A great laptop for creatives that use a stylus every day, but an expensive option for those that can live without a touchscreen.
Foldable sketching screen
Discrete gaming graphics
Onboard AI acceleration
No stylus included
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Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2: One-Minute Review
Microsoft’s reimagined tilting screen design is one of the better laptop tech innovations we’ve seen in the last few years. A screen that functions well as a self supported laptop display but can fold into media playback or flat drawing formats is the most useful 2-in-1 format you can buy. The trouble is, Microsoft is charging a pretty hefty premium for this highly desirable tech, with the Surface Laptop Studio 2 costing hundreds, or thousands in some regions, more than similar offerings… even when on a discount.
For those that can afford this business laptop, the unique touch capabilities pair nicely with the more powerful Intel 13th Gen and Nvidia 40 series components to ensure there’s no hardware limitations to your creativity. The sweet spot for the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is the Nvidia RTX 4050 GPU offering, since it has the highest combined performance per dollar out of the range. And if you can get one of these units on sale then it gets close to a competitive price point, but even on sale the integrated GPU and 4060 models come at a premium.
In addition to being able to tackle entry-level 1080p gaming and heavier graphical workloads the device is also equipped with a dedicated AI processor that speeds up Microsoft Copilot operations and adds advanced functionality to web conferencing. The Dolby Atmos speakers combine with the 2400 by 1600 pixel display to make media and work tasks look great. This combines with the 120Hz refresh rate to make games and graphical applications super smooth.
Battery life is reasonable for a Windows 11 creative workstation, lasting 6 hours and 37 minutes in light work tasks. All up a lot is similar to the original here, but the updated processors will ensure you have enough power and there’s a couple of smaller perks like a USB Type-A socket and microSD Card reader. If it's a 2-in-1 laptop for writing or a laptop for drawing, Microsoft's updated Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a great offering for anyone that uses a stylus every day.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Price and availability
- October 2023 release date
- From $1,999.99 / £2,069 / AU$3,519
There’s no doubt, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 devices come at a premium. Starting at $2K / £2,069 / AU$3,519 for a 13th Gen i7 H-series CPU, integrated GPU, 16GB RAM allocation and 512GB SSD, is a big opening asking price. Apple’s New MacBook Pro 14 starts at over $400 / £370 / AU$820 less than the asking RRP of the new convertible for something that will perform similarly or better in many instances.
Even if you do want touchscreen capabilities you can get a bigger Dell XPS 15 with similar specs and a touchscreen for much less. If you want other better priced alternatives jump down to the also consider section below, but for that niche of people who really do utilise a stylus, the Surface Laptop Studio 2’s unique hinge design makes it a desirable luxury for anyone that can afford it.
The range has always been pitched at creatives so there are a few configurations available for different needs. The $2,400 / £2,469 / AU$4,199 configuration with an i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512 GB SSD and RTX 4050 GPU is has been crafted for the ‘Digital Artist’ according to the Microsoft website, while gamers are going to get the most out of the most out of the $3,300 / £3,369 / AU$5,729 model that gets double the storage, an RTX 4060 GPU and a 64GB RAM allocation.
In the US and UK you can get another configuration with a Nvidia RTS 2000 Ada GPU and 32GB ram allocation for $3,200 / £3,199, if you really need a workstation graphics card rather than something made for gaming.
To be honest, all of these models are hundreds (if not thousands) more than the most competitive laptops, so if you’re looking for a bargain you’ll have to wait for a sale or look elsewhere. For those that don’t mind paying a premium for a novel touch interface then read on, but for many the perks on the Surface Laptop Studio 2 will be outweighed by the added cost.
- Value score: 3 / 5
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Specs
On the whole this is a well balanced spec sheet for each of the available models. The entry level option with integrated GPU will not appeal to those requiring a little more GPU power to really push creative tasks. For anyone considering the 4060 model it's worth noting that it has the same 80W TDP as the 4050 models, which is a bit under the ideal power draw for that GPU, so you won't see massive performance improvements.
The CPU is powerful, but only draws 45W (unlike some of the top higher core 13th gen i9 chips) and it pairs nicely with the two Nvidia RTX GPUs to offer power without totally disregarding battery life.
The price of adding RAM and storage is expensive, but if you need 32 or 64GB of memory then that's what you need. all the spec configurations make a lot of sense... they're just a lot more expensive than better value devices we've seen on the market.
