Hardware

Microsoft Surface Studio 2: A cheat sheet

Everything you need to know about the Surface Studio, Microsoft's all-in-one PC designed to tempt professional artists and designers over to Windows.

The Surface Studio 2 is an all-in-one PC with premium specs, designed to wow professional artists, designers, architects and other creatives.

While the $3,499 price tag will deter most consumers, Microsoft seems to be targeting the Studio at design professionals, who would otherwise be using Apple Macs alongside specialist devices like Wacom's Cintiq drawing tablet.

The Studio 2 is a machine with a lot to recommend it, but one that could still be a leap too far for creatives already heavily invested in alternative tech.

SEE: Hardware purchasing task list (Tech Pro Research)

Executive summary

  • What is Microsoft Surface Studio 2? The Surface Studio 2 is a high-end, all-in-one PC aimed at being a drafting table and canvas for creatives.
  • Why does Microsoft Surface Studio 2 matter? The machine is a refresh of Microsoft's first venture into designing desktop PCs.
  • Who is the target market for Microsoft Surface Studio 2? Artists, designers, architects — creative professionals who want a machine that shows off their work at its best.
  • Why should I buy Microsoft Surface Studio 2? For its sleek, razor-sharp display that lets users draw straight onto the screen.
  • Why should I not buy Microsoft Surface Studio 2? The price is too high, or you're a professional already heavily invested in alternative software and hardware.
  • How can I get Microsoft Surface Studio 2? Order online.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic's cheat sheets and smart person's guides

What is Microsoft Surface Studio 2?

Like its predecessor, this is an all-in-one, Windows 10 PC designed to dazzle users with its display.

The screen, a 28-inch touchscreen LCD monitor, sits on a counterbalanced "Zero Gravity" hinge that makes it easy to push down onto the desk, and start drawing on with a digital pen.

SEE: Photos: Microsoft's new Surface Studio and 10 great alternatives

The monitor's 4K+ resolution and ability to display more than one billion colors, as well as to show drawings and documents at 1:1 scale with their paper equivalents, is designed to give professionals the ability to see how their creations would look in the real world.

Sketching on the screen with the Surface Pen is made easier when the Studio is used with the Surface Dial, a brushed silver knob that can be rotated to select a new color when drawing on the screen or to turn the image.

Also see:

Why does Microsoft Surface Studio 2 matter?

From the point of view of artists and designers, the Studio offers a high-end computer built that does away with having to use a separate drawing tablet and computer.

Like the first Surface Studio, the successor continues to put pressure on incumbents like Apple and Wacom to spec up and cut the prices of new machines.

The first Surface Studio garnered good reviews but with sizable caveats. TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet praised its attractive high-resolution screen and snappy performance but criticized its high price, limited build-to-order and upgradeability options, as well as the fact the Surface Dial is not included by default. CNET had similar concerns, and also highlighted limitations of the GPU choice and lack of front-mounted USB ports and Thunderbolt connection.

However, rather than reducing the price, Microsoft has increased it for the Surface Studio 2.

Instead, Microsoft has concentrated on improving the graphical processing power of the machine. The Surface Studio 2 offers new GPUs, either a 6GB Nvidia 1060 GTX or a 8GB 1070GTX, an interesting choice given these are mid to high-end last generation cards, rather than Nvidia's recently released flagship 2080 and 2080 Ti cards. Nevertheless, this upgrade will deliver up to 50 percent more GPU performance than the previous Surface Studio, according to Microsoft.

Storage is also faster, with the Surface Studio 2 offering 1TB or 2TB SSD storage. The new 28-inch 4,500 x 3,000-resolution display also offers 22 percent more contrast than the original's screen and is 38 percent brighter. The other notable addition is a USB-C port.

In some respects the specs of the Surface Studio 2 fall short of what fans of the original machine were asking for, such as a latest generation Intel CPU and Nvidia GPU, alongside a 5K resolution screen and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.

