I wanted to see an update to the Surface Studio, and the Surface Book at the recent Microsoft Launch event. What we got was not unexpected though with rumours and leaks painting the picture long before the event. We got a kind of weird hybrid of the Surface Studio and the Surface Book – the Surface Laptop Studio.
Surface Laptop Studio: who is it designed for?
The Laptop Studio is a workhouse mobile device, clearly designed with the creative market in mind. And when I say creative, I’m not talking about graphic designers and video editors alone. We’re talking CAD designers – mechanical, civil and electronics professionals, software developers and a wide variety of people who do complex professional work that requires serious computing power.
Surface Laptop Studio Chassi and Design
The design is quite interesting. At first, it looks just like a laptop. But the 14″ display folds forward into a couple of positions, bringing the display right up close and personal. This allows you to comfortably work on the device with touch and pen. There is the Stage Mode, perfect for presentations, and watching videos. There is Studio Mode for note taking, sketching, and creating. It’s quite brilliant, if not exactly new. Many people have pointed to the various weird and wonderful Acer devices that have taken a similar approach over the last 7 or 8 years. And there are more. Hopefully, the similarity of the Surface Book will bring great attention to those OEM devices in a win-win for the form factor.
Unlike the Surface Book, the Laptop Studio’s Display does not detach. I’ve been really encouraged to see how many Surface Book owners have commented on the last few oztabletpc YouTube videos. You’ve shared how much you love using that Book display on its own, as a tablet. I know I love it too. But the design of the Surface Book meant that an Intel Core i7 processor, motherboard, RAM and SSD all needed to be packed into a 6mm display. Microsoft did it, and it is magnificent, but the approach limits it performance envelope. Demanding work generates heat, and heat must get out. The less space it has, the more compromised it is. And while the Book 3 is unique and brilliant, I can understand why Surface are taking this new product in a different direction.
Surface Laptop Studio Has an Upgraded Processor
Because of the extra space, Surface have been able to put an 11th Generation Intel H35 series mobile processor into the Laptop Studio. It has a much higher potential than U series processor that we would find in the Surface Book. And to support those creative workflows, there is an NVIDIA GeForce RTX3050 Ti Graphics Processor option. That should couple impressively with the i7 model. And the Laptop Studio can come with up to 2 terabytes of storage on board. That is brilliant for creative working from anywhere.
Like the Surface Pro 8, it has 2 USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4. So, you can take those 2 terabytes and expand it with mega fast external storage. And if you buy the model without the NVIDIA GPU, you could plug an external one right into that Thunderbolt ready USB-C port. The Surface Dock connector is still there, alongside of thunderbolt, so there’s some plenty of options for charging and Docking.
New Hinge Design
Back on the screen, I’m really interested to see how this hinge design plays out. The positions make a lot of sense to me coming from the Surface Studio 2. I often fold the studio forward, but I need to move the keyboard off to the side and out of the way – which is messy. With the laptop studio, as soon as you move the display forward into either stage, or studio mode, the keyboard is covered.
In the stage position, you can still use the trackpad, for precision and proportional input – or touch and pen. And in the flat studio position, everything is covered leaving you free to take notes, sketch and create. Like most of the 360 type devices, the Studio is too thick for comfort if you’re doing a lot of pen work like this. I’d prefer a thinner device, but I’ll reserve my judgement until I use it.
The new Surface Slim Pen 2 magnetically attaches under the front edge of the device. Now a lot has been said about the so-called plinth under the device. Personally, I think it’s a clever way to ensure clear airflow – for what is essentially a high-performance laptop – while also giving a less bulky impression. And the shape leaves a nice spot for the new pen to dock and charge. The plinth is also removable so that the device can be serviced, which is another great step from Microsoft towards better serviceability.
Lower Screen Resolution
If you are used to the super high resolution of the Surface Book 3’s 15″ display, this new screen would be a major step down, at only 2400 x 1600 pixels. Still a high DPI display, but not exactly what we’re used to for Surface. It is in the very usable Surface signature 3:2 ratio, and it does now support up a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. We understand that the device will vary the refresh rate to suit the content being displayed.
New Buttonless Trackpad
The new trackpad has no mechanical button clicks. Rather it uses haptic feedback to tell you where you click. It’s a precision touchpad that supports multi-touch gestures, as will the touch screen with Windows 11 on board. There is faster windows hello, and a 1080P webcam just like in the Pro 8. Dual studio mics and four Dolby Atmos certified speakers. Oh, and there is a headphone jack too.
Should you buy it?
So why would a “creative” buy this Surface Laptop Studio over some other potentially even higher spec’d laptop? The Surface Laptop is a unique blend of performance and flexibility. At around 1.7 to 1.8 kilos, this is not the ideal device for couch surfing. Most creatives would have some other device for that anyway – maybe a Surface Duo. But the pen experience is built right in, and it’s only a millisecond away -unlike the Surface Book. And unlike a 2-device setup, you don’t have to dive into your bag and pull out another device – with another set of distractions – to just take down a note, sketch out a thought or brainstorm on a whiteboard. With Laptop Studio, you just pull the screen forward and do it right there, right now. That’s what creativity is all about.
In that way, the Surface Laptop Studio is even closer to the Surface Pro, where you can just fold the keyboard out of the way to instantly transform into thinking mode. That said, if you will miss the ultra-thin canvas of the Surface Book, then maybe the Pro 8 is a better option – especially now that you could get an eGPU working together with it thanks to the addition of Thunderbolt 4. Lots to think about.
The Surface Laptop Studio will not make it to Australia until early next year, and as soon as we can get out hands on one, we’ll bring you some content about it. So, make sure that you subscribe and join us on the journey with these new Surface Products.