Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio Core i7 – Faster than before?

Notebooks

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Pros

  • Excellent battery life during light/administrative use
  • Quiet
  • Build quality
  • Sturdy housing
  • Touch screen with Surface Pen functionality
  • For a laptop, the sound quality is very good
  • Bright screen with nice proportion
  • Still has a 3.5mm audio port
  • Design

Cons

  • Premium product with a premium price tag
  • Screen damages very easily!!!
  • Has charging issues now and then (fix included in the review)
  • No stylus is included in the price
  • Relatively outdated hardware
  • Connection options limited to 2 USB-C ports
  • No Micro-SD slot is available anymore
  • USB-A instead of USB-C charging port on the supplied 102W adapter
  • Total weight
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Introduction

MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

This review is written by PeacekeeperNL – Thank you for allowing me to place your review on my website! – Dutchiee 🙂

I have now worn out 2 of my Surface Pro4 in more than five years (the first of which was replaced within warranty by Microsoft). In both cases, the device suffered from a swollen battery, something that the Pro4 seems to be quite known for and with which I have the necessary hands-on experience.
Shortly before my second Pro4 took its last breath (and has become a lengthy craft project) I ordered the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, hereinafter referred to as “Surface”. From the moment it was announced I was already in love with the design, but now I own it. At the time of writing, I have been using the Surface for eight months.
I wanted to write this review much sooner, but some sponsored reviews took priority, and then a busy work and private life came around the corner. So this is not a sponsored review either, I worked hard to save enough money to buy this laptop and then did my best to find enough free time to write this extensive review for you.
The Surface is an expensive device, but as you may know by now, I love expensive gadgets. I bought this Surface to type up my reviews, to design (wooden) furniture that I build in my spare time, and to design tattoos that might (eventually) find their place on my body. A nice bonus is the graphics card that is in it so that I can also play a (not too heavy) game on the computer now and then.

Initially, I had bought the i7/16GB/512GB version, but the ‘merely’ 16GB RAM soon began to bother me. So I decided to go for the i7/32GB/1TB version, a move that I have not regretted for a moment to this day.

In this review, I am not posting benchmarks and other tests. There are plenty of them on the internet, performed by people who know much more about it than I do. I have written this review purely from the point of view of a ‘normal’ user, insofar as a ‘normal’ user exists. So if you are looking for a review with benchmarks in which the Surface is pushed to its limits, you can stop reading here.

Specifications

Below is a small selection of the specifications of the different Surface Laptop Studio variants. For a complete overview, you should check out Microsoft’s website

Dimensions: 323.28mm x 228.32mm x 18.94mm
Weight: 1.82kg
Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB SSD
Memory: 16GB or 32GB
display:
120Hz 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow Display, 2400 x 1600 Pixels (201 PPI), 10-point multi-touch [/td] Battery life:
18-19 hours according to Microsoft, you will not get this with normal use. With normal administrative work, I come up with about 5-7 hours
Graphics: i5 model: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
i7 model: NVidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti 4GB GDDR6
Connectivity: 2x USB4.0 with Thunderbolt 4, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a Surface Connect port

Unboxing

Initially, I thought that the brown outer box in which the Surface was delivered was the packaging. The barcode and everything were already on it. Fortunately, this only turned out to be a very sturdy outer box to provide the product with good protection during transport.

I think the Surface’s box alone has a premium look. This is enhanced by the special plastic pull tab that is present for creating an opening in the plastic seal. I think this was cleverly done because I have had times when I didn’t have a knife handy when making a start in the seal could be quite a tricky task.

