds is too heavy to be a one handed tablet." Totally true, but I think that's exactly why they have the SP8 and why they made the design decisions they made. This is meant to be used on a lap or desk.
No USB type-A is going to be quite annoying, but I still want one. Just have to wait until next year to get one. :sad:
I'm not so worried about these things anymore. A single cheap adapter or dongle will solve that. As more connectivity moves permanently to USB-C we have fewer problems.
It used to annoy me but not really anymore. As time moved on, I've only got one USB-A Stick left. Which I rarely use.
I prefer a single usb-c dock with various ports (they can still be lightweight and compact).
as someone who has several of these silly small USB-C to USB-A adapters littering the house for a MacBook Pro (mostly for DACs) I'd have to agree.
The sensible thing to do is buy new USB-C Sticks. I replaced the USB-A cable on my external HDD with the USB-C equivalent. It's not like USB-C Sticks are pricey.
This product is a bad idea. Surface Book was better executed than this pig!
But sales weren't good enough to continue Surface Book, so your argument is flawed.
Sales won’t be good for this either. You have to pay over $1,000 more than a Mac for similar performance and much worse battery life. Only fanboys will buy this. No professional is going anywhere near this.
Only fanboys buy Macs. You're comparing apples with oranges. Macs can't do any of the things Microsoft Surface line can. It's a stupid comparison. I see Surface Pros and Surface Laptops everywhere, so actually professionals do buy Surface products. If you mean creatives, maybe not, buy they wouldn't buy Windows anyway.
You cannot do pen drawing work on a mac you clown.
"Sales won’t be good for this either."This is you guessing, not an argument.
"You have to pay over $1,000 more than a Mac for similar performance and much worse battery life."Macs don't have a touch screen, pen support, a 120Hz display, a good webcam, facial recognition security, Windows 11, and can't convert to different postures, which are ALL reasons why you would buy this over any other PC, regardless of who makes it. The fact I have to point this out despite it being very clear in this review makes you a troll because you know all of this. The notion that PCs are only about performance is naive and ignorant, a very bro-science level of argumentation.
You are probably the only major reviewer who calls people out when they post nonsense in your comments section and I LOVE It!
I feel like surface laptop studio doesn't provide enough differentiation to justify the price and bulk unless it offers 6 or 8 core options, which surface pro currently cannot. Microsoft might offer such options in future iterations (or a 15" model) but the performance/value proposition over surface pro doesn't look as great.
This is much faster than the Pro if you constantly push it (in contrary to the Pro line this will not throttle as fast by heat, though the Pro 8's cooling is also better than the Pro 7 in this regard but not as good as the SLS cooling). I agree that 6/8 cores would have been better but there are still many functions / calculations in programs that do not fully make usage of 6 or 8 cores, in these circumstances this quad core cpu is as fast or maybe even slightly faster per core. Also this 14.4" 3:2 screen is almost as large as a standard 15.6" 16:9 screen: http://www.displaywars.com/15,6-inch-16x9-vs-14,4-inch-3x2
Yeah I thought that it would be much faster too but the benchmarks seem to suggest only modest gains (5-10%). And that too over sustained workloads. So other than discrete graphics, it doesn't put much else on the table, albeit being much bulkier and pricier. This would all change if AMD had thunderbolt support though. I guess I'm just projecting how it will compare with the upcoming MacBook pro's, which still won't have touch/inking support, but they'll probably dominate in the performance department. Given the current circumstances, this is probably the best that Microsoft could do for now.
I partially take back what I said, I underestimated the Pro 8 (thought it was still more comparable to Pro 7+ but its actually much faster in Cinebench, probably because MS improved the cooling so it can sustain higher wattages). "Given the current circumstances, this is probably the best that Microsoft could do for now", they probably can do better but will not because of costs vs profits. But yeah while I still think the SLS is a good performer for certain use cases the Pro 8 kind of puts it to shame except for the larger screen and better gpu.
You didn't mention the biggest con. It weighs nearly 2 kilograms :/ That's much more than your standard laptop. You'll really feel it if you carry your laptop around. Would be fine for home/office use.