A more detailed specs list like this:
|Stealth 16 Mercedes AMG Motorsport A13V
|Intel Core i7-13700H, 14-core 20-thread, 2.9-5GHz, 45W
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 (80W)
|1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 2 x USB 4 (Thunderbolt 4), MicroSD Card Reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Connect Port
|14.4-inch PixelSense Flow display at 2400 x 1600 pixel resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, Display HDR400 DolbyVision, colour calibrated
|IR FHD 1080p
|4.37 lbs (1.98 kg)
|12.72” x 9.06” x 0.86 inches (323 x 230 x 22mm)
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Design
- USB-A and MicroSD
- Powerful components
- Great drawing capabilities
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is almost identical to its predecessor in terms of overall design. It’s not exactly the same chassis, adding a fraction of depth, thickness and weight to the overall unit in order to fit new, more powerful processors. It’s hardly noticeable however, and has the added benefit of allowing the device to include a USB Type-A socket and microSD Card reader to the list of interface options; a handy inclusion for anyone.
The hero here is still the screen. Microsoft is using the same PixelSense Flow display at a 2400 x 1600 pixel resolution that it used on earlier devices. So you’ll get the same 120Hz refresh rate and optimised touchscreen capabilities.
Microsoft has done a bit more when it comes to color by calibrating displays individually, offering VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification and including vivid colour pre-sets that can run HDR content. Unfortunately it’s not a new screen, so there’s no capacity for offering an enhanced color gamut for anyone needing to edit in DCI-P3 or Adobe RGB. Fine for creative work, then, but not the peak best laptop for photo editing or video editing laptop if you demand absolute color accuracy (although you won't struggle to run the likes of Photoshop, Lightroom, and Pro).
The touchscreen has the same fabric hinge that allows cables to pass through so the screen can operate like a laptop, or pull away and magnetically stand above the touchpad for a great media viewing experience. This device really shines with a stylus like the Surface Slim Pen 2 that allows you to launch drawing/ writing apps with a shortcut button directly on the pen. The screen can fold fully back on itself to offer a great drawing experience and is an impressive piece of technology for anyone hoping to use it to write notes for meetings or create using a stylus.
- Design score: 4.5 / 5
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Performance
- Decent creative workstation performance
- Good AI acceleration
- Decent entry gaming
Here's how the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
3DMark Night Raid: 8,907; Time Spy Extreme: 3,868; Time Spy: 8,283;
GeekBench 5: 1,195 (single-core); 9,152 (multi-core)
Cinebench R23 Multi-core: 10,886 points
Cyberpunk 2077 (1080p, Ultra): 74 fps;
RDR2 (1080p, Ultra): 59fps;
Crystal DiskMark 8 (Read/ Write): 6189/4945 MB/s
PCMark 10 (Home Test): 5,480 points
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 7 hours, 38 minutes
Blender 3.6, Monster: 1562.96 Junkshop: 886.17 Classroom: 751.82
Handbrake (ave. fps): 36
The biggest update on this iteration of the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is the processors, so performance is going to be the main upgrade. Compared to the original Surface Laptop Studio, which uses 11th gen. Intel processors, we got up to 2.4 times the performance in multi-threaded CPU workloads. This might seem like a massive jump, but it is reflective of the new 14-core layout of the i7-13700H compared to the 4 cores of the i7-11370H CPU used in the first Surface Laptop Studio. This translates to snappier performance in general, but will really become useful in transcoding and other demanding, multi-threaded workloads likely to be used by creatives.
While the entry level device relies on Intel’s integrated GPU, most of the Surface Laptop Studio 2 devices come with a discrete graphics card form Nvidia. The best value here is the 16GB RAM, 512GB, 4050 model which offers 60fps-plus frame rates on many modern games using 1080p Ultra settings. This level of gaming performance will translate to heavy graphical computation workloads for anyone needing to fire up graphically intensive software. But if you're looking for the best gaming laptops, you'll find better specs and budget elsewhere. On the other hand, as a sleek, slimline laptop for professionals and creatives, it's one of the best Ultrabooks around.
If you don’t mind paying a bit extra for the best possible gaming experience then you can opt for the configuration with a Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU. It’s much pricer than the 4050 model, but at least some of that added expense is because of the added RAM and storage allocation which will help with professional applications as much as gaming. You can expect around 10% better performance from the 4060 model, so 70fps-plus averages for 1080p Ultra games and similar improvements for synthetic workloads.
The new device also has a Gen 3 Intel Movidius 3700VC VPU that’s responsible for accelerating AI tasks conducted directly on the device. This is an important addition that coincides with the release of Copilot, Microsoft’s new AI chatbot assistant released on Windows 11 22H2 and 23H2, to allow you to use the AI assistant directly from the OS. Copilot is significantly more accurate than the early versions of ChatGPT that were available at the start of 2023 and integrates well into a number of Microsoft apps to offer meaningful improvements to workflows for those that are keen to experiment.