However, given the already eye-watering price, it's perhaps prudent that Microsoft didn't try to meet these sky-high expectations.

Also see:

Who is the target market for Microsoft Surface Studio 2?

Like its predecessor, the Studio 2 seems to be aimed at anyone who draws or designs for a living, be they artists, architects or product designers.

The multi-purpose nature of the Studio 2, a machine that combines a Windows desktop PC with the functionality of a separate digital drawing tablet, such as the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24, may make the $3,499 price tag easier to swallow for those in the creative industries.

Also see:

Why should I get Microsoft Surface Studio 2?

If you are an artist or a designer there are plenty of reasons why you might want the Studio 2. For example, there's the quality of the display and the ease with which the Surface Pen draws on the screen. Microsoft has described this experience as virtually as fluid as drawing on paper. Then there's the Studio 2's graphical processing power, the ability to view documents and drawings actual size on screen and the ease with which you can switch push down the monitor and begin drawing.

Also see:

Why should I not get Microsoft Surface Studio 2?

Many of the criticisms levelled at the Surface Studio seem to also be valid for its successor.

Despite the Studio's looks, its high price makes it hard to recommend as a consumer purchase, particularly when an iMac with a higher resolution, and only very slightly smaller screen, will cost less money.

Even professional creators are unlikely to abandon their current expensive setup for a Studio, as Mikako Kitagawa, principal research analyst with Gartner, pointed out at the time of the first machine's release.

"An all-in-one device is not the most cost-effective device, as the users pay for both the computing unit and monitor at the same time," she said.

"Creative professionals have already invested heavily in hardware and software. For instance, many professional illustrators use a high-end drawing tablet and high-resolution monitor at the same time."

If those same professionals exclusively use macOS, as is the case in some creative outlets, then the high cost of switching to Windows will also be a deterrent, she said.

There is also Microsoft's odd decision to yet again not include the $99 Surface Dial with the Studio 2, as was the case with the first machine. This is despite the peripheral featuring so heavily in demos, and being particularly useful for tasks like changing colors while drawing with the Surface Pen.

Also see:

How can I get Microsoft Surface Studio 2?

The Surface Studio 2 is available to order from Microsoft, with prices starting at $3,499.

Also see:

Tech specs for Microsoft Surface Studio 2

Display:

28" PixelSense Display;

4500 x 3000 resolution (192 PPI)

Color settings: Adobe sRGB, DCI-P3 and Vivid Color Profiles;

Touch: 10-point multi-touch;

Aspect ratio: 3:2

Supports Surface Pen with tilt activation, Surface Dial* on-screen interaction, and Zero Gravity Hinge

Processor:

Intel Core 7th Generation i7-7820HQ

Graphics:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5 memory

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5 memory

Storage:

1TB or 2TB solid-state drive

Memory:

16GB, or 32GB RAM (DDR4)

Wireless:

802.11ac Wi-Fi

Bluetooth 4.0

Xbox Wireless built-in

Dimensions:

Display: 25.1" x 17.3" x 0.5" (637.35 mm x 438.90 mm x 12.50 mm)

Base: 9.8" x 8.7" x 1.3" (250.00 mm x 220.00 mm x 32.20 mm)

Weight:

21 lbs max (9.56 kg)

Connections:

4 USB 3.0

Full-size SD card reader (SDXC compatible)

Mini Displayport

1 x USB-C

3.5mm headset jack

Compatible with Surface Dial onscreen interaction

1 x Gigabit Ethernet port

Cameras:

Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)

5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video

Audio:

Dual microphones

Stereo 2.1 speakers with Dolby Audio Premium

Buttons: Volume and power

Accessories:

Surface Pen

Surface Keyboard

Surface Mouse

Power cord with grip-release cable

Security:

TPM chip for enterprise security

Enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello face sign-in

Also see

002-microsoft-surface-studio-2.jpg

The Microsoft Surface Studio 2.

Image: Sarah Tew / CNET

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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