Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio (2022) – a thing of beauty and envy (review)
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is beautiful, brainy, clever, and a contortionist – all essential ingredients to excite. It is part of the Microsoft Surface range that has set the standard for hybrid tablets, laptops, and creators’ workstations since its inception.
The Surface Laptop Studio is the logical replacement for the Surface Book, not so much in design but in having models with NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPUs.
The range starts at $2399 for an Intel Core i5-11300H, Iris Xe GPU, 16/256GB to a $4049 Intel Core i7-11370H, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 32GB RAM and 2TB SSD. The rest is common to both models.
So what is special? Well, it’s the laptop that can be a clamshell or hinge open to a stage format or reverse 360° to a tablet; in a word, flexibility.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio Model 1964
Note commercial models may have ECC ram and slightly faster NVIDIA RTX A2000 GPU 4GB GDDR6.
i7/16/512 $3149 i7/32/1TB/2TB$4049/4649
Special prices for students Options
Surface Slim Pen 2 $189.95
Surface Dial $149.95
Surface Dock (USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps) $419.95
|Colours||Platinum Magnesium Alloy|
|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|
Welcome to Surface Laptop Studio – brief specs
- 14.4″, 2400 x 1600, 120Hz, 3:2 PixelSense screen with HDR and Dolby Vision (downmix) playback capability and narrow bezels with rounded corners
- Intel Core i5-11300H or i7-11370H
- i7 has NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU
- i5/i7 has up to 16/32GB RAM and up to 1/2TB SSD
- 2 x Thunderbolt 4 ports (also USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 and USB-C 4.0 compatible)
- Surface Connect Ribbon port
- 3.5mm 4-pole combo earphone/mic
- Windows Hello 5MP 1080p front
- Quad Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos downmix, Dual studio mics
- Wi-Fi 6 AX and BT 5.1
- I5/i7 65/102W power supply and 58Wh for 19/18hrs’ typical device usage’
- 323.28 mm x 228.32 mm x 18.94 mm x approx. 1.8kg
- Backlit mechanical keyboard with injection moulded lettering
- Surface Pen 2 compatible
- Windows 11 Home
The key takeaways here are a larger hinged screen (than the Surface Pro), 2 x Thunderbolt 4 (40Gbps each) with upstream power charge, and it retains the Surface Connect (10Gbps) for power and some expansion.
First impression – Surface Laptop Studio is exciting and kinda Macbook-like
There is an element of excitement with this – the cantilever 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 (although at 1742.9/1820.2g, it is a hefty one).
Touch screen – fast 120Hz refresh and colour accurate
The excitement continues with a 14.4″ 2400 x 1600, 3:2, 120Hz, 500 nit IPS screen. It is made by Sharp using an IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide backplane), model LQ144P1JX01 (SHP1509). Like all Surface screens, it has accurate and vibrant colours and lower power consumption than a typical TFT IPS LCD screen.
It has 8-bit colour (16.7 million), and Microsoft claims 500 nits maximum (tested to 510) and 1500:1 contrast (tested 1685:1) which means it has decent blacks and purer whites.
It has two display pre-sets – vivid (about 82% DCI-P3 or 80% Adobe RGB) and sRGB (nearly 100%). Colour accuracy is impressive at 1.2 (<4 is excellent). The screen cannot be colour calibrated, but it can use ICC Profiles. It can also play HDR and Dolby Vision content downmixed to the panel’s capabilities. The quad speakers can play Dolby Atmos downmixed to 2.0 channels.
You can set the display at 60 or 120Hz (fixed) – and we understand that there may be a firmware update coming to auto-step between them. When using Pen 2, 120Hz lowers the latency rate.
Gamers may be a little disappointed at about 60ms GtG. PWM at 5kHz is not noticeable.
Summary: For creators working in the webspace, its sRGB coverage is ideal and looks excellent for movies.
Processor – tonnes of power for Creators
It has an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11370H, 3.30/4.8GHz. This is 10nm, 4-Core/8-Thread has a 35W TPD. It is not the fastest (it sacrifices speed for enhanced battery life). It supports two Thunderbolt 4 (40 Gbps each), 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes, and its Intel Xe 96EU (execution units) graphics is excellent for most work supporting three external monitors to 4K@60Hz.
Geekbench5 gives it a single/multi-core score of 1320/4679. It is roughly the same in single-core as an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H or the 6-core i5-11400H. In multi-core, it is similar to an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U. PC Mark 10 scores it 5746, and that is not far off the more powerful i7-11800H at 6432.
RAM is 32GB Quad-channel DDR4-1066.
The SSD is a 1TB (900GB free) SK Hynix HFS001TDE9X073N PCIe 3.0 x 4, using 3D-NAND TLC and a Hynix controller. CPDT shows sequential read/write 2.97/1.26GBps and Crystal Disk Mark (uses a different test methodology) is 3.550/2.229GBps. This is fast.
