Hands On And First Impressions Of The Microsoft Surface Studio AIO PC

Microsoft unveiled its first all-in-one desktop system yesterday, known as the Surface Studio. Just in case you missed the announcement, you can find our initial coverage of it right here. We’re not going to rehash all of the specifications and main features again, but to quickly reiterate and provide a little more background, the new Surface Studio is a premium, all-in-one PC that’s outfitted with an Intel processor, NVIDIA graphics, and hybrid storage system. It also has a super-thin, ultra-high resolution 28” / 125mm thin touch display that is optimized for color accuracy and wide viewing angles. The Surface Studio also includes a new Surface Dial that offers a new input method, and of course, Surface Pen input is supported too.

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Upon initial inspection, the Surface Studio exudes quality and premium craftsmanship. The aluminum chassis and frame look great, the screen is simply gorgeous, touch-input is very low latency and accurate, and the dual-arm chrome hinge is buttery smooth and easy to move. Here is a quick video tour of the Surface Studio, along with some short clips of it in action at Microsoft’s event, to give you some more perspective.

From an industrial design and aesthetic standpoint, Microsoft hit this one long. About the only nitpicks on the design have to do with the somewhat plain, boxy, base which could use some visual flair, and the boring, plastic mouse. The flat keyboard will be an issue for some users who prefer more key-travel and more ergonomic curved key layouts, but that’s an issue with virtually all of the keyboards included with off-the-shelf PCs.

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Getting up close and personal with the Surface Studio reveals some real innovations on Microsoft’s part. The screen assembly is top notch, not only in terms of quality, but also rigidity and aesthetics. The better than 4K 4500x3000 resolution, along with the wide viewing angles and color accuracy (which can be tuned at the touch of a button) are combined to produce one of the most beautiful PC displays we have laid eyes on. Touch response is also excellent. And positioning it is so easy and fluid, even a small child could do it with one hand.

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To cram a quad-core Intel processor, discrete NVIDIA graphics, 32GB of RAM, and a hybrid storage into the Surface Studio, Microsoft’s engineers channeled all of their Tetris skills and put together a PCB and cooling system that uses every possibility millimeter of internal air space in the system’s tiny chassis. You can see how integrated everything is on the motherboard and how tightly everything is packed in the images here.

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We can’t help but think Microsoft missed the boat on a couple of levels to hit yesterday’s launch date, however, which may also explain why the first batch of Surface Studios will be available in limited quantities. You see, the Surface Studio is packing an Intel Skylake processor, a Maxwell-based NVIDIA GPU, a hybrid storage solution, and it lacks any forward-looking IO options like Thunderbolt. Essentially, Microsoft is launching a $3000-ish AIO PC for 2017, with technologies released in 2015. More efficient Kaby Lake-based Intel processors and NVIDIA Pascal-based GeForce 10 series GPUs would make much more sense. There obviously had to be some lead-time required to get the Surface Studio’s design finished and fully qualified, but launching with previous-gen technology virtually guarantees a refresh sooner rather than later. Both Kaby Lake and Pascal offer improved efficiency and performance in similar power envelopes. Considering the premium pricing, all solid-state storage would have also been ideal. And not having Thunderbolt on a machine “built for creators” is questionable as well.

All told, we still dig the Surface Studio. It is pricey – no doubt – and if the user experience is excellent, we’re sure consumers will forgive the lack of bleeding-edge technology inside. However, as nice as the Surface Studio is, it could have been more.