The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 ($1,999 to start) is an attempt to ship a Windows 11 flagship that can compete toe-to-toe with the MacBook Pro.
That's a match-up Microsoft itself set up when it unveiled the Surface Laptop Studio 2 during a September 2023 event and put it through some head-to-head performance tests against a MacBook Pro. And since this is the most powerful Surface laptop yet, it was an appropriate comparison.
It was a compelling one too, but now that I've had a chance to test and review a Surface Laptop Studio 2 I can tell you it can't match Apple's MacBook Pro with M2 Max in nearly any regard. However, it's still one of the best 2-in-1 laptops that's well-suited to transitioning between office work, creative projects and gaming thanks to its expanded port array, unique sliding hinged display and optional Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs.
While it's no longer revolutionary in terms of laptop design, Microsoft's Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a smart evolution of the original. There's still room for improvement, but I think this is one of the best laptops on the market if you want a beefy Windows 2-in-1 that's as good for gaming as it is for taking notes in class.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Specs
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2|
|Price||$1,999 to start, $3,299 as reviewed|
|Display||14.4-inch (2400x1600) 120Hz PixelSense touchscreen|
|CPU||Intel 13th Gen Core i7-13700H|
|GPU||Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050-4060|
|Storage||512GB - 2TB SSD|
|Ports||Thunderbolt 4/USB-C x2, USB-A, microSD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Camera||1080p Surface Studio Camera w/ IR camera|
|Battery life||9:31 hours (tested), 16-19 hours (advertised)|
|Dimensions||12.72 x 9.06 x 0.86 inches|
|Weight||4.18 lbs (integrated graphics), 4.37 lbs (Nvidia GPU)|
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Price and availability
- Costs between $1,999 - $3,699
- Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus ($129) not included but a useful complement
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is available for order right now from Microsoft's website for a starting price of $1,999. For that you get an Intel Raptor Lake 13th Gen Core i7 13700H CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD for storage.
You can pay more to upgrade the RAM, storage or get a discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 or 4060 laptop GPU packed inside. For $2,399 you can get the same base model upgraded with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU, and for an additional $400 (so $2,799 total) you can get a Studio 2 with the RTX 4050 GPU, the 512GB SSD for storage and 32GB of RAM instead of 16GB.
For $3,299 you can get the laptop with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU, a 1TB SSD and 64GB of storage—a rare quantity in consumer-grade Windows laptops. For $3,599 you can get the same laptop with an even more powerful Nvidia RTX 2000 Ada GPU aimed at content creators, and for a whopping $3,699 you can get a Surface Laptop Studio 2 with the Core i7 CPU, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD for storage and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 laptop GPU.
Microsoft sent us a Surface Laptop Studio 2 configured with 64GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 laptop GPU. To buy the same laptop yourself would cost $3,299 at time of review. The company did not send us a Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus ($129, sold separately) but we had one from 2021 on hand that we were able to use with the Surface Laptop Studio 2, and I can confirm it still works well.
And frankly, the fact that Microsoft charges you an extra $130+ for the Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus is a real blunder because without it, this laptop loses a bit of its charm.
It's certainly still useful as a touchscreen 2-in-1, but the Surface Laptop Studio 2's unique easel-like functionality and built-in magnetic charging lip for the Surface stylus make Microsoft's decision to not include one with the laptop especially painful. This machine is built to be doodled on with a Surface Slim Pen 2, and it sucks that Microsoft charges you $130 for the privilege.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Design
- Bigger and heavier than a 14-inch MacBook Pro
- Unique sliding touchscreen is neat
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a compact, weighty laptop with a sliding display like no other.
At 12.72 x 9.06 x 0.86 inches and between 4.18 - 4.37 pounds (depending on config) it's a bit hefty but easy to open and set up. To give you a sense of comparison, it's both bigger and heavier than Apple's MacBook Pro 14-inch (2023) (12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches, 3.5-3.6 pounds), which also starts at $1,999.
The design of this laptop is basically unchanged from the original Surface Laptop Studio Microsoft released in 2021, which means you get the same sliding hinged display with thick bezels and the same MacBook-like design. Like Apple's laptops, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 has a smooth aluminum chassis (which might be why it feels heavier than its magnesium-and-aluminum predecessor) and a recessed keyboard with chiclet-style keys.
