But conquering such an audience is not easy. First, because designers are very demanding buyers. Then because others have already deployed the great means to conquer them. Apple, of course, seems to have a head start with its new machines bearing the Apple Silicon seal. Asus, too, has distinguished itself with its Vivobook Duo.
Does the Surface Laptop Studio have enough assets to compete with these market benchmarks? We tested it for several days. Here is our full review.
Original format, neat design
They have been the luxury target of PC builders for some time now. “They” are those who are grouped in the big family of “creatives”. They are graphic designers, photographers, videographers, editors, designers, architects, etc. And inevitably, Microsoft was not going to let its competitors seduce these talents without doing anything.
The Surface Laptop Studio is therefore there to make people forget the MacBook Pro and Asus Vivobook Duo (you know the laptop with a second screen above the keyboard). Microsoft therefore designed a machine in the original format, just to stand out too. The Surface Laptop Studio is therefore a hybrid laptop, capable of transforming into a tablet or a mini multimedia station.
For this, the engineers have developed a hinge capable of orienting the screen as desired. Use it in PC format for office automation and web browsing, unfold the screen in tent format when watching a video or playing games, unfold it again so that it turns into a tablet. A stylus provided in the box allows you to give free rein to your creativity.
On paper, the idea is promising. We must admit, in practice, the Surface Laptop Studio provides a certain pleasure. However, one cannot help but think that these contortion skills are only really relevant for a very specific target. Thus, the Microsoft machine is more akin to a niche product intended for certain creative profiles rather than a consumer-oriented creation device.
Once this observation is made, the Surface Laptop Studio loses consistency. If its design and its level of finishes are impeccable (special mention to the keyboard, undoubtedly one of the best on the market), certain technical choices leave something to be desired. This is particularly the case of connectivity, an abyssal poverty.
While Apple has backpedaled (too blatant to deny) in terms of connectivity, Microsoft is sailing against the current. Despite a generous chassis, the Surface Laptop Studio has very poor connectivity.
On the left side there are two USB-C ports compatible with USB 4.0 and Thunderbolt 4, on the right side a 3.5 mm jack and a Surface Connect port to recharge the device. And that’s all.
No USB-A port, no HDMI port, no SD card reader, you really won’t have much to eat. The purchase of a dongle integrating all this connectivity as absent as it is essential is therefore mandatory.
These technical choices are all the more incomprehensible since Microsoft is targeting a creative audience. For example, the lack of a microSD card slot will be sorely missed by photographers and videographers. Surprising…
Really for creatives?
By presenting its Surface Laptop Studio as the ideal machine for creatives, Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot. This target, we will all agree, is particularly demanding. And in view of the price of the machine, we are entitled to want our money’s worth.
Also, two elements are essential for this target: the performance and the quality of the screen. Let’s start with the latter.
IPS LCD technology, the 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow panel is distinguished by its rounded corners and its 3:2 aspect ratio. This choice is already daring since the majority of authoring software interfaces are more designed for 16:9 or 16:10 or even 21:10 formats. A timeline on Adobe Premiere Pro, for example, is less practical on a vertical screen in 3:2 format.
The screen displays content with a 2400 x 1600 pixel definition and, above all, a refresh rate of 120 Hz. Not bad. Among the other strong points of the screen, we will highlight its good brightness and as well as a very correct colorimetry and contrasts.
And therein lies the whole problem. While the Surface Laptop Studio’s LCD screen is good, it falls far short of the excellence of its competitors. In the family of laptops for creatives, in this price range, competitors are much more generous.
For example, Asus offers an OLED panel, Apple the new miniLED technology. And the difference is noticeable, especially for profiles whose daily life consists of creating or retouching images.
On the performance side, Microsoft is no better. The American equips his machine (at best) with an 11th generation Intel i7 processor, a chip that began to equip machines launched in early 2021. However, PCs are starting to arrive on the market with 12th generation Intel chips already more efficient generation.
Without surprise, the Surface Laptop Studio therefore lags behind the competition. Machines equipped with AMD’s Ryzen 6000 processor do much better. And what about the latest Apple M1 Pros that are evolving in another galaxy?
These technical weaknesses would have been acceptable if Microsoft had offered its machine at a decent price. But the American is positioned well in front of the latest MacBook Pro from Apple and the much more efficient machines from Asus or Dell. And for the same price, there is little chance that a creative will turn to the Surface Laptop Studio. In any case, we do not recommend it.
Luckily he’s tough
If it does not shine with its level of performance, the Surface Laptop Studio at least has the merit of being enduring… provided you do not tease it too much with greedy uses.
Basically, you can rely on a day of non-stop use if you don’t play, don’t use creative software very much. In summary, if you don’t stress the graphics card too much, everything should be fine. A shame for a machine intended… for creative people (we repeat ourselves?).
This does not detract from the good performance of the Surface Laptop Studio in general-purpose use. The Microsoft machine is among the best in this area. Only the latest MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip beats it. As a bonus, its recharging system is rather fast: count 1h30 to fully recharge the beast with the 120W Surface Connect charger (proprietary connector) supplied in the box.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio at the best price Base price: €1,699
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Our opinion on the Surface Laptop Studio
On paper, Microsoft’s promise is beautiful: to offer a PC capable of transforming into a tablet or multimedia support to provide optimal comfort to creative people. Generous, the American provides a very comfortable stylus and an ultra-fast charger. And if the concept seduces and the finishes are impeccable, this Surface Laptop Studio misses its target.
By focusing on the format of the machine, the engineers have forgotten the essentials. Above all, creative people need a high-performance tool (since they run demanding software) equipped with a state-of-the-art screen (since they often work on images). On the first point, Microsoft crashes completely, on the second it plays small arm.
We would have accepted these little weaknesses if the American did not charge a high price for his Surface Laptop Studio. It positions it as a premium device, right in front of the latest Apple Macbook Pro or Asus Vivobook Duo. Unfortunately, at an equivalent price, the Surface Laptop Studio does not measure up. It is therefore difficult to recommend it outside of promotional offers.
Surface Laptop Studio
design and conception
Performance and interface
Autonomy and charging
Value for money
- Careful design
- Interesting hybrid format
- Excellent autonomy
- Quick charge
- Best keyboard on the market
We love less
- Good LCD screen but far from the competition
- Insufficient performance for the target
- Starving connectivity
- Price too high