Today’s Microsoft event – as speculated – was all about Surface, and the Windows that runs on it; the Surface Studio, though, is an attempt to redefine the All-in-One PC. It is at the cutting edge of technology.
The All-in-One isn’t a new concept – there are a hundred different models sold by a dozen different companies that all look alike; the Surface Studio does to the All-in-One what the Surface Book did to laptops.
It is a highly pricey machine – at $2,999, Microsoft isn’t trying to sell this thing to an average joe, but to creative professionals who demand the absolute best. Microsoft is clear about that too – Panos Panay left no doubt about it during his incredible presentation at the event – it’s even built in limited quantities.
The Surface Studio is far from a traditional All-in-One; Microsoft is doing what Apple used to preach – think differently. The two paragraphs below detail the guts of Surface Studio – it’s the insides that power this thing, but you will notice soon enough that they are (almost) irrelevant.
Surface Studio has options for 8, 16 or 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, a GTX 965M or 980M, an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, in-built 2.1 surround sound speakers, a 1 or 2 TB hybrid drive for storage, and a 275W inbuilt power supply to run it all. There’s one cable going out of the thing – and that’s it.
For the ports, there are four USB 3.0 Type-A ports, an SD Card slot, a single mini DisplayPort to connect a second monitor, an Ethernet jack, and the oh-so-crucial headphone jack. There’s a severe lack of USB-C ports – or any major expandability really. The All-in-One does come with 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, with in-built support for the Xbox protocol – though you probably won’t be gaming with this thing.
These specifications are not something unique – they are not even worth the $2,999 starting price. This is where things change – Microsoft is pulling an Apple on this one; the specifications do not make a product – they are merely a part of it – it is the experience, that makes a product.
The experience – for the Surface Studio – is the 28-inch 4500×3000 3:2 192 PPI PixelSense touchscreen display with support for DCI-P3 and sRGB. The display is immaculately thin at 12.5mm and rests on a hinge built – per Microsoft – using eighty custom-designed parts to make the motion weightless; the display can be laid down with absolutely no effort.
Panay – while demoing the Studio – spent most of the time speaking about the display. Microsoft spent extra effort making sure the display rests in reality – it is true scale. A single inch in the physical realm is equal to a single inch on this display.
This concept of true scale eliminates the need for the infamous ‘Print Preview’ – everything you see is to scale by default.
The display is without a doubt, the most crucial part of this marvel – it is what makes the All-in-One work; then, it is natural to have accessories to compliment it.
The Surface Dial
Microsoft is bundling a Surface-branded keyboard and mouse with the All-in-One – nothing special about these, just the usual Microsoft design and quality. There are, however, accessories built to compliment the Surface Studio – Surface Dial and the Surface Pen. The pen isn’t new – it’s already sold with the existing Surface devices.
The Surface Dial, on the other hand, is a brand-new way to interact with a computer. It’s rare to see something as unique as the Dial these days – it introduces new opportunities, as well as challenges.
Dial is the size of a puck, and there isn’t much else to compare it with; you can spin it, put it on the desk or top of Studio’s screen – it stays where you put it, with the little friction that it has. It’s meant to be used with the Surface Studio laid down and can perform different functions depending on what you are working on.
In Microsoft’s new Paint 3D app, the Dial could help you manage the color pallet; for a more average example, it could control your PC’s volume while you listen to music. It can surely sound like a gimmick – and that’s going to be a problem for Microsoft – but it can prove to be extremely useful for some.
Microsoft is bundling the Surface Dial with all the pre-orders for Surface Studio; if you wish to buy it separately, it will cost you $99 and will be available for purchase from the 10th of November.
The Learning Curve
The Surface Studio is a brand-new take on the All-in-One, and the Surface Dial is a brand-new way to interact with a computer. Microsoft is trying to sell these to the hardworking, creative professionals – these are the people who can even afford the machine at $2,999 – but there’s one problem: time.
Time is essential for this demographic, and the learning curve of the Dial and Studio might not, in fact, be worth spending time for. It is imperative for Microsoft to market these products precisely – the stakes are too high, along with the cost.
In the end, we have a unique take at an All-in-One and a brand-new way to interact with it. Microsoft hasn’t been this ambitious with its hardware ever before; if the Surface Studio is a success, hopefully, the innovation will continue.
Microsoft plans on selling the Surface Studio for $2,999, $3,499 or $4,199, depending on the variant you buy. It starts shipping this holiday season, while the preorders are open now. Microsoft is also going to let people have a demo of it at all of its retail Microsoft Stores.