Unique design, short battery life

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Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio has a screen that you can tilt easily.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio launched on Tuesday and I’ve been using it for several days. It’s more practical than the Surface Book it replaces in Microsoft’s family of laptops, but it’s still not perfect.

The Surface Laptop Studio, which starts at $ 1,600, gives Microsoft a chance to grab a bigger share of the PC market, which has grown during the coronavirus pandemic as people rushed to buy PCs to virtually attend meetings and classes and be entertained from home.

The Surface Book that this computer replaces has proven that Microsoft can do impressive hardware engineering. Its hinge expands and contracts, resembling a lotus flower, when you open and close it. Press a button on the keyboard and you can remove the screen and use it as a tablet.

The Surface Laptop Studio leaves that fancy aside – you can’t remove the screen – but still delivers a unique experience. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What is good

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

The new design is the biggest attribute of the Surface Laptop Studio.

You can use it like any other laptop, but when you want to use it as a tablet, you just need to drag the screen and lay it flat on the keyboard in “Studio Mode”. It’s no longer necessary to click a button or press a key on the keyboard, then wait to disconnect the screen from the keyboard base, as it did on the Surface Book.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

Unlike the Surface Book, which lost a lot of its power and battery life when you detached the display, you still have full processing power when the Surface Laptop Studio is in this mode. And, laid flat, it’s best for reading documents, taking notes, or just browsing the web without a keyboard or mouse. You can stay in the stream longer without having to worry about recharging.

When you’re ready to use Surface Laptop Studio as a laptop again, just pull the bottom edge until the screen forms a 90-degree angle, then flip the panel over.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

You can also switch to what Microsoft calls “Scene Mode,” which brings the screen closer to you by positioning the bottom of the keyboard just between the keyboard and trackpad. This is useful if you are using the computer to watch movies, play games, or draw on the screen when you do not need the keyboard.

The Laptop Studio has a spot under the trackpad where you can store and charge the new $ 130 Surface Slim Pen 2, which features a haptic motor that pushes back with more pressure if you write or draw with more force. A strong magnet ensures that the pen will not come off. It’s a more thoughtful solution than tying the stylus to the edge of the screen like people did on the Surface Book.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

The display is crisp, and a new feature in Windows 11 will let you make the most of its 120Hz refresh rate, making scrolling through websites and photos much smoother. It could also help save battery. Microsoft says it’s testing a dynamic refresh rate setting that automatically lowers the refresh rate for less graphics-intensive tasks. I haven’t been able to try it yet because a compatible graphics driver was not available.

The trackpad is bigger than any other on a Surface PC. It provides haptic feedback and you get a response no matter where you click, just like on Apple MacBooks. It’s a big improvement over the Surface Book’s trackpad.

Overall, it’s a fun and powerful computer that can be used in many different modes as needed. But it’s not perfect.

What is wrong

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

Microsoft used the introduction of the Surface Laptop Studio to switch ports on its high-end laptop. The most recent Surface Book included two traditional USB-A ports, a modern USB-C port and a full-size SD card reader, along with a headphone jack and Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect charging port. On the Laptop Studio are two USB-C ports that support contemporary Thunderbolt 4 standard, but the USB-A ports and the card reader are gone. This means that customers will have to look for dongles to connect their devices to, which is disappointing.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

Microsoft’s Surface Connect charger looks dated. It’s been in use since 2012, so Microsoft is keeping it for people who have accessories that work with it. It’s nice that it’s magnetic and easy to attach or disconnect in case you trip over the cord, but I think it could be cut off completely. At least you can still charge via USB-C if you forget the cable.

Surface Books offered users hard-to-miss power and volume buttons on the top edge of the screen. On the Laptop Studio, the power button is on the keyboard just to the left of the delete key. It took a while to get used to it.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

Plus, while the volume keys are in the same easy-to-find spot as on the Surface Book at the top of the keyboard, they’re not as easy to press as the old buttons when you’re in a hurry. A Microsoft spokesperson said the company’s research has shown that most Surface Laptop users expect power and volume buttons on the keyboard, which has helped the company make Laptop Studio screen thinner.

The battery life is not very good either. I generally got around 4.5 hours of use on a single charge from my test unit, which has an Intel Core i7 chip and 32GB of RAM. That’s well below Microsoft’s claim of up to 18 hours of battery life. It’s also shorter than the 6.5 hours I got on the Surface Book 3 and almost 7.5 hours on the Surface Book 2.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

As smart as the new design is, the Laptop Studio feels trickier than Surface Books. Turning the screen over and revealing Microsoft’s dynamic woven hinge seems like a step away from exposing the guts of the device. I couldn’t help but worry that switching between modes multiple times a day could wear out the components. However, I did not encounter any issues while reviewing the laptop.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Jordan Novet | CNBC

Microsoft is testing the Laptop Studio “against standards that take into account how users can move the device through different modes over its lifetime and even how they might carry the device to ensure we deliver the best quality. and a lasting experience, ”a spokesperson told CNBC in an email. .

And like the Surface Book, the base Laptop Studio, at $ 1,600, can get expensive. Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung all sell convertible PCs with similar or more sophisticated hardware configurations for less. For example, Samsung’s 15.6-inch Galaxy Book Pro 360 costs $ 1,300. The situation is better at the top of the range. The Laptop Studio that Microsoft lent me costs $ 2,700, and a comparable Lenovo ThinkPad costs about the same.

Final thoughts

The Surface Laptop Studio is a better computer than the Surface Book it replaces. It’s less flashy but more focused on providing a good experience when people want to use their laptops in non-traditional ways, especially with touch gestures or a stylus on the screen.

I enjoyed working, playing video games, and listening to music on the Surface Laptop Studio. People looking for impressive performance and the ability to write on the Surface like a tablet should consider this machine, just beware of battery life.

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