Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Laptop 4: Which one should you buy?

Surface Laptop Studio vs Surface Laptop 4: Which one should you buy?

Microsoft recently introduced a brand-new member of the Surface Laptop family, the Surface Laptop Studio. Taking inspiration from the Surface Book and the Surface Studio, this is Microsoft’s most powerful Surface PC yet. It isn’t a replacement for the Surface Laptop 4 however, so how does the Surface Laptop Studio compare to Microsoft’s mainstream laptop?

As the name sort of suggests, the Surface Laptop Studio is more geared towards creative professionals, and it has specs and a design to match that. Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 4 is more of a device meant for more mainstream use cases, like school or office work. They’re fairly different devices, and each of them has pros and cons that make them more appealing to different types of users. Let’s take a closer look to find out which one you should choose for yourself.

Specs

We’ll start by taking a look at a quick rundown of the specs in each of these laptops. That will reveal some major differences already.

Surface Laptop StudioSurface Laptop 4
Processor
  • Intel Core H35 i5-11300H (up to 4.4GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core H35 i7-11370H (up to 4.8GHz, 4-core)
13.5 inch:

  • Intel Core i5-1135G7 (up to 4.2GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
  • AMD Ryzen 5 4680U Microsoft Surface Edition (up to 4GHz, 6-core)

15 inch

  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
  • AMD Ryzen 7 4980U Microsoft Surface Edition (up to 4.4GHz, 8-core)
Graphics
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics (Core i5 models)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (Core i7 models)
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • AMD Radeon Graphics
RAM
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
  •  8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
Storage
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB
  •  256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
Display
  • 14.4 inch PixelSense Flow (2400 x 1600), Dolby Vision, up to 120Hz refresh rate, touch, Surface Pen support
  • 13.5 inch PixelSense (2256 x 1504), touch, Surface Pen support
  • 15 inch PixelSense (2496 x 1664), touch, Surface Pen support
Audio
  • Quad Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Omnisonic stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
Webcam
  • 1080p front-facing webcam
  • 720p HD webcam
Biometric authentication
  • Windows Hello IR camera
  • Windows Hello IR camera
Battery58Wh

  • Core i5: Up to 19 hours of battery life
  • Core i7: Up to 18 hours of battery life
47.4Whr

  • 13.5 inch:
    • Intel processor: Up to 17 hours of battery life
    • AMD processor: Up to 19 hours of battery life
  • 15 inch:
    • Intel processor: Up to 16.5 hours of use
    • AMD processor: Up to 17.5 hours of use
Ports
  • 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • 1 Surface Connect port
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  •  1 Surface Connect port
  • 1 USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • 1 USB Type-C (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.1
  • Xbox Wireless
  •  Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0
Colors
  • Platinum
13.5 inch:

  • Platinum (Alcantara)
  • Ice Blue (Alcantara)
  • Sandstone (Metal
  • Matte Black (Metal)

15 inch:

  • Platinum (Metal)
  • Matte Black (Metal)
Size (WxDxH)
  • 12.72 x 8.98 x 0.746 in (323.28 x 228.32 x 18.94 mm)
  • 13.5 inch: 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 in (308 x 223 x 14.5 mm)
  • 15 inch: 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 in (339.5 x 244 x 14.7 mm)
Weight
  • Core i5: 3.83 lbs (1.74 kg)
  • Core i7: 4 lbs (1.82 kg)
  • 13.5 inch (Alcantara): 2.79 lbs (1.27 kg)
  • 13.5 inch (metal): 2.84 lbs (1.29 kg)
  • 15 inch: 3.4 lbs (1.54 kg)
Starting price$1,599.99 $1,299.99

Performance: The Surface Laptop Studio has H-series processors

The first big difference you’ll notice in the table above is that the Surface Laptop Studio and Surface Laptop 4 have very different processors. The Surface Laptop Studio is using Intel’s H35-series processors, which is a new family of CPUs launched this year. These processors have quad-core CPUs and Intel Iris Xe Graphics, similar to the 15W processors inside the Surface Laptop 4, but because of the higher power rating, they can sustain that performance for longer.

In benchmarks like GeekBench, you’ll see that the models aren’t too far off from each other, and the AMD processors in the Surface Laptop 4 yield even better results in multi-core tests. However, this is a short benchmark, and the Intel H35-series processors will hold their performance much better than anything inside the Surface Laptop 4.

Intel Core i7-11370HIntel Core i7-1185G7AMD Ryzen 7 4980U
GeekBench (single/multi-core)1,448 / 4,8121,418 / 4,8561,174 / 7,249

What that means is that for day-to-day tasks like browsing the web and writing documents, the Surface Laptop 4 will do just fine. Its processors can be just as fast in short bursts, and slow down when high performance isn’t as necessary. But for demanding tasks like video rendering and editing, the Surface Laptop 4 will hold its own much better. It’s also worth mentioning that AMD processors are notorious for much lower performance when a laptop is disconnected from an outlet, so if you’re using it without plugging in, you’ll notice a big difference.

An even bigger advantage of the Surface Laptop Studio is in its GPU, specifically in the higher-end models. If you choose an Intel Core i7 processor, you also get an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, and that gives you a massive advantage in performance compared to the integrated graphics on the Surface Laptop 4. With this GPU, you can feasibly use the Surface Laptop Studio for gaming, plus it also helps with tasks like video editing and more.

Surface Laptop Studio internals

Surface Laptop Studio internals

The rest of the specs aren’t too far off between the two laptops. Both of them can be had with up to 32GB of RAM, though the Surface Laptop 4 has a base configuration with 8GB, while the Surface Laptop Studio starts with 16GB. Regarding storage, the Surface Laptop Studio can have up to 2TB, which is double what the Surface Laptop 4 can offer.

