Apple seems to be in for a major competition this year, with Google’s attempt to take on the iPhone 7 with its Pixel flagship and Microsoft’s Surface studio going head to head with the iMac. The Surface Studio is Microsoft’s bigger and bolder follow-up to its Surface hybrid laptops. And while it might look at first like a typical all-in-one, it hides a unique ability. Give the screen a bit of a nudge and it starts bending — all the way down to a 20-degree angle, which in fact is impossible with the iMac.
Like Microsoft’s previous Surface devices, the $3,000 Studio is an attempt at evolving how we use computers. And together with the new Surface Dial accessory, it might just be the powerful modern rig creative professionals have been waiting for. But of course, there are a few first-gen stumbling blocks to deal with.
- Powerful for most creative tasks
- Gorgeous display
- Screen tilting function is genuinely useful
- Responsive stylus
- Dial has the potential to be very useful
- Limited to mobile graphics
- Expensive for the hardware you get
- No upgradeability
The Surface Studio is undoubtedly one gorgeous computer but aside its good looks, it houses some pretty decent hardware as well. The focus is entirely on its 28-inch screen, which is connected to the short aluminum base with a pair of chrome hinges. That’s pretty much it. But what’s really intriguing about this computer isn’t readily apparent at first glance.
Those chrome hinges, for example, house an elaborate 80-spring mechanism that makes bending the Studio’s display up and down practically effortless. The display outputs a sharp 4,500 x 3,000 (13-million-pixel) resolution — 63 percent more than 4K, and 1.2 million fewer pixels than 5K. And all of the Studio’s hardware is located in its slim base, which is basically just a mini-PC with some serious specs. There’s also touchscreen support, as you’d expect, and the Surface Pen once again makes an appearance.
Around back, are four USB 3.0 ports (one of which is high-powered), a gigabit Ethernet jack, a Mini DisplayPort connection, a full-size SD card reader and, of course, a headphone jack. There’s also a 5-megapixel camera for videoconferencing along the front face, right near an IR camera for fast logins using Windows Hello. You’ll also find volume and power buttons on the right side. Beyond that, the Studio is a pretty minimalist device. The only bit of branding on the machine is a mirrored Windows logo on the back.
Accompanying the Studio are the new Surface Keyboard and Mouse. Both sport the same gray aesthetic as Microsoft’s computers, and they’re basically just minor refreshes of the company’s existing wireless input devices. The Dial is also one great addition for another hundred bucks. Give it a spin and you’ll be able to control things like the volume or zoom. You can also click the Dial to select options and move between its functions. But the coolest thing? Plop it on the Surface Studio’s screen and a ring of contextual options immediately appears.
Artists will likely appreciate the Surface Studio’s ability to switch from SRGB and wider DCI-P3 color gamuts on the fly. Apple made a big deal about the iMac’s support for the P3 gamut last year, and the same benefits apply here. Simply put, it’ll let you view an even wider variety of colors. And since it’s a standard backed by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), it’s particularly helpful for editing digital video. Typical consumers will likely just notice that some photos and videos will appear much richer than before.
Mostly, I appreciate the Surface Studio simply for having a big freaking screen and the 28-inch display doesn’t disappoint.
The top-of-the-line Surface Studio, packs a 2.7GHz Core i7 6820HQ CPU, 32GB of RAM, a hybrid drive consisting of a 128GB SSD and 2TB HDD, and NVIDIA GTX 980M graphics with 4GB of VRAM. As you can imagine, that is some serious computing power. This means faster loading of apps and extreme multitasking capabilities. Even though the Surface Studio is not built purposely for gaming, most high-end games will do fairly good but not as well as larger rigs. 4K videos also play seamlessly with little or no lagging.
In short, the Surface Studio is ideally a great PC for creatives and developers as well. It empowers us to work the way we always have, while also giving us entirely new modes of productivity. But the Surface Studio’s high price and lack of expandability could make it a tough sell for an already niche market.