Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 – now with 64GB and Intel i7-13700H (laptop review)
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 is its second iteration of the ‘creator’s portable powerhouse’. It looks the same as the original but has put on a little around the middle.
It is relevant to compare (for me, at least) as I use a Surface Laptop Studio as my CyberShack production machine. Given it has 32GB of RAM, I wanted to see how much difference 64GB makes.
Surface Laptop Studio 2 and Surface Laptop Striudo 1 comparison
Note: Prices are RRP as of 21/11/23 and may be subject to seasonal sales and promotional discounts.
|Item||Surface Laptop Studio 2 2023 (SLS 2)||Surface Laptop Studio 2021 (SLS 1)|
|Price (RRP)||$3519 Iris Xe/16/512GB $4199 NVIDIA 4050 16/512GB $4879 NVIDIA 4050 32/1TB $5279, NVIDA 4060 64/1TB||From $2399 to $4694|
|CPU||13th Gen i7-13700H 14-core 20-thread||11th Gen i7-11370H 4-core 8-thread|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe and a choice of NVIDIA GeForce RT 4050 GeForce RTX 4060 NVIDIA RTX 2000 Ada – Enterprise only||Intel Iris Xe and NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU with 4GB GDDR6 GPU memory|
|RAM/Storage||16/64GB LPDDR5x and PCIe 4.0×4 512GB, 1TB, 2TB||16/32GB LPDDR4x and PCIe 3.0×2 1TB SSD|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 6E AXE and BT 5.3||Wi-Fi 6 AX and BT 5.1|
|Battery||58Wh Iris Xe – Up to 19 hours of typical device usage 102W adapter NVIDIA – Up to 18 hours of typical device usage 120W power adapter||58WHr Up to 18 hours of typical device usage|
|Display (Size, Resolution)||14.4-inch PixelSense Flow 2400×1600, 3:2 aspect ratio, 8-bit/16.7M colours 120Hz 1500:1 contrast ratio VESA DisplayHDR 400 600 nits (HDR) Dolby Vision IQ decode. Touch and pen support||Same panel but later GPU allows for slightly higher specs.|
|Colours||Platinum over Aluminium chassis||Platinum over Mag alloy chassis|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) 1x Surface Connect 3.5mm headphone jack 1x USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 1) microSD card reader||2 x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) 1 x Surface Connect 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Dimensions||323 x 230 x 22mm||323 mm x 228.32 mm x 18.94 mm|
|Weight||Integrated graphics: 1.89kg Discrete graphics: 1.98kg||1.82kg|
Australian Review – Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 Model 2029
|See prices in the table above.|
|Colours||Platinum Magnesium Alloy|
|From||Microsoft Store and Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, and other major retailers|
|Warranty||One-year ACL with optional 2/3/4 Accidental Damage coverage|
|Country of Origin||China|
|Company||Microsoft is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services.|
|More||CyberShack Microsoft news and reviews|
We use Fail (below expectations), Passable (meets low expectations), Pass (meets expectations), Pass+ (near Exceed but not class-leading) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. You can click on most images for an enlargement.
First Impressions and why buy – Pass+
There was and still is an element of excitement with the Surface Laptop Studio (1 and 2) – the cantilever centre hinge is not new (Acer did it first with the Concept series), but this is subtler, less industrial and a little more natural. The hinge allows for a clamshell, stage/presentation (covers the keyboard) and a tablet, albeit a hefty one.
Having established that it is an evolution of the SLS 1, we can say that it is for those who want a faster CPU/GPU and up to 64GB RAM. I suspect you will decide more on which NVIDIA GEFORCE RTX – 4050 or 4060 you need. That will come down to what sort of creator or power user you are.
What makes Surface Laptop Studio 2 special?
- Large 14.4”, 3:2 ratio, centre hinged screen.
- sRGB, DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB colour gamut.
- NVIDIA GPU choices.
- 2 x TB4 40Gbps ports.
- Top build quality.
- Some of the best sound from a laptop.
- Slim Pen 2 (MPP Protocol).
- Terrific backlit typist grade, durable mechanical keyboard and oversized trackpad.
- Windows 11 means lots of flexibility.
The screen – Pass+ but it is not OLED
I would have given it an Exceed rating, except that ASUS 2K, 3.5K and 4K 10-bit/1.07 billion colour Lumia OLED has gained so much ground in 2023 that this feels a little outdated. It is the same screen used in the 2021 Surface Laptop Studio (our review model shows week 42/2020 manufacture date).
It is an IPS LCD touch/stylus panel made by Sharp Model LQ144P1JX01 with a spec of 2400 x 1600, 3:2 ratio, 500 nits, 8-bit/16.7 million colours, 120Hz refresh (fixed), 100% sRGB, and a PWM frequency of 5000Hz. The new GPUs can get slightly more performance out of the old panel.