Despite the more powerful hardware, the Surface Laptop Studio promises a battery life very much in line with the Surface Laptop 4. Depending on the configuration, both laptops offer up to 19 hours of typical usage on a charge. However, this is taking into account the AMD processors in the Surface Laptop 4, and that battery life is only achieved thanks to significantly reduced performance on battery.

Display: Two sizes for the Surface Laptop 4

Moving on to the display, there are some similarities between the two laptops. First, both have the typical 3:2 aspect ratio of Surface devices, and the have the same pixel density, too, at 201 PPI. That means all of these displays are equally sharp.

Surface Laptop 4 front view

Surface Laptop 4

One of the big differences between these two models is that the Surface Laptop 4 comes in two different sizes: 13.5 inches and 15 inches. This lets you choose how to balance portability and screen size. The Surface Laptop Studio is somewhere in the middle with its 14.4 inch display, but that’s the only option you get.

But the Surface Laptop Studio has a few aces up its sleeve. First off, the display on the Surface Laptop Studio supports up to a 120Hz display, the first of its kind in a Surface device. With a high refresh rate like this, animations and transitions will all look much smoother, and it’s great for gaming too. Another big advantage for the Surface Laptop Studio is that it supports Dolby Vision, so if you want to enjoy HDR content, it’s going to do a much better job at it.

Another advantage is if you use the new Surface Slim Pen 2, which now supports haptic feedback to make it feel like you’re writing on paper. This won’t work on the Surface Laptop 4.

The Surface Laptop Studio has a 120Hz display that also support Dolby Vision. Plus, it has quad stereo speakers.

The Surface Laptop Studio also has a better audio setup, featuring Quad Omnisonic speakers, compared to the Surface Laptop 4’s dual-speaker setup. Both laptops hide the speakers underneath the keyboard, which is why Microsoft calls them Omnisonic speakers, and they both support Dolby Atmos. Either way, you should get an immersive audio experience, but it will be that much better on the Surface Laptop Studio.

Coming around to the webcam, the Surface Laptop Studio is better once again, thanks to the 1080p webcam included above the display. Most Surface devices have 1080p webcams, but the Surface Laptop 4 is the only one still using 720p cameras instead. However, both have dual far-field microphones for audio, so you should sound great during calls with either one.

Design and connectivity: The Surface Laptop Studio is far more versatile

Depending on your use case, this section is where the Surface Laptop Studio truly shines. The Surface Laptop 4 is just that — a laptop. The Surface Laptop Studio, on the other hand, takes cues from the Surface Studio and other laptops like the Acer ConceptD series to adopt a design that easily goes from a standard laptop into a tablet for digital artistic work and more. The display rotates on a second hinge so it can be laid flat over the keyboard deck, or you can bring it closer and leave the trackpad visible if you’re watching a movie or gaming with a controller.

Different modes available in the Surface Laptop Studio

Different modes available in the Surface Laptop Studio

However, due to the more powerful internals, the Surface Laptop Studio isn’t as portable. It starts at 3.83 lbs for the Intel Core i5 model which means you’re going to feel it when you carry this laptop in your backpack. If you do it all day, it’ll start to weigh on your shoulders. Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 4 starts at 2.79 lbs, which is much more manageable. The 15 inch Surface Laptop 4 does go up to 3.54 lbs, so the difference is less noticeable if you want the bigger display.

With Thunderbolt 4, it becomes much easier to plug in all sorts of peripherals on the Surface Laptop Studio.

As for ports, the Surface Laptop Studio introduces something major for Surface devices, and that’s Thunderbolt support. It has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, in addition to Surface Connect, so you can use all kinds of docks, external displays, or even external GPUs with it. Because of that, it’s far more versatile with its connectivity options. Conversely, the Surface Laptop 4 has a built-in USB Type-A port, so it supports legacy devices more easily out of the box. On the Surface Laptop Studio, you’ll need an adapter if you have peripherals that require USB Type-A.

As for wireless connectivity, neither laptop supports cellular networks, and both have Wi-Fi 6 along with Bluetooth 5. However, the Surface Laptop Studio also adds Xbox Wireless built-in, meaning you can use an Xbox Wireless Controller with much lower latency than connecting it via Bluetooth.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, the Surface Laptop 4 and Surface Laptop Studio are meant for very different audiences. The Surface Laptop Studio is easily the most powerful of the two devices, and that shows in the CPU and GPU. It has a better display with a high refresh rate and Dolby Vision, it has Thunderbolt support, and it has a versatile design that’s ideal for digital artists. It can even be used for gaming. But of course, that also means it’s heavier and more expensive in general.

On the other hand, the Surface Laptop 4 still delivers great performance for day-to-day use if you’re using it for school, office work, or general web browsing and media consumption. Its display is less impressive but it’s just as sharp (plus you have two sizes to choose from), and it’s the more portable of the two laptops, too.

Surface Laptop 4 angled view

Surface Laptop 4

In the end, it’s up to your personal needs and preferences. If you need a laptop that can power your office setup, run games, compile code, or render video quickly, the Surface Laptop Studio is for you. If you want something you can take to school every day without a problem and use wherever you go, the Surface Laptop 4 is probably ideal.

Regardless of what you choose, you can buy your preferred laptop using the links below. You can also buy the Surface Slim Pen 2 to complement your experience with either one. Otherwise, check our list of the best laptops out there to find alternatives.

    Surface Laptop Studio
    The Surface Laptop Studio comes with an all-new design, more powerful internals, a 120Hz display, and Thunderbolt support, making it one of the most versatile Surface devices yet.
    Surface Laptop 4
    The Surface Laptop 4 is a premium laptop featuring an all-metal design (with optional Alcantara for the keyboard deck), the latest Intel processors, and a touchscreen. It comes in four different colors depending on your configuration.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.