Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio: is it time to upgrade?

Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio

The original Surface Studio set a new gold standard for desktop computers when it launched shy of two years ago and now the Surface Studio 2 looks to eclipse it with better hardware in every way. 

With an updated processor, graphics card and brighter screen, Microsoft’s new desktop might look like a complete win. However, a closer look at the upgraded specs and the higher price has us feeling otherwise... 

Is Microsoft's more recent workstation the better of the two? Come with us as we pit the Surface Studio 2 against the Surface Studio in a head-to-head match up.

Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio

Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio design

Design-wise nothing at all has changed about the Surface Studio whether you’re looking its screen, the computer base or the whole of the exterior. 

That said, while we weren’t expecting the Surface Studio 2 to jump to a 30-inch screen, we were impressed that main computer box didn't needed to grow a single millimeter to accommodate stronger components.

The silver lining in all this is that the Surface Studio 2 sticks to the same great, flexible design we’ve come to love. It’s still the most elegant all-in-one desktop that looks modern and clean and the only all-in-one desktop you can then transform into a digital drafting table by pushing the screen down with a single finger.

Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio

Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio specs

The Surface Studio 2 has seen a complete spec bump with Intel 7th Generation Kaby Lake processors, Nvidia Pascal graphics. Comparatively, the Surface Studio launched last year came equipped with a 6th Generation Skylake processor, Nvidia Maxwell graphics card options.

Overall, users will mostly see greater graphical performance from these silicon improvements. Pascal has run laps around Maxwell graphics, so users will be able to play games at higher-quality settings more easily. Of course, creatives will benefit most from being display complex 3D art, large illustrations and high-resolution video without stuttering their GPU.

The changeover from Skylake to Kaby Lake processor will primarily enhance 4K streaming while delivering only slightly faster base and boost clock speeds.

Rendering these complex files is usually taken care of by the processor. For this reason, we feel very disappointed Intel did not introduce hexa-core H-series processors from the Intel 8th Generation Coffee Lake series.

Thankfully, Microsoft also moved away from its use of a hybrid-hard drive with only 64GB to 128GB of integrated solid-state storage to just plain old NVMe SSDs. Also, after much bemoaning from critics and the community, the Surface Studio 2 now features a USB-C port we felt the original desktop lacked. 

Although the Surface Studio 2’s sticks to the same 28.125-inch size and 4,500 x 3,000 resolution as its predecessor, Microsoft has definitely improved the display on its new desktop. Rather than just being a PixelSense display, the Surface Studio 2 now has a Brilliant PixelSense Display, which is supposedly 500 nits brighter to give us a panel that’s 38% brighter and 22% higher contrast.

The starting SKU has also seen a prominent upgrade as Microsoft’s all-in-one desktop now starts with an Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of memory. Unfortunately, that improved base configuration also means a higher starting price as we’ll soon see.

Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio price

Better hardware unfortunately means a higher price and you’ll find the Surface Studio 2 starts at a $3,499 or AU$5,499 (about £2,690) price that used to be reserved for the mid-range Surface Studio. From there, Microsoft’s newest self-made desktop reaches a peak price of $4,799 or AU$7,499 (about £3,690) for the highest-end configuration.

Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio

Surface Studio 2 vs Surface Studio design: should I upgrade?

Well ... not really, to be honest.

Until we get to test the Surface Studio 2, it seems like the Microsoft merely made it desktop better at gaming and showing off 4K content. Whether it’s a better engine to create content with remains to be seen.

The higher starting price point also makes the Surface Studio 2 even less accessible than its predecessor. So with this all in mind, it seems like only those with an original Surface Studio hungry for more graphical power and USB-C connectivity should be interested in purchasing it. Our opinion may change with our final review, until then stay tuned for our continuing coverage.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.