Microsoft advertises that it is removable (upgradeable), but the fine print is that it needs a skilled technician with access to Microsoft instructions.
Add external storage over TB4 or USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps).
- OWC Elektron 1GB sequential CPDT read/write 844/578 MBps. Crystal Disk Mark 1059/1030
- WD-Black P50 Game Drive 1GB sequential read/write 866/563. Crystal Disk Mark 1064/1044MBps
Throttling – negligible with good thermal design
It is hard to measure throttling as the results vary on mains power/battery and internal Widows settings. You can select recommended (we think 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 50W (microsecond burst), 40W (heavy loads for a few seconds) and 35W or less (for typical work and battery power).
On mains power, there was no apparent throttling, with CPU temperatures reaching 81° (external 42°) and minimal fan noise (<40dB). On battery, CPU temperatures were around 65° reflecting the usual Windows 80% throttling. Heat blows out the sides – if you use a mouse, you may notice it.
This means heavy users won’t experience significant slowdown or heat issues.
Graphics – Two GPUs
The Intel Iris Xe Graphics run the internal and external displays (over TB4 or USB-C) and have 96EU (80 for the i5). Open CL/Vulcan score is 19383/17622 (no CUDA result available),
If a program can use the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Laptop GPU (GA107) @1035MHz with 4GB@GDDR6-5500MHz, it will. Open CL/Vulcan/CUDA score is 62118/48137/61437. This GPU can use up to 50W, so it is the real battery life killer – best used on mains power. You can set the GPU to one or the other in NVIDIA Control Panel.
Gamers should get close to maximum frame rates on 1080p games.
Comms – all there
It has Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX (not 6E) using the Intel AX200 M.2 card, 2×2 (4-stream), MU-MIMO, OFDMA, 1024QAM, Gig+, 160Mhz channel support – the lot. It connects to the 5Ghz network at 1200/1200Mbps (2400Mbps). The antenna system has an extremely strong 5Ghz signal – the full speed at 10m. It is a shame it is not the Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E AX1675 card – the next model.
BT is 5.2 giving double speed and range (good to 30m) of BT 4.XX. It has the usual SBC codec.
Expansion – needs a dock or dongle
The two TB4 ports use separate channels and each has a 40Gbps data transfer rate. These are fully backwards 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).
To attain these speeds, you need a suitable cable. For example, a USB-A to USB-C cable is usually USB 2.0 or 480Mbps half-duplex (20MBps) and won’t carry more than 5V/2A/10W. An unmarked USB-C to USB-C cable will be 5Gbps, with a maximum of 5V/3A/15W. You need to look for rated cables like the Aussie Zeus-X Pro that supports 20V/5A/100W upstream power, 10Gbps data speeds(for Alt DP video and audio stream) and 4K@60Hz.
Or use Thunderbolt cables marked 3 or 4 and have a maximum length of .5m (passive) or 2m (active). You can read more at our USB and Thunderbolt cables made easy.
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 a handy USB-A 3.0 5V/1A/5W port in the charger brick. It is convenient for data and charge.
We recommend the Plugable range as they use the latest Intel Titan Thunderbolt Chipset and have models ranging from 60-100W (you only need the 100W version for i7). These have two video ports and additional Thunderbolt/USB-C downstream ports.
Battery – not as long as Microsoft’s typical use figures of 19/18 hours (i5/i7)
Microsoft’s typical test is (Default settings, screen 150nits with Auto-Brightness disabled, Wi-Fi connected)
- Web browsing test accessing eight popular websites over multiple open tabs
- Productivity test utilising Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook
- Idle for a portion of time with the device in use
Our standard tests include
- Video loop, 1080p 200 nits (50%), aeroplane mode: 14 hours
- Streaming video, 1080p SDR, 200 nits (50%), Wi-Fi: 8.5 hours
- As above 400 nits 1080p HDR, Wi-Fi: 6 hours
- Office use, Wi-Fi: 8 hours
- Full load: 1 hour
- PC Mark 10 Modern Office: 11 hours 40 minutes
- 0-50% fast charge – 40 minutes
- 0-100% charge 120 minutes
- Idle <3W
- Office 50-70W
- Max 95W
You can use any USB-C PD charger over 60W on the i5, but you will get a warning message to use the original 100W charger (or 100W PD) on the i7.
We estimate 10 hours of use for the average user.
Sound – excellent spatial sound stage
It has four speakers driven by the 2 x Realtek High-Definition Audio (SST) 2W amps. Two speakers are side-firing, and two are under the keyboard. Resolution is 16-bit/48kHz (CD quality).
It has a Dolby Atmos decoder that downmixes the metadata to the speaker’s capability. Atmos sound is excellent given the speaker setup.