Like its predecessor, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 also has a base that's smaller than the footprint of the laptop, which means there's a little lip underneath the edge on all sides. If you own a Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus ($129) you can slip it underneath the front lip of the keyboard to magnetically attach and charge it.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Ports
- New USB-A and microSD card reader are welcome additions
- An HDMI out would be nice to have
Microsoft's Surface Laptop Studio 2 sports the same headphone jack, charging port and pair of Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports that we saw on its predecessor, which is useful enough.
But luckily Microsoft saw fit to add a few more this time around, so the Surface Laptop Studio 2 now also offers a USB-A 3.1 port and a microSDXC card reader. While I'd still appreciate an HDMI out for easier use with external displays, the fact that Microsoft's Surface laptop for pros lets you use more accessories more effectively is nice to see.
However, I should point out that Apple's MacBook Pros have all come with USB-C ports, SD card readers and HDMI-outs for years. However, Apple's pro laptops don't easily support USB-A accessories the way the new Surface Laptop Studio 2 can.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Display
- Sliding display feels great to tap on and slide around
- Screen gets remarkably bright, with good color accuracy
The 14.4-inch (2,400 x 1,600 pixels) 120Hz touchcreen on the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is its most interesting feature, but not because of the way it looks. No, it's due entirely to the unique horizontal hinge built into the laptop lid.
The hinge lets you slide the display forward over the keyboard, though the mechanism to do so can be a little challenging to figure out—in part because the prospect of pushing on the wrong part and potentially breaking your $2k+ laptop tends to put a damper on your urge to push and prod things.
The trick is to place one hand on the upper half of the laptop display while it's open, then use your other to gently pull the bottom half of the screen towards you. This lets you smoothly slide the display forward over the keyboard, where it can lock into place and "tent" over the keyboard like an easel.
This configuration is a fun option that can be nice to have when you're watching movies, playing games or doodling on the screen with a stylus. You can also slide the screen further down so it lays flat on the keyboard, at which point the Surface Laptop Studio 2 functions as a heavy, unwieldy Windows 11 tablet.
Of course, none of this trickery would mean much if the screen itself sucks. Luckily, I'm pleased to report that the display on the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is quite nice to look at. In my time reviewing it, I found nothing to complain about, as colors look accurate and striking without appearing oversaturated and I had no trouble making out fine details or gradations between light and dark.
The display offers HDR and Dolby Vision support; while watching I'm A Virgo I could appreciate the display quality and pick out fine details in shadowed scenes in ways I normally can't on cheaper, lower-quality laptop displays.
However, I will say that I caught sight of my own pallid face more often than I'd like while watching movies on this laptop, due to how effectively the screen reflects light. It's hardly a major complaint, but it does make it tricky to comfortably use this laptop in bright, direct light.
That's a little surprising given how bright the screen gets on the Surface Laptop Studio 2. When we got it into our testing lab and pointed our Klein 10-A colorimeter at it, we found the display gets as bright as 495.4 nits on average, though the brightest area is the upper-left quadrant of the screen with a peak brightness of 522 nits. But if you're watching HDR content (which is still rare on streaming services, though that's changing) the display can get even brighter, as bright as 648 nits in our HDR tests.
|Surface Laptop Studio 2||Dell XPS 15 OLED (2023)||MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023|
As you can see from the chart of results above, that's brighter than many laptops of comparable size and price, including the Dell XPS 15 OLED (the OLED model costs $2,199 to start) and the Acer Swift 5 ($1,449). It's brighter even than the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro 2023 (which start at $1,999 and $2,499 respectively) though when watching HDR content we've clocked Apple's MacBook Pro displays getting far brighter than the Surface Laptop Studio 2 — we're talking upwards of 1,000 nits of brightness.
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 also acquits itself well in our color tests. Our colorimeter reveals it manages to display 101.8% of the sRGB color gamut and 72.1% of the more demanding DCI-P3 gamut, with a Delta-E score of 0.21 (the closer to 0, the better). That's a better Delta-E score than the 14-inch MacBook Pro achieved, but Apple's laptop offers slightly broader color gamut coverage and again, far more brightness when watching HDR content.
