Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

A place for discussion of this successor to the Surface Book series.

Anandtech’s comprehensive review:

@lisaMobileTechReview Lisa’s review:

Brad Colbow’s review:

… another after 6 months,

Microsoft video on opening it up safely:

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My i7-16-512-3050ti is out for delivery! Alas, I can’t pick it up from my mail service till tomorrow morning. Even so, to borrow Panos’ catchphrase, I’m pumped!

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Nice! I’m still in the same situation: SLS slated to ship Feb 1 (yeah right), final 2TB SSD return date: Jan 31. Perfect. :slight_smile: I might just keep the dang SSD hoping that the SLS will in fact materialize.

Edit: the old TPCR thread is accessible on the archive here.

First post from the old TPCR thread below.

Display: 14.4” 2400 x 1600 (201 PPI) 3:2 PixelSense, 500 nits, 120Hz refresh
RAM: 16GB or 32GB LPDDR4x
CPU: Quad-core Intel H35 i5-11300H or H35 i7-11370H
Graphics: i5 models: Intel Iris Xe, i7 models: RTX 3050 Ti with 4GB GDDR6
Storage: SSD, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1TB, 2TB

Connections: 2 x USB-C with USB4.0/TB4, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1 x Surface Connect
Front facing camera: 1080p
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible, Bluetooth 5.1
Battery: 58.0 Wh, Min 56.3 Wh
Battery life: i5 up to 19h, i7 up to 18h of “typical device usage” (realistically ~7h under light use)

Dimensions 12.72” x 8.98” x 0.746” ( 323.28 mm x 228.32 mm x 18.94 mm )
Weight: i5 models 3.83 lb (1,743 grams), Core i7 models 4.00 lb (1,820 grams)
Casing: Magnesium and Aluminum, Color: Platinum
Backlit keyboard
Compatible with Surface Slim Pen 2 and Surface Dial
Security TPM, Windows Hello face sign-in
OS: Windows 11 Home
Power supply: i5: 60W, i7: 95W

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Picked up the SLS. Five hours zoom by… some initial thoughts:

What’s with this screen? It’s like it has an extra layer of clarity or something. I thought the 4k OLED on my ThinkPad X1 Extreme and the 4k 14” on the Yoga 9i were good, but they were muddy in comparison.

I can see the pixels when drawing up close but it’s right on the edge of being noticed. I think it’ll be okay.

Does the extra wattage in the H35 i7-11370H push the Xe Graphics more? It sure seems like it in OG 32-bit Skyrim anyway, judging by the fps counter, compared to the i7-1185G7 96eu in my Yoga.

Silly me, I forgot to toggle the “ignore touch while using the pen” setting. Leonardo was doing weird splotchy lines when my palm touched, I concluded it wasn’t ready for Win11, and uninstalled it. Later after realizing my mistake I reinstalled and Leonardo is working as it should.

Windows 11 sure did need a lot of little updates and restarts.

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Seems like a decent machine. If only they would make an 18 inch one.

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So glad you’re liking it! My brother got his but I have had the luxury of using it to be sure it is working before he gets it in a month from now, and boy is it a beauty just as you explained. I love the sound system on this thing! If I might add too, the fan system is whisper quiet even with heavy gaming. And unlike his HP Omen gaming laptop, I do not get scorched legs thanks to the pedestal and side vents. If I were to nitpick, I wish it wasn’t restricted to three or so fixed positions for the hinge system. Otherwise, I actually like it way more than the Surface Book series and I can’t wait to see this evolve.

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Yeah, I pushed it for a while in a game today, iGPU enabled, to see how it behaved and was very pleased at the whisper coming out of those vents. I never thought the pedestal looked weird but even if I did it would be worth it for the ventilation system.

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@YVerloc Hey, welcome to the new forum!

