Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Book 3: A huge leap forward

Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Book 3: A huge leap forward

We originally thought the Surface Laptop Studio would be called the Surface Book 4. Thankfully, it’s a lot more than that. It’s the refresh we’ve wanted to see for quite awhile, including an all-new sleeker design. But if you’re looking for a bargain, there’s certain to be some sales on the slightly older Surface Book 3 in the near future. The Surface Book 3 is also a very capable laptop in 2020, so it’s worth considering if you don’t need the absolute top of the line machine.

In this comparison we’ll look at how these laptops stack up and discuss which one is best for your use case. This is the Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Book 3.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Book 3: Specifications

SpecificationSurface Laptop StudioSurface Book 3
Dimensions & Weight
  • 12.7” x 9.0” x 0.7”
  • Intel Core i5 models 3.83 lb (1742.9 grams)
  • Intel Core i7 models 4.00 lb (1820.2 grams)
  • 13.5-inch (Core i5): 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51-0.9 in (312 x 232 x 13 – 23 mm)-3.38lbs.
  • 13.5-inch (Core i7): 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.59-0.9 in (312 x 232 x 15 – 23 mm)-3.62lbs.
  • 15-inch: 13.5 x 9.87 x 0.568 – 0.9 in (343 x 251 x 15 – 23 mm)-4.2lbs.
Display
  • Screen: 14.4
  • PixelSense Flow touch display
  • Up to 120Hz Refresh Rate
  • Resolution: 2400 x 1600 (201 PPI)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Contrast ratio: 1500:1
  • Touch: 10-point multi-touch
  • Dolby Vision support
  • 13.5-inch PixelSense (3000 x 2000), touch
  • 15-inch PixelSense (3240 x 2160), touch
Processor
  • Quad-core Intel 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i5-11300H
  • Quad-core Intel 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i7-11370H
  • Intel Core i5-1035G7 (up to 3.7GHz, 4-core) (13.5-inch only)
  • Intel Core i7-1065G7 (up to 3.9GHz, 4-core)
RAM & Storage
  • 16GB or 32GB LPDDR4x RAM
  • 256 GB, 512 GB, 1TB, 2TB SSD removable SSD.
  • 8, 16, or 32GB RAM
  • 256GB to 2TB storage (2TB on 15″ only).
Graphics
  • Intel 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i5-11300H models:
    Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Intel 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i7-11370H models:
    NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti laptop GPU with 4GB GDDR6 GPU memory
  • Commercial only: NVIDIA RTX A2000 laptop GPU with 4GB GDDR6 GPU memory
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4GB GDDR5 (Max-Q) (13.5-inch)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB GDDR6 (Max-Q) (15-inch)
  • NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 (Max-Q) (15-inch, business only)
Battery and Charging
  • Intel Core i5: Up to 19 hours of typical device usage
  • Intel Core i7: Up to 18 hours of typical device usage
  • 13.5-inch: Up to 15.5 hours of use (unspecified capacity)
  • 15-inch: Up to 17.5 hours of use (unspecified capacity)
Webcam 
  • Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)
  • 1080p resolution front facing camera.
  • 5MP 1080p front-facing webcam (with IR)
  • 8MP 1080p rear-facing webcam with autofocus
Colors
  • Platinum
  • Platinum
Port(s)
  • 2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 technologies support
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 1 x Surface Connect port
  • 2 Surface Connect ports (one on base, one on tablet)
  • Two USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • One USB Type-C (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • SD card reader
  • 3.5mm deasphone jack
Audio
  • Dual far-field Studio Mics
  • Quad Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible
  • Bluetooth Wireless 5.1 technology
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0
  • Xbox Wireless built-in (15-inch)
Pricing      Starting at $1,599      Starting at $1,639
Other Features
  • Dynamic woven hinge
  • Precision haptic touchpad
  • Surface Slim Pen 2 support for Studio mode.
  • Windows Hello with facial recognition.
  • Detachable screen.
  • Surface pen support.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Book 3: Design and build

These two laptops have a lot in common as you might expect, since the Surface Laptop Studio is a continuation of the Surface Book line of products. With the Surface Book 3, you can separate the screen from the keyboard base and use the screen as a tablet. You can also reattach the screen backwards if you want to use it to watch a movie, for example.

Most of the components of the Surface Book 3 are in the display portion, although a bigger battery and the NVIDIA GPU are in the keyboard base. Microsoft changed a lot of these design and implementation elements with the Surface Laptop Studio, improving a lot of the pain points from the Surface Book 3.

Angled view of Surface Book 3

The Surface Laptop Studio is a different take on the same removable display concept. Microsoft’s vision here was to create something closer to a miniature Surface Studio. You can use it like a regular laptop, and then the display pops out and you can fold it down to be used as a tablet. It still has a premium build, but it’s more portable and versatile than most laptops.

Unfortunately, if exciting color options and varying materials are your jam, you won’t find that with the Surface Studio Laptop or Surface Book 3. As with previous Surface Book models, these laptops only comes in Platinum.

Display pulled forward on Surface Laptop Studio

Microsoft also took steps to make sure the Surface Laptop Studio is easier to type while on your lap. Previous iterations of the Surface Book were simply too top-heavy. One other thing that’s changed about the design is how the new Slim Pen 2 is stored. There’s a cut-out for it under the base of the Surface Laptop Studio, rather than the old method of magnetically attaching the Surface Pen to the side. This method should more convenient and easier to store your pen with the laptop when you put it in your backpack or briefcase.