- 600 Nits SDR (531)
- 1500:1 contrast (1575:1)
- 100% sRGB (98%)
- No claim on DCI-P3 or Adobe RGB (66/68% of 16.7M colours – not 1.07 billion)
- Dolby Vision IQ – It can decode Dolby Vision metadata and downmix to panel capability.
- VESA DisplayHDR 400 – this is an irrelevant ‘certification’ indicating it is SDR, has no dimming zones and black levels of <.4 cd/m2.
- PWM 5000Hz (too high to cause issues with PWM intolerant users)
- GTG 80m2 – slow
- Delta E <1 – excellent
Summary: In 2020/21, this was an excellent creator’s screen. It is now quite average given the huge advances from ASUS Lumia OLED (and others) that offer 10-bit/1.07 billion colours, near 100% sRGB, DCI-P3 and Adobe RGG, Pantone Validated, higher 2K and 4K resolution and HDR True Black 500 for quality true Dolby Vision/HDR10+.
How does it handle Dolby Vision IQ?
Dolby Vision IQ is just DV with an automatic light sensor. For a reasonable representation, DV needs 10-bit/1.07B colours (SLS 2 is 8-bit/16.7M colours) and 1000+ nits (it can be less, but HDR effects diminish).
The GPU can decode DV metadata and ‘downmix’ to the panel’s capabilities. We tested peak brightness in a 2% window at 623 nits. This means you get some HDR effect, but without local dimming zones, it is not DV, as seen on a 4K DV TV.
Similarly, the Realtek audio can decode Dolby Atmos’s 128 sound object metadata and downmix to its 2.0 four speakers (Left/Right tweeters and Left/Right woofers). We will discuss that under sound.
Processor – Major increase in power – Pass+
The i7-13700H is a 10nm, 14-core/20-thread processor (SLS 4-core/8 thread). Geekbench 6 single/multi-core is 1317/6049 (SLS 1320/4679), showing a massive multi-core increase. Full Benchmarks here.
It has a dedicated Intel Gen3 Movidius 3700VC VPU AI Accelerator to accelerate new Windows functions like the Copilot. We can’t comment beyond Intel’s information, but it seems to relate to video effects rather than AI edge computing, although it can take tasks away from the CPU and GPU.
Designed to accelerate Artificial Intelligence (AI) workloads on your PC, improving system responsiveness, efficiency, and AI compute performance. Available on select 13th Gen Intel Core Processor devices, the VPU will enable new Windows Studio effects that provide high-quality background blur, eye contact, and automatic framing for collaboration and streaming applications. These effects can easily be applied system-wide through Windows Settings to provide consistent video effects for all apps that use the integrated camera.
Disk Speed – Fast PCIe 4.0 x 4
Crystal Disk Mark measures peak disk speeds.
CPDT measures sustained throughput.
Da Vinci resolve – video rendering test
We have included the DaVinci Resolve 18 Raw speed test as a reference, as it tests not only disk speeds but CPU and GPU and gives a result showing maximum video rendering. It is excellent to compare relative PC performance.
Throttling – Pass
It is hard to measure throttling as the results vary on mains power/battery and Windows settings. You can select Recommended (about 25%/75% performance/battery life), Better Performance (50/50) and Best Performance (100/0). It relates to the TDP wattage, and from what we can see, that ranges from 80W (microsecond burst), 45W (heavy loads for a few seconds) and 35W or less (for typical work and battery power).
There was throttling on mains power with CPU temperatures reaching 83° (external 44°) and fan noise (up to 50dB). On battery, CPU temperatures were around 65°, reflecting the usual Windows 80% throttling. Heat blows out the sides – you may notice it.
Graphics – Two GPUs
The Geekbench OpenCL and Vulkan scores are interesting, showing the massive GPU increase from an 80W TDP GPU.
|Intel Iris Xe 96EU||16,683||68,923|
|NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 8GB DDR6 80W||84,663||81,440|
Intel Iris Xe GPU runs the internal and external displays (over TB4 or USB-C) and has 96EU.
If a program can use the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060, it will for the internal screen only. This GPU can use up to 80W – a real battery life killer – best used on mains power. You can set the GPU to one or the other in NVIDIA Control Panel. You can also use an external GPU over Thunderbolt 4.
Gamers should get close to maximum frame rates on all games, but GtG speeds are relatively slow.
Comms – all there – Pass+
It has Intel Wi-Fi 6E AXE using the Intel AX210 2×2 (4-stream), MU-MIMO, OFDMA, 1024QAM, Gig+, 160Mhz channel support – the lot. It connects to the 6Ghz network at 2402Mbps full duplex (maximum). The antenna system has an extremely strong 5-and-6Ghz signal – full speed out to 10m.
