With their all-new Surface Studio, Microsoft takes a stab at the artistic world that has always been dominated by Apple. This new all-in-one desktop has a serious set of specs. The Surface Studio is aimed at artists, illustrators, animators, photo editors, and designers.
The Surface Studio is unlike any other product in the Microsoft’s Surface lineup. It is a 28-inch touchscreen desktop PC that can be folded on a 20-degree angle to become a tablet. Apple’s closest competitors are the iPad Pro with a much smaller screen and the MacBook Pro 15, which still lacks a touch screen.
The idea here, and the reason for the name, is that you can turn your desk into a Studio. The PixelSense Display provides a huge canvas for all kinds of work. You can position it upright or lay it almost flat to mimic an artist’s drafting table. Microsoft’s proprietary “zero gravity” hinge allows it to go from a straight-up PC mode to the 20-degree angle.
The 28” PixelSense Display has a resolution of 4,500 x 3,000 (192 DPI). That makes it an ultra-HD 4.5K screen with more pixels than the 4K or Ultra TVs now on the market. Color settings include sRGB, DCI-P3, and Vivid Color profiles with each individually color calibrated. Aspect ratio is 3:2.
Processor & Graphics
The Surface Studio is available in three models. All have Intel 6th generation quad-core processors with NVIDIA GeForce graphics. There is plenty of punch here for the Windows 10 Pro operating system that the Surface Studio runs. There are three models of the Surface Studio:
1TB / Intel Core i5 – 8GB RAM / 2GB GPU
1 TB / Intel Core i7 – 16GB RAM / 2GB GPU
2TB / Intel Core i7 – 32GB RAM / 4GB GPU
While created for graphics productivity, with these specs and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics card, the Surface Studios should be great at gaming, as well.
Surface Pen and Dial
The Surface Studio comes with the Surface Pen, Mouse, and Keyboard used with other Surface tablets. The pen is very good with its 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity and an eraser. However, it lags behind the sensitivity of some of Wacom’s pens. The Wacom’s Pro Pen has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and their Pro Pen 2 has 4,096 levels of sensitivity. Of course to get that, you have to purchase a Wacom tablet as well as a PC.
The optional Surface Dial is an aluminum hockey-puck-like wireless Bluetooth control unit. You can actually mount the dial on the Studio display screen for additional options like scrolling through colors or brush sizes. The Surface Dial is a truly unique offering. Software support is limited right now. It is, however, sure to grow in the future.
Windows Hello provides an enterprise-grade security solution which signs you in when it sees your face. The Surface Studio has a 5.0MP front-facing camera with a 1080p HD video1080p camera. It also has stereo 2.1 speakers powered by Dolby Audio Premium and a 3.5 mm headset jack.
A Look Inside
The iFixit website provides a pretty complete teardown of the Surface Studio. In their report, only a few components like the storage can be upgraded. Others like the RAM, CPU and GPU are soldered in place and cannot be easily changed out. It would be logical for items like the audio to be built-in and not easily upgraded, but I find the RAM not being upgradeable a bit unusual. In any case, when purchasing one of these, you will want to be sure to get the most powerful model that you even expect to use. This makes the 8 GB model much less attractive and the entire purchase a little pricier. If you are purchasing a Surface Studio for professional use, the expectation that this pricey unit will last more than a year or two, but with non-upgradable RAM this may not be the case.
Weighing in at about 15 pounds, this all-in-one is certain to be impressive. As well as it should be for the price.
Even though currently Apple has no comparable device, Microsoft has its work cut out for it. Apple has been the choice of artists, designers, and publishers for years and years. Those using cross-platform software like Adobe Creative Suite, Autodesk, and Microsoft Office may be willing to switch, but for those using Apple software it may be a hard sell.
The Surface Studio is big, expensive, and powerful. It also has some very thoughtful features like the 4K+ touch display, the precision tilt and the Surface Dial. We will have to wait to see if that will be enough to turn the heads of professionals.