1.7/1.8 kg I believe, but yeah it does seem to be on the heavy side. It does sport a large screen though at 14.4" 3:2 (if you compare the screen area its not much smaller than 15.6" 16:9, only 8.6% http://www.displaywars.com/15,6-inch-16x9-vs-14,4-inch-3x2 ). Eg Acer Ezel 15.6" has a compareable hinge but is heavier than this laptop.
So if you look at it from that perspective, its not that heavy.
Wow that Acer Ezel is heavy. 2.5Kg isn't even all that practical. Thanks. True on the display front.
Yeah 2.5 kg is heavy these days, to be fair that laptop is packed with a high watt cpu & especially very good gpu (so probably heavy cooling too). Which is why I personally want to see lite versions of these laptops (cheaper and packed with a Ryzen or Intel u).
Judging by the quantity and quality of your questions, you are clearly serious about a possible purchase 🙂 Thanks for asking questions I'd ask if I were in the market.
Hi, I don't understand this statement. Why would you lose battery if it's plugged in? Irrespective of how powerful the charger is. Thanks. "In a disappointing move, Microsoft includes a 102W Surface Connect charger for Surface Laptop Studio. That's the same charger that shipped with Surface Book 2, but not the larger 127W one that came with Surface Book 3. And yes, that means under heavy gaming like Destiny 2, you will lose around 2% battery for every 10 minutes of gameplay. That's not awful, as even after an hour, you may only be down 15%, but it's a weird choice."
Battery refers here to 'charge', so the charger does not provide enough power for the laptop to play a heavy game and hence some energy needs to be drawn from the battery too. Is this a big deal? Generally not really since its not a gaming laptop, but if someone does often play heavy games on this I think it can degrade the battery slightly faster.
Thanks. Wasn't expecting that to be the answer. Why include a charger that's not powerful enough to power the device. You asume, possibly wrongly, the battery isn't in use when plugged in. Regardless of what you're doing. But like you say it's not intended for games I guess. On the flipside, you're drawing less electricity when its charging.
"Why include a charger that's not powerful enough to power the device.", well on the positive side this allows a smaller charger (more portable). "You asume, possibly wrongly, the battery isn't in use when plugged in. Regardless of what you're doing.", yeah but there is a difference between just passing through the electricity or actually discharging it, the latter generally lets the battery degrade faster.
There was the same problem with past Surface Books and with the Surface Dock. If you docked the SB and really pushed the laptop with work or gaming, the battery would start to drain. Same issue here. I can't speak to the specific engineering decision but there's a tradeoff between charger size and the power it can deliver. Also, not everyone will be maxing out system resources for hours on end.
Well said! I have a Surface Book 2 15". I noticed this issue occasionally when I was running vr goggles, but it was very minor. I absolutely would not have wanted a heavier and bulkier charger since for all practical purposes I don't see a problem.
Hi, I'd be interested to hear how battery compares to the Surace Pro X in real-world use? The promise of ARM is better battery but reviews always state high battery on Intel and AMD PCs too. But I'm always wondering if these are just benchmark numbers, or can you expect similar battery length to ARM PCs? If you can, it makes you wonder the benefits of ARM PCs (fanless design aside), especially as the Surface Pro 8 will also be getting LTE too. I love my Surface Pro X btw, but I don't use these new devices to know how battery compares. Thanks.
Hi it's bravo
8 hours for Office work, 4-6 hours for constant heavy work / gaming (got this from an other review and seems realistic to me).
Regarding arm pc's we just need to wait for a competive chip (it sounds like the MS/Amd arm chip will be that chip)
Hi, Are those numbers for the Pro 8 or Pro X? Guessing the Pro 8. Thanks. Those numbers would make it quite a lot less than the Pro X and nowhere near the 11 hours stated in the review. Which is why I always find battery lengths in reviews so problematic. It's a number that's so specific . For example, 50% brightness just isn't useable. I always have to set it to 60-70%. I'm not so sure, the SQ1 is already competitive for ARM64 apps. They fly. It faulters with x86 apps because of emulation but no new Qualcomm chip is going to address this. So it will be more of the same. Unless it's expected to be powerful enough it can cope?
Its for the SLS. I suspect the Pro is either slightly better but not much.
