The Surface Studio has always been an odd device. Aimed at creative professionals, it’s too expensive for a lot of everyday users to get their hands on, but the lack of high-end hardware makes it hard to justify for actual professionals willing to pay.
Microsoft just had its October 2019 hardware event where it unveiled an entire lineup of futuristic hardware packed with the latest silicon – even some that didn't exist before. But, the Surface Studio 3 was still nowhere to be found. Why?
I understand that Microsoft has its Surface Studio lineup on a two-year upgrade cycle, and it will probably release the Surface Studio 3 in 2020, along with the Surface Duo (that I desperately want). But, the Surface Studio 2 was out of date as soon as it hit store shelves, so the people deserve one with up-to-date silicon. For as much as Microsoft likes to talk about "empowering creatives", the Surface Studio 2 is simply too far behind the curve.
Why laptop hardware?
Let's just take a brief look at the spec sheet for the Surface Studio 2. At the base level, Microsoft is charging you $3,499 (£3,549, AU$5,499) for this all-in-one PC. And, sure it's packing one of the most beautiful displays in the game and the unique easel-like functionality that artists crave, it is just a desktop PC with laptop parts.
And I'm not just saying that as a hot take, either. The Surface Studio is packed with a Kaby Lake Intel Core i7-7820HQ, 16GB of RAM and a laptop-class Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 at that entry level. Now, that should be fine for most use cases, but folks that are editing video or super-high-resolution images are going to be better serviced by something like the most recent iMac.
The way I look at it, Microsoft is able to charge as much as it does for the Surface Studio because nobody is doing anything like it right now. It has that amazing Gravity Hinge, which makes creating art on that 4,500 x 3,000 PixelSense touch display feel completely natural – and that's not even mentioning the 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity.
If you're a digital artist, that alone might be enough to sell you on the device. Nobody else is really creating anything like this, so you might just suck it up and pay the toll to get into the Surface Studio 2 action. I'm not judging you for that – I'm judging Microsoft. The way I look at it, artists need processing power just as much, if not more, than anyone else. The Surface Studio needs desktop-class hardware.
Don't tell me it's impossible
Anyone who is even remotely familiar with the design of the Surface Studio will know that the actual components of the Surface Studio 2 are located in this little cube at the bottom of the device. But, do you know what other device is just a little tiny cube? The Mac mini.
I'm not a hardware engineer– I wouldn't be writing this right now if I was– but there has to be a way to include desktop-class hardware into this thing. I'm not saying shove a Xeon chip, along with ECC memory in there like the iMac Pro – however awesome that would be – but the latest Intel Core processors should be more than enough.
I'm sure that the Surface Studio lineup is successful for Microsoft, and I'm not here to take that away, but it would be nice to see the Redmond tech giant offer creatives the horsepower to not only get their art done, but to get it done efficiently.
And, hey, maybe we won't see desktop-class hardware in the next Surface Studio. But, even if that is the case than I'd like to humbly request one thing from Microsoft: at least put current-generation H-series processors in the Surface Studio. The Surface Studio 2 should have had Coffee Lake and Nvidia Turing graphics.
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Bill Thomas (Twitter) is TechRadar's computing editor. They are fat, queer and extremely online. Computers are the devil, but they just happen to be a satanist. If you need to know anything about computing components, PC gaming or the best laptop on the market, don't be afraid to drop them a line on Twitter or through email.