For the longest time, Microsoft had opted to exclude Thunderbolt connectivity from its Surface hardware lineup. I came close to purchasing a 28″ Surface Studio two years ago but the lack of Thunderbolt 3 was a deal breaker. Today’s release of the Surface Laptop Studio (SLS) and Surface Pro 8 (SP8) is significant. With Thunderbolt 4 support, they can now access Thunderbolt eGPU enclosures and a vast amount of other high bandwidth peripherals.
eGPU + Surface Laptop Studio
As soon as I unboxed my base model [i5-11300H, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD] I connected it to my Razer Core v2 + Radeon Pro W5700 eGPU. This was plug-and-play without any user interactions. Windows 11 automatically initiated the PCIe connection over Thunderbolt 3/4 and installed the Radeon drivers for W5700. Also worth noting is Power Delivery (PD) through the very same Thunderbolt cable. The Razer Core V2 provides 65W PD which matches the SLS perfectly (same amount as Microsoft power adapter).
Surface Laptop Studio NVMe M.2 SSD Upgrade
Next upgrade was the internal solid state drive. Microsoft doesn’t make it easy to remove the bottom case. There is no visible screw anywhere, but in total there were 9x Torx T3 screws and a silver plastic strip of adhesive that make it challenging to remove cleanly. Below were the steps I took to access the NVMe M.2 socket on the SLS:
1. Two rubber strips cover 7x T3 screws (3x by the hinge area and 4x by the trackpad area). Once the rubber strips are out of the way, you can remove the T3 screws.
2. A C-shaped silver plastic strip covers the “awning” underside. Start peeling this strip at the edge of either hinge then stop when a T3 screw is visible. Repeat this same process on the other side.
3. There’s another tape section right below the trackpad. Lay the SLS at a 90-degree angle on its display and use a guitar pick (or something thin enough) to separate this section. The bottom case should be mostly free, only attached to the motherboard through the battery ribbon cable. Slowly guide the bottom case away from the top case and make sure the battery ribbon cable is not stretched.
4. Disconnect the battery by wiggling on the PULL tab. The NVMe drive is now accessible for upgrade.
One unfortunate news is the lack of PCIe 4.0 support for this NVMe M.2 socket. I was hoping to use an ADT-Link R43SG 4.0 which doubles the bandwidth of version 3.0 and nearly triples that of Thunderbolt 3/4 (22Gbps). All is not lost though because the Intel 11th generation H35-CPU has integrated Thunderbolt controller which performs very well in my other eGPU builds.