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Floor Laptop computer Studio Reviewed: A Nicely-Constructed, Bizarre Convertible PC

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Enlarge / The Surface Laptop Studio with the screen folded out.

Andrew Cunningham

The Surface Pro 8 is the star of Microsoft’s Surface range with its larger screen and performance enhancements. But for people who prefer real laptops to convertible tablets, a new family member is worth it: the Surface Laptop Studio.

Like the old Surface Book, the Surface Laptop Studio wants to be a regular laptop with the option to put the keyboard out of the way when it’s time to draw or write with the Surface Pen. But where the Surface Book’s screen could be completely removed from its base, the Laptop Studio has an attached screen with a flip hinge – not entirely dissimilar to the old Surface Studio desktop it’s named for.

Where does the Surface Laptop Studio fit into the new Surface range? How does it fare with the old Surface Book design? And how does it compare to other premium widescreen laptops from other PC manufacturers?

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

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A solid, if odd, laptop

The Laptop Studio inherits a rock-solid all-aluminum design from the old Surface Book. Something about the way the metal has been treated makes it softer than the aluminum finish on a MacBook Air or Pro, and it feels good on my wrists and palms.

But the Surface Book’s weird, pliable, straw hinge is gone, which makes the Laptop Studio look more like a regular laptop. I say “more like that” because this is still an odd design – most high-end professional laptops have some sort of taper or curvature in their design to minimize harsh lines and reduce their size. The Surface Laptop Studio is strikingly flat and plate-shaped, rounded at its four corners, but otherwise aggressively angular.

Most of the time, the Surface Laptop Studio just looks like a regular old laptop.

Most of the time, the Surface Laptop Studio just looks like a regular old laptop.

Andrew Cunningham

From top to bottom, the Surface Laptop Studio looks more like a traditional laptop, with a backlit chiclet keyboard, a large one-piece trackpad, and a 14.4-inch 2400 × 1600 screen with a uniform, narrow frame. As with other Surface devices, the screen uses a 3: 2 aspect ratio instead of the typical 16: 9 (or the increasingly popular 16:10), which creates extra vertical space for photos and documents.

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The screen supports a fast refresh rate of 120 Hz, which means that the new Windows 11 animations look appealingly smooth. Unlike the Surface Pro 8, the Laptop Studio uses this faster refresh rate by default. According to our i1DisplayStudio colorimeter, the screen also has an excellent (for an IPS panel) contrast ratio of 1675: 1 and a maximum brightness of 506 nits.

The only drawbacks are the high reflectivity of the screen and its color space coverage, which supports 100 percent of the sRGB color space but only 84 percent of the DCI-P3 color space. Several laptops in this price range from Apple, Dell, Lenovo, HP, and other PC manufacturers can display this larger color space, but most devices in the display-oriented Surface lineup still won’t.

  • The Laptop Studio’s keyboard is excellent, with firm keys and decent travel.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • The Surface Laptop Studio’s keyboard and haptic trackpad.

    Andrew Cunningham

As is generally the case with Microsoft products, both the keyboard and the trackpad are very good. The firmness and travel of the chiclet keyboard are roughly on par with Dell’s latest XPS 13 and 15 laptops or Apple’s post-butterfly MacBook keyboards. The trackpad may be more annoying to some people, although it will look very familiar to long-time Mac users: the trackpad doesn’t have a physical hinge, so it doesn’t “click” in the traditional sense. As Apple has done with its MacBooks for years, the Laptop Studio uses haptic feedback to simulate the feeling of a physical click.

After using a MacBook for years, I don’t mind that feeling, and I sometimes even prefer this type of trackpad because the “click” effect feels exactly the same across the trackpad – and it makes so much less noise than a physical click . But if this is your first time using a haptic trackpad, it may take some getting used to. In the Windows settings you can set the hardness of the haptic feedback; I think it feels best when the haptics are turned all the way up, as I set it to be in macOS, but you can make it easier or even turn it off altogether if you prefer.

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