And if I may take this post for some history: veterans of oldTPCR will remember that I have an i5 model on order that refuses to ship. @Hifihedgehog found such a good deal that I worked very hard to rationalize the purchase. For reference, here’s my thorough rationalization :slight_smile:


Why I should definitely buy the i5 model:

Pros:

  • so… much… faster… than my X1T3
  • drawing surface presumably not as hot as on my X1T3 (which has the CPU “in the screen”)
  • I get to keep the drawing mode (nearly flat screen on a desk) of my X1T3
  • bigger screen, same aspect ratio (14.4" vs. 13")
  • 25% better contrast ratio (1500:1 vs. 1200:1)
  • 25% brighter screen (500 nits vs. 400 nits)
  • better FFC (1080p vs. 720p)
  • better mic (the one in my X1T3 sounds terrible in all hundred different audio modes)
  • way better lap mode, aka laptop mode
  • better pen storage and rechargeable battery in the pen
  • way more usable on the seat back tray
  • Windows Hello IR camera vs. fingerprint reader on my X1T3
  • no screen flaking (yes, I too have started seeing bits of coating come off the X1T3 screen)
  • SSD more easily accessible (but still not easy…)
  • works with my existing eGPU, TB3 and USB-C docks
  • good excuse to start with a clean Win11 install

Cons:

  • the deal may fall through
  • a full pound heavier than my X1T3 (3.83lbs vs. 2.8lbs with keyboard)
  • lower ppi than my X1T3 (201 PPI vs. 277 PPI)
  • no true tablet mode
  • no trackpoint
  • I mean did I really need it? (no I did not)
  • now I have to install everything all over from scratch. Also a pro

I know @Desertlap mentioned slow SSDs in the latest Surface line but I didn’t believe it would be this noticeable. Up to about five seconds to save game in Skyrim LE vs a momentary pause on my previous Yoga 9i with 1TB SK hynix Gold P31. I have time to read the tips and trivia on loading screens now.

I’ll likely upgrade sooner or later. What concerns me is that some sources, e.g. the Tom’s Hardware review, claim that swapping SSDs voids the warranty. Does anyone have solid info otherwise?

Looks like the SLS is releasing outside North America soon.

The article speculates that the high(er) prices reflect inclusion of VAT. US prices don’t include state and local taxes since those vary widely, from zero (e.g. Oregon) to around 12% total (e.g. parts of greater Los Angeles).

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Well, all M.2 2230-size SSDs given the size constraints have the disadvantage of having no on-package DRAM cache. Your SK Hynix Gold P31 has one so it is going to perform a lot better just on that account. Seeing that Microsoft removed the MicroSD card slot, they should have at least bumped up the supported SSD length on the Surface Pro 8 to allow for longer SSDs with DRAM cache. As for the Surface Laptop Studio which does allow for longer 2TB-and-higher 2280 SSDs, this was clearly an economic move.

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I didn’t know about the lack of DRAM on the 2230. Thanks. I’m glad the SLS also allows the standard 2280 size so I can eventually eliminate the read/write hesitation. Depending on the answer to the warranty voiding question.

I was meaning to answer this question. :slight_smile: If you live in the US (which you do) or another country with similar consumer protection rights, current law allows for this as long as you don’t damage it during the upgrade or repair process.

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Thanks! I read that it’s wise to keep the original SSD and swap it back before service. Now I’ll keep an eye on the SK hynix Gold P31 2TB SSD prices as they drop due to 4th gen PCIe drives being the hot thing. The SLS has PCIe 3rd gen and can’t take advantage of the new ones anyway.

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Another quote from oldTPCR: the thesis written by @cbutters (hey, where is Cameron?!) about the differences between the SP8 and SLS:


I’ve got both SLS and SP8 sitting here in front of me… and I cannot for the life of me choose which one I’m going to keep. Initially I assumed it would be the Laptop Studio… but I’m not so sure now.