BT is 5.3, has a range of 30m, and supports Windows Quick Connect and Multipoint Connect. It has the usual lossy SBC codec.
Ports and Expansion – Pass
It has two TB4 (Thunderbolt 4) ports with separate channels. Each has a 40Gbps data transfer rate. These are fully backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3, USB-C 4.0 (20Gbps), USB-C 3.1/3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps), USB-C 3.1/3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) and USB-A 3.0 (480Mbps half-duplex).
In addition, there is one USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 5Gbps port, a 3.5mm 4-pole headphone/mic port and a Surface Connect port for charging at 96W (maximum)
Expansion is via a $499.95 Microsoft Thunderbolt 4 Dock. It can connect to monitors via USB-C-USB-C (or you can get USB-C to HDMI) for Alt DP connections. We have not tested this, but it should support 2x 4K@30fps monitors (or possibly 2 x 4K@60fps).
Alternatively, the $499.95 Belkin Connect Pro Thunderbolt 4 dock – why you should upgrade has 2 x HDMI 4K@60fps ports.
This is where the Surface Connect charger comes in handy. It uses the Connect port on the Surface Studio Laptop (so you can attach USB-C dongles with no upstream power), and it has an additional USB-A 3.0 5V/1A/5W port in the charger brick. It is convenient for data and charge.
Consumer Advice: To attain maximum throughput, you must use TB4 cables with a 5A rating. If you use USB-C, these will likely have only 2 or 3A ratings. TB4 cables are generally shorter at around 1m or less.
Battery and power – Pass
Power use varies so much depending on settings and workloads. We use default out-of-the-box settings. Microsoft claims the 58Wh battery gives up to 18 hours in its tests. We won’t argue the point except to say that the reality can be very different.
- Charge time using 120W (96W) adapter: Approximately 2.5 hours.
- 1080p Video loop 50% volume/video, aeroplane mode: 11 hours 30 minutes (Similar to the original SLS).
- Netflix Dolby Vision and Atmos Wi-Fi: 7 hours 12 minutes
- PC Mark Modern Office battery test: 11 hours 42 minutes
- Full load screen on (even with throttling): 2 hours 15 minutes
USB-C charging is possible. With a 65W Belkin Gan charger and 5W Belkin cable, it maxed out 20V/2A/40W, reducing to 20W/1A/20W as the battery filled. We got the message ‘slow charging’.
Using the Belkin Connect Pro Thunderbolt 4 dock, it got closer to 90W upstream (we cannot measure upstream current over Thunderbolt), and we did not get the slow charge message.
The 15V/6.8A/102W adapter (Intel Iris Xe) or 15V/8A/120W on NVIDIA models as tested) draws 240V/2A/480W. That is fairly power-hungry. Of course, that is only under load, but at 40 cents per kWh, it adds up. Sleep mode is <1W.
Battery Summary: A typical user will get 8-10 hours of use. There are system options to extend that.
Sound – Exceed
It has four speakers – two side-firing tweeters and two down-firing woofers (not sub-woofers). These are simple cross-over frequency speakers – the woofers handle Left/Right bass starting at 70Hz and building to 200Hz (end of high bass), where they cut over to the Tweeters handling Left/Right to 6kHz (mid), take a slight dip to avoid harshness (treble) and the slowly decline to 20kHz.
These speakers are driven by the Realtek High-Definition Audio(SST) 2W amps in 16-bit/48kHz (CD quality).
|Deep Bass 20-40Hz||No|
|Middle Bass 40-100Hz||Starts at 70Hz and builds to 125Hz|
|High Bass 100-200Hz||Flat but not at peak|
|Low Mid 200-400Hz||Flat but not at peak|
|Mid 400-1000Hz||Flat from 500Hz to 6kHz|
|High Mid 1-2kHz||Flat|
|Low Treble 2-4kHz||Flat|
|Mid Treble 4-6kHz||Flat|
|High Treble 6-10kHz||Recess to avoid harshness, then pretty flat to 12kHz.|
|Dog Whistle 10-20kHz||Steady decline from 12kHz to 20kHz|
|Volume||Maximum 83dB – loud|
|Sound Signature type||This is almost a neutral sound signature. There is just enough musically critical mid-and-upper-bass, flat (great) mid and slightly recessed treble. Overall, it is one of the best for music and movies.|
|Soundstage||The side-firing speakers have a wide sound stage – about 50cm on each side in a bubble around the screen.|
|Comment||Excellent sound. The 3.5mm jack delivers quality stereo and good volume.|
|BT 5.3 (headphones)||BT SBC codec is typical and crushes the mid-bass and high treble. Use a Creative BT-W3 and BT-W4 – add Qualcomm aptX and Hi-Def sound USB-A dongle for way better headphone sound.|
|Read||How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key – guide).|
Dolby Atmos – Pass
It has a Dolby Atmos decoder that downmixes the 128 sound objects’ metadata to the speaker’s 2.0 capability.
