Microsoft held its annual Surface event in New York City today, and while there was a heavy focus was on Artifical Intelligence and Windows 11 features like Copilot, the company still had hardware to show that stunned me. No, it's not Surface Laptop Go 3. It's the Surface Laptop Studio 2 that grabbed my attention.
I already daily drive the original Surface Laptop Studio and found it as one of the best laptops I've ever owned. The follow-up, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is even better. From including an NPU for the first time in an Intel-based Surface, to updating the CPU and the GPU under the hood, it's safe to say that Microsoft made some big refinements to Surface Laptop Studio 2 that will make it matter this holiday season as one of the best Surface PCs yet. I was absolutely delighted by it in my brief one-hour hands-on time.
Small tweaks to the design
While Surface Laptop Studio 2 might keep the same base form factor as the Surface Laptop Studio, the design is indeed a bit different this year. That's because Microsoft made the switch from magnesium to aluminum on the chassis of the Surface Laptop Studio 2. It's hard to describe without seeing it in person, but this sort of helps give the Surface Laptop Studio 2 a new color. This aluminum just looks fancier, and it feels nicer in the hands, thanks to the added weight. In fact, I thought it was a new color at first, but Microsoft PR told me the switch to aluminum is what gives this appearance since the chassis is no longer using painted magnesium.
The aluminum finish on the Surface Laptop Studio 2 just looks fancier, and it feels nicer in the hands
Of course, other than that, there are the new ports. There's now a USB-A port on the left side of the device right next to the Thunderbolt 4 ports. As someone who hates dongles, and has to carry around one when I take my original Laptop Studio with me on the go, the addition of USB-A is huge for me. Connecting a keyboard and a mouse will be even easier for me. Or, just transferring files. Even the microSD card storage is a huge deal. It means that I can exchange files between my computers, and get myself some extra storage without upgrading an SSD.
It's a lot more powerful
One thing that I've found from using the original Surface Laptop Studio as my daily PC is that it can slow down sometimes. 11th-generation Intel CPUs are not slow by any means, but when you step things up and get to heavy multitasking, you do feel some occasional lag. Modern laptops that you can buy in 2023 feature Intel's hybrid CPUs with performance and efficiency cores that boost your multitasking. The new Surface Laptop Studio 2 finally gets the same treatment with a 13th-generation Intel Core i7-13700H CPU that has 14 cores and 20 threads, running at 45W. It even has a graphical jump up to RTX 4060 laptop GPU with 8GB GDDR6 vRAM.
This sort of refreshes and small performance jumps make me envy my original Surface Laptop Studio and tempt me to upgrade
I actually saw someone gaming on this thing through Steam, playing Cyberpunk 2077, and it was flawless, without any dropped frames. And I opened the XDA website and a ton of other Edge tabs, and even Copilot, and the device I was hands-on with did not slow down at all. I have high hopes for the performance, and Microsoft made claims that it this new Surface Laptop Studio 2 two times the CPU performance and two times the GPU performance compared to the original Surface Laptop Studio. During the keynote, they even showed it beating a MacBook Pro in rendering a video.
It was just some brief hands-on time, but I do feel that's true. This sort of refresh and performance bumps really make me envy my original Surface Laptop Studio and tempt me to upgrade. The performance here is real in a Surface, even if other 2023 laptops have these same base specs for cheaper.
Small tweaks to the trackpad and keyboard
So, what about that trackpad and the keyboard? Well, even though Microsoft says the keyboard is largely the same, there is one thing I noticed. It now features a mute key right next to the escape key. We're all spending more time on video calls these days, and this is sure to come in handy. No more fiddling for buttons in Google Meet for me during my weekly meetings. It's right up front.
As for the trackpad, well, it's pretty nifty. It's now more inclusive, and Microsoft is using a new module, but it still feels pretty nice. It feels even closer to the one on a MacBook now. You can head into the Surface app and change the zones, and customize the trackpad to your liking. Microsoft showed how a user with just one hand could use the haptic touchpad, and considering the company's Adaptive Accessories, it's great to see Microsoft continue to take accessibility seriously.
A useful NPU and webcam tweaks
The final thing that needs attention is the addition of NPU. Microsoft is using an Intel NPU in the Surface Laptop Studio 2 for the first time. This NPU is dedicated to AI tasks, and the thing I tried out with it is the background blur, and the Windows Studio effects. Indeed, this also means Microsoft tweaked the webcam on the Surface Laptop Studio 2, so it has a wider lens, too.
As soon as I fired the new webcam up, I was wowed. In a busy showroom, the background blur effect and the framing features powered by the NPU right away put me in focus, and kept me in the frame (and not others around me). I've already tried this on AMD-powered laptops like the Acer Swift Edge 16, or even the Qualcomm-powered Surface Pro 9, but it's nice to see Microsoft put this on an Intel-based system now too.
I want to upgrade, but the price holds me back
I just spent an hour with Surface Laptop Studio 2, and I really am tempted to upgrade from my original Surface Laptop Studio. The bump in CPU power, the new NPU, and the slight tweaks in the design have me hooked. I wanted to take one home with me, but alas, I could not. If I want one, I'd have to shell out nearly $2,000, and that makes me sad. But I guess all these changes do have to come with a bigger price.
Surface Laptop Studio 2
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is Microsoft's most powerful laptop with a 14-core Intel processor and up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 graphics. It also has a 14.4-inch touchscreen with pen support, a new aluminum construction, and a more accessible touchpad.