It can get loud – 85+dB. Dolby Atmos content is particularly effective. See How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key – guide).
There is no EQ – just a setting to enable Dolby Atmos for speakers (or headphones).
|Deep Bass 20-40Hz||No|
|Middle Bass 40-100Hz||Building|
|High Bass 100-200Hz||Building|
|Low Mid 200-400Hz||Flat|
|Low Treble 2-4kHz||Flat|
|Mid Treble 4-6kHz||Flat|
|High Treble 6-10kHz||Recess to avoid harshness, then pretty flat to 20kHz|
|Dog Whistle 10-20kHz||Good to 20kHz|
|Sound Signature type||This is almost a neutral sound signature. That means an EQ can adjust it to any sound signature – except there is no EQ. There is enough musically critical mid-bass, good upper-bass (for oomph), flat (great) mid and slightly recessed treble. Overall it is one of the best for music and movies.|
|Soundstage||Given the side-and-up-firing speakers, it has a huge sound stage – a metre wide bubble around the screen|
|Comment||Remarkable sound – the best in a Surface device yet. The 3.5mm jack delivers quality stereo and good volume. BT SBC is typical and crushes the mid-bass and high treble.|
Webcam – Windows Hello but only 2MP 1080p
When others are now going to 2 or 4K cameras, the Surface Studio Laptop seems lesser equipped. But the fact is that most video conference software only supports a maximum of 1080p anyway.
The dual studio mics are beamforming but don’t have any noise reduction.
Keyboard, trackpad and Surface Slim Pen 2
The Surface Studio Laptop 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 trackpad is silky smooth and can cover the entire top right to bottom left in one swipe.
The Surface Slim Pen is an option but attaches magnetically under the front lip and also 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 and upgrades
The Official service manual is here. The base plate is removable, although it sacrifices the rubber foot strips. The SSD is either M2.2330 or M.2 S380. The battery is replaceable, but most of the components (excluding external ports, fan, keyboard and screen) are part of the motherboard. This means a Microsoft certified repairer can access the parts. The good news is that it avoids any glue (as in past Surface devices).
Missing – no deal breakers
- MicroSD slot
- HDMI out
- Camera privacy shutter
CyberShack’s view – The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is for those who want more
I use an i7 Surface Pro 8 with 16GB RAM for my production machine. It is not unusual for me to have 20+ Firefox tabs open, Word and Excel, Snip tool, Spotify, Outlook and File Explorer open. It hovers at about 70% of memory, and then I max out when running diagnostics software. I seldom run out of processing power – even with everything going, it may be using 30% of its capability.
32GB is perfect for more CPU and memory intensive users, and the Laptop Studio is where you can get it.
The Pros include
- 3:2 format touch screen is better for displaying Office documents – productivity
- Supports four screens, including 2x 4K@60Hz
- 2 x Thunderbolt 4 ports and a hidden USB-A port
- Replaceable SSD
- An excellent ‘reference’ quality display that is easy on the eye with accurate sRGB colours, brightness, sharpness and auto adjustment
- A terrific build quality – mandatory if you travel
- Excellent cooling, so no perceptible throttling
- Offers a tablet for travel, presentation mode, and a desktop for the office
- Regularly updated (as well as Windows 11)
- A stylus (option if I need it) for PowerPoint and Windows Ink
- Windows Hello is a natural way to sign in
- The i5/16GB version is more than enough for office productivity
- Terrific sound – better than most
- It is the full-fat Windows version of a MacBook Pro Pad, offering way more functionality than I can get with macOS.
Who should buy the Surface Laptop Studio?
Of the 267 user reviews, the overwhelming majority were 5-star, with a few Apple Fan persons attacking anything Microsoft. The user experience has been outstanding.
It is damned expensive – over $4,000 for the review model with i7/32GB/1TB, but looking at the competition like the Dell XPS 15 (similar spec although using 12th Gen Intel Core-H) is well over $4K.
It is more or less unique – it is what it is. If you want 32GB and 1/2TB SSD, a terrific keyboard, and the Stage/presentation mode appeals, it is pretty well the only one to buy. If not, the lower-cost Surface Pro 8 may do.
My take on users
- Content creators working in the web colour space
- Artists, designers
- Prosumer video editors and photographers
- Code cutters and developers running software emulators
- Writers and those that use a keyboard (Me)
I will miss the Surface Book it replaces. That was novel with the removable screen.
Microsoft Surface Laptop StudioFrom $2399 to $4649
- Well-engineered – it's another keeper
- Bright and accurate but reflective display
- Interesting, flexible, hinged screen format
- Thunderbolt 4 x 2 (and not much else)
- Great typists' keyboard and haptic feedback touchpad
- No microSD slot (not an issue with Thunderbolt)
- Battery life won't be 18 hours – expect 10 or so in everyday use
- Needs a TB3 or 4 dock at $500+ to expand its use