Dear Apple, we need a touchscreen MacBook. Surface Laptop Studio proves it

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Microsoft’s Surface lineup is full of devices designed for specific use cases. Of course, there’s the standard range of Surface laptops, with performance and price spanning a wide range. Then there is the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Pro X offering a true 2-in-1 experience. But then there’s a range of products that I like to see as a way to test the market – see what users will do with unique products. For example, the Surface Book is a unique device in that the screen is physically detached from the keyboard, transforming into a dedicated – and true – tablet at the press of a button.

More recently, Microsoft announced the Surface Laptop Studio a unique take on a laptop and tablet hybrid. Instead of detaching the screen from the base, you can fold and move the screen to different positions effortlessly. There’s a ledge under the keyboard that runs around the entire laptop, with a place in the front of the Laptop Studio to store and charge a Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2.

This is again a unique take on what a laptop is and can do, and for the past few weeks I’ve been using one. Below are three of my top takeaways. For a full review, be sure to read Simon Bisson’s review, another ZDNet contributor.

Dear Apple, touchscreen laptops are here to stay

Yes, I’m going. It’s an argument that’s very tired now, but the more I use Windows laptops with touchscreens and my iPad Prothe more I want to reach out and touch the screen of my MacBook. Touch is an incredibly intuitive way to interact with computers big and small. This is how we tap, select and even take photos on our smartphones. Our brains have been wired and rewired to look for touchpoints when using a computer, so reaching out to press an X to close a window or quickly swipe a finger to scroll through a long document or a website is something that makes sense.

Admittedly, Microsoft has spent years optimizing Windows for a touch-based interface, and the company got a lot wrong along the way. But Windows 11, and later versions of Windows 10 for that matter, did well.

For example, in Windows 11, swiping from the left side of the screen reveals several widgets that replaced the Live Tiles that lived in the Start menu. A swipe from the right side of the screen displays notifications and the calendar. Tap the Wi-Fi/Volume/Battery icon in the taskbar to bring up a settings panel that has large touch targets for routine settings, like Bluetooth and screen brightness (as well as settings mentioned earlier, of course).

In many ways, Apple has started laying the groundwork for a more user-friendly macOS interface. Taking Common Settings as an example, Control Center on a Mac looks a lot like it does on iOS and iPadOS – with giant touch targets just waiting to be touched or swiped. There’s still a lot of work to be done to bring macOS up to par with Windows 11 when it comes to touch interactions, but it certainly feels like that’s the direction Apple is headed. Or maybe my personal bias reads into it too much.

I’m not convinced the Laptop Studio is a tablet

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio tablet mode.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t he just say touchscreen laptops are here to stay?” » I did. And I stand by that. But, when I bend the Laptop Studio screen to lay flat on the deck, I’m not convinced it makes for a great tablet. The only reason I say that is because it’s heavy. Really heavy.

If you get a Laptop Studio with an i5 processor, it weighs 3.83 pounds. Go with the i7 processor? Increase this weight to 4 pounds.

If you stick to using the Laptop Studio in tablet mode while leaving it flat on your desk, the weight won’t matter. But, if you want to carry it like a tablet, the weight will, uh, weigh you down.

That said, laying the screen flat and using the Fine pen 2 drawing, sketching or editing photos makes a lot of sense and is a comfortable way to use Laptop Studio.

The Slim Pen’s storage and charging setup is great

I’m not a regular user of a stylus on any device that supports one, be it the iPad Pro or the Laptop Studio. But, in order to ensure thorough testing, I attached my Slim Pen 2 to the front of the Laptop Studio case, just below the keyboard. Microsoft has a place there for the stylus that magnetically holds it in place while simultaneously charging it. I anticipated that at some point, while carrying the Laptop Studio or moving it on my lap while using it, I would knock the Slim Pen 2 out of the case. In fact, I expected to drop it regularly and eventually give up on placing it there.

But in the past few weeks, not once have I bumped into it or knocked it out of the case. And, on the rare occasion that I’ve forced myself to use it a bit, it’s been readily available.

Overall I really like using Surface Laptop Studio. The screen is gorgeous and the ability to unlock the laptop using Windows Hello facial recognition is another thing I’d love to see Apple add to its MacBook lineup via Face ID (the notch is already there !).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go erase my fingerprints. Macbook Prois displayed. They annoy me.


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Steven L. Nielsen