Surface Laptop Studio review: One well-built, weird convertible PC | GeekComparison

The Surface Laptop Studio with the screen sticking out above the keyboard.
enlarge The Surface Laptop Studio with its screen popped out.

Andrew Cunningham

The Surface Pro 8, with its larger screen and performance improvements, is the star of Microsoft’s Surface lineup. But for people who prefer real laptops over convertible tablets, a new relative deserves a look: the Surface Laptop Studio.

Like the old Surface Book, the Surface Laptop Studio aims to be a regular laptop with the option to get the keyboard out of the way when it’s time to draw or write with the Surface Pen. But where the Surface Book’s screen can be completely removed from its base, the Laptop Studio has an attached screen with a folding hinge — not quite unlike the old Surface Studio desktop it’s named after.

So where does the Surface Laptop Studio fit into the new Surface lineup? How does it compare to the old Surface Book design? And how does it compare to other premium big screen laptops from the other PC makers?

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

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A solid, albeit strange, laptop

The Laptop Studio inherits a rock-solid, all-aluminium design from the old Surface Book. Something about the way the metal has been treated makes it softer to the touch than the aluminum finish on a MacBook Air or Pro, and it feels nice against my wrists and palms.

But the weird bendable hinge of the Surface Book is gone, making the Laptop Studio look more like a regular laptop. I say “more like” because this is still an odd design – most high-end professional laptops have some sort of taper or curvature in their design to minimize harsh lines and reduce their size. The Surface Laptop Studio is remarkably flat and plate-like, rounded in the four corners but aggressively angular throughout.

Usually, the Surface Laptop Studio looks like a regular old laptop.

Usually, the Surface Laptop Studio looks like a regular old laptop.

Andrew Cunningham

Seen from above, the Surface Laptop Studio looks more like a conventional laptop, with a backlit chiclet-style keyboard, a large one-piece trackpad, and a 14.4-inch 2400×1600 display with a uniform, narrow bezel. Like other Surface devices, the screen uses a 3:2 aspect ratio instead of the typical 16:9 (or the increasingly common 16:10), creating extra vertical space for photos and documents.

The screen supports a fast refresh rate of 120 Hz, making Windows 11’s new animations look attractively smooth. Unlike the Surface Pro 8, the Laptop Studio uses that faster refresh rate by default. The screen also has an excellent (for an IPS panel) 1675:1 contrast ratio and a maximum brightness of 506 nits, according to our i1DisplayStudio colorimeter.

The only drawbacks are the high reflectivity of the screen and the coverage of the color gamut, which supports 100 percent of the sRGB gamut but only 84 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut. Several laptops in this price range from Apple, Dell, Lenovo, HP and other PC makers can display this wider color gamut, but most devices in the screen-centric Surface line still don’t.

Both the keyboard and trackpad are very good, as they generally are on Microsoft’s products. The chiclet keyboard’s sturdiness and travel is roughly equivalent to Dell’s most recent XPS 13 and 15 laptops or Apple’s post-butterfly MacBook keyboards. The trackpad may be more jarring to some people, though it will feel very familiar to longtime Mac users: the trackpad doesn’t have a physical hinge, so it doesn’t “click” in the traditional sense. As Apple has done in its MacBooks for years, the Laptop Studio uses haptic feedback to simulate the feeling of a physical click.

After years of using a MacBook I don’t mind this feeling, and sometimes I even prefer this kind of trackpad because the “click” effect feels exactly the same all over the trackpad – and it makes so much less noise than a physical click . But if this is your first experience with a haptic trackpad, it may take some getting used to. Windows settings allow you to fine-tune the firmness of the haptic feedback; I think it feels best with the haptics turned all the way up, which is how I set it up in macOS, but you can lighten it up or even turn it off completely if that’s what you want.

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