Although AI is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, hardware is still a big focus for many major tech companies, as was seen with the announcement of the new Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 overnight. Microsoft even took a swing at Apple’s highly-touted MacBook Pro in the process.
Microsoft spoke a lot about its Copilot AI assistant software, but its new devices also saw some of the limelight. At the top of the range is the Surface Laptop Studio 2, which the company labelled its “most powerful” Surface to date. Accompanying the high-end portable PC is the Surface Laptop Go 3 in addition to an enterprise and education version Surface Go 4.
Among the backdrop of AI’s potential to change everyday workflows, Microsoft’s aim with the new devices was one of portability and power. Although none of the laptops wield the recently-announced Intel Core Ultra processors with built-in neural processing units, it’s clear that the future of computing is to further enable machine learning technology at both a hardware and software level.
Surface Laptop Studio 2: better than M2 Max MacBook Pro?
At first glance, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 looks a lot like a MacBook Pro. As soon as its touch-enabled display kicks out to act as a tablet, the Surface assumes its own persona. Using a flexible hinge that offers three different configurations, it’s aimed at creative professionals who need power and the responsiveness of a studio-level tablet.
With up to 1TB of storage and 64GB of memory, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 runs on a 13th Gen Intel Core i7- 13700H CPU. To power its graphics, you can spec it anywhere between the integrated Iris Xe GPU and an Nvidia RTX 2000 Ada laptop card.
Notably, Microsoft went as far as to claim that its 14.4-inch device yields up to twice the graphics performance of a MacBook Pro M2 Max – which is a big call. Apple’s pro laptop is a great device in terms of both performance and battery life.
Microsoft’s proclamation, while bold, was based on a CineBench 2024 GPU benchmark – with the software now measuring graphics performance for the first time in years. More specifically, the benchmark compared the RTX 2000 Ada version of the Surface Laptop Studio 2 against a 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 Max chip housing a 12-core CPU and 30-core GPU. Which, admittedly, isn’t the most powerful version, considering you can get the M2 Max MacBook Pro in a 38-core GPU configuration.
Synthetic benchmarks, while helpful, only tell part of the story. It’s undoubtedly an interesting comparison Microsoft has made, but real-world results will be the ultimate test. Other than the raw spec, the Surface Laptop Studio 2’s flexible hinge and touch display, combined with an accessible haptic touchpad, put it in a slightly different weight division. It’s arguably better suited to artists than a MacBook, for example, due to its Surface Slim Pen 2 integration.
Surface Laptop Go 3 keeps things light
Billed as Microsoft’s lightest Surface laptop, the Surface Laptop Go 3 weighs a petite 1.13kg, making it a lighter option than a 13-inch MacBook Air. Compared to its Studio sibling, the Laptop Go 4 runs on a 12th Gen Intel Core i5-1235U CPU, up to 16GB of memory, and only comes with integrated graphics.
It also contains a 12.4-inch touch display, albeit only in a 1536 x 1024 resolution, compared to the Studio 2’s 2400 x 1600 screen. In addition to a fingerprint-activated power button, the Laptop Go 3 is said to provide a good typing experience to round out the package. It also comes in four colours: Ice Blue, Sage, Sandstone, and Platinum.
Exclusive to enterprise and education users is the Surface Go 4 for Business, a Chromebook-like tablet device designed for use with web-based apps. It seems like the kind of gadget suited for workers who don’t spend all day at their desks and need a durable device to take with them.
Release date and price
Microsoft’s flagship Surface Laptop Studio 2 starts at $3,519, while the Surface Laptop Go 3 starts at $1,429. Both versatile laptops are due to arrive beginning on 3 October, while the Surface Go 4 for Business is available through enterprise channels.
As tech companies continue to adopt AI technologies in various forms, the hardware here almost takes a backseat to the upcoming Copilot software. We’ll see in the coming years how much of a tangible impact such technology will ultimately have.