But that's getting into the weeds. Unless you plan to do a lot of detail-oriented photo and video editing, you probably don't need to worry about color gamuts or Delta-E scores. The key thing to know is that the Surface Laptop Studio 2 has a nice, bright sliding display that's colorful and color-accurate enough for day-to-day work and play. Its dynamic refresh rate of up to 120Hz means scrolling and writing on the touchscreen may feel smoother than on a slower 60Hz laptop display, and playing fast-moving games with high frame rates will look and feel better.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Performance
- Powerful enough to sling spreadsheets or play Cyberpunk 2077
- But can't outperform top-tier laptops like the MacBook Pro in any category
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is the most powerful laptop in Microsoft's Surface lineup thanks to the Intel 13th Gen Core i7-13700H CPU which comes standard in every model. This CPU is augmented by an intriguing Intel Gen3 Movidius 3700VC VPU (Vision Processing Unit) AI Accelerator which is designed to help with machine learning tasks, like intelligently blurring the background or improving the lighting on video calls.
Pay extra and you can get this laptop outfitted with a discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series GPU and up to 64GB of RAM, which means you can turn it into a decent gaming laptop or video editing platform if you're willing to splurge. Microsoft sent us a Surface Laptop Studio 2 with the 4060 GPU and 64GB of RAM for review, so I can tell you how well it performs when you pay to fully kit it out.
|Surface Laptop Studio 2||Dell XPS 15 OLED (2023)||MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023|
|Geekbench 5 (single-core/multi-core)||1,851 / 12,779||1,880 / 12,478||1,926 / 14,939|
|SSD speed test||1,877.46 MBps||2,060.97 MBps||N/A|
|Blackmagic speed test (read/write)||4,620.4 / 3,760.7 MBps||N/A||6,402.4 / 5,319.2 MBps|
|Video editing test||5:11||5:01||4:06|
And the answer, in short, is pretty well —albeit not as well as a MacBook Pro upgraded with Apple's top-tier M2 Max chipset. As you can see from the charts of results in this section, the 14-inch MacBook Pro 2023 we tested with a maxed-out M2 Max ($4.099 as tested) outperformed the Surface Laptop Studio 2 in every benchmark, from CPU speeds to video editing and file transfer speed tests.
So despite the fact that Microsoft talked up how competitive the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is with Apple's MacBook Pros while unveiling it, in our testing lab this 2-in-1 still can't catch up to Apple's fastest laptops.
|Surface Laptop Studio 2||Dell XPS 15 OLED (2023)||MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023|
|PugetBench Premiere Pro||594||N/A||1,009|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimited||60,434||N/A||89,902|
|3DMark Port Royal raytracing test||5,186||4,577||N/A|
But that doesn't mean it's a poor performer—far from it. Apple's Pro laptops set a high bar in terms of performance, and while the Surface Laptop Studio 2 can't quite clear it there's still lots to be excited about here.
In the Geekbench 5 CPU benchmark, the Studio 2 narrowly beats out similarly-priced or -sized Windows laptops like the Dell XPS 15 OLED ($2,449 as tested) and Acer Swift 5 ($1,449 as tested), for example, though Dell's laptop still ekes out a win in terms of video editing and file transfer speeds. So while the Surface Laptop Studio 2 may not be "the ultimate powerhouse all-in-one" Microsoft advertises it to be, it's definitely a speedy machine that can compete favorably with the best Windows laptops in terms of performance.
|Surface Laptop Studio 2||Dell XPS 15 OLED (2023)||Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023)|
|Civilization VI: Gathering Storm||119.8||114.7||N/A|
|Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (Extreme)||34.84||N/A||62.54|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider||82||67||135|
When configured with a discrete Nvidia GPU, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is also a pretty good gaming machine. We ran it through a few extra tests we typically only subject gaming laptops to in order to see how it stacks up, and the answer is: pretty well!
You won't be blasting through Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty at a smooth 60 frames per second with every setting cranked to max, but I was able to play it at a pretty enjoyable 25-30 fps on our review unit after I switched on Nvidia's DLSS upscaling tech. That's a rare treat for a laptop not purpose-built for gaming, and as you can see from the gaming results chart above, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 does run games better than a comparably-priced non-gaming Windows laptop like the Dell XPS 15 OLED.
It compares more favorably with Apple laptops like the 14-inch MacBook Pro (2023), which runs games like Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (56-57 fps) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (33-73 fps) far worse than the Surface Laptop Studio 2. However, it's tricky for us to directly compare Apple's laptops against a Windows laptop when gaming because Macs still don't reliably run all the same games we use in our testing suite, and when they do run them they don't do it at the same standard resolutions we see on Windows laptops.