Here’s my impressions of both:

Surface Laptop Studio

When I first pulled it out of the box though, it felt a bit chunky and heavy, and I was thinking, what in the world would I ever use the mid-way “tent” mode that blocks you from using the keyboard. In tablet mode the 4lbs of weight as a tablet seemed excessive, and I couldn’t really see myself using it as a book or comic reader really. I also felt like the "floppiness of the screen when not in one of the 3 positions was “unrefined”… Not to mention that the GPU isn’t much of an upgrade from Surface Book 3 (newer architecture, but sidegrade in performance mostly and less VRAM), The resolution is a downgrade from SB3, and also the Tablet Mode seems like a downgrade since it is heavy vs SB3 clipboard mode. All these initial first impressions made me a little unexcited about the SLS and I started focusing on the Pro 8 for a while.

Now after using it for a day or so and giving it a shot to do several hours of typing and general media consumption, I am warming up to the SLS. The “tent mode” actually does bring the screen closer, making the 14.4 screen seem very large and pleasant. The device and screen are very stiff in this mode since it is locked in place and the base itself is sturdy… It actually is the ultimate “couch” device… it is like and ultra thin - ultra stable razor thin tablet glued to a lapboard; it feels like a super stable “kiosk” almost; and for youtube videos and casual browsing it actually was very very nice, surprisingly so. It is more comfortable than SP8 which can flop around much easier in your lap without the type cover on and the kickstand can dig a bit into your legs… plus you have to pull the type cover off on a Surface Pro if you want to use in “couch media consumption mode” without the keyboard flopping around… which is more difficult than simply adjusting the screen on the SLS. What I initially though was a useless mode on the SLS; is a major factor in making me want to keep it over the Surface Pro 8. The keyboard is the absolute best. The Speakers are downright amazing, and the reduced resolution is noticeable to the trained eye, but the screen is overall gorgeous and 1600p is hardly “low resolution” and it has the fun “haptic” trackpad. This machine is growing on me the more I use it… It is so close to being the perfect device but still has a few quirky things about it and I can’t help but feel like they cheaped out a bit by not dropping an RTX 3060 in this thing like the Zephyrus G14 has.

Surface Pro 8

To be honest, I only picked up the SP8 in order to do some youtube videos and play around with it. Initially I assumed I would be returning this one and keeping the SLS, but after playing with it that first day, I came away SOOO impressed. I just love this device. The smooth edges feel great and mask some of the extra weight it has packed on. The screen is beautiful and 13" in roughly the same size is really great and I love that you still have a bezel on 2/4 sides still for tablet usage. The speakers on this device also are incredible… I suggest you try either of these devices just to hear the audio, they are better than any other mobile devices I’ve used. I got the black “graphite” version and it is beautiful! It is better than the Surface Pro 6 black finish… it is a bit more “bronze” and glossy and I think they did a great job with it. The upgraded thermal capabilities of the device are no joke, it now has 3 heat pipes, and it takes a lot for the fan to even turn on. Where previous surface pros have throttle sustained power to 12-15 watts… and 18-22 when external cooling is applied; this device seems to push 19-23 watts continuously no problem in a warm room… and in an air conditioned room or with a bit of airflow on the back, it can maintain 35W+… an astounding improvement over previous generations.

Could be placebo; but the type cover that supposedly now comes with carbon fiber does feel stiffer. Maybe it needs to be broken in a bit, but the type cover is as good as its ever has been. I should note that I actually do miss the pen being right there on the side of the screen with magnets… ingress and egress into the type cover adds a bit more friction, and more than once I’ve pulled the type cover off and been using it as a tablet and went to grab the pen that is no longer there on this generation. I do appreciate that I don’t need to change batteries ever though. Using the SP8 in tablet mode feels noticeably heavier than last gen… but still comfortable. The one thing to get used to is that the buttons are now in different locations… which is fine; but it should be noted that the bezels being wide on the long edges; entices you to use it in “portrait” tablet mode, but then the power button or alternatively the volume buttons end up at the bottom of the device as you hold it that way, I’ve never accidentally pressed them, but it seems just a little strange. The new TB4 ports are a welcome edition, and enables you to tap into way more GPU performance than previously possible on a Surface Pro device when you use it with an external GPU. You truly could use the SP4 as your “everything” device now! Even without an external GPU; it is the most powerful Surface Pro ever, and is even slightly quicker at burst performance and MUCH faster in sustained workloads than even the Pro 7+ which uses a similar processor.

