Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Laptop Studio: Which one is right for you?
Microsoft recently launched two of its most interesting Surface devices in recent years. The first is the Surface Pro 8, which is the biggest refresh the Surface Pro line has received since 2015. The other is the brand-new Surface Laptop Studio, which is a blend of the Surface Laptop and Surface Studio, but also a replacement for the Surface Book line. The Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio are two fantastic devices, but they’re aimed towards very different kinds of users.
Still, you may find yourself unable to decide between the two, and that’s why we’re here. We’ll be comparing these two devices and showing you why you might want one over the other. They’re both great, but one might be better for specific use cases, and the other might be better for others.
Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Laptop Studio: Specs
Let’s start by taking a look at the specs on these two devices. As you’ll see, the hardware inside the Surface Laptop Studio and the Pro 8 is radically different, which may already make the decision for you.
|Surface Pro 8||Surface Laptop Studio|
|Starting price||$1,099.99 (consumer models with Intel Core i5)||$1,599.99|
Performance: The Surface Laptop Studio is much more powerful
Both the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio are high-end devices certainly, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same. Being an ultra-light tablet, the Surface Pro 8 has to use Intel’s 15W processors to have acceptable battery life and thermal performance. By comparison, the Surface Laptop Studio has Intel H35-series CPUs, which are a brand-new range of products Intel introduced this year. These are 35W processors that feature Intel Iris Xe Graphics and similar core count to the 15W models, but with a higher TDP.
Before we go on, here’s a comparison of the average GeekBench scores for these CPUs.
|Intel Core i5-1135G7||Intel Core i5-11300H||Intel Core i7-1185G7||Intel Core i7-11370H|
|GeekBench (single/multi-core)||1,255 / 4,204||1,314 / 4,403||1,418 / 4,854||1,450 / 4,819|
Looking at that, you might think there’s not a very big advantage choosing the 35W processors over the 15W models, but if you’ve ever tried running a GeekBench benchmark, you’ll know it’s not a very long process. These are short benchmarks that allow the processors to boost as high as they need to, and there aren’t big thermal constraints.
However, a 35W processor is going to be able to sustain those performance levels for longer than a 15W processor would. For real-world tasks like video rendering and gaming, you’ll notice a much bigger difference than these benchmarks show.
With a GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, the Surface Laptop Studio can be a proper gaming rig.
But the biggest difference you’ll see is probably in the GPU side of things. The Surface Laptop Studio includes an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU in the Core i7 model, and that’s what makes it stand out the most. Compared to the integrated graphics on Intel CPUs, the RTX 3050 Ti is a much more powerful graphics card and it can greatly boost everything from video editing to gaming. This is actually a viable gaming PC with this GPU built-in, and that’s a big deal for some users. With the Surface Pro 8, you can only run simpler games, cloud gaming, or you need an external GPU.
The Surface Laptop Studio is a beefier machine in other ways too. Both devices go up to 32GB of RAM, but the Surface laptop Studio has a minimum of 16GB, while the Pro 8 starts with 8GB. As for storage, you can get up to 2TB with the Surface Laptop Studio, double the 1TB offered by the Surface Pro 8. The base model of the Surface Laptop Studio also includes 256GB of storage, as opposed to the 128GB minimum of the Pro 8.
Finally, there’s battery life, and here too the Surface Laptop Studio pulls a victory thanks to its much larger size. Microsoft promises up to 19 hours of battery life on the Core i5 models and 18 hours with a Core i7. That’s slightly above the 16 hours of the Surface Pro 8, but again that’s because it’s a much larger device.
Display: One is bigger, the other is sharper
The Surface Pro 8 and the Laptop Studio are the two first Surface devices to introduce something big — a 120Hz refresh rate display. In that regard, both screens are equally great, but there are some differences otherwise. The Surface Pro 8 has a smaller screen, being 13 inches diagonally, but the resolution on it is still noticeably higher — 2880 x 1920. It’s still the typical 3:2 aspect ratio, which means it’s still great for productivity.
Conversely, the Surface Studio has a larger 14.4 inch display with the same 3:2 aspect ratio, but it comes at a lower 2400 x 1600 resolution. Admittedly, these are both still incredibly sharp displays, so you probably won’t really notice a big difference in sharpness between the two. But if you have keen eyes and resolution is extremely important to you, then the Surface Pro 8 might actually offer a better experience. Still, you can’t go wrong with either one. Both of them support Dolby Vision and they come with the Microsoft G6 processor that enables haptic feedback in the Surface Slim Pen 2.
The sound experience is going to be better on the Surface Laptop Studio however. The Surface Pro 8 has two 2W speakers for stereo sound, but the Surface Laptop Studio uses Quad Omnisonic speakers, which should be more immersive and louder. Both laptops still support Dolby Atmos though, so you’ll get a solid experience either way.