When the laptop was opened, the Surface was switched on immediately, unfortunately, it is not possible to switch this off in the BIOS at the time of writing. The UEFI/BIOS is quite sparse in terms of options and not what I was used to. Nice to see that the Surface switches on automatically, but it was a bit inconvenient for the photo shoot (I wanted to get started right away, so I only shot the final product photos at a rather late stage).
MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7
Next to the Surface you will of course also find the charger. What I like is that it comes with a 102W charger. On the other hand, this also makes sense because there is a graphics card built in that can consume the necessary power. With the original Surface Pro4, this was a considerably less powerful charger and I later bought a 65W charger. This allowed the Pro to charge faster and also allowed me to charge my phone, back then during lectures. This was not possible at the same time with the original charger, because the charger was simply not powerful enough.

MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

Build quality

As I am used to from the Surface line, from the first moment you can feel that a lot of attention has gone into the workmanship and quality of the product at Microsoft. It should, for the money it costs, and given that Microsoft is targeting the business market with the product.
MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

The Surface Laptop Studio feels sturdy and solid. Through magnets, the screen remains in the ‘halfway’ position, while the touchpad remains accessible. The housing is also sturdy and does not damage easily. In the eight months that I’ve been using the Surface, there are still no scratches on the housing, except for where I rest my left wrist. This is due to the titanium band of my aforementioned Garmin Fenix 7X.
MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7
I am less pleased with the build quality of the screen. There is no ‘lip’ or rubber edge around the screen. This puts the screen directly on top of the keyboard. On delivery, there is a thin paper sheet in between, where it used to be often fabric rags. As a result, the keys are regularly displayed on my screen if I don’t put my self-bought XXL glasses cloth in between.

The absence of this lip may also contribute to the fact that the display scratches very easily. In the first week, I already had a small scratch on it, and I still don’t understand how I got it. I had already ordered a PanzerGlass screen protector, only the delivery took a while.
Fortunately, the PanzerGlass screen protector also works cosmetically for very light scratches, so that the scratch is now undetectable. This is a turnoff and a major flaw as far as I’m concerned, as I couldn’t manage to do this with my Surface Pro4, despite being less careful with it.

MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

Usage

For everyday use, I am very satisfied with the Surface. Booting up is smooth and all applications run well on the Surface. What struck me were the rounded corners of the screen. It looks nice at some points, but not at others. Windows 11 does not know how to deal with it, and to the system the corners exist, but they are not displayed.

The sound quality of the Surface is very good for a laptop. I also regularly get the message that ‘Dolby Atmos for built-in speakers’ is being used. Whether this makes a difference, however, I dare not say. When you close the Surface, you can also clearly hear that the sound changes. Like something changes in the equalizer. This is in a negative sense though, the sound with the Surface open is significantly better than with the screen closed. Despite the excellent sound quality, I still like to use my Bluetooth headset or the Sonos Move in Bluetooth mode.

I think the sound quality is good, I also think the sound production of the Surface is good. In light and administrative use, the Surface is inaudible. Under load, you can hear it slightly. Heat production is decent then though. In the colder months I liked that, so I can warm my fingers. In warmer periods, however, it is less comfortable. The air outlets are located at the ends near the touchpad.

In the summer I continued to use the Surface as a laptop, actually on my lap. I noticed that on warmer days, the Surface is a sweat magnet because the magnesium body rested on my thighs. I had never experienced this before with the Surface Pro4.
MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

What I find funny is that the touchpad has haptic feedback, which can also be adjusted to how tactile it is. I like the default setting the most. The touchpad works similar to the home button on the iPhone 7.

The Surface Slim Pen 2 also has haptic feedback, in the form of writing. This allows you to set whether you want it to feel like a smooth surface, or whether you want to write more on paper, for example. It should be noted, however, that it differs from app to app whether it is supported or not. I’ve hit a few apps so far in which I noticed the difference outside of Microsoft Whiteboard.

The keyboard otherwise taps away nicely. The keys have very little travel, according to The Verge 1.3mm. I haven’t measured it myself, so I’ll take their word for it. The keyboard of the Surface types is better than the keyboard/flip covers of the Pro4.