Of course. Getting my Surfaces mixed up. Thanks again. It does illustrate the quoted 11 hours in this review doesn't hold up in real use though. An ARM based Surface Laptop Studio would be interesting. Should have better battery and certainly much lighter, the base seems to all being cooling and fans.
You're welcome. Daniel's 11 hours is probably with lower set brightness and perhaps some idle time thrown in lol. Please note that this cpu is at 35 watt instead of the usual 15-20 watt of 'u' cpu's. Afaik there are no qualcomm cpu's at 35 watt. Even though this has 'only' 4 cores, these cores do give good sustained performance in the SLS. Your basically getting top performance for use cases which use up to 4 cores (which is most use cases except for cpu video / rendering stuff, code compiling, certain heavy or scientific calculations etc.). But stuff like designing / modeling (architecture, Solidworks) should be very smooth on the SLS.
the surface pro 8 and surface laptop studio pretty much have the same CPU. the only difference is the SLS CPU can go to higher clock frequencies. but the base clocks and specs are the same. A number of people are correct when they mentioned that no AMD options was a big missed opportunity as equivalent AMD options are benching much higher than the 11th gen Intel processors. more of the Intel pressures and also because AMD probably couldn't get them the quantities they would need. Intel is doing they did in the past. Seamus Blackley recently apologized to AMD and its current CEO. The original Xbox prototypes were built on AMD hardware. They even had AMD representatives in the crowd at the OG Xbox introduction but were shocked when they heard the Xbox would be Intel (due to last minute calls from Intel that they had to have Intel in the box).
50% brightness on a very bright (500 nit) display might be very bright. I want to remind everyone that a chipset like this, which is capable of sustained 35W performance, is going to give us very high volatility in battery tests. It's just the nature of the beast. Plus, we're likely to see some firmware and OS improvements as both are brand new. Also, I think it's hard to dismiss the 11h test. Unless we can pinpoint a particular issue with the test, or a particularly large discrepancy, there's no point assuming there's a problem.
Why on earth would anyone need their brightness to be 60-70%, especially when using the battery as their power supply? People do things to conserve battery life, not drain it. Also, I never have my brightness above 50% and it is almost always at 40%.
Finally standardized battery tests are at between 30-50% because screen brightness drains a battery at an increasing, as opposed to uniform, rate. This is why people who want to report poor battery live always set brightness levels well above 50%....
I own them both. SLS significantly lasts longer than Pro x. 7-9 hrs to 5-6 hrs. The output of Pro x can easily go up to 6-7 w doing very light work.
Keep in mind that the battery is much bigger on the SLS (53 wh) and the SP8 (50wh) than the SPX (43 wh) . All things being equal ARM processors do enjoy much better battery live (with a lighter and thinner design) . My SPX's battery lasts 30% to 40% longer then my SP7 when I run YouTube continuously (40% brightness, power saver on, apps closed in background, wifi on, Bluetooth off).
Lisa from MobileTechReview just confirmed the battery life on video playback is 6.5 Hours at low brightness. Technically you can expect around 5 Hours while doing office, browsing and using the pen at 120Hz. PCMark Battery "benchmark" is laughably unrealistic and should not be taken into account for buyers.
"Technically you can expect around 5 Hours while doing office, browsing and using the pen at 120Hz.", this is false, Lisa mentions 8 hours for Office work at 60 Hz and 1 hour less at 120 Hz (from 14:21). https://youtu.be/IlgNa5xN8q4?t=861
That may be inaccurate given that video decoding is more optimized more for battery life on a chip level. If you look at older battery tests from Notebookcheck, video runtimes are always longer than browsing runtimes, and they explain why that is the case for Intel laptops. And often using the active pen at 120Hz screen (as users of this laptop are expecting to do) has to be taken into account for "everyday use" runtimes.
You can write all various scenario's you like but Lisa literally says for Office, Slack etc work up to 8 hours for 60 Hz and 1 hour less for 120 Hz. So even 7 hours is completely different from your 5 hours (which falls more in line with doing heavier work on the SLS).
Disagree. Doing what we call "heavy work" that taxes both CPU/GPU for hours on end on sustained load would kill a device like this in less than 2 Hours. My point still stands, as expecting "5 Hours of light use" on this laptop is not unreasonable at all, and there are other reviewers and users who yielded the same result on SLS during their varying personal usecases.