That undercuts Microsoft's marketing, but it's really what you should expect from a 2-in-1 laptop like this one, which is built to do a lot of different things (typing, tapping, drawing, gaming, editing) pretty well instead of being purpose-built for one task.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Keyboard and touchpad
- Keyboard and touchpad remain comfortable to use
- Currently the only laptop to support Adaptive Touch, and it works well
The keyboard and touchpad on the Surface Laptop Studio 2 appear functionally identical to those on the original, and that's not a bad thing. The keyboard remains comfortable to type on, and I like how the space around the keys makes my hands feel less cramped than they do on other laptop keyboards which try to cram in more or bigger keys.
Of course, the trade-off is that you don't get a number pad and the arrow keys are scrunched into the lower-right corner, sandwiching the very small up and down arrows together in a way that makes them very frustrating for my big sausage fingers.
Beneath them is a nice big haptic touchpad which is easy to use and feels good beneath my hands. It's also the only laptop currently on the market that's designed to support something Microsoft calls Adaptive Touch mode, a fancy term for coding the touchpad to be more accessible for folks who have a hard time using traditional touchpads.
This tech is advertised as working to make the haptic touchpad better able to do things like recognize multiple inputs moving across the touchpad in the same direction as mouse movement, making it more usable for someone with a hand but no fingers, for example.
During the review process I flipped on Adaptive Touch mode (via the pre-installed Surface app, more on that later) and got a warning that the trackpad would be unable to recognize certain gesture commands (like two-finger zooming) while it's active.
While I'm not the target audience for this feature and can't test it authentically, I can say that without Adaptive Touch mode on I had basically no luck trying to use the touchpad with anything except my fingers. Dragging a wrist or elbow did nothing useful. However, when I enabled Adaptive Touch mode I consistently found that dragging my wrist across the touchpad worked surprisingly well as a way to move the mouse.
This Adaptive Touch mode feature is currently only available on the Surface Laptop Studio 2, and it could conceivably be a system-seller for folks excited to try it out themselves.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Audio
- Quad speakers get loud and offer good sound quality
- Almost no bass to speak of
The four Omnisonic speakers built into the Surface Laptop Studio 2 support Dolby Atmos and do a good job of kicking out music at an appreciable volume.
While you won't feel more than the hint of a shiver through the laptop when you're blasting bass, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 does get pretty loud, and sound quality stays consistently good even when the quad speakers are cranked all the way up.
You won't be starting any parties with this laptop, but I enjoyed listening to tracks from the likes of Kamaiyah, Miles Davis, The Mountain Goats and Open Mike Eagle through this laptop.
Vocals and effects in movies, trailers and TV also came through well, so much so that I could see the appeal of using this laptop to watch stuff while I'm traveling instead of relying on the hotel TV.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Webcam
- 1080p webcam is good but not great
- IR camera allows for facial authentication and login via Windows Hello
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 has a 1080p webcam in the center of its top bezel. You won't love the way you look, but it should be fine for work, play and even the occasional high-stakes call like a job interview.
In my hands-on testing I found it worked well under a variety of lighting conditions, from crack-of-dawn dimness to direct summer afternoon sunlight. Color reproduction is also good, which is more than I can say for many laptop webcams. Still, I was a bit disappointed; I looked grainier and more blown out than on Apple's webcams; this is supposed to be a MacBook Pro competitor, after all.
However, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 does also have an IR camera that allows you to take advantage of some of the more advanced Windows features, like biometric login via facial authentication. In layman's terms, you can log into the Surface Laptop Studio 2 with just your face, and that's a convenience Apple's MacBooks still can't deliver despite the company having supported FaceID logins on its phones and tablets for ages.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Software
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 comes with little in the way of unnecessary bloatware (except Microsoft Teams, obviously) which is par for the course with Microsoft laptops.
The piece of Microsoft software you want to make sure and pay attention to is the Surface app, because that's where you'll find a few extra features and settings that you won't find in your standard Windows 11 Settings app.
Notably, the Surface app is where you'll enable and disable things like Adaptive Touch mode on the touchpad, switch on Windows Studio Effects for the webcam-like background blur and automatic eye contact (which are powered by the Intel Movidius VPU AI accelerator) and more. This is also where you can adjust the pressure sensitivity and other aspects of the Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus, if you've paid the extra $129 to own one.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Battery life
- Lasting 9 and a half hours on a full charge is okay, but not great
- Rarely runs hot, but turns into a lap-scorcher when gaming
- Fast charging is nice to have
Microsoft claims you should be able to get up to 16-19 hours of use out of a fully-charged Surface Laptop Studio 2, depending on what's under the hood. And maybe that's accurate, under ideal conditions.
