Thursday, November 30, 2023

Is the MacBook Pro 14 still better than the Surface Laptop Studio 2?


The 14-inch MacBook Pro on a window sill.Digital Trends

Microsoft introduced the Surface Laptop Studio 2, an upgrade to the original pull-forward 2-in-1 laptop with more powerful components inside. It’s a very nice laptop with some standout features, but it’s going up against a very compelling crowd of 14-inch laptops.


  • Specs and configurations
  • Design
  • Performance
  • Display and audio
  • Portability
  • The MacBook Pro 14 brings greater refinementShow 1 more item

One of the best is the Apple MacBook Pro 14, which is incredibly well-built, sports an outstanding Mini-LED display, and offers power and battery life to space. Can the most powerful Surface ever win this shootout?

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Specs and configurations

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2
Apple MacBook Pro 14
12.72 inches x 9.06 inches x 0.86 inches
12.31 inches x 8.71 inches x 0.60 inches
4.37 pounds
3.5 pounds
Intel Core i7-13700H
Intel Gen3 Movidius 3700VC VPU AI Accelerator
Apple M2 Pro (10-core, 12-core)
Apple M2 Max (12-core)
Intel Iris Xe
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060
Nvidia RTX 2000 Ada
16-core GPU
19-core GPU
30-core GPU
38-core GPU
14.4-inch 3:2 PixelSense 2,400 x 1,600 IPS, 120Hz
14.2-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina XDR 3024 x 1964
2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x USB-A 3.1
1 x Surface Connect
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x microSD card reader
3 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
SD card reader
Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello
Operating system
Windows 11
MacOS Monterey
58 watt-hour
70 watt-hour
3.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars


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The Surface Laptop Studio 2 starts at $2,000 for a Core i7-13700H CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, and a 14.4-inch IPS display. Fully configured, it’s $3,700 for the same processor, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060.

The MacBook Pro 14 entry-level model is $1,999, configured with an Apple M2 Pro 10-core CPU/16-core GPU processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 14.2-inch Mini-LED display. When fully configured, the MacBook costs an astronomical $6,299 for an M2 Max 12-core CPU/38-core GPU chip, 96GB of RAM, and an 8TB SSD.

If we match the MacBook Pro 14 to the Surface Laptop Studio 2’s maximum configuration, it’s $4,099 with the high-end M2 Max. So, the MacBook is roughly $400 more expensive. We’ll see if that extra cost is justified.


Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a flexible machine, with a pull-forward 2-in-1 design where the display flips at its centerline and can be pulled into place at an angle over the keyboard. Microsoft calls that Studio Mode, and if you pull the display all the way forward it turns into tablet mode. Of course, clamshell mode is also an option with the display flipped back into its vertical orientation. That couldn’t be more different from the MacBook Pro 14, which is a traditional clamshell through and through. Whether the Surface Laptop Studio 2 offers a distinct advantage comes down to whether you want to write on the display using the Surface Slim Pen 2.

Both laptops are incredibly well built, crafted from aluminum without any flexing, bending, or twisting in their lids, keyboard decks, or chassis. The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a more futuristic device in its aesthetic, with the usual Surface flair. That contrasts with the stark simplicity of the MacBook Pro 14 with its blocky unibody design that nevertheless manages to look incredibly elegant in either Space Gray or Silver.

In terms of their size, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is wider, deeper, and thicker at 0.86 inches versus a very thin 0.60 inches on the MacBook Pro. Microsoft’s laptop is also heavier at 4.37 pounds versus 3.5 pounds. Most of that extra thickness and weight is due to the Surface’s more complex design, which is the price you pay for extra flexibility.

The MacBook Pro 14 has the best keyboard you can buy, Apple’s Magic keyboard, with large keycaps, excellent key spacing, and switches that aren’t terribly deep but still provide the snappiest most precise feel. The Surface Laptop Studio 2’s keyboard is also good, with its own large keycaps and great spacing and switches that are deeper and also quite snappy and precise. You’ll like the Surface’s keyboard and love the MacBook’s. Both laptops feature excellent haptic touchpads that can be clicked anywhere on the surface, but Apple’s Force Touch version is larger. The Surface does have a touch display, which the MacBook lacks.

Connectivity is good on both laptops. The MacBook Air 14 has an extra Thunderbolt 4 port and HDMI while the Surface Laptop Studio 2 has a USB-A port for legacy support. We prefer the full-size SD card reader in the MacBook Pro 14. Both laptops are also up to date with their wireless connectivity.

