2-in-1 laptops have tried to be so many things over the years, and they all serve the needs of very different people. This latest model, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2, is designed to be a professional workhorse for creators, artists, designers, and businesspeople who need a bit more oomph. It has a really interesting screen design that hinges in the middle to bend around and be used like a drawing tablet.
It’s fascinating, functional, and fills a hole in the market.
Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop 2 first impressions
What surprised me was how heavy this computer is. The way the weight is spread evenly, it doesn’t feel so bad until you try to lift it with one hand, and are reminded that this is a machine designed for performance.
The Windows setup process is what it is, and if you’ve set up a Windows 11 laptop before, you’ll be familiar with the experience.
I’ll get into this more in the design section, but the other thing that surprised me was how much I enjoy bending the screen in and out. Screen goes out. Screen goes back. Screen goes out. Screen goes back. Truly, an underrated fidget toy, while also being a highly specialised piece of delicate electronic equipment. Marvellous.
Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop 2 specifications
13th Gen Intel Core i7-13700H Processor, Intel Gen3 Movidius 3700VC VPU AI Accelerator
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 Laptop GPU with 8GB GDDR6 vRAM 2010 MHz boost clock speed, 80W maximum graphics power
There are a few different levels of Surface Laptop Studio 2, and this is the top-of-the-line one. Having the Nvidia 4060 laptop GPU in there means that it’s ready to do all kinds of design, artistic and content creation work by day, and then games by night.
Well, as long as it’s plugged in, because for this price having a battery life this short is extremely disappointing. The argument Microsoft would no doubt give is that a lot of performance eats a lot of battery, an argument the M3 Max MacBook Pro laughs at openly.
The benchmarking shows that it’s an impressive computer. Perhaps not the most powerful on the market, but high enough up there that those who buy it just for the versatility of the screen won’t be disappointed.
As previously mentioned, this laptop is a beast. It can handle just about any task you throw at it. But in addition to having powerful guts, it’s also been created with thoughtful design, hidden gaming prowess, and some somewhat troubling ties to AI.
Truly, the best part of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 is the design. It’s extremely thoughtful. You can lift up the screen with one finger, thanks to the artfully crafted lip. It doesn’t jut out too much, or scream “here is where you lift me, idiot” like some other laptops do, but it subtly allows you to open the lid and get to work.
The hinge on the screen that allows it to either sit flat on the computer like the world’s chunkiest tablet, or fold so it can be at a comfortable angle for drawing, is engineering genius. It’s so thin, and yet it feels solid and secure. A much better idea than the old Surface Book 3’s detachable screen, which is still giving me so much trouble.
While this laptop is not designed for gaming, it has enough grunt that you can happily game for hours on it. I played Fortnite on it for a few hours, and while it did get quite hot, at no point did the graphics stutter. It was clean, buttery smooth (thanks to the good ol’ 120Hz screen) and was able to run on high graphics.
The trackpad is not great for gaming, but which trackpad is? What the trackpad is great for is accessibility, which is fantastic. People with fewer than the average number of fingers should still be able to operate this trackpad, an important step forward for disability access to laptops (though it would be nice to also see on a laptop that isn’t this expensive).
The performance isn’t as good as a dedicated gaming laptop, with all that extra cooling capability allowing it to run much more graphically intensive games for longer. But if you need a laptop primarily for creation, but also want to game, this is a good choice.
For a pro-level laptop, its port situation is pretty sparse. It only has two USB-C ports, a single USB-A, one SD-card slot, a Surface connector and a 3.5mm headphone jack. I get that this is more than the first generation of the laptop, but I’m not grading on a curve here. A pro laptop needs more ports, especially Ethernet (yes, still). This is disappointing.
Copilot, Windows’ AI assistant
Microsoft has invested a lot of money into its partnership with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, and so, obviously, Microsoft products are going to see more and more AI integration. In my briefing about this laptop, the people showing it off kept talking about how Copilot, the AI assistant built into many parts of Microsoft, is going to become a bigger feature in Windows over time.
This sucks on multiple levels.
For one, ChatGPT and Bing AI largely just throw out either plagiarised paragraphs with little to no attribution, or inaccurate nonsense written with an authoritative voice. As a society, we need to have a serious conversation about what generative AI can and cannot do. It can have a reasonable crack at simulating what a human sentence could look like. It does not know what is accurate or false, and it cannot create anything new. I think building Copilot in as an assistant without equipping users with that knowledge is dangerous. A good example is this response I got back from Copilot when I asked if there were any countries in Africa that started with the letter “K”.
It also seems disingenuous to sell creatives an expensive laptop filled with tools that actively ripped off their work and repackaged it to make it worse.
Having this computer tie more into inaccurate plagiarism seems quite bad and I’m hoping Microsoft reverses course on this before it’s too late and they trash their brand forever. Because this is a great computer. Setting it (and all other Windows computers) up to rely on AI is not great.
Who is the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 for?
Primarily the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 is for creatives with deep pockets, who need a powerful computer they can also draw on. If you just need a powerful laptop, there are other, more affordable options, the main reason to get this is if you think you’ll take full advantage of the hinge on the screen that lets it be used in multiple configurations.
It is a fantastic, powerful, versatile laptop for a very specific audience. That audience is absolutely going to love it.
Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop 2
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a fantastic, powerful, versatile laptop for a very specific audience. That audience is absolutely going to love it.