I’m in a love affair with these 2 devices and I’ve got to make a decision…

I can have the SLS with larger screen and comfortable couch consumption and built in GPU, but heavy tablet mode; or the more portable SP8 with higher resolution, true “tablet” experience, amazing performance to weight ratio, but I’ll need to carry around an external GPU for when I want to game with friends/family; the other down-side being that the SLS have given me a taste of a “couch consumption” mode that is really hard to push out of my head.

Really not sure yet which I’ll choose.

(end quote)

Screencap from @lisaMobileTechReview 's review of the SLS showing the SP8 and SLS side bv side:

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…and early impressions from @SteveB Quote:

Well, today I did get to go and test out the surface laptop studio. Best Buy does finally have a few in stock as demo units, and I was there for longer than anticipated-- about 45 minutes, enjoying myself. The short of it is that I really liked the device a lot, and I’m considering getting one. But it’s not perfect. But what laptop is?

I like the new pen. The initial activation force is very very low. Essentially, if the pen touches the screen and I drag it, it makes a mark. The weight of the pen itself makes the mark. I don’t even have to press down. I also liked that the new pen tip doesn’t recess into the body of the pen each time I make a mark. Instead, it feels more solid and less “active“, which I never liked in the old Microsoft pens. I also liked that the pen tip and eraser have a very gently “rubbery“ feeling to them, which provides a gentle bit of traction on the screen. I downloaded Sketchable onto the demo model in the store, and got to try out the haptic feedback. It’s subtle, but I liked it. But it would not be why I would buy the pen, nor why I would not buy the pen. It was just an additional piece of the user experience. Perhaps it would make a particular difference in conjunction with a semi-matte screen protector, which jointly might provide that feeling of traction and friction that I’m always looking for when drawing. Maybe? I don’t know. Right now, it’s purely hypothetical, as I wouldn’t stop using Sketchbook Pro or Clip Studio, and neither of them are haptic-feedback enabled yet, afaik.

However, I think the new placement of the button is pretty stupid. It makes it very hard to press the side button easily. In fact, I had to adjust the grip of my entire hand just to press the button, which makes it very difficult to do frequently. Truthfully, I disliked the placement of the pen button so much I’ve wondered whether it would be worth buying the slim pen 1, just so I could use the eraser or right click button more easily. I tried out an alternate pen (the Rennaisser 520c), and although the two side buttons are in a far more convenient location, tracking was not quite as good and the initial activation force is also not as good. The pen was fine, but the writing experience was definitely better on the new slim pen 2.

I thought the keyboard was very nice. It has enough travel that I can find the keys blind with my fingertips, which has been a problem on my Samsung laptop, where I make a lot of errors in typing. It has a nice bit of actuation force at the bottom of the key press, with a little bounce. It’s very nice to type on, and a clear improvement compared to my current laptop and many of the other laptops that I went around typing on at Best Buy. Is it as good as the keyboard on the ThinkPad L13? No.I think the keyboard on that device is fantastic. It has more travel and a better actuation force. But the keyboard on the new surface laptop studio is excellent. I think it’s a very nice keyboard, just not “out of this world” good.

Everything else was pretty much the way I expected, given the reviews I’ve read. The fit and finish is really nice. Lovely. The trackpad is superb and, yes, very responsive, the screen is very nice, and the sound system is really excellent— definitely finally entering MacBook territory for sound quality, in my opinion. Even in a noisy Best Buy store, the speakers were loud and crisp. I think they would seem very loud and probably pretty lovely in a quiet home or office where I will be working by myself, or while watching a movie. And heck, I didn’t even get to try out the webcam, which I know will be light years better than my current device, given my experience on other Surface devices.

