Microsoft’s premium Surface Studio PC, which starts at $2,999, won’t start shipping until closer to Christmas. And even then, Microsoft says it’s backordered through early 2017.
But I was able to get some time with the Surface Studio at a Microsoft event earlier this week. And it was awesome.
If you missed it, the Surface Studio’s whole schtick is that it’s a desktop touchscreen PC that, wowie-zowie, folds down to a twenty-degree angle to become a 28-inch mega-tablet, complete with Surface Pen stylus.
Plus, it ships with the Surface Dial (also available separately for any Windows 10 PC for $99), a neat gadget that gives you a physical control for your apps.
It’s designed to appeal to artists, video editors, and other creative professionals, giving them tons of screen real estate to do their work without distraction or compromise.
After a few minutes with the Surface Studio, Business Insider’s Steve Kovach called it “an entirely new computing category, a sort of desktop-tablet hybrid that already has people excited.” That’s a pretty good summary of what you can expect from the Surface Studio.
In a lot of ways, though, that description is only, ahem, scratching the surface. The real genius of the Surface Studio, Microsoft’s first-ever desktop PC, is in the details.
The way you move
Take, for instance, the hinge on which the Studio moves. Microsoft calls it the “zero-gravity” hinge, and for good reason — it smoothly moves the whole 15-ish pound tablet portion up and down so easily, it hardly takes any effort at all.
It’s weirdly compelling to just push it up to desktop mode, and down again. Which is good, because Microsoft is promoting uses for the Studio like typing up a Word document, then bringing the screen down to sketching level to annotate, then back up to desktop PC mode.
Consider also the twenty-degree angle to which it folds down. I’m not an artist (quite the opposite, actually), but the angle seems just about right to sketch, annotate, and get work done. It’s about the right angle for having a notebook held open in front of you for sketching.
The screen portion itself is crazy thin, given how bright and vibrant the display is. Microsoft boasts that it supports a unique 3:2 aspect ratio that makes things appear on the screen exactly as they do on the printed page. Plus, as an added bonus for those kinds of visually-minded professionals, the Surface Studio previews a change coming to Windows 10 that lets you change the colour profile of the display at a touch.
As for the Surface Dial, it seems similarly well-thought-out, and has a nice little bit of resistance as you turn it.
The dial can do anything an app developer wants it to do: Within the same sketching app, the user might be able toggle between using it to choose colours, or the size of a brushstroke, or zooming in and out. It can even affect apps in the background, so you can use it to change a song in Spotify without looking up from your work while you’re sketching.
Finally, my favourite little thing about the Surface Studio: Microsoft designed it to be slid around, so you can show someone sitting next to you or across the desk from you what you’re working on. To that end, Microsoft boasts that it’s built a power cord that will not, can not, fall out of the back of the Studio’s base. Slide to your heart’s content.
Playing with power
The bottom line here: I’m biased, because I already loved Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. And the Surface Studio is really an extra-sized version of those gadgets, almost entirely for the better.
At the same time, though, it’s a very neat, very premium way for people to get work done. If you can stomach the price tag, Surface Studio seems to be as choice as it gets for creative professionals. And I have a hunch it will win over some Mac converts.