Surface Studio 2 is Microsoft’s beautiful all-singing, all-dancing, all-in-one desktop computer that is quite unlike anything else on the market. But then it should be with prices starting at more than £3,500.
Straight out of the box it’s obvious that the Surface Studio 2 is no ordinary computer. Its gorgeous, pixel-dense 28in screen appears to float, held effortlessly by two chrome articulated arms that are invisible when you are sitting directly in front of it. The small grey pedestal below looks like a weighted stand but contains the full workings of the PC.
It is the kind of computer you see in near-future science fiction. It is and demands to be placed on some exquisite minimalist desk.
The screen is super crisp, bright, and truly beautiful, rivaling the very best. Which is currently on the latest iteration of Apple’s 5K iMac. But it also hides a trick up its sleeve. Pull gently on the bottom edge of the screen. It tilts towards you, gliding down. It is also able to hold itself anywhere from leaning over you all the way down-converting into a drafting board. Unclip the Surface Pen from the side and you suddenly see why – the Surface Studio is one giant drawing tablet.
This is not a computer for the mass market. Starting at £3,549 it is a premium computer built for a couple of reasons. The first is to be Microsoft’s hero product, a beacon for its fans. An example of what the company can do if it pulls out all the stops. Look at it but then buy a Surface Go, Surface Laptop 2, Surface Pro 6, or Surface Book 2. Because they are practically affordable by comparison.
The second is to challenge Apple in its own backyard. For decades creatives have flocked to Apple, Mac OS, and computers. With the 27in 5K iMac and iMac-Pro the current favorites. Surface Studio 2 was Microsoft was iMac-plus a workstation with a dedicated graphics chip and a massive touchscreen that allows you to do more with a finger, pen, and even Surface Dial support. No need for a separate drawing tablet. This is the minimalist-loving artist’s friend.
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- Screen: 28in LCD 4500 x 3000 (192 ppi)
- Processor: Intel Core i7-7820HQ (7th generation)
- RAM: 16 or 32GB
- Storage: 1 or 2TB
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or 1070
- Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
- Camera: 5MP front-facing with Windows Hello
- Connectivity: wifi ac, Bluetooth 4.1, 4x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C, SD, Ethernet, 3.5mm headphones
- Display dimensions: 637.4 x 438.9 x 12.5 mm
- Base dimensions: 50 x 220 x 32.2 mm
- Weight: 9.6kg
You have either 16 or 32GB of RAM, 1 or 2TB of SSD storage. There’s only one choice of processor, a seventh-generation quad-core Intel Core i7-7820HQ when Intel’s ninth-generation is already available. That’s disappointing, particularly for the price.
None of the components are poor, but the graphics chips are one generation behind. Worse still, the processor is mobile-grade and two generations behind. Apple recently launched. it is an updated iMac with options for eight or ninth-generation desktop-class Intel Core processors, which have up to eight cores, double the cores of the old seventh-generation mobile chips in the Surface Studio 2.
It also lacks Thunderbolt 3 and only has one USB-C port. Specs-wise the Surface Studio 2 doesn’t quite stack up. These shortcomings may not make any difference now. It can still handle the most intense image or video editing tasks. Play top-end games on relatively high detail settings, and power any VR headset you might want to attach. For a general computer user, it is far more powerful than necessary.
But this is a computer built for demanding users. Who is likely to use that power and run out of it in a year. So when the latest and greatest piece of software demands more. For a £3,500-plus computer, you’d be right to expect more. Even Microsoft’s cheaper portable computers use eighth-generation Intel chips. The lack of Thunderbolt 3, which is used for high-speed external storage for video among other things, is particularly vexing.
Microsoft says the chips were not ready when it was building the Surface Studio 2. it was announced in October last year, that may well have been understandable, but it’s delayed release in the UK meant it was outdated before it went on sale.
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Specifications aside, the Surface Studio 2 runs Windows 10 Pro and is an extremely accomplished computer. Simply put, it is a joy to use.
It comes with the excellent Surface Keyboard, providing. I consider one of the best typing experiences money can buy right now and the not-so-excellent Surface Mouse. Which was fine but not very ergonomic. It also comes with the outstanding Surface Pen. Which magnetically clips to the top, middle, or bottom of either the left or right side of the screen when not in use.
Fire it up and you are staring at the desktop in mere seconds, with Microsoft’s slick Windows Hello facial recognition camera logging you straight in.
In fact, all around the Surface Studio 2 provides a snappy, slick, and speedy experience. It also runs very quietly, with the fans inaudible in an office until the computer was pushed very hard, and even then it was masked by the general hubbub of an open-plan office.
With a keyboard and mouse, the beautiful 28 screen makes multitasking a breeze. It is 3:2 aspect ratio means you can see more of a site, spreadsheet, or graphics editing window compared to wider screens. By default, the screen was set to a vivid colour setting, which makes everything pop, but you can quickly switch to DCI-P3 or sRGB with a quick settings tile for more accurate colour work, which is useful when editing images or video.
The only disappointment here is the lack of true HDR support. Which is increasingly becoming an industry-standard both in creating and viewing the video.
Surface Pen and Dial
With a keyboard and mouse, the Surface Studio 2 behaves like any other Windows 10 all-in-one. But fold it down into drafting mode and break out the Surface Pen and Dial. It becomes a very different animal. Advertisement
The combination of the large screen, 10-point multitouch, lag-free pen, and radial dial support makes for a tremendous package. Suddenly you can directly interact with an image in Affinity Photo, move it around by hand, pinch to zoom, draw in fine edits with the pen and quickly adjust things like brush size, flow, hardness. From sketching and painting, video editing and photo manipulation, the Surface Studio 2 offers something rivals simply cannot.
For artists, it provides an unparalleled, flexible, and powerful experience. With a plethora of apps ready to support touch, pen and dial input. Only something like Wacom is Cintiq Pro comes close and that costs £2,400 for the 24in screen. If you want the 32inversion. Then you have to add a computer.
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- All the ports were on the back of the machine. Which makes them harder than it needs to be to reach them
- The heat was rejected out of the right side of the base, which can cook anything you place next to it when the computer was pushed hard
- The 2.1 stereo speakers pack a fairly powerful punch given they’re hidden away
- Xbox wireless connectivity is built in so you don’t need a dongle or Bluetooth to connect an Xbox controller
Surface Studio 2 is a beautiful, amazing computer in a class all of its own. It was one of those machines that makes you envious. When you see it on other people’s desks, a true hero product.
For consumers, Surface Studio 2 is a hard sell, simply because of its asking price. It is the luxury sports car of Microsoft’s Surface computer world.
For artists and creative professionals, the advantages are clear the Surface Studio 2 provides. A unique new way to use a computer with a giant articulated touchscreen that becomes a drafting board complete with pen and radial input support.
Industrial design and input capability aside. The problem was Surface Studio 2 built with processors, graphics chips, and ports that lag behind the competition. It’s true that specifications aren’t everything, but for a professional computer worth this much money, it’s disappointing.
The Surface Studio 2 is therefore the pin-up, the poster boy, the computer you want, but will probably never buy. But if you do, you’ll probably absolutely love it.
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