Surface Laptop Studio: Powerful Surface I've Been Wanting? 1

Microsoft announced a brand new laptop, the Surface Laptop Studio, at its annual Surface hardware event on Wednesday. Long-rumored to be called the Surface Book 4, the new device takes the place of the Surface Book as the most powerful Surface device ever made.

It sports an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti for graphics and a 35-watt Intel 11th-gen H-series processor. This is the highest-wattage CPU put in a Surface device, and makes this the first Surface Laptop to feature discrete graphics.

A side view of the Surface Laptop Studio.

That means Microsoft finally has a true MacBook Pro competitor — a device made with plenty of power for creatives. It should be noted that laptops like the Dell XPS 15 or MacBook Pro 16-inch have a processor advantage over the Surface Laptop Studio. Those laptops use 45-watt CPUs with up to eight cores of processing power compared to the quad-core chip Microsoft is using.

Microsoft says the device is built for “developers, creative pros, weekend gamers, and designers.” However, as usual, Microsoft favors an experimental design over raw performance. The Surface Laptop Studio has a unique hinge that allows the device to be used in a few different modes. The standard mode, of course, is just as a laptop. But from there, you can pull the screen forward, which detaches the bottom into what Microsoft calls “Stage Mode.”

The Surface Laptop Studio in its three different modes.

This Stage Mode covers the keyboard, though, meaning it’s a good option while watching movies, playing games with a controller, or directly interacting with the touchscreen. This type of “pull-forward” 2-in-1 approach has been seen in laptops such as the HP Elite Folio or the Acer ConceptD Ezel, but never in a device of this caliber.

Lastly, the Surface Laptop Studio can be used in “Studio Mode,” which allows the screen to fold all the way down until it’s nearly laying flat. Microsoft says this mode is to “make use of the optimal canvas for uninterrupted writing, sketching, and other creative pursuits.” Based on the name, it takes inspiration from the Surface Studio all-in-one, which went unmentioned at the Surface event for the third year in a row.

Overall, this hinge feels like a more graceful concept than the Surface Book, which required lots of physical mechanisms to shift from one mode to the next.

On a device like this, the screen itself is important. The Surface Laptop Studio features a 14.4-inch screen with a 2400 x 1600 resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. This 3:2 aspect ratio has become a hallmark of the Surface products, as has compatibility with the Surface Pen. The Surface Laptop Studio even cleverly includes a way to magnetically store and charge the Surface Pen under the edge of the chassis.

A front view of the open Surface Laptop Studio.

Other key features include a 1080p webcam, the introduction of Thunderbolt 4 ports, upgradable storage, and a large haptic trackpad (a first for Microsoft). In terms, of ports, the Surface Laptop Studio includes only two USB-C ports, a headphone jack, and a Surface Connect dock.

The Surface Laptop Studio starts at $1,600 in its base configuration, which includes a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, and integrated graphics. Pre-orders start today, with a launch next week to line up with the release of Windows 11.

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