That is fine of course if you disagree with Lisa's findings but in the end she actually tested it and has years of experience with reviewing tablet pc's and laptops, and hence standardized protocol for battery testing. Whereas with users' review data it is quite random and vary a lot (some users set the screen very bright, some very dark, some have a lot of background processes, some tax the CPU constantly some in bursts etc.).
Add to that, The Verge got "less than 5 Hours browsing at 120Hz, 50% brightness". https://www.theverge.com/22716121/microsoft-surface-laptop-studio-review
I find MobileTechReview / Lisa to offer better reviews, Verge reviews I usually take with a grain of salt (not that they are bad, but they often do not understand use cases as well as Lisa does). Also note that the screen is quite bright at 500 nits, I doubt you need to set it at 50% all the time unless you work outside or in a really bright or reflective environment.
Perhaps you are right, I'm not as familiar with their reviews. But given that WC review measures 11.4 Hours in the same 50% brightness and 120Hz conditions VS 5 Hours on The Verge, I can conclude that a 'light workload' will get anywhere between those 2 results.
To be clear, I think 5-11 Hours is very respectable for a device like this. ONLY am I hesitant in saying "anyone can expect over 11 Hours from SLS" because that would be such a stupidly presumptuous claim to make based on a single synthetic benchmark. Screen brightness incline isn't linear, 50% of a '500 nit screen' would be more like 100 nits, not 250. There is no way to for know for certain unless a reviewer bothers to measure and create a graph showing brightness level at every % interval. AFAIK, only Jarrod'sTech and LMG (Linus) have properly measured this.
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"PCMark Battery "benchmark" is laughably unrealistic and should not be taken into account for buyers."Explain your reasoning as I can pass your detailed engineering explanation on to PCMark so they can improve the product. Also, maybe let LTT know too since he uses it as well. Also, what synthetic battery test do you suggest and endorse that is much better and why? Having said that, users on /r/surface are confirming 7 to 9 hours. I stand by my review and data. My tests are repeatable and quantifiable with full conditions detailed. What test/benchmark did Lisa run and what conditions e.g. display brightness, auto-brightness on/off, adaptive contrast on/off, so that I may repeat them? Thanks.
Lisa has disclosed her battery testing methods on several videos, I'd assume the same on this. "Your" benchmarks aren't yours, they are PCMark which isn't representative of real-world usage therefore invalid unless you're referencing them for purely theoretical comparisons. People like her on YT test what buyers can reliably expect from their own casual usage, making their opinion and numbers substantially more valuable to the audience. So of course potential consumers are inclined to trust those respective measurements from multiple sources, even if they aren't 100% repeatable. That is why the reviewer's reputation matters a lot. Luckily Lisa's is legendary in tech journalism. As for the SLS? "6.5 Hrs Video Playback on 60Hz" sounds about right to me. I don't read Reddit but judging by a cursory glance at that sub many users are also commenting 5-6 hours for their light use so I guess that's another 'average' number buyers should absolutely be aware of.
" which isn't representative of real-world usage"Modern Office (Battery) represents using Office, video calls, web, with breaks in between and is light to medium processing. I shared Gaming (Battery) data as the opposite extreme. Define "real world" usage on a PC that covers everyone's usage. Let me know what synthetic benchmark captures that so we can have quantifiable and repeatable data across PC reviews.
"People like Lisa on YT test what buyers can reliably expect from their own casual usage"And I don't? Again, what is her/your definition of "casual usage," and how can I repeat it? Auto brightness, display brightness level, was it on recommended usage, etc.
"That is why the reviewer's reputation matters a lot. Luckily Lisa's is legendary in tech journalism."Again, I stand by my review, data, and explanations while you stan for a fellow reviewer. Meanwhile, you have not: Provided an alternative synthetic benchmark test Not detailed what is wrong with Modern Office by PCMark and why it should never be used as a metric Not defined "real-world usage" (and why my experience does not count) Not explained Lisa's methodology, but take it as orthodox without data or even conditions (you're leaning very hard on the argument from authority here) Not explained what is wrong with my results Not considered or dismissed other reviews with similar results, which leads me to ... ...IGN, Digital Trends, LTT, PCMag, Tom's Hardware, Engadget, Wired, TechRadar, Mashable, and Gizmodo all said very positive things about Surface Laptop studio and battery life, which I'll put up against your remarks. Therefore, I dismiss your complaint with prejudice.
