Hands-on: Microsoft's Surface Studio is a Windows PC for the Mac crowd

Its beautiful display and intriguing peripherals grab your attention, but this is more workstation than PC.

Microsoft’s 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 company’s first-ever desktop after it was announced (along with many other things) Wednesday morning. Here’s what stood out from the demo.

Although the specs fall slightly short of state-of-the-art, everything felt extremely fast and responsive. The base $2,899 offering includes a 6th-generation (Skylake) Core i5, an Nvidia 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.

Surface Studio Mark Hachman

A fantastic display is what’s going to grab your attention first.

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, 4,500x3,000 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 there’s any drawback, it’s that the monitor itself lacks any other positioning feature. There’s no way of raising it higher save for propping it up with a book or stand.

surface studio up and down Mark Hachman

Microsoft’s Surface Studio, upright and reclined.

Though it’s 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 display’s vast real estate actually makes this practical, with little in the way of visual compromise.

Surface Studio Mark Hachman

The Surface Studio reclined, in “tablet mode”. I found it comfortable to sketch upon, at least for the short periods I tried it.

The Surface Studio ships with a standard Surface Pen, plus an updated Microsoft Sculpt mouse and keyboard, wrapped in Surface gray. I’m lukewarm on the peripherals (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.

surface studio mouse Mark Hachman

Microsoft’s Surface Studio mouse.

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. I’ve detailed my impressions in a separate article.

While the Studio doesn’t 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 10’s Cortana assistant (“Hey, Cortana!”) worked surprisingly well in the crowded demo room. I didn’t try the camera.

Surface Studio Mark Hachman

Microsoft says that front-facing ports would have interfered with the zero-gravity hinge. It’s still obnoxious, though.

I’m not sure I like Microsoft’s 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. There’s an SD card reader and a headphone jack—again, facing the rear. Unlike the Surface tablets, there’s no USB port on the side of the monitor, which I rather miss. Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi complete the package.

The Studio is a lovely piece of hardware, and I can’t wait to spend more time with it. But remember, it isn’t necessarily for you or me. Microsoft is clearly aiming this at the creative community who normally would buy a Macintosh. I’ll be interested to see how many actually make the jump.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftSurface Hub

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?