Due to the presence of a graphics card, it is possible to run graphically demanding applications or, for example, play games. You won’t be able to play modern games at the highest settings with it, but you can play many games with it. For entertainment now and then it is fun and OK.

I rarely work on battery power with the Surface, which is why I enabled the ‘battery limit’ in the UEFI. As a result, the Surface only charges up to 50%. Microsoft notes that this may extend battery life. With a fully charged battery, I got 5 to 7 hours of battery life with light administrative work.

Earlier, when I hadn’t yet discovered the ‘battery limit’ in the UEFI, I noticed that the Surface used ‘smart charging’. This will charge the battery up to 80% under certain conditions to protect the battery. I only noticed that this didn’t work consistently, nor could I force it myself. Sometimes when I forgot to connect the charger, the battery drained a little further, so the smart charging was switched off. It then took several days consistently on the charger before smart charging was activated again.
MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

Smart charging symbol in Windows 11.

Connectivity

One point I don’t think the Surface is as strong on is its connectivity options. The Surface is equipped with two USB-C ports, a 3.5mm jack connection, and the Surface connector. There are no USB-A ports available, so the use of a hub is recommended. I regularly connect a Surface Dock (first generation) for some extra connectivity options and to charge the Surface. At home, I regularly use a USB-C to USB-A adapter or a USB-C hub with the necessary connections.

MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

Surface connector and 3.5 mm jack.
MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

Scratches on display + PanzerGlass

I’ve been using the Surface for a while now and I’m quite happy with it. I did notice that the display gets damaged very quickly. Unfortunately, I speak from experience and within a week there was a light scratch on the screen.
This is in contrast to my Surface Pro4, which to this day has not been damaged on the user part of the screen. There is, however, slight damage to the screen of the Pro4 where the keyboard cover connects to the bezel of the Pro4 because a hard piece of dirt got between them without me noticing.

Because the screen of the Surface is damaged so quickly / easily, I would definitely recommend installing a screen protector. I know very few myself, but PanzerGlass had one that is suitable. However, at the time of writing this review, PanzerGlass no longer seems to have the screen protector in its collection.

In terms of fit, the PanzerGlass is good, but not optimal; it sits reasonably well on the sides (perhaps just a millimeter smaller than the glass plate of the screen), and at the bottom and top it is indeed missing a millimeter or 2. Furthermore, the PanzerGlass does not scratch easily, but I managed to get a crack in it within four months. Fortunately, it is in a part where it is not noticeable during normal use, but I do expect to have to replace the PanzerGlass eventually because of this.

Surface Slim Pen 2

One of the key features of the Surface line is the ability to use the stylus of the Surface line, in this case, the Surface Slim Pen 2 (hereinafter “Slim Pen”). The Slim Pen is attached with very strong magnets under the touchpad, where it can be charged wirelessly. When you remove the Slim Pen, you will be given a choice at the bottom of the screen for several applications with which you can use the Slim Pen.
The magnets are a lot stronger than the ones on the stylus on the Pro4. I did manage once to inadvertently dislodge the Slim Pen when I put the Surface in my backpack. But with the Surface Pen of the Pro4, this happened to me a lot more often. In that respect, the Slim Pen is a huge improvement!

I bought the Slim Pen because I occasionally design furniture and tattoos on my Surface. At the start of the review, this was still the Surface Pen that I had with my Pro4, but I have now equipped the Surface with the corresponding Slim Pen.

The Slim Pen still works without any problems in combination with the PanzerGlass. The PanzerGlass makes the screen a bit rougher, but that is certainly not disturbing in my opinion. If you have placed a PanzerGlass immediately after receiving it (which I would recommend) you will not even notice the difference, because you have not been able to get used to the situation without PanzerGlass.
MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7
I make my drawings and designs in the (now no longer developed) drawing program Mischief. As soon as I have a furniture design that I see music in, I make a 3D model in SketchUp to (literally) give the design more shape. All of this works splendidly on the Surface.

