Surface Laptop Studio vs. Surface Book 3: Which is best for you?

Surface Laptop Studio
Surface Laptop Studio (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio provides a high-performance laptop with returning Surface signatures like a hinged display and inking. Microsoft has framed the device as a successor to the Microsoft Surface Book 3, providing a more elegant alternative to the detachable tablet-esque display. The Laptop Studio looks like a promising successor to the Book 3 in almost every way, making it hard to recommend the older device unless you score hefty savings or demand that snap-off display.

Surface Laptop Studio vs. Surface Book 3 specs

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CategorySurface Laptop StudioSurface Book 3
Processor11th Gen IntelCore i5-11300HCore i7-11370H10th Gen IntelCore i5-1035G7Core i7-1065G7
GraphicsIris Xe (i5)NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti Laptop (i7)NVIDIA RTX A2000 Laptop (i7, commercial)Intel Iris Plus (i5)NVIDIA GTX 1650 (Max-Q) (i7 13-inch)NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti (Max-Q) (i7 15-inch)NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 (i7, commercial)
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB SSDUpgradeable256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB SSDNon-upgradeable
Display14.4 inches2400x1600201 PPI3:2 aspect ratioDolby VisionUp to 120HzTouch13.5 inches, 15 inches3000x2000, 3240x2160(267 PPI), (260 PPI)3:2 aspect ratioUp to 60HzTouch
PortsTwo USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 4)Headphone jack (3.5mm)Surface ConnectTwo USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen2)One USB Type-C 3.1 (Gen2) with USB Power Delivery revision 3.0Full-size SDXC card readerHeadphone jack (3.5mm)Two Surface Connect ports (1 in tablet, 1 in keyboard base)
AudioFour Omnisonic speakersDolby AtmosTwo far-field micsFront-facing stereo speakersDolby AtmosTwo far-field mics
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6Bluetooth 5.1Wi-Fi 6Bluetooth 5.0Xbox Wireless
CameraFront-facing 1080pIR cameraFront-facing 5.0 MP 1080pRear-facing 8.0 MP 1080pIR camera
PenSurface Slim Pen 2(Not included)Surface Pen(Not included)
SecurityIR cameraFirmware TMP (consumer)Hardware TPM 2.0 (commercial)IR cameraFirmware TMP (consumer)Hardware TPM 2.0 (commercial)
BatteryUp to 19 hours (i5)Up to 18 hours (i7)Up to 17.5 hours
Dimensions12.7 x 9.0 x 0.7 inches(322.6mm x 228.6mm x 17.8mm)13.5-inch: 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.59-0.90 inches (312mm x 232mm x 15-23mm)15-inch: 13.5 x 9.87 x 0.568-0.90 inches (343mm x 251mm x 15-23mm)
Weighti5: 3.83 pounds (1.7kg)i7: 4.0 pounds (1.8kg)13.5-inch: From 3.38 pounds (1.53kg)15-inch: From 4.2 pounds (1.9kg)

Surface Laptop Studio vs. Surface Book 3 design and features

Surface Laptop Studio made its debut in a Sept. 22 virtual event, delivering what Microsoft hopes to be its next hit form factor for power users and creatives. The new entry in the Surface PC family occupies a similar space to that established by the Microsoft Surface Book 3, albeit with a fundamental design rework coupled with miscellaneous improvements.

Microsoft's existing Surface Book 3 is the closest alternative to the Laptop Studio, the early-2020 refresh of its high-performance laptop. While the design never drastically evolved throughout its three generations, it's defined by a detachable keyboard base, allowing the display to function as a standalone tablet. The new Laptop Studio product line fundamentally reworks the hinged display, no longer detachable, pulling forward and lying flat over the keyboard instead.

Surface Laptop Studio Hero

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The new Laptop Studio hinge adapts into three angles; the standard laptop posture, the completely flat "studio mode," and a middle point known as tent mode, leaving the trackpad exposed. Although a step back from the 360-degree hinge used across the Surface Book lineup, these three modes fit the everyday use cases for work and entertainment. It's largely down to personal preference, although with the Surface Laptop Studio poses good value, it's largely down to whether the Surface Book 3 fulfills a specific niche for you.

Laptop Studio ships with a 14.4-inch touchscreen, versus the 13.5-inch and 15-inch flavors offered with the Surface Book 3. The 3:2 aspect ratio returns on an upgraded 120Hz refresh rate display for smoother visuals and interactivity. While Microsoft settled on a screen closer to 15 inches, the slimmer bezels mean a chassis akin to a 13-inch laptop. The Laptop Studio's 201 PPI means marginally lower pixel density than the 260-267 PPI Surface Book 3, even if likely unnoticeable to most.

Surface Book 3 Lead

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft has also swapped out the precision touchpad inside Laptop Studio, adopting a "precision haptic" design geared around providing a more clicky interaction with the device. The touchpad no longer moves like on Surface Book 3, now using haptic engines inside the device, emulating the touchpad vibrations found across new Apple MacBooks instead.