Both laptops have Full HD webcams and dual microphones for video calls.
In terms of the cameras, both laptops have a Full HD front-facing webcam, and Microsoft is thankfully one of the few companies using 1080p webcams in most of its products. However, the Surface Laptop Studio doesn’t have a rear camera, which is what you’d expect since it’s a clamshell laptop. The Surface Pro 8 is a tablet you might want to take pictures with, so there is a 10MP camera on the back, and it supports video recording at 4K too.
Design: The Surface Pro 8 is actually portable
It doesn’t take very long to look at these two devices and see that they’re radically different. One is a tablet and the other is a laptop, and that alone is a big deal. But the Surface Laptop Studio isn’t a thin and light laptop either, so these are in two completely different categories in terms of portability.
The Surface Pro 8 is smaller in every dimension than the Surface Laptop Studio, including being less than half as thick. It also weighs less than half of the Core i7 model of the Surface Laptop Studio (it’s a little over half for the Core i5 variant). The Surface Pro 8 is a device you can truly take anywhere, and even if you add a keyboard cover, it’s extremely portable.
The Surface Laptop Studio is technically a portable PC, but considering it starts at 3.83lbs, it’s not something you’d want to carry everywhere on a backpack. It’s more for carrying it from your home to your office, so you can then sit down and use it. You can use it anywhere — and it has pretty solid battery life for that too – but it’s not the ideal device for mobility.
Both designs are quite versatile though. The Surface Pro 8 is a tablet you can use by itself, but you can also add a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard to make it a laptop experience. However, adding that keyboard does increase the cost significantly, so that’s something to consider too. The Surface Laptop Studio is a full laptop, but you can always pull the screen towards you to cover the keyboard or lay it down flat to use as a tablet. While they’re very different, versatility is something neither of them are lacking.
Microsoft has finally added Thunderbolt 4 ports to both devices for docking and external GPUs.
And that stays true with the ports too. Both the Surface Pro 8 and Laptop Studio mark the debut of Thunderbolt 4 on Surface devices, meaning you can finally use Thunderbolt docks, monitors, and even external GPUs with them. What that means is even though the Laptop Studio is a proper gaming laptop out of the box, you could feasibly use the Surface Pro 8 for gaming with an external GPU and take advantage of that 120Hz display.
Both of them still keep the Surface Connect port around too, so if you already have a Surface Dock, it’ll keep working. One advantage of the Surface Pro 8 is that the Thunderbolt ports are on different sides, so you get a bit more freedom when connecting peripherals without having to worry about where your PC should be.
Connectivity: The Surface Pro 8 has LTE
As mentioned above, the Surface Pro 8 is an extremely portable device, and it’s meant to be used anywhere you might go. Because of that, it makes perfect sense that it also gives you the option to add LTE. The Surface Pro 8 can be outfitted with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 modem, which gives you up to 1.2Gbps download speeds and 150Mbps uploads. The Surface Laptop Studio doesn’t give you that option, which isn’t that surprising considering its intended use.
On the other hand, the Surface Laptop Studio does have Xbox Wireless built-in. For gamers who prefer using a controller, Xbox Wireless is great since it provides a much more reliable and latency-free connection than using a Bluetooth controller. Of course, you’ll have to use an Xbox controller for this to work, but you should already be doing that if you’re gaming on a PC.
In terms of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, the two devices are identical, featuring Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.
Both the Surface Pro 8 and the Surface Laptop Studio are great devices, and some of the best Microsoft has ever added to the Surface family. They both have great performance for day-to-day tasks, a fantastic display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and — after years of waiting — Thunderbolt 4 support.
If you need a powerful machine for tasks like big coding projects, video rendering and editing, or gaming, the Surface Laptop Studio is undoubtedly the best option. It has a powerful dedicated GPU, more powerful processors, a larger display, and even Xbox Wireless if you prefer gaming with a controller. It’s a somewhat heavy machine by comparison, but it’s still portable, so you can just as easily have that power at home or at the office.
But if you want a truly mobile experience, the Surface Pro 8 is a much better fit. For students, writers, and workflows that aren’t resource-heavy, the Surface Pro 8 is a perfectly fine machine. It’s incredibly thin and light so you can truly take it anywhere, and on top of that, you can get it with LTE support so you can stay connected to the internet even without Wi-Fi. If you do want to game later down the line and you have the money for it, you can always add an external GPU with the Thunderbolt 4 ports and run demanding games on the Surface Pro 8.
If you’ve made your choice, you can buy the Surface Pro 8 — as well as the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard — or the Surface Laptop Studio below.
- The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard complements the Surface Pro 8 with a keyboard and trackpad to make it feel more like a laptop. This bundle also includes the Surface Slim Pen 2.