But after multiple runs through our battery test, which tasks a laptop with endlessly surfing the web via Wi-Fi with its display set to low brightness (150 nits), the Surface Laptop Studio 2 lasted a mere 9 hours and 31 minutes.
That's ok, even if it is far short of Microsoft's claims. While I'm disappointed the Surface Laptop Studio 2 can't manage a solid 10+ hours on battery, it gets pretty close and you're probably okay to carry it for a day without needing to worry about taking the charger with you. And if you do travel with the charger, I appreciate the extra USB-A charging port that Microsoft builds into it.
|Surface Laptop Studio 2||9:31|
|MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro||14:02|
|MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max||12:51|
|Acer Swift 5||11:25|
|Dell XPS 15 OLED (2023)||8:58|
|Dell XPS 15||10:05|
|Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra||10:01|
|MacBook Pro 14-inch M1 Pro||14:08|
|MacBook Pro 13-inch M2||18:20|
|HP Dragonfly Pro||13:23|
|LG Gram 17 Pro (2023)||12:02|
|Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8||8:08|
But the Surface Laptop Studio 2 simply can't match the battery life of more power-efficient Windows laptops like the 14-inch Acer Swift 5, which lasts over 11 hours in our test despite costing less. Heck, it can't even outlast the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023) when browsing the web, which is saying something since the G14 is a (remarkably long-lived) gaming laptop.
And the Surface Laptop Studio 2 definitely can't compete with Apple's MacBooks, which all last 12+ hours on a charge. Indeed, the 14-inch MacBook Pro 2023 lasted between 13-14 hours in our test, depending on which chip (M2 Pro v M2 Max) was inside.
However, it does at least charge pretty quickly. I plugged our Surface Laptop Studio 2 review unit in with a dead battery and roughly half an hour later it was charged to 47%, giving me enough juice to work comfortably for a few hours.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Heat
- Quiet and cool while working
- But beware, it does get louder and uncomfortably warm when gaming
Lastly, I just wanted to touch on how hot this laptop can get while gaming. We put it through a few different heat tests, and after a non-gaming test (which involves just playing an HD video for 15 minutes, then scanning the laptop with a heat gun) the Surface Laptop Studio 2 was in good shape, topping out at 87.6 degrees on the underside.
But after 15 minutes of our gaming heat test, which involves running the laptop through the Metro: Exodus graphical benchmark six times with the settings on Extreme, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 got quite toasty. Our instruments recorded heat levels between 90-110 degrees across the laptop, with the hottest point on the bottom hitting 109.4 degrees.
I noticed the laptop did get toasty and loud when I played something as demanding as Cyberpunk 2077 or Baldur's Gate 3 on it for more than 20 minutes or so, to the point that the bottom became uncomfortably warm. So while it's generally not a lap-scorcher, you'll likely want to put it on a desk or laptop stand when gaming, lest you accidentally singe yourself.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: Verdict
After spending some time using the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 for work, play and everything in between, I'm impressed with this powerful 2-in-1.
I liked the original Surface Laptop Studio so much that I called it Microsoft's coolest laptop in ages, and I think the sequel offers some smart improvements without ruining what I loved about the original Surface Laptop Studio—its versatility.
In fact I feel as though Microsoft sort of shot itself in the foot when positioning this laptop as a MacBook Pro competitor, because as you can see from our testing Apple's Pro laptops outperform the Surface Laptop Studio 2 in almost every regard. So if you just want a laptop that can slice photos and videos effectively without eating up battery while you're on the go, you should probably get a 2023 MacBook Pro instead of a Surface Laptop Studio 2.
And indeed, if you just want a laptop primarily for playing games you can do better too. I'd recommend the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023) since it runs games better than the Surface Laptop Studio 2 and also lasts longer on a full battery.
But no MacBook can match the unique utility and versatility of this laptop's sliding touchscreen, especially if you pair if with a Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus so you can take advantage of all the little ways the two are designed to work well together.
Even if you don't care about the display, if you want a 2-in-1 that showcases the strengths of Windows 11 and does a variety of things pretty well, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 might be the sweet spot for you. I personally like the way it delivers strong performance and versatility in a reasonably portable package, to the point that I could throw this laptop in a bag and know I'd be ready to take notes in class, get some work done at the coffee shop, work on my art in the park or play some games with my pals after the work is done.
No other laptop I've tested offers the same heady mix of power and flexibility, and I think that makes the Surface Laptop Studio 2 one of the best 2-in-1 laptops on the market.