The Surface Slim Pen received some love across the Surface family in 2021 too, and for Laptop Studio, it brings new considerations for the virtual stylus. The hidden charging cradle, located underneath the front of the laptop, doubles as a spot to juice up and store the latest pen. The Surface Book 3 traditionally pairs with the standard Microsoft Surface Pen.

While the Surface Book 3 remains a capable workstation for creatives and power users, the expanded feature set in Surface Laptop Studio can make older models a tough sell. While Book 3 can fulfill a niche with its detachable design, refinements in the Studio design could make for a more compelling portable companion for many.

Surface Laptop Studio vs. Surface Book 3 performance

The Surface Laptop Studio specifications mark a significant leap over the Surface Book 3, including new 11th Gen Intel processors, plus optional Intel or NVIDIA graphics. The Laptop Studio is an improvement in every way, although the Book 3 isn't a slouch in performance.

The Laptop Studio's i5-11300H and i7-11370H processors beat the previous spectrum of Surface configurations and even outpace Microsoft's newly updated Surface Pro 8. The high-end NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti Laptop graphics are the best we've seen in a Microsoft Surface to date, versus the top-end NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 inside Book 3. However, the two 16GB or 32GB LPDDR4x RAM configurations remain identical year over year.

The Surface Book 3 remains performance-focused, with previous-generation Core i5-1035G7 and Core i7-1065G7 processors available, and its 15-inch model offers up to NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti graphics. It's competent for photo and video editing, lightweight gaming, and other intensive programs while meeting Windows 11 upgrade requirements. However, the various Laptop Studio configurations overperform similarly priced Book 3 counterparts.

Microsoft has made sweeping changes to Surface Laptop Studio connectivity, including Thunderbolt 4 over its dual USB Type-C ports. The speedier connector proves ideal for faster storage, multiple 4K displays, and other external devices, compared to the slower USB 3.1 in previous Surface products. However, the consolidation also axes the dedicated SDXC reader, previously standard across Surface Book 3 models.

Surface Laptop Studio vs. Surface Book 3 pricing

Surface Book 2

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

While the Surface Laptop Studio delivers a new successor to the Surface Book line, the two devices remain distinct, with their respective use cases catering to a specialist niche. The form factor could sway some buyers in either direction and for most, it's worth considering which device caters to your needs.

If the answer is both, turn your expectations to the value of hardware on offer. The Surface Laptop Studio debuts a major specification upgrade, with slimmer screen bezels, a high refresh rate, and Thunderbolt 4 support, all requested for several years. While the Surface Book 3 remains a robust device, the Laptop Studio is the better option, by the spec sheet.

Take a look at that $1,599 starting price — matching the price of the entry-level 13.5-inch Surface Book 3, but with a newer 11th Gen Intel processor, double the RAM at 16GB, albeit with a smaller SSD. Higher-end configurations generally deliver better value with the same investment, making the Laptop Studio a compelling pick.

It's not clear cut, with previous Surface Book 3 discounts bringing the entry-level configuration down to $1,400 in the U.S. While not currently live, events like Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday 2021 could mean further savings, making the Surface Book 3 easier to justify.

Surface Laptop Studio pricing

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Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM, 128GB storage, Iris Xe$1,599.99
Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, Iris Xe$1,799.99
Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti$2,099.99
Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB storage, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti$2,699.99
Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 2TB storage, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti$3,099.99

Surface Book 3 pricing

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13.5-inch: 10th Gen Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB, Intel Iris Plus$1,599.99
13.5-inch: 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB, GTX 1650$1,999.99
13.5-inch: 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 512GB, GTX 1650$2,499.99
13.5-inch: 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB, GTX 1650$2,699.99
15-inch: 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB, GTX 1660Ti$2,299.99
15-inch: 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 512GB, GTX 1660Ti$2,799.99
15-inch: 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB, GTX 1660Ti$2,999.99
15-inch: 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 2TB, GTX 1660Ti$3,399.99

However, it's also worth noting the Surface Laptop Studio, launching Oct. 5 in the U.S. and Canada, won't be coming to additional regions until 2022. Current alternatives including the Surface Book 3 and other high-end options among the best Windows laptops.

Go with Surface Laptop Studio if you want the best

The Surface Laptop Studio presents a promising new device for creative applications and power-hungry productivity, and while undeniably premium, its launch pricing falls in line with the Surface Book 3. Don't overlook the Laptop Studio if you're looking for performance, with best-in-class features and competitive pricing.

Surface Book remains capable — and cheaper than ever

However, the Surface Book 3 remains a portable powerhouse, and no other device matches its detachable, tablet-style screen. Those early-2020 specifications hold up in more demanding use cases, and if with the chance of future discounts, keep an eye out for prices below the usual RRP.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.