The Laptop Studio from Microsoft is a new series in the Surface range. It is a hybrid PC with a non-detachable convertible screen, unlike the other models.
Microsoft never stops trying to innovate with its Surface range, with successes and failures. If the manufacturer has popularized 2-in-1 computers that can be converted into tablets thanks to their detachable screens, this time the screen will remain in place, like on a classic PC. Well, not really, since the screen can be used in various ways, sometimes quite original, as we will see later. Rather intended for professionals and creators, the Surface Laptop Studio is equipped with a dedicated Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card to enjoy better application performance. Microsoft makes the whole thing quite expensive considering the configuration: you'll have to pay 2200 € to get your hands on it. Is this PC really worth the investment? That's what we wanted to know...
By now, we are familiar with Microsoft's Surfaces and the finishes are always impeccable. The slightly rough anodized aluminum chassis gives the PC a premium look. Its touchpad is in the same line, pleasant to use and perfectly fluid.
The keyboard cover is also pleasant, but the keys are smaller than those of most PCs; a surprising choice that is not really practical in everyday life since it causes regular typing errors, at least at the beginning. There is no fingerprint reader or numeric keypad here, and the backlighting is adjustable on 4 levels.
Fortunately, Windows Hello allows you to unlock your computer quickly with the facial recognition supported by the webcam. This one films in 1080p and thus provides a good image quality, a little dark, but whose brightness can be slightly improved by software. In low light, however, the noise is really noticeable.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the PC is limited to two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports and a mini-jack plug, which seems to us to be quite limited for a model that claims to be "professional"; even the competitor Apple, which had accustomed us to extreme sobriety, now offers more possibilities on its MacBook Pro M1 Pro and Max. The USB ports can be used to recharge the computer in case you forget the proprietary charger, but it will be slower than with the latter.
So far, nothing extraordinary, but the secret of the Surface Laptop Studio is hidden behind its screen: specific hinges allow it to move forward to the front of the keyboard, or even to be completely flat. This allows it to be used as a display or a graphics tablet. However, we have some doubts about the durability of the fabric that holds the hinges to the back of the screen.
Of course, the PC should be used with the Surface Slim Pen 2, which is unfortunately available as an option and costs a whopping 130 €. Reactive and efficient, it can be used by those who like to take notes by hand or use graphic applications. When connecting it to the PC, a small tutorial is displayed on the screen. The pen has a right-click button and an eraser button on top. It has a haptic feedback that can be activated in the Windows settings and is charged wirelessly by simply sliding it under the chassis of the Surface Laptop Studio, at the touchpad.
If the pen can be inserted under the chassis, it is because this one is quite particular. It is made of two "floors", with a smaller base that leaves a gap to accommodate the Slim Pen. This original design allowed Microsoft to incorporate ventilation grids on both sides of the PC and to ensure a good ventilation. This keeps the computer very quiet, even during video encoding with HandBrake; we found only 34.1 dB and a temperature of barely 40°C. When playing games, however, the ventilation becomes much more audible, even though this is not the primary use of this model.
Unfortunately, Microsoft has made no effort to let users disassemble the PC and we don't recommend attempting the operation. Not only are the screws hidden by the rubber feet under the chassis, but one of the screws is actually placed under a piece of plastic that is not visible. This could damage the chassis and blow the warranty. FYI, the M2 SSD is still replaceable, but don't expect to change the RAM, which is soldered, or even the battery, which is not standard.
Here we tested a model equipped with a 4-core Intel Core i7-11370H processor clocked at 3.3 GHz with a TDP (thermal envelope) of 35 W. It also has a 512 GB SSD and 16 GB of RAM, but above all an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card with a TDP of 50 W.
We have already had the opportunity to test this processor, but it is less efficient here, limited by Microsoft to avoid excessive heating. As soon as it exceeds 80°C, the CPU throttles and the operating frequencies drop, which has an impact on processing times for demanding applications. In absolute terms, the processor is good, but it is clearly not at the level of the most high-end models. It scored 80.3 according to our protocol, which is slightly higher than the Core i7-1165G7 found in many ultraportables.
Fortunately, the RTX 3050 Ti comes to the rescue in applications where hardware acceleration is available, allowing processing times to be greatly reduced in video editing, photography or 3D rendering. This chip remains at the entry level and is of course no match for an RTX 3070 Ti, for example, whose processing times are 3 to 4 times faster.
Of course, you can play games with the Surface Laptop Studio, even though the RTX 3050 Ti is limited by its low thermal envelope of 50W. Smaller indie games and slightly older titles won't have any trouble running, but you'll clearly have to lower the graphics for the most demanding games. Assassin's Creed Valhalla displayed in 1080p, for example, lasted barely 17 fps in ultra mode (unplayable, so to speak), and we had to go down to a "medium" setting to get a smooth experience (67 fps). On the other hand, this GPU allows you to take advantage of DLSS to improve the fluidity of compatible games, but you'll probably have to give up on raytracing.
For this Surface, Microsoft chose a 3:2 format (2400 x 1600 px) that offers a high quality display for working and it is refreshed at 120 Hz for better fluidity. The edges are not the thinnest, but the screen occupancy rate of 84% remains above average. No surprise on the calibration side, the manufacturer always does a good job: the delta E is barely 1.5 and the average color temperature is 6650 K. The contrast ratio at 1:1630 is excellent, as is the maximum brightness at 495 cd/m². It compensates for a very high average reflectance (52.7%), typical of touch panels. On the other hand, the afterglow is high (30 ms), which could lead to streaks on the screen, especially in video games.
The speakers are a pleasant surprise. They deliver a much better sound quality than most laptops, with rather clear mids and highs; you can even detect the presence of low mids, which is quite rare on this type of machine. Nothing beats a good pair of headphones or a speaker though.
If the headphone output performs within the norm, Microsoft applies a software equalization that cannot be deactivated. Fortunately, nothing catastrophic, but you'll have to put up with a slight coloration that audiophiles will probably not like. We found a distortion of 0.017%, a dynamic range of 93 dB, a low crosstalk of -71 dB and an output level of 95 mVRMS, which is insufficient to support monitoring or hi-fi headphones.
Weighing in at 1.8 kg, the Surface Laptop Studio is no lightweight. Its 14.4-inch format offers a good compromise between 13.3-inch ultraportables and their 15.6-inch cousins. Although convertible into a tablet and versatile, its substantial weight does not really allow it to be used in the hand without a stand. Its proprietary magnetic charger weighs 381g and it has a USB-A port to charge another device directly on it if needed.
The autonomy proved to be honorable since it turned off after 10 h 34 min while playing video on Netflix, screen set at 200 cd/m², Bluetooth disabled and headphones at 50% volume.
Microsoft's Surface Laptop Studio is an original PC that is not for everyone. Its niche format is mainly aimed at creators and professionals who need to work in tablet mode or show content. For a more general use, or on the contrary, for pure performance, this laptop does not show a very good quality/price ratio. The processor's performance is not its strong point, even if the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card makes up for it and allows you to use hardware acceleration for certain applications. The 120 Hz screen delivers a high-end performance and the autonomy is excellent, which raises the final note.