Disabling finger touch while retaining Pen touch

What I found annoying about the Pro4 while drawing is that hand touches on the display were also registered. For this, I disabled the appropriate touchscreen in Device Manager; which of the two it was, you could find out by trial and error. However, this trick no longer works with this Surface and the two touchscreens appear to be intertwined in Device Manager. It is possible through a registry edit, which I found online on Microsoft’s forum found:

[code] Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
;Disable touch screen – dancharblog
;
; —–Instructions: —–
;- copy this text into notepad
;- save as touch.reg
;- double-click the file and follow the prompts to import changes
;- reboot
;
;- Note: to re-enable touch, just change “00000000” to “00000001” and re-run the script
; ————————
;
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Wisp\Touch] “TouchGate”=dword:00000000
[/code]

Once you’ve followed the included instructions and rebooted the Surface, the touchscreen will no longer register finger touches, but the Pen will still work without any difference in operation. Very nice, but unfortunate that it has to be done this way.

Charging problems

As indicated in the pros and cons, I occasionally experience charging problems with the Surface. Microsoft customer service previously sent a replacement adapter under warranty, which I am very happy about. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the solution to the problem. The charging problem occurs sporadically, but when it occurs it is very annoying. The Surface will still charge via USB-C, but via the Surface connector, even though the indication indicates that it does, it will not charge.
MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7
In the end, the solution seems to be to save your work and shut down the Surface normally. Then reconnect the power adapter and make sure it is properly connected and the LED is on. Then hold down the power button for about 20 seconds. At first, the Windows logo appears, flashes very briefly, and a short time later the screen goes off again. After about 15-17 seconds the Windows logo will appear again, and after about 20 seconds from the moment of pressing the power button, you will see the logo again flash very briefly. This is when you can release the power key and restart your Surface normally. The Surface should now charge normally again.

This seems to (fortunately) solve the problem for me now. I’ve had it four times now in over six months. However, as far as I know, Microsoft has not found a permanent fix for this yet. It seems to occur regularly with different users, according to the forums and Reddit. Also with other products from the Surface line, such as the Book.

Repairability

As has been the practice with many of my reviews for a while now, a piece on repairability. I certainly won’t disassemble every product I review (although it can certainly be fun for learning and entertainment purposes), but I will check if disassembly guides are available (such as via the iFixit site) and the availability of parts (at the time of writing the review).
Microsoft has published a video on YouTube showing how to disassemble the Surface:

Microsoft has also indicated that parts should become ‘more readily available’, but at the time of writing, I have not yet been able to find them. This is mainly for the cosmetic sticker on the bottom, as I suspect it is easily damaged. That is why I am most hesitant to repair the Surface myself. I’m the type who would be very annoyed by this, even though you won’t be able to see it in normal usage situations.

However, I came across a tutorial/blog post online in which explained how best to open the Surface without damage to upgrade the SSD. The trick, somewhat logical, is to briefly heat the adhesive layer with a hair dryer, similar to how you can loosen the adhesive layer from a telephone screen or the backplate of a smartphone.

Conclusion

I think the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is a beautiful laptop with potential, but it has also a very hefty price tag. The Surface is mainly aimed at the business market, and that’s what the Surface has its design for: sleek and solid. I can do many of my leisure activities with it as I would like, although there are of course other laptops or tablets that can do the same for (considerably) less.

The accessories are expensive and I think it is a loss that the Surface Slim Pen 2 is not included as standard for the price of the device. I also find it bizarre that the screen is damaged so easily; I still don’t know how I did that, and I still don’t understand it. A screen protector is therefore actually a must-have, especially given the pricing of the Surface and the fact that you don’t just replace the display.

You have to decide for yourself whether the Surface is worth the money. I would probably have bought it again in the same situation, but then a screen protector must be available for me. Without a screen protector, it’s too risky for me, and the chances of a scratch on the screen are far too high.

MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP STUDIO CORE I7

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