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Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review: a laptop in the original format for pros and creators

We now know Microsoft’s Surface well and the finishes are always impeccable. The very slightly rough anodized aluminum chassis gives the PC a premium look. Its touchpad is in the same line, pleasant to use and perfectly fluid.

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The keyboard skin is also pleasing, but the keys are smaller than most PCs; an astonishing choice and ultimately not really practical on a daily basis since it causes regular typing errors, at least at the beginning. There is no fingerprint reader or numeric keypad here, and the backlight is adjustable to 4 levels.

The keyboard keys are a bit small.

The keyboard keys are a bit small.

Fortunately, Windows Hello allows you to unlock your computer quickly with webcam-supported facial recognition. This films in 1080p and therefore provides good image quality, a little dark, but whose brightness can be slightly improved in software. In low light, however, the noise is really felt.

In difficult lighting conditions.
In a bright office.

On the connection side, the PC is confined to two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports and a mini-jack socket, which seems frankly limited to us for a model that wants to be “pro”; 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 if you forget the proprietary charger, but it will be slower than with the latter.

Connectivity is frankly limited.

Connectivity is frankly limited.

So far, nothing too 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 graphics tablet. However, we have some doubts about the durability of the fabric that holds the hinges to the back of the screen. For more details and photos on the possibilities offered by this screen, we recommend reading our dedicated lab article:

On the other side of the screen.
The screen can move forward.

If the stylus can be inserted under the chassis, it is because it is very special. It consists of two “stages”, with a smaller base which therefore leaves a gap to accommodate the Slim Pen. This original design allowed Microsoft to incorporate ventilation grilles on both sides of the PC and ensure good ventilation. The computer thus remains very quiet, even during video encoding under HandBrake; we only recorded 34.1 dB and a temperature of barely 40°C. In game, the ventilation becomes much more audible, even if it is not the primary use of this model.

The Surface Laptop Studio does not heat up very much.

The Surface Laptop Studio does not heat up very much.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has made no effort to let users disassemble the PC and we advise you not to attempt the operation. The screws are not only hidden by the rubber feet under the chassis, but one of the screws is squarely placed under a piece of plastic which is not visible. You would therefore run the risk of damaging the chassis in addition to voiding the warranty. FYI, the M2 SSD is still replaceable, but don’t plan on changing the RAM, which is soldered, or even the battery, which is not standard.

This PC is very difficult to disassemble.

This PC is very difficult to disassemble.

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 50 W TGP.

We have already had the opportunity to test this processor, but it turns out to be less efficient here, restricted by Microsoft so as not to cause excessive heating. As soon as it exceeds 80°C, the CPU throttle and the operating frequencies drop, which in particular impacts the processing times of demanding applications. In absolute terms, the processor is good, but is clearly not at the level of those of the most high-end models. It obtained a score of 80.3 according to our protocol, slightly more than the Core i7-1165G7 found in many ultraportables.

The PC against its competitors.

The PC against its competitors.

Fortunately, the RTX 3050 Ti comes to help in applications where hardware acceleration is available, allowing in particular to greatly reduce processing times in video editing, photos or 3D rendering. This chip remains at the entry level and of course does not come close to an RTX 3070 Ti, for example, whose processing times are 3 to 4 times faster.

You can of course indulge in video games with the Surface Laptop Studio, even if the RTX 3050 Ti ultimately remains limited due to its low thermal envelope of 50 W. Small indie games and somewhat old titles will not have hard to turn, but it will clearly lower the graphics of the most demanding games. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla displayed in 1080p, for example, barely held 17 fps in ultra mode (unplayable so to speak), and we had to go down to a “medium” setting to obtain a very fluid experience (67 fps). This GPU, on the other hand, allows you to take advantage of DLSS to improve the fluidity of compatible games, but it will probably be necessary to give up on raytracing.

Ultra test result.  It will therefore be necessary to lower the quality of the graphics to be able to play demanding titles.

Ultra test result. It will therefore be necessary to lower the quality of the graphics to be able to play demanding titles.

Strong points

  • Finishes.

  • Versatility of the convertible format.

  • Quality 120Hz screen.

  • Good autonomy.

  • Full HD webcam.

  • Quiet.

Weak points

  • Average performance for a “pro” PC.

  • Keys a bit small.

  • Audio processing cannot be disabled.

  • Fabric behind the screen that seems fragile.

  • Very difficult to disassemble.

Conclusion

we tested we liked

How does grading work?

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio is a quirky PC that’s not for everyone. Its niche format is mainly aimed at creators and professionals who need to work in tablet mode or show content. For more general use, or conversely focused on pure performance, this laptop does not display very good value for money. The performance of the processor is indeed not its strong point, even if the onboard Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card makes up for it and allows the use of hardware acceleration for certain applications. The 120 Hz screen delivers a top-of-the-range service and the autonomy is excellent, which enhances the final score.

Sub Notes

  • Construction

  • Performances

  • Screen

  • audio

  • Mobility / Autonomy


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