Surface Laptop Studio and Pro 8 hands-on | Engadget

At its annual hardware event today, Microsoft unveiled a new family of Surface devices ahead of the launch of Windows 11 on October 5th. The refurbishment of the Surface Pro and Surface Go is not surprising, and the company does boast the latest in both of these ranges. But the Surface Laptop Studio is the most interesting. It was intended to replace the Surface Book, which was a detachable 2-in-1 laptop. The Laptop Studio, meanwhile, is more like Microsoft’s Surface Studio all-in-one desktop, because it has a forward screen that can lie flat on top of a table or lie at an angle. It also has a 120Hz screen, just like the new Surface Pro 8, which got a sleek redesign.

I was able to visit the Laptop Studio, Surface Pro X and a slew of new Surface devices during a recent (COVID-safe) demo event in New York, and I have to say that these Windows 11 computers look very promising.

Surface Laptop Studio practical

Let’s start with the Laptop Studio, which a Microsoft representative told me during the event, will replace the Surface Book line. As I mentioned, the new design in donkey style is not only the same as the Surface Studio, but also after notebooks from Acer and HP. I was very impressed with how thin the Laptop Studio’s 14.4-inch screen is, and it came out of its frame without much power. The hinge that connects the screen to the keyboard is sturdy and holds the screen at different angles in laptop mode.

Gallery: Surface Laptop Studio Practical | 14 photos

But when I pointed the screen outwards, I struggled to push the lid away from me to make it stand softer as the panel jumped out of the frame. But in every other configuration, like a conventional laptop mode or flat like a tablet (which Microsoft calls Microsoft Studio mode), the Surface Laptop Studio behaved as expected.

If the screen is pulled forward and propped up in front of the keyboard in what the company calls Stage mode, it’s ideal for digital artists. It’s easier to pull up, and you can use the new Slim Pen 2 to make your masterpieces. The new style offers haptic feedback with a car on board and also mimics the resistance you would get with pen on paper. I felt a kind of drag across the screen of the Laptop Studio when I started scratching at it with the Slim Pen 2. It initially felt weird since I was used to other styles like Samsung S Pen. But I got used to it pretty quickly, and I liked to feel the slight vibrations that were an indication that something was activated.

The Laptop Studio has a magnetic strip under the keyboard with which the Slim Pen 2 can easily attach and stay level with the rest of the machine. The magnets were strong enough that I just had to place the pin near the edge, and it fell into place. I don’t feel like I have to worry about losing the accessory with this setup, which is nice.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Microsoft is also offering a 120Hz screen on the Laptop Studio, and a company representative told me during the demonstration that the touch sampling is 100Hz. This should ensure a smooth drawing experience, but also make scrolling and animations look super buttery. There is no adjustable refresh rate available in the system – you only get the option to choose between 120Hz or 60Hz in the settings.

For all the detailed specifications of the Laptop Studio, such as the new Full HD webcam, the screen resolution, dimensions, processor and memory configuration options, I encourage you to check out our news release. For this practical article, I want to focus on my first impressions of the devices I had to try. On this note, the last thing I would say about my experience with the Laptop Studio is that the keyboard and steering wheel were spacious, and although the buttons are snug and responsive, I prefer the keys on the Surface Laptop 4. For things like battery life , performance and other real-world observations, but we have to wait until we can test a review unit.

Surface Pro 8 practical

Another device that has undergone a visual overhaul this year is the Surface Pro 8. This is not the only new Surface Pro introduced today – there is also the Surface Pro 7 Plus, which receives a typical small processor upgrade has and looks a lot like older Microsoft tablets. The Pro 8, meanwhile, looks a lot like the ARM-based Pro X. But it uses the 11th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 chips and is therefore noticeably heavier. It also has a different ventilation design around its edges compared to the X, which is sealed.

Surface Pro 8 practical

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Yet the Pro 8 is impressively thin, with a 0.37-inch profile, and its built-in kick stand is even sharper. The 13-inch screen is surrounded by an attractive thin rim, as opposed to the rim about 7 cm wide around the Pro 7 Plus. The Pro 8 also has the same refresh rate of 120Hz as the Laptop Studio, with a resolution of 2,880 x 1,920.

Out of the box, however, the Pro 8 runs at 60Hz, and you can go to settings to increase it to the higher tempo. Meanwhile, the Laptop Studio refreshes at 120Hz by default. This difference is because the Pro 8 is designed to be a more portable device, and Microsoft expects people to want more battery life along the way. If your priority is smooth scrolling and ink (Smart Pen 2 is also supported here), it’s going faster. But if you try to squeeze out the Pro 8 every last minute, you may prefer to stay at the lower rate.

If you no longer have juice, you can recharge the Pro 8 with Microsoft’s own connection or through one of the two USB-C ports. It supports USB 4 and Thunderbolt 4, and can stream up to two 4K screens simultaneously. We were unable to test it during the limited time during our preview, and I can only really tell you that the Surface Pro 8 in general felt a lot like a heavier Pro X. They use the same signature-type cover with the same comfortable keys and responsive trackpad, as well as a built-in slot that holds and loads the Slim Pen 2.

Gallery: Surface Pro 8 practical | 6 photos

Of all the other surfaces that Microsoft announced today – the Go 3, the new Pro X, the Pro 7 Plus and the Duo 2, only the latter is significantly different. The rest of the systems got basically incremental updates, with the same appearance as their predecessors.

Surface Adjustment Kit

However, I wanted to call out the new Surface Adaptive Kit. It is a set of labels and stickers designed to make surfaces easier for people with different needs. There are transparent keycap labels to identify buttons that can be recognized by touch, to stamp labels that add visual and tangible clues to keys or gates, as well as colorful indicators with matching cable sheaths to make it clear which wires go into which sockets.

The colors I saw in the demonstration area were in neon peaches, and I’m not sure if it would be appreciated by people with certain visual impairments (a pattern might be better for those who cannot distinguish between colors). But at least the keycap labels I have seen have different shapes and in general I appreciate the effort here.

Gallery: Microsoft Surface Adaptive Kit Practical | 4 photos

Microsoft paved the way for accessibility technology in the game with the Xbox Adaptive Controller years ago, and although the Surface Adaptive Kit looks like a small product, it shows that the company is thinking of meaningful ways to meet people with different needs.

While most of the new surfaces unveiled today feel like incremental updates, the Laptop Studio, Duo 2 and Pro 8 bring at least a low voltage. On top of that, these machines (Duo 2 aside) all run Windows 11, which is already reviving a stagnant computer industry. As always, we have to test all these devices ourselves to see if it’s worth your money, but you can pre-order it all.

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