The Surface Laptop Studio is actually a demonstration of Microsoft’s design of the ideal laptop for designers. The screen can be flat, so you can draw on it. The old quad core CPU isn’t a good match for this drawing software, and that actually leaves out the entire laptop. That’s a shame, because it’s a laptop with a nice casing, bright screen, 120Hz refresh rate, and battery life that isn’t bad at all considering the hardware.
Microsoft is not averse to trying something new every now and then. The Surface Book, for example, combined a large tablet with a battery and video card dock, and with the Surface RT, Microsoft built its first Windows tablet on an Arm processor. Microsoft’s newer form factor looks like a regular laptop, until you flip the screen and turn the laptop into some kind of drawing board. According to Microsoft, it’s perfect for your digital studio and so the name is apt: Surface Laptop Studio.
Microsoft has a clear design style for its Surface products, which you can see right away when you take the Surface Laptop Studio out of the box. The casing is made of a gray magnesium alloy, which Microsoft has been using since the Surface Pro 3. All in all quite heavy for a 14-inch laptop, it weighs 1.8kg, and makes a solid impression, also because of that weight. The case and screen have rounded corners, as we know from the Surface Laptop Go. The display has a 3:2 display, which is gaining in popularity and which we’ve also seen on Surface devices since the Pro 3.
However, the Studio laptop isn’t just a Surface laptop with a flip-up screen. The accommodation has been well thought out and you can see that when you take a closer look. When you put the laptop down, it stands on a 7mm high “base”, which is indented all around from the rest of the chassis. This base is perforated on the sides and there the laptop studio can dissipate heat. The usual place for compact laptops is at the screen hinge, but that’s not an option with the Laptop Studio, because the screen will throttle cooling when laid flat. Another advantage, in theory, is that you have more space to distribute the heat.
In the widest part of the case are the connections: two USB-C ports on the left, with Thunderbolt 4 support. You can also use them to charge your laptop. If you use a charger with high enough power, you can leave the 95W charger at home. This charger uses Microsoft’s proprietary connection, which is located on the right side of the chassis. The connection itself is not impractical: it is magnetic and reversible and you can also use it to connect docks to it, but it has to come from Microsoft. If you use universal docks or peripherals, regular USB connections will be more useful. Jack connection is also available. The big mistake is the SD card reader, which in our opinion should not be missed on a laptop designed specifically for creatives.
Screen, keyboard and touchpad
What Laptop Studio is all about, of course, is the screen that you can position in three ways. For starters, it can be used as a regular laptop monitor. To change the position of the screen, hold the screen and tap the upper right corners with your thumb. The screen is magnetically “taped” and with the right amount of pressure it becomes loose and you can place it upright, between the keyboard and the touchpad. This is a permanent place, where the screen again stays in place with the help of magnets. This intermediate mode brings the screen a bit closer, which can be useful if you’re only using the touch screen for apps that support it. This will work better for some users than others; In practice, we sometimes still needed the keyboard, so we kept folding the screen back.
If you fold the screen that is laid flat, you can use it for drawing. This is possible with the help of the Surface Slim Pen 2, which you have to buy separately for 120 euros. If you start with the stylus, the screen will give way under pressure when you’re working in the middle. Normally you wouldn’t apply that much pressure, but if you want to open a context menu with the stylus, you’ll have to press hard on it. It probably won’t break anytime soon, but it’s a part of your laptop that you don’t have to deal with aggressively. The same goes for folding the screen. You see four flat cables going around the hinge to control the screen and we suppose Microsoft has tested tilting the screen over and over, but here too we feel like we have to do the flip-flop with politics.
We discussed the Slim Pen 2 in a review Surface Pro 8 Indeed, this is a beautiful thing. It has haptic feedback in the right software and feels very responsive on the 120Hz screen. When you’re done drawing, you can store the pen in the bottom of the sleeve, where it stays magnetically in place and also charges contactlessly.
Finally, the touchpad is a pad that doesn’t move, as Apple has used it on its MacBooks for years. When you press it, the vibrating actuator transmits haptic feedback to the touchpad, making it look like you’re actually pressing the touchpad down. The touchpad surface is made of glass, so we were able to put it to good use.
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