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Surface Laptop Studio review: Microsoft’s top new quirky portable PC | Microsoft Surface

The Surface Laptop Studio is Microsoft’s creative workstation that replaces the unique outgoing Surface Book line with a slightly more normal laptop-like form but is still very unusual.

The new top of Microsoft’s laptop line costs from £1,449 ($1,399.99/A$2,399) and is a chunky machine geared up as a desktop replacement, rather than a thin and light notebook you carry everywhere.

From the top it doesn’t look that unusual: a standard laptop made of magnesium and aluminium with a traditional hinge at the back. Open the lid and it has more than a passing resemblance to the Apple’s MacBook Pro from the 2010s, with a decent-sized and great-looking 14.4in LCD touchscreen with a slick 120Hz refresh rate.

It has Windows Hello face recognition for logging in, four good speakers, a great keyboard and a new “haptic touchpad” that brings Microsoft’s trackpads up to par with the best-in-class models from Apple.

the various modes of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
The display has a second hinge halfway up its back that allows it to unclip and tilt into various positions such as stage (top left) and studio (top right) modes, or all the way over (bottom left) so it faces away from you, which could be handy for presentations. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

But grab the display at the top and twist it backwards and things get interesting. The screen magnetically unclips at the bottom so you can position it in “stage mode” on magnets hidden just in front of the trackpad or fold it all the way down on to the deck in “studio mode”.

Stage mode is designed for watching video while studio mode turns the laptop into a drawing screen with Microsoft’s excellent, but optional, Slim Pen 2 stylus similar to its unique Studio desktop computer. It makes editing photos, sketching out ideas and even marking up documents a breeze.

Turn the laptop over to reveal another unusual design: a stepped back fan base that is hidden when on a desk.

the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio closed with the slim pen 2 docked under the front lip for charging
The Slim Pen 2 magnetically attaches under the front lip of the laptop for charging and storage. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The base houses the discrete Nvidia graphics chip and H-series Intel processors, both of which are more powerful and generate more heat than the typical models you find in slimmer machines. The fans weren’t needed for general browsing and light work, but kicked in after a minute or so of photo editing being audible but not distracting.

Specifications

  • Screen: 14.4in LCD 2,400×1,600 (201 PPI; 120Hz)

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 or i7 (11th generation)

  • Ram: 16 or 32GB

  • Storage: 256, 512GB, 1 or 2TB

  • Graphics: Intel Iris X or Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti

  • Operating system: Windows 11

  • Camera: 1080P front-facing, Windows Hello

  • Connectivity: wifi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, 2x Thunderbolt 4/USB 4, headphones, Surface Connect

  • Dimensions: 323.3 x 228.3 x 18.9mm

  • Weight: 1,743 or 1,820g

Performance and battery life

Side profile of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio showing the various ports
It takes 93 minutes to fully charge the battery using the supplied 120W power adaptor, hitting 50% in just over half an hour. But its port selection is slim with only two Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 ports and a headphones socket for connecting peripherals. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The performance of the Laptop Studio is a mixed bag. As tested with its highest specification, including the Core i7-11370H quad-core processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics chip, it sails through every day work, complex image-editing and other fairly demanding general tasks, as expected.

While it can handle everything I would want to do, it is limited on raw power compared to workstation competitors of a similar price, which typically have more performant 6 or 8-core processors. For those looking to render or convert lots of video, process large 3D models or compile mountains of code the Surface comes up a bit short. It can’t manage AAA games with anything greater than low graphics settings, either.

The Laptop Studio’s battery life is surprisingly good, lasting almost nine hours of light work, including lots of browsing, note taking, document and spreadsheet-editing and a short bit of image-editing. That’s longer than the 13.5in Surface Laptop 4, but miles behind the 14 hours of the 14in MacBook Pro.

More demanding work, such as advanced photo manipulation in studio mode, reduces the battery life to about three hours, while you could expect more than 10 hours of just watching video.

Sustainability

Slim Pen 2 clipped into place under the front of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
The Slim Pen 2 is held securely in place by strong magnets under the front lip of the laptop for storage and charging. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Microsoft does not provide an expected lifespan for the Studio Laptop’s battery. Similar batteries typically last in excess of 500 full charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% of their original capacity. The laptop is generally repairable with an out-of-warranty service fee of £551.46 including the battery.

The SSD storage is modular, but Microsoft states it should only be removed by technicians. The company operates recycling schemes for old machines, publishes a company-wide sustainability report and a breakdown of each product’s environmental impact.

Windows 11

Windows 11 on the screen on the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
There are still a few rough patches and irritating niggles with Windows 11, but overall it complements the adaptable nature of the Laptop Studio well. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Laptop Studio runs Windows 11, which like other Surface devices is free of trials for anti-virus programs and other unwanted software that can often cause problems, except a pre-installed trial of Microsoft Office.

The new and improved touch keyboard and handwriting recognition make using the machine in studio mode easier. The haptic feedback built into the Slim Pen 2, which makes it vibrate a little as you write on the screen making it feel more like a biro on paper, is fantastic.

Price

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio starts at £1,449 ($1,399.99/A$2,399) with an Intel Core i5, 16GB of Ram and 256GB of storage.

Versions with Intel Core i7 processors and Nvidia graphics start at £1,899 ($1,899.99/A$3,149) with 16GB of Ram and 512GB of storage. The Slim Pen 2 costs £119.99 ($129.99/A$189.95).

For comparison, Dell’s XPS 15 with Nvidia graphics costs £1,750, the Razer Blade 14 with Nvidia graphics costs £2,200 and Apple’s 14in MacBook Pro starts at £1,899.

Verdict

The Surface Laptop Studio is another unusual and adaptable Windows 11 laptop from Microsoft. It may not look quite as novel as the Surface Book it replaces, but it offers almost all of the same functionality in a less complicated form.

As an expensive standard laptop, it is a bit chunky but great to use on a desk. Fast, generally quiet in operation, with a great screen, keyboard and the best trackpad you can get on Windows. But unclip the screen and it transforms into a brilliant drawing tablet quite unlike any competitor, particularly when used with the excellent Slim Pen 2 stylus, which absolutely should be included in the box not sold as a £120 accessory.

However, those looking for a really powerful portable workstation may find its performance lacking in some areas compared to better-specced, but less adaptable rivals at this price. That leaves the Laptop Studio in an awkward middle ground: too expensive to be a standard laptop and with not enough power to be a developer or render’s best friend.

If you need a laptop that transforms into a drawing tablet and can pull double-duty as a desktop replacement, the Surface Laptop Studio is the quirky Windows 11 machine for you.

Pros: great keyboard and trackpad, great screen with articulating modes, Thunderbolt 4/USB 4, decent battery life, discrete Nvidia graphics card option, good as a laptop or drawing deck, Windows Hello.

Cons: chunky, expensive, no 6 or 8-core processor options, very limited port selection, no SD card slot, Slim Pen 2 not included.

The Surface Laptop Studio closed on a desk
The Surface Laptop Studio looks deceptively normal from the top or when closed, with a sleek magnesium lid. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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