The build on both of these laptops should be incredibly premium, especially given the starting prices are north of $1,500 for each. On the other hand, the Surface Laptop Studio has a much more ergonomic design that’s easier to use. It also gets rid of all that extra space visible with the weird hinge on the Surface Book 3. If you’ve enjoyed Microsoft’s Surface Book lineup, but wanted a more utilitarian design, the Surface Laptop Studio should give you everything you want in a laptop.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Book 3: Display

The Surface Book only offers one resolution option for each display size. You get a 3000 x 2000 resolution on the 13.5 inch model, or 3240 x 2160 on the 15 inch. The display is bright and overall very enjoyable to use. You also get a 3:2 aspect ratio here.

Surface Book 3 in tablet mode

Microsoft basically took the average of the old Surface Book 3 screen sizes to get the single 14.4″ option on the new Surface Laptop Studio. The good news is the display has been significantly upgraded from the Surface Book line. You get the all new 14.4″ display at 2400 x 1600 resolution. That’s a 3:2 aspect ratio for those keeping track.

If you’re needing a laptop for productivity purpose, I’d argue that 3:2 is the best aspect ratio to go with, especially for writing or working with spreadsheets, making both laptops a great choice in that department.

Front view of Surface Laptop Studio

The biggest upgrade though is that the screen goes up to 120Hz refresh rate. The spec sheet actually says “up to 120Hz” though, and that’s because it actually ships at 60Hz. You’ll have to turn on the 120Hz refresh rate. Dynamic refresh rate, like you’ve seen on many smartphones, should be coming later on. Microsoft didn’t really give a firm timeline, but we should hear more about that in the near future. Overall, the high refresh rate alone is enough to make me consider the Surface Laptop Studio over the older Surface Book 3.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Book 3: Performance

Honestly, the Surface Book 3 isn’t the best performing ultra-portable laptop out there, especially in 2021. The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio comes with Intel’s Tiger Lake H35 processors, which are a far cry from the 10th-generation 15W processors inside the Surface Book 3. It launched with 10th-generation Intel processors, and the RTX 30-series GPUs were also not available when the Surface Book 3 was released. The lower power processors on the Surface make it unavoidable that the performance isn’t quite as good.

Side view of Surface Book 3

On the other hand the Surface Laptop Studio also has significantly upgraded graphics, with up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, or an RTX A2000 in the business model. H35 processors are new to Intel’s 11th-generation lineup. The H35 processor enables a powerful laptop that’s still thin and light. Having the H-series chip with dedicated graphics should be a big deal for an ultra-portable and adaptable machine like the Surface Laptop Studio.

You can configure the RAM up to 32GB on the Surface Laptop Studio. That should be plenty of RAM for most daily tasks, even with an intense workload. The Surface Laptop Studio also technically has removable SSD storage. While the storage is removable by Microsoft or another service technician, there isn’t an easy way to remove it yourself for a quick swap. The SSD can be configured up to 2TB, which should be enough to satisfy most users.

Front view of Surface Laptop Studio with display pulled forward

The Surface Book 3 claims 15.5 hours of battery life on average, but in actual use you can get closer to 10-12 hours depending on your workload. Microsoft claims the Surface Laptop Studio will get between 18 and 19 hours of usage depending on which processor you choose. That estimate sounds pretty high based on previous results, so we’ll have to see how it plays out in our review.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Book 3: Cameras and audio

The Surface Book 3 has a solid speaker setup with dual stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos. These are user-facing speakers so they get loud enough when watching media or gaming. Microsoft really stepped it up with the Surface Laptop Studio though. You get Quad Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Atmos, which should be excellent for watching Netflix, YouTube or other streaming content. Sometimes speakers can be a weak spot for portable laptops, but you shouldn’t have any concerns with either of these options.

Side view of Surface Laptop Studio

Surface devices have some of the best webcams on Windows laptops, and the Surface Book 3 comes with two 1080p cameras. For pictures, the front-facing camera has a 5MP resolution, and the rear-facing camera is 8MP, plus it supports autofocus.

The Surface Laptop Studio has a solid 1080p resolution on the Windows Hello webcam on the front. That should be just quite nice for video calls with family and friends, as well as any work calls you need on Zoom, Teams, etc. Webcam quality has definitely become a much bigger deal in the last year due to the pandemic, so it’s good to see manufacturers step things up on that front.

Conclusion

The Surface Book 3 was a great option when it first released, but even then it had a weird design and some slightly outdated internals. Microsoft has improved nearly every aspect of the lineup with the new Surface Laptop Studio, particularly in the ergonomics department. In addition, you can use the revolutionary new Slim Pen 2, which feels just like writing on actual paper.

Unless you absolutely need to save a few bucks, we’d recommend going with the best configuration of the Surface Laptop Studio you can afford. Microsoft really outdid themselves with their most powerful laptop yet.

    Microsoft Surface Book 3
    Packing high-end 10th-gen Intel processors and dedicated NVIDIA graphics, the Surface Book 3 can handle most modern games at playable frame rates as well as creative workloads. You can remove the screen from the keyboard and use it as a tablet, and it has the same premium design the Surface family is known for.
    Surface Laptop Studio
    The Surface Laptop Studio comes with an all-new design, more powerful internals, and more.

About author

Jeff Springer
Jeff Springer

Applied mathematician with a love for Android. I am interested in inverse problems for imaging and integration with camera software for mobile phones.