Recently Microsoft announced their latest pieces of hardware for the Surface product line: an all-in-one desktop called the Surface Studio and an accessory called the Surface Dial, as well as an update to the Surface Book laptop.
While at Adobe MAX, I had the opportunity to get a hands-on experience with the Microsoft Surface Studio and was really impressed with it across the board. You can see my thoughts on it and a real demonstration here.
First Impressions of the Microsoft Surface Studio
As someone who has used both Apple and Microsoft products the majority of their life and career, I approached this without any major bias. I honestly believe that for creatives the operating system choice between Windows and MacOS stopped being truly relevant for most people with the introduction of Adobe Creative Cloud.
Thinking about the way I’ve used my iMac in combination with a Wacom tablet, I found the Surface Studio eliminated some key issues: it consolidated space and provided me with more options.
Drawing and working within Photoshop with the Surface Studio felt natural and very comfortable. The design and aesthetic were great, and the functionality and flexibility of the product were even better. I could use it as a powerful large screen workstation or as an art media for photo retouching, digital painting, animation or design.
The computer components of the Surface Studio rest in the base of the machine rather than behind the screen, allowing it to have an even thinner display than the iMac. It supports up to 32GB of RAM, dedicated GPU, an SSD and HDD for storage, and USB 3.1 connections rather than USB C. Tilt functionality is supported by what Microsoft calls a “Zero Gravity Hinge.” This allows the display to have the greatest range of tilt ever offered in an all-in-one computer. The base price starts at $2999.99.
Who is the Microsoft Surface Studio Really For?
Many think that this product is an “Apple Killer.” I disagree. I also don’t believe this product is only for digital artist and enthusiast. You have to understand the current product philosophy of Apple. While the company was built on the patronage of creative professionals (like many of you reading this), it has shifted its focus over the past decade towards mainstream audiences. In the process, Apple has left creative professionals behind in many regards, and disregarded our needs and the way we work. If you need specific evidence, Exhibit A is the 2016 Macbook Pro, which lacks basic necessities like the SD card slot used by photographers and filmmakers.
The Microsoft Surface Pro (and the Surface product line as a whole) is geared towards working creatives in the professional arena, or those making a significant profit from their creative interests. As someone who edits and produces videos on a weekly basis, I thought about the use cases for the Surface Studio. It occurs to me that I could do masking and composite work in videos and animation much easier with this tool, and I could see many people applying in that way. As a photographer, I already have a retouching workflow that is heavily influenced by the use of a tablet, having the ability to work directly on the screen is ideal and natural for me. Obviously, designers, animators, and 3D modelers could benefit from using a product like this as well, and Microsoft is introducing its own software to help creative professionals at the entry level.
The Surace Dial Accessory
The Microsoft Surface Dial is an accessory sold separately from the Surface Studio that can add to the experience of any Surface product, including the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4. When placed directly on the screen of the Surface Studio, the MS Surface Dial gives you more options when working within certain applications. It also works when placed off screen as well. Note that on-screen functionality is not currently supported with other Surface products.
Final Thoughts on the Surface Studio
Overall, the Surface Studio is a fascinating and innovative piece of technology for creatives—and an attractive alternative to Apple products. The largest barrier to adoption for Microsoft Surface products will be getting creatives used to Mac OS to let go of their attachment to the operating system they are so familiar with.
The Surface Studio is not for entry-level creatives. This is a product aimed at (and priced for) the professional market. Microsoft has done their homework in crafting hardware that turns creative work into an opportunity to play with something very cool, while still delivering the performance and features that professionals need.Tags