Hands-on: Microsoft’s Surface Studio is a Windows PC for the Mac crowd – PCWorld
Microsoftâs Surface Studio charges aggressively into territory once held by Apple, combining an elegant design, a massive, lovely display, and an eye-popping price tag. We had a chance to try the companyâs first-ever desktop after it was announced Wednesday morning. Hereâs what stood out during the demo.Â
Although the specs fall slightly short of state-of-the-art,Â everything felt extremely fast and responsive.Â The base $2,999 offering includes a 6th-generation (Skylake) Core i5, an NvidiaÂ GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GPU, a 1TB hybrid drive, and 8GB of memory. At the highest end, the $4199 model includes a 6th-gen Core i7, 32GB of memory, and a GTX980M GPU, along with 2TB of storage. Â
What I like most about the Surface Studio is how it pivots, literally, from a single-purpose workstation into an easel for artistic creation or sharing. A pair of hinges gracefully lifts the massive 28-inch, 4500×3000 PixelSense display from a nearly vertical position to about 20 degrees off the horizontal. The display itself offers Adobe sRGB and DCI-P3 color settings, individually color-calibrated. If thereâs any drawback, itâs that the monitor itself lacks any other positioning feature. Thereâs no way of raising it higher, save for propping it up with a book or stand.Â
Though itâs designed for creativity, I found one pleasing productivity aspect: When in monitor mode, the display was large enough and detailed enough to allow for four snapped windows in each corner. True, you can do this with any display attached to a Windows 10 machine. But the Studio displayâs vast real estate actually makes this practical, with little in the way of visual compromise.
The Surface Studio ships with a standard Surface Pen, plus an updated Microsoft Sculpt mouse and keyboard, wrapped in Surface gray. Iâm lukewarm on the peripherals (though you could certainly replace them with your own hardware). The mouse felt flattish, versus the smooth curve I prefer. I was also hoping for a keyboard a bit more like the Surface Book’s, rather than the chiclety feel of the Surface tablet’s detachable keyboard. They both felt like flimsy cupholders on a luxury automobile.
The Dial, though, is intriguing. A $99 optional peripheral, the Dial augments the mouse and keyboard with quick, easily accessible shortcuts packaged in something that looks remarkably like a hockey puck. Iâve detailed my impressions in a separate article.Â
While the Studio doesnât include the modular functionality that was hinted at in a patent filing, it does include a 5MP front-facing camera and a dual-mic array. Orally triggering Windows 10âs Cortana assistant (âHey, Cortana!â) worked surprisingly well in the crowded demo room. I didnât try the camera.
Iâm not sure I like Microsoftâs decision to package its expansion ports inside the base. Microsoft essentially took its Surface Hub and tied it to a standard motherboard, encased it in plastic, and called it a day. The Studio puts four USB 3.0 ports inside the base, but points them toward the back, probably making it a pain to plug in anything. Thereâs an SD card reader and a headphone jackâagain, facing the rear. Unlike the Surface tablets, thereâs no USB port on the side of the monitor, which I rather miss. Â Bluetooth 4.0 andÂ 802.11ac Wi-Fi complete the package.
The Studio is a lovely piece of hardware, and I canât wait to spend more time with it.Â But remember, it isnât necessarily for you or me. Microsoft is clearly aiming this at the creative community who normally would buy a Macintosh. Iâll be interested to see how many actually make the jump.