Finally, both laptops also have 1080p webcams, which should provide similarly excellent image quality. The Surface has an infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello facial recognition, while the MacBook Pro 14 has a Touch ID fingerprint reader embedded in the power button. Which is better comes down to user preference.


Digital Trends

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 has just one CPU available, the 45-watt Intel Core i7-13700H with 14 cores (six Performance and eight Efficient) and 20 threads. It’s a workhorse CPU that tends to provide excellent productivity and creative performance. Microsoft offers a choice of integrated graphics or Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 4050 or 4060 GPU. We reviewed the machine with the latter.

The MacBook Pro 14 has a choice of processors, including the M2 Pro and the M2 Max. You can choose from a variety of CPU and GPU core counts to optimize performance, and we reviewed the MacBook with the high-end M2 Max with 12 CPU cores and 38 GPU cores.

Performance was similar in our CPU-intensive Handbrake test and Cinebench R23, as long as you cranked up the Surface into performance mode. The MacBook Pro 14 took the lead in the Pugetbench for Premiere Pro benchmark that runs in a live version of Adobe’s Premiere Pro and can use discrete graphics to speed up various processes.  The MacBook benefits from GPU optimizations in this benchmark.

Both laptops are plenty speedy, but the MacBook Pro 14 can be configured to be faster for creators.


Cinebench R23

Premiere Pro

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2
(Core i7-13700H / RTX 4060)
Bal: 104
Perf: 77
Bal: 1,075 / 10,482
Perf: 1,852 / 13,777
Bal: 1,047
Perf: 912
Apple MacBook Pro 14
(M2 Max)
Bal: 85
Perf: N/A
Bal: 1,608 / 14,789
Perf: N/A
Bal: 1,222
Perf: N/A

Display and audio

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 has a bright display with excellent contrast for an IPS panel, to go with average color gamut coverage and excellent color accuracy. It’s sharp and runs at a speedy 120Hz for smooth Windows 11 animations and inking. It’s a very good display.

The MacBook Pro 14, though, has a superior mini-LED display that’s as bright on normal settings but can burn at up to 1,600 nits when displaying high dynamic range (HDR) content. It offers wider colors that are roughly as accurate and an incredibly high contrast ratio that makes for inky blacks. It’s much better for creators and media consumers, and in fact, is perhaps the best laptop around (matched by the 16-inch model) for streaming HDR video.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2
Apple MacBook Pro 14

AdobeRGB gamut
 sRGB gamut
(DeltaE, lower is better)

Contrast ratio

Audio also heavily favors the MacBook Pro 14, which has six speakers and force-canceling woofers that provide the best audio on a 14-inch laptop. You’ll love the incredibly crisp and clear mids and highs, as well as the deep bass that’s surprisingly present. The audio gets plenty loud, making the built-in audio all you need for your listening needs.

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 uses Omnisonic speakers that project up from the keyboard. They sound fine, with good mids and highs and a touch of bass, and they get loud enough for a small room. They’re nowhere near as good as the MacBook’s audio but still good enough that you’ll only want headphones for music and action TV shows and movies. The biggest problem is that the speakers are covered in Studio and Tablet modes, with the former the most likely for watching video.


Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The MacBook Pro 14 is smaller, thinner, and lighter than the Surface Laptop Studio 2, and it’s more comfortable to tote around. You’ll definitely notice the Surface’s weight, in particular.

The next measure of portability is battery life, and simply put, the MacBook Pro 14 is vastly superior in this metric. It will last at least twice as long as the Surface Laptop Studio 2, and is one of the few machines that will take you all the way through a day’s work and well into the next. If you push the CPU and GPU then battery life will be less (as it will with the Surface), but doing typical productivity tasks will net you some of the longest battery life you’ll find in a 14-inch laptop.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2(Core i9-13900H)
Apple MacBook Pro 14
(M2 Max)
Web browsing
7 hours, 29 minutes
19 hours, 20 minutes

The MacBook Pro 14 brings greater refinement

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a very good laptop with strong performance, a rock-solid build, good input options, and a ton of flexibility. But the MacBook Pro 14 is a great laptop, with better overall performance, the best keyboard and touchpad around, a much better display, and vastly superior battery life.

Yes, you’ll spend a bit more for the MacBook Pro 14 when similarly configured, but at these prices, most people won’t balk at the extra cost. Apple’s machine is the best 14-inch laptop you can buy, and for most users, it’s the better choice.

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