That new AI chip also helps with web-conferencing, combining wit the 1080p wide-view webcam to add auto framing, eye contact and background blur effects to your virtual meetings. The studio microphones and omnisonic speakers offer good clarity in virtual meetings and the added Dolby Atmos certification mean that media playback also sounds excellent.
- Performance score: 4 / 5
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Battery life
- 6h 36min light work lifespan
- 7h 38min media playback
You get a slightly bigger 58Wh battery on this device that ends up giving around the same battery life as its predecessor (thanks to the more power hungry components). It really isn’t all-day battery life as Microsoft's marketing would have you believe, lasting just 6 hours and 37 minutes in PCMark 10’s home battery test for light work tasks. You’ll get closer for 1080p media playback with a lifespan of 7 hours and 38 minutes of continuous playback, but you wouldn’t ever make it through a full work day if you’re using the laptop consistently.
This isn’t bad for a Windows device, and it’s actually really solid for something with a discrete GPU, but the best MacBook Pro laptops will last 2 to 3 times longer on battery.
- Battery life score: 4 / 5
Should you buy the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2?
|Expensive, even for premium powerful devices.
|Great screen for drawing on, powerful components for creators, leading AI integration.
|4.5 / 5
|Solid creative performance, can do essential GPU work on the go.
|4 / 5
|6-7 hours of battery life under moderate usage conditions.
|The best screen for sketching and writing, solid power and decent battery, held back by price.
|4 / 5
Buy it if...
You need the ultimate drawing/ writing experience
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a uniquely adept offering for those that use a stylus to draw, create and take notes. The adjustable screen angle and built in pen storage make it an excellent choice for anyone wanting a 2-in-1 with a stylus.
You want a graphically capable Ultrabook
You can get more compact Ultrabooks with discrete GPUs, but if you need drawing capabilities as well as graphical power then there’s not much competing with the Surface Laptop Studio 2. This Ultrabook can be configured to be a competent entry level gaming device.
You want a device optimised for Copilot
It might seem small right now, but AI will be an integral part of many office workers workflows within the next year or two. This device’s dedicated AI chip means the integrated chatbot will work quickly to help you achieve what you need to.
Don't buy it if...
You’re on a budget
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 isn’t the best value professional Ultrabook available. If you can get it on a discount it’s reasonable, but at full RRP you’re paying a hefty premium for the advanced flexibility and drawing options. When you add the cost of the Slim Pen 2 it’s a pricey package.
You just want a gaming device
If you don’t need the sleek lines of an Ultrabook, you can get much more affordable or much higher performing gaming laptops for less.
You won’t use the touchscreen
You pay a premium for the advanced functionality of the touchscreen, so if you can get away with a laptop you’re going to find better value elsewhere.
Apple MacBook Pro 14
There's a bit of a trade off in graphical capabilities but the MBP 14 offers similar performance from something with a 19-hour battery life.
Read the full Apple Macbook Pro review
Razer Blade 14
If gaming is really what you’re after, the Blade 14 is still cheaper than the Surface Laptop 2 even though it’ll offer improved gaming performance and a screen more suited to fast paced action.
Read the full Razer Blade 14 review
Dell XPS 15
Dell’s larger 15-inch offering has as powerful components for significantly less. You will have to live without the foldable screen, but the 3.5K resolution OLED is still touchscreen.
Read the full Dell XPS 15 review
Asus Vivobook Pro 16X OLED
This is a much more powerful device with a bigger 16-inch 3K OLED screen for considerably less. It’s no more bulky than the Surface Laptop Studio 2, but it has a shorter battery life and isn’t touchscreen.
Read the full Asus Vivobook Pro 16X OLED review
How I tested the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2
- I tested it using both benchmark tests and video game benchmarks
- I stress-tested the battery using the TechRadar movie test
I ran the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 through our standard suite of benchmarks to get a feel for the laptop's peak performance and to see how it compares with the best on the market.
In addition to our standard suite of testing, I also tested the device using it for a day of work to see how it fares when typing, web browsing, working and for light photo and video editing tasks.
The screen was analysed using TechRadar's standard movie test and was compared against other screens running standard web browsing and movie editing software.
The battery life was benchmarked with two tests to simulate different battery life scenarios.
Read more about how we test laptops and desktops.
First reviewed November 2023
Joel has been the in-house benchmark monkey for the Australian TechRadar team and Australia’s two biggest tech magazines (APC and TechLife) since 2014.