Yes. For GOOD reason I trust Mobiletechreview when it comes to testing Laptops, over websites like PCMag, Tom's Hardware, TechRadar, Digital Trends, IGN etc, most of whom use the same standard PCMark. That was sort of my point. Same reason I trust Mobiletechreview more than Microsoft claiming 19 Hours runtime for the SLS, or "insert any manufacturer" claiming "insert random number" runtime tested with "insert random standardized benchmark". "Meanwhile, you have not explained what is wrong with my results" What's wrong with your "results" - 11 Hours 41 Minutes - is that I, the "non tech-savvy average consumer", wouldn't yield that number if I bought the SLS tomorrow trusting YOUR reviews. Nor would I get over 11 Hrs on the Surface Pro 7+. Nor would I get over 14 Hrs on the HP Envy x360 15. My OP isn't about slandering or berating your review, it's to provide information for people who might make the same mistake of buying this laptop thinking it can get 11:41 of battery life based on your review, which can be FAR off even with other factors in mind. It's to let people know, because you don't have any explanation as to why someone who uses their SLS close to your described benchmark might get a widely different result. Are you 100% confident a person who bought a laptop based off your review will get that same number as PCMark when they "disable battery-saving features like auto-display brightness and adaptive contrast, but also keep brightness at 50%" and do what they normally do on that laptop?? You can write a book about the "consistency" of benchmarks all you want, but ironically, yours seem to be often inconsistent and also inaccurate.
I should comment on something you seem not to understand, which is why we use synthetic benchmarks and battery tests: They're repeatable and comparable. It doesn't matter if you get 11 hours on Surface Laptop Studio. The value in synthetic is you can compare Surface Laptop Studio to other laptops running the same test with the same conditions, letting you evaluate how well, relatively, it does to similar laptops run under the same environments e.g. similar display brightness (nits), on "recommended," etc. That's why it is essential, and the fact you do not understand that underlies your lack of scientific rigor. That's not to say "how it feels" for battery life or your "real-world usage" reporting is not valuable, but it is, by definition, non-repeatable and often lacks rigorous methodology making it a flawed determination in and unto itself. You're simply arguing one person's "real-world usage" is more valuable or representative of another person without any sound reasoning behind that claim. re: my results, I go on to note:
"Keep in mind, factors like display brightness and whether you are using 120Hz for the refresh rate will significantly impact your experience. Tasks like gaming, rendering, or compiling (aka GPU-intensive scenarios) will also considerably affect those results. In our tests, we disabled battery-saving features like auto-display brightness and adaptive contrast, but we also kept brightness at 50%. If you regularly use Surface Laptop Studio at 120Hz at 90% brightness while playing DOOM Eternal, you'll cut those results in half."Because how you run the display and what you do greatly impacts your results. For some people they may get better battery life, for others, much worse. But compared to other premium laptops, Surface Laptop Studio does quite well. Meanwhile, you say this:
"Technically you can expect around 5 Hours while doing office, browsing and using the pen at 120Hz."No one has stated that and you're not speaking from experience, either. You made that number up. It's complete BS. You're claiming, again, no evidence, that using the pen will suck up 6 hours of battery life doing the same benchmark as Modern Office? Lisa didn't say that. I didn't say that. No other review you can cite says that so where did "5 hours" come from? Total nonsense. Leave the reporting to those who have the device.
Okay, I am curious now. Are you really THAT confident a person who bought a laptop based off your review will get battery results close to PCMark, when they "disable battery-saving features like auto-display brightness and adaptive contrast, but also keep brightness at 50%" and perform what they believe to be "light and medium office work" as described by PCMark?? Because that is what an average non-tech-savvy person reading your review is probably expecting, rightfully so.
