PC manufacturers have had a hard time trying to lure customers back to using desktop computers. Primarily, the shift from desktop computers has been intensified with the advent of increasingly powerful phones, laptops, tablets and even TVs that can handle similar tasks as the PCs. The year is 2017, and Microsoft seems to have come in time to change this narrative with the introduction of the Microsoft Surface Studio. The system packs a double punch of inspiration for architects, engineers, artists and anyone interested in the use of digital pen for 2D and 3D creations.
The Surface Studio combines a striking All-in-one design seen on the iMac from Apple with the touchscreen technology by Microsoft. It boasts of a stylus and flexible design that allows the studio to stand upright or recline to act as a digital canvass thereby allowing designers to sketch, draw and edit the same way they could while using a physical medium or a drawing tablet. There is so much to write home about this device save for the price which only favors those with deep pockets.
Design and Features
The surface Studio is an impressive feat of engineering and that’s not just my opinion. The gorgeous computer gets heads turning with instant love- a wow moment- for anyone seeing it for the first time. The 28-inch display is surrounded by a thick black bezel whereas the screen rests on a base with rounded corners.
There is a shiny metal hinge or the Zero Gravity Hinge- as per Microsoft that connects the monitor to the base. The Hinge allows the Surface studio to switch between the desktop and tablet mode effortlessly. It is easy to change to tablet mode by pressing lightly against the top of the screen and pulling it up will return the device to desktop mode.
The surface studio comes with a Surface Pen hat is great for drawing in this huge tablet. It is similar to the pen present in Microsoft Surface Pro line of tablets attached to a set of magnets on the left or right side of the screen.
The Microsoft Surface Studio measures 25.1 x 17.3 x 8.7 inches and weighs 21 pounds which is thinner and lighter than other machines in the competition that run on Windows. Systems like the Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 910 which sports a similar flat hinge measures 25.6 x 19 x 8.5 inches and weighs 27.8 pounds, the Dell XPS 27 carries the day as it measures 24.6 x 17 x 3.2 inches and weighs a whopping 38.2 pounds. Apple’s iMac with Retina 5K display which has a religious-like following is similar in size as it measures 25.6 x 17 x 8 inches and weighs 21 pounds.
Under the hood, the surface boasts of a 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7-6820HQ processor .it also comes packed with 32 GB of RAM which is more than enough to handle all tasks thrown at it without breaking a sweat. Storage is ideally what you could expect in such an expensive machine. There is 2TB HDD that provides enough space for storage of all your documents, videos, music and movies. There is an additional 128GB Solid State Drive that provides quick boot times and loading of programs. As such, the system is capable of running several programs simultaneously without experiencing any lag. However, questions arise on the use of a hybrid drive in a PC of this magnitude. There is no doubt that Microsoft could and should offer a larger SSD as the boot disk and a HDD as a secondary disk. Provision of a 512 GB NVMe SSD as the boot drive could work magic in appeasing most of the criticis.
There is a Nvidia GTX 980M, complete with 4GB of GDDR5 memory GPU in the system for pushing pixels around the 4.5k screen. Serious gamers won’t find the Studio a prospective candidate for their gaming escapades with the 980M. It is however capable of light weight action for games such as Crysis where the studio cruises without breaking a sweat with high settings and the frames at 3000×2000 pixels.
The positioning of the connectivity ports in the surface studio rubs many people the wrong way. This is because they are located on the back of the base which makes it very inconvenient while trying to access them. The base has four USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a headphone/microphone combo jack, a Mini DisplayPort for connecting to a second monitor, and an Ethernet port. There is wireless connectivity via Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
But what could have made Microsoft to put the ports at the back instead of the front? One, this is because they could be blocked when you tilt the display to tablet mode and two, it’s extremely easy to turn the computer around provided you have real estate space on your desk. However, this is no excuse for Microsoft not having utilized the side of the Monitor for easy-to reach USB ports.
Notably, the Surface Studio fails to include the USB Type-C port with thunderbolt 3 support that is increasingly becoming popular in the technological devices being released. This is not a deal breaker but it could at least have come in the way to offer the desktop the ability to handle many video and media tasks. Anyone purchasing a Studio will likely be using it for several years, and the lack of USB-C is going to be an issue in the future, if not already today.
If there’s anything the Surface studio got right, then it must be its enormous 28-inch, 4500 x 3000 pixels touch screen. It has a good pixel-density of 192dpi that sits between conventional 4K and 5K displays. The display provides a 3:2 aspect ratio that makes it to feel like a traditional drawing board for all graphics work. The display is pretty bright, accurate and vivid. The default vivid mode reproduces 18.3 percent of the sRGB color gamut.
In terms of brightness, the surface studio comes closer to the iMac’s 384 nits with its 354 nits of brightens. It however outshines the likes of Ideacentre with 226 nits and the Dell XPS 27 with 317 nits of brightness. The fact that Microsoft continues to embrace the touch capability on the software and hardware fronts, the studio has what it takes to become a one-stop-shop for artists and designers. The massive screen size practically encourages extreme multitasking.
Mouse, Keyboard, Pen and Dial
There is a wireless mouse and keyboard included in the studio box that connect via Bluetooth 4.0. Microsoft borrows so much from the iMac on this front but they get the job done without any hustle. It is comfortable typing on the Keyboard.
There is a stylus pen also in the box that works so well with the studio without any latency between the strokes and response on the screen.
The surface dial is another big star of the show. The surface dial allows you to adjust magnification and comes in handy speeding up the selection of editing tools. This is essential in giving the surface studio a relaxed free-flowing feel for graphics and design work. Notably, the Dial works best in design-related apps like Photoshop where you can use the Surface pen on the screen with one hand whereas use the dial to quickly undo and redo pen strokes.
When it comes to audio, the speakers on the Surface Studio get nice and loud, with crystal-clear sound.
This is the first desktop computer that Microsoft has built itself in its bid to win the heart and soul of Apple’s designer constituency. Practically everything about the Surface Studio’s build screams refinement. If money was no object, I’d buy one of these in a heartbeat. Understandably, if you are a struggling designer who wants to make use of every dollar, you might want to consider the 27-inch Apple 5K iMac which comes at a far much cheaper price. There are also a number of options in sight including The HP Envy All in one and the Asus Zen AiO. The surface Studio is likely to attract Apple faithfuls considering the fact that there is no Mac Pro update in sight. As such, it won’t be a surprise if well to do creatives started looking at Microsoft’s hardware closely. So is the surface studio worth the price? Let me just say that everyone who tries the Surface Studio is going to love it. But only artists, photographers, and designers need it.