Hands-On With the Surface Laptop Studio 2, Microsoft's Most Powerful Surface Ever
It’s a beast of a laptop, with more graphics performance and more ports.
Not to be left out of the “Techtember,” Microsoft today announced its Copilot AI feature will be deeply integrated into Windows 11 via a software update releasing on September 26. To show off Copilot’s powerful AI capabilities and how it’ll help users work faster and smarter, the tech giant also announced the Surface Laptop Studio 2 and Surface Laptop Go 3.
Released in 2021, the first-generation Surface Laptop Studio was an attempt to fill in the hole left by the discontinued Surface Book. The Surface Laptop brought some fresh ideas. In addition to its regular clamshell laptop mode, the display on the Surface Laptop could be positioned over the keyboard at a 45-degree angle or almost flat like a tablet. Its base also had a cool trick: it could stow and charge a Slim Pen.
A few things held back the Surface Laptop Studio — weak battery life, middling performance, only two USB-C ports, and a $2,099.99 starting price.
The good thing is, Microsoft has addressed performance and ports in the Surface Laptop Studio 2. For performance, configurations can be specced with a 13th Gen Intel Gen Core i7-13700H CPU, Nvidia GPUs in either RTX 4050 or 4060 options or RTX 2000 Ada, up to 64GB of LPDDR5X RAM, and up to 512GB of removable SSD storage.
Pricing starts at a lower $1,999.99, but that comes with the major compromise of Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. A Surface Laptop Studio 2 with an RTX 4050, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD starts at $2,399.99; RTX 4060 with 64GB of RAM and 1TB SSD starts at $3,299.99; and RTX 2000 Ada with 32GB of RAM and 1TB is $3,599.99.
Not cheap, but not offensive if you compare it to a MacBook Pro with the same RAM and SSD configurations. At an event in New York City, Microsoft was so confident in the Surface Laptop 2’s graphics performance — it pitted the machine against an M2 Max MacBook Pro just to demonstrate its upper hand.
The jury is out on whether battery life has improved — something we’ll have to test ourselves when we get a device in for review. Microsoft is claiming up to 15 hours of battery life on a single charge.
In my short hands-on time with the Surface Laptop Studio, it feels like mostly the same Surface Laptop Studio with a few upgrades.
Despite having the same design, the body is actually made of aluminum instead of painted magnesium. With a higher tensile strength, aluminum is more durable and less susceptible to bending. Indeed, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 feels less flexible in my opinion.
Microsoft also added more ports. In addition to the two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, the Surface Connector, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 has a full-size USB-A 3.1 port and a microSDXC card slot. A full-size SD card reader like on the MacBook Pros would have been better (preferred by photographers and creators), but a microSD card slot is better than nothing.
I’m told the webcam has a wider field of view and the precision haptic touchpad has been completely redesigned to allow people with disabilities to use it.
Apart from these improvements, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 remains a solid laptop. The 14.4-inch touchscreen is large, high-res, and bright. It felt super responsive when I used my fingers and the Slim Pen 2.
I’m looking forward to seeing how well the Surface Laptop Studio 2 fares for gaming. The Nvidia RTX 4050 and 4060 GPUs should be plenty capable of running games at high settings with ray tracing turned on. What I’m more interested in is the onboard Intel neural processor, which could potentially give Copilot or another AI-focused applications a major boost.
We’ll have the Surface Laptop Studio 2 soon. Pre-orders are available directly from Microsoft today with an October 3 release date.