All in all, it is a very nice package in my opinion, having now tried it out in person. I admit, I was sort of annoyed that the pen button has been moved to this stupid new location, and I’ve definitely been hung up on that non-functional change to a very important part of why one would buy this specific laptop. But other than that, there just wasn’t very much to say that was negative. It all seems really nice. The pen is clearly not as good as the EMR pen on my Samsung laptop, but it might be good enough for my professional design and occasional art needs, particularly because everything else about the SLS seems so well done, and checks so many boxes all in one package.

edit- I suppose if I could change anything, I wish the screen was even bigger, that the keys had a bit more travel, and that the side button was moved on the pen. But that seems like about it.

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Hi there,

in reply to the initial impressions from SteveB quoted here, I´d like to add mine with the Surface Pro 8, as the Surface Laptop Studio is nowhere to be seen yet where I live. Since the pen technology is the same, this should apply as well.

A question first, though: Does anybody know if a change from Windows 11 back to Windows 10 may negatively affect the performance of the Slim Pen 2 on either Surface Pro 8, or Surface Laptop Studio? Also, does the Slim Pen 2 perform differently in different painting apps on either of those devices?

My first impression of the Slim Pen 2 after playing around twice with it in 3D Paint are mostly positive, but with some caveats.

1st caveat: Initial activation force is a bit higher than I´d like it to be. Not so noticeable in 3D Paint, quite noticeable in MS Whiteboard. Which makes me wonder about different performance in different apps. Coming from Wacom Cintiq, this could be an issue in everyday work with the pen (sketching & painting in Photoshop), but I´m not sure yet. Not quite as responsive as Apple Pencil or Wacom Pen at any rate, but has gotten a lot closer compared with the previous Surface pens.

I can not really confirm that the weight of the pen alone is sufficient to create a line. Will have to try that out again. A minimal amount of pressure on Slim Pen 2 results in a broken line, which does not seem to happen with the Apple Pencil.

2nd caveat: There´s still some very slight residual jitter, which disappears though at normal sketching/painting speed. Most likely a non-issue in everyday´s work.

The haptic feel of the nib on the display is good and seems preferable to the Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro display.

Unfortunately, the only electronics store here that displays a MS Surface Pro 8 AND the Slim Pen 2 to fiddle around with offers no serious painting app on it like PS or Clip Studio, or similar. Those first impressions are therefore limited to 3D Paint, which is very basic and limited and barely usable for digital painting.

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Living up to your username :wink: Good question about the effects of a Win10 downgrade (some would say upgrade), anyone else?

@Dellaster Ted. yes that’s what we tell our smaller customers is to keep the old stock SSD for exactly the reason of sending it back for warranty service.

Not to mention a more practical reason, is to avoid possible data loss or unexpected “upgrades” .

Just last week I had a customer that sent his XPS in for service. And as part of “fixing it” they also updated it to the most recent Windows 10 cumulative update. Something that the customer specifically avoided due to an incompatibility with a couple of mission critical apps they use that haven’t been updated yet.

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Some short takes FWIW:

4W-6W drain at 35% display brightness when idle. It does not change 60Hz vs 120Hz. The adaptive refresh rate seems to be doing its job. This is with the dGPU inactive. Idle jumps up to 12W-15W if the RTX 3050ti is active.

Leonardo is very efficient on iGPU, pushing a max of ~30W with a 1000 px round or jagged brush. Rebelle (5.03) on the other hand will max CPU and/or dGPU if available when doing things like watercolor dripping, bleeding, blending and saturation of the canvas. As expected. The new 5th version could use more optimization. Rebelle 4 wasn’t as quick to burn watts.

Slim Pen 2 IAF is zero in Leonardo. Less than the weight of the pen. I can’t make contact at all without it inking. Rebelle is the same with, say, the calligraphy pen and smooth canvas. But with pencil (2H) the line is usually invisible when dragging on the pen’s own weight. It’ll show a bit with a softer lead. All of this is at the default pressure settings, both apps.

Too much tippity-tap on glass when note taking compared to EMR (Zbook X2 w/grey nib on GB12). But the native friction/grab as I draw isn’t terribly different. I can more than live with this (spoken as a raw amateur).

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