Microsoft is not averse to trying something new every now and then. For example, the Surface Book combined a large tablet with a battery and graphics card dock, and with the Surface RT, Microsoft built the first tablet to run Windows on an Arm processor. Microsoft’s latest form factor looks like a regular laptop until you turn the screen over and turn the laptop into a kind of drawing board. According to Microsoft, it is ideal for your digital studio and therefore the name is appropriate: Surface Laptop Studio.
Microsoft has a clear design style for its Surface products, and you can immediately see that when you take the Surface Laptop Studio out of the box. The housing is made of a gray magnesium alloy, which Microsoft has used since the Surface Pro 3. The whole thing is quite heavy for a 14 “laptop, 1.8 kilos, and gives a solid impression, also because of the weight. The housing and the screen have rounded corners that we know from Surface Laptop Go The screen has a 3: 2 ratio that is gaining popularity and we have also seen it on Surface devices since Pro 3.
Still, Laptop Studio is not ‘just’ a Surface laptop with a flip screen. The home is well thought out and you can see that when you look closer. When you put the Laptop Studio away from you, it stands on a 7 mm high ‘base’, which is set all the way around in relation to the rest of the house. That base is perforated on the sides and there Laptop Studio can dissipate its heat. The usual place for compact laptops is at the hinge of the screen, but that is not an option with Laptop Studio as the screen would suffocate the cooling when you lay it flat. Another advantage is in theory that you have more surface to distribute the heat.
In the wider part of the house are the connections: two USB-C on the left, with support for Thunderbolt 4. You can also use them to charge the laptop. If you use a charger with high enough power, you can leave the included 95W charger at home. The charger uses Microsoft’s own connection, which is located on the right side of the housing. The connection itself is not impractical: it is magnetic and reversible, and you can also use it to connect docks to it, but they must come from Microsoft. If you use universal docks or peripherals, the standard USB connections are more useful. There is also a jack connection available. The big miss is the SD card reader, which in our opinion we should not miss on a laptop that is specifically aimed at the creative.
Screen, keyboard and touchpad
What Laptop Studio is all about, of course, is the screen, which you can place in three ways. To begin with, it can be used as a regular portable screen. To move the screen, grab the screen and tap the upper right corners with your thumbs. The screen is magnetically ‘wallpaper’ and with the right touch it comes loose and you can place it upright, between the keyboard and the touchpad. It is a permanent place where the screen stays in place again using magnets. This middle position brings the screen a little closer, which can be useful if you only use the touch screen for apps that support it. It will work better for some users than others; in practice, we still occasionally needed the keyboard, so we kept folding the screen back.
If you fold the screen with which you lay it flat, you can use it to draw on. This is possible using the Surface Slim Pen 2, which you have to buy separately for 120 euros. If you start working with the pen, the screen will yield under pressure when you work in the middle. Normally you will not put so much pressure, but if you want to open a context menu using the stylus, press it hard. It’s probably not breaking right now, but it’s a part of the laptop that you should not handle too hard. The same goes for folding the screen. You see four flat cables running around the hinge to control the screen, and we assume that Microsoft has repeatedly tested the tilt of the screen, but here too we get the feeling that we need to turn with politics.
We already discussed Slim Pen 2 in the review of the Surface Pro 8, and that’s a good thing. It has haptic feedback in the relevant software and it feels very responsive on the 120Hz screen. When you have finished drawing, you can store the pen at the bottom of the housing, where it will be magnetically in place and charged at the same time without contact.
Finally, the touchpad is one that does not move as Apple has been using it on its MacBooks for years. When you press it, a vibrating motor sends haptic feedback to the touchpad, making it appear as if you are actually pushing the touchpad down. The surface of the touchpad is made of glass so we could use it really well.