It widens the sound stage a little, maybe an extra 15cm on each side – this is still a laptop – and gives it some 3D vertical height to just above the screen.
Webcam – Pass
When others are now going to 2 or 4K cameras, this seems less equipped. But the fact is that most video conference software only supports a maximum of 1080p anyway. It supports photo settings 3MP 2304 x 1296, 2.1MP 1920 x 1080, and .9MP 1280 x 720 – the camera internally crops. Video is 1080p/720p/480p@30fps.
It supports IR Windows Hello 2.0 and Windows Studio Effects with Auto Framing, Eye Contact and Background Blur (you must enable these.
The dual mics are beamforming with software Voice clarity.
Summary: It is fit for purpose, and the new Windows Studio Effects make the camera more useful.
Keyboard, trackpad and Surface Slim Pen 2
The Surface Studio Laptop 2 has an excellent mechanical keyboard (1.3mm throw) and injection moulded lettering (that won’t wear off). We would love a little more throw, but overall, the 45g actuation pressure is spot on – typists won’t swear at this keyboard.
The three-step backlight (plus off) is excellent as the white injection moulded lettering on grey key caps can be hard to see in bright light.
The trackpad is silky smooth and can cover the entire top right to bottom left in one swipe.
The Surface Slim Pen 2 is a $189.95 option. It attaches magnetically under the front lip and induction charges. It is superb for handwriting, and creators can use it for drawing, colouring, etc. It is flat like a builder’s pencil, surprisingly comfortable. Tactile signals mean haptic feedback when you use natural gestures. It also features 4069 pressure levels and Zero force inking.
Maintenance/Repairability – Pass+
To get to the motherboard, you must remove the rubber strip ‘feet’ and six screws – easy. Microsoft is to be congratulated for its almost 100% repairability (apart from soldered RAM). The SSD is a PCIe NVMe 4.0×4 (both M2.2230 and M2.2280 can be used), but remember that it uses BitLocker encryption to the device and may not be a simple swap out. The SLS 2 Microsoft Service Guide is here.
The video is 13:53 minutes, but you can skip through it. You can get some parts from iFixit in the USA, but you need to go to an authorised Microsoft repairer in Australia.
Missing – No deal breakers
- HDMI Out
- No camera privacy shutter
CyberShack’s view – Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 is great, BUT
You may have noticed the theme throughout that the original Surface Laptop Studio was groundbreaking for the time. But the new SLS 2, while still an excellent device with the latest 13th Gen Intel processor and 64GB RAM, lags in other areas.
There is nothing wrong with the screen except that ASUS Lumia OLED 2/4K knocks it for a six. There is nothing wrong with the CPU/GPU/RAM/Storage except the ASUS ProArt Studiobook 16” with an i9-13980HX, 64GB/8TB, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 (with MUX switch) for about the same price knocks it out of bounds too.
That won’t stop Microsoft Surface devotees from buying this. But unlike the SLS 1, there are now options from ASUS, Dell, Lenovo and HP to consider. I prefer Microsoft Surface products as they are the epitome of Windows design, and its service is impeccable (really) – I place an intrinsic value on these things.
Who should consider the Surface Laptop Studio 2?
I base this on the 64GB/1TB NVIDIA 4060 model as tested.
- Content creators working in the sRGB web colour space.
- Artists and designers for its Slim Pen 2 and tablet flexibility.
- Amateur (not pro) video editors and photographers.
- CAD/3D/Drawing (Its 3:2 format screen).
- Code cutters and developers running software emulators.
- Writers and those that use a keyboard (Me)
- Features: 90 – It has everything, but the IPS Screen is now outclassed. Lower DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB colour gamut limit this to those working in the sRGB space.
- Value: 80 – There are now brand/model options that offer better value or more features for the price.
- Performance: 90 – The processor and GPU offer plenty of power.
- Ease of Use: 95 – The centre hinge screen offers format flexibility, the keyboard is excellent, the sound is great, and Windows is almost universally used.
- Design: 95 – I like the design and think it will make it to SLS 3 and beyond.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 2023From $3519-$5279
- The centre hinge screen design is excellent.
- Well-engineered and repairable – it is another keeper.
- Thunderbolt 4 x 2 (and not much else).
- Great typists' keyboard and haptic feedback touchpad.
- Excellent sound from a laptop.
- The screen is not class-leading (anymore).
- Battery life won't be 18 hours – expect ten or so in everyday use.
- It needs a TB3 or 4 dock at $500+ to expand its use.
- I am interested to see what difference the AI chip makes.