Where the Surface Laptop Studio gets interesting is when you upgrade to the Core i7 models, which receive Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics cards. The cheapest of these is $ 2,100, and you can keep adding RAM and SSD space until you get the top-of-the-line model with 32GB of RAM and a 2 terabyte SSD for $ 3,100.
The model I tested featured a Core i7 chip with 32GB of RAM and a 1 terabyte SSD, which costs $ 2,700. That’s a lot of money, but it’s along the same lines as a Macbook Pro with similar specs and the Dell XPS 15.
Whichever model you choose, you get one of the prettiest displays I’ve seen in a long time. It is large at 14 inches, with a resolution of 2,400 x 1,600 pixels, which equates to 197 pixels per inch. It’s not as crisp as the Dell XPS 15 4K, but side by side I barely noticed the difference. Like the rest of Surface devices, the Laptop Studio screen has a 3: 2 aspect ratio.
Where the Laptop Studio’s display stands out from almost everything else in the mainstream market (with the exception of the new Surface Pro 8) is the 120Hz refresh rate. You can read our guide to refresh rates. screen for details on what it means and why you want it, but the short story is that super smooth animations and interactions, once the province of high-end gaming machines, are now available on laptops. General public. The result is noticeable. Windows 11 on Laptop Studio is a visually pleasing experience. I’m sold less on Windows 11 functionally, however. More on this topic in a minute.
What’s almost as impressive as the performance and screen is the battery life. The Studio always lasted a full working day and managed almost 12 hours in our looping video battery drain test. It’s not the 18 hours that Microsoft is claiming, but it beats the XPS 15.
Sound is also a remarkable feature on this Surface. It has four speakers, including subwoofers, and the sound is fantastic. The trackpad is also the best I have ever used, bar none. It’s big, offers great gesture support, and has a haptic feedback system that makes it feel like you’re pushing a button even when you’re not.
The problem with Windows tablets
Windows 11 takes several steps forward, and almost the same amount back. You can read our Windows 11 preview to see the new features and some of the issues. The biggest problem from Laptop Studio’s perspective is that almost no desktop app is optimized for Studio mode. It’s not that you can’t use apps like Adobe Illustrator or Lightroom, but they lack the user-friendly aspects of their iOS counterparts.
What’s great about the iPad is that apps have to deal with the peculiarities of a tablet experience. The great thing about Laptop Studio is that apps don’t have to deal with the power limitations of the iPad. Somewhere in the mix of these two different poles lies the ideal, but neither system is quite there yet.
It’s tempting to think that running Android apps in Windows 11 might fix this, but if you’ve ever used Android on a tablet, you know you’ll have to hold your breath. A laptop with a detachable screen that starts running Android when you remove it and seamlessly reverts to Windows when reconnected, all without closing your apps or interrupting your work, seems like a long way off. The same goes for optimizing the tablet in Windows 11.
The world is a series of compromises, and the Surface Laptop Studio straddles those device lines better than anything I’ve ever used. It’s not perfect, but for a certain type of user it’s as close as it gets right now.