My review contextualized battery results noting that if you use the GPU and run with brightness at 90% you're going to see dramatically worse results. It's also contextualized in the graphs that show, in the same conditions, Surface Laptop Studio does quite well compared to other mainstream laptops including previous Surfaces and the XPS 13. I also detail the other end:
Going to the other extreme during PCMark 10's gaming battery rundown test, which is consistent and very GPU heavy, Surface Laptop Studio eked out two hours and six minutes of constant gaming. That's with the display at 120Hz, 50% brightness, max performance, and no auto-brightness enabled.If someone doesn't read that, that's not on me to defend. But yeah, battery life can fall between 2 hours and 11 hours. That's how this works.
I'll note that you did not answer my question twice in a row....which is the reason why I posted my first comment. To me it sounds like you are well aware that a person who read everything labeled on your review, who bought the device based on said review, would not yield similar battery life under your own conditions. Let's end it here. EDIT: If you're truly being honest with your new answer below "between 2 and 11 hours", don't prove it to me. Be honest with your audience, and please do add that new found conclusion in the review's battery section. Your current review writes "battery is shockingly good" and "impressive 11 hours and 19 minutes (at 120Hz)", NOT "between 2 and 11 hours". The first 2 and the second one are very, very different and incongruent remarks.
It's between 2 and 11 hours at 50% brightness with auto-brightness disabled. That's the answer. That's the data I have provided in the review.
"which is the reason why I posted my first comment."No, you posted your first comment to be contrarian. You took someone else's data (Lisa's), misrepresented it with your own estimate, and claimed it as fact. You didn't engage with me and ask why I believe in my data, or why I think it differs from Lisa's, or why I think "5 hours" is a good "estimate" by you. You claimed. You're not engaging in good faith discussion, you're trolling, being contrarian for the sake of trolling because you want to believe your own opinion.
"EDIT: If you're truly being honest with your new answer below "between 2 and 11 hours", don't prove it to me. Be honest with your audience, and please do add that new found conclusion in the review's battery section." That indeed is the finding in the article. I thought he was clear on this. Also, we should not forget that a 35W mobile workstation is going to give you the biggest variance in battery life because it can indeed run that hot. Such disparate results shouldn't surprise us too much.
I do not find his figures believable or useful for readers in any way unless he means "between 2 and 11 hours" for his 'modern office' benchmark.
This is mainly because so far, a considerable number of people have gotten 5-6 hours on light use, some of them established tech reviewers.
My comment is totally my estimate, I didn't "claim" what you have assumed presumptuously all the way to here from my original remark. And since you brought up Reddit, lots of owners are seemingly reporting 5-6 Hours of casual use on their SLS so I would say my estimate is not completely inaccurate.
My comment is totally my estimateYou made it up. It's not an estimate on anything factual as in you own the device and this has been your experience.
"5 Hours while doing office, browsing and using the pen at 120Hz"Had you said "a mix of gaming, photo/video editing, web, and office" I could give you some benefit of the doubt, but you chose some of the lightest usage scenarios you would do on this laptop, most of which overlaps with Modern Office, to try and discredit my reporting. You know this.
What do you think an "estimate" means? I don't have to own the device myself to assume its battery life. Also yes, you do benefit from using the pen for photo editing on this device and no, heavier cpu/gpu taxing usecase like video editing wasn't part of my estimation.
Your entire comment is not just your estimate, you're presenting it as fact and standing behind Lisa's data as your crutch while ignoring other data.
"Also yes, photo editing includes using the pen"Since when? I do a lot of the photos on this site and Zac and Jez do a lot of videos, none of us use the pen for those tasks. You use the pen mostly for drawing, sketching, diagraming, note-taking, not for traditional photo and video editing. Such a claim makes me question if you even know these fields. How have MBP videographers been coping all these years?
I own the 32g/1t model myself, and I can say that it do last 7-9 hrs at 40-50% brightness doing office work combined with web browsing. Similar battery life streaming YouTube video.
She seemed confused by that result, as her other test showed higher numbers and the video loop test is usually the kindest one. I might suggest a bug of some sort.
Agree with you about the pen. Lisa Gade demonstrated much improved diagonal line jitter, but it's not nil yet.
Great review! But there’s an error: you tell us that at 1599 dollars it starts at 128GB AND at 256GB.
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