Microsoft Surface Studio 2 review

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two years ago, Microsoft released its first computer, the stunning Surface Studio. The Studio was an all-in-one PC with an enormous, 28-inch touchscreen display that may pivot as an easel to lay almost flat for drawing and artwork. It’s no exaggeration to state that the Studio is one of the most head-turning PC designs ever released.

But despite its gorgeous, futuristic design, the Studio was not even close to perfect. Although it was a desktop computer, it was powered by laptop-class processors and graphics cards, that have been already a generation behind at its release. Instead of a modern, speedy SSD, it used a hybrid drive that has been slower and more prone to failure. On top of that, the Studio was downright expensive. You could reasonably expect to pay for more for the Studio’s groundbreaking design and stunning display, but its internal hardware didn’t fall into line with its sticker price.

So, for the new, $3,499 and up, Surface Studio 2 Microsoft did well-known things: it kept the look and features the exact same, nonetheless it greatly improved the interior specifications. Studio 2 includes a stronger processor, significantly better GPU options, and, perhaps above all, an effective SSD. It’s still expensive — in fact, it starts at $500 more compared to prior model — and it still utilizes laptop components, but now, it feels such as for instance a more rational computer than just quite a piece of desktop eye candy.

The best area of the Surface Studio 2 is just like it was before: the massive, bright, pixel-dense touchscreen that’s floating on a hinge. The majority of the display’s specs are the exact same — 28 inches, 4500 x 3000 pixels at 192DPI, 3:2 aspect ratio — but this time around, Microsoft has significantly boosted the brightness, around over 500 nits, and increased the contrast. It’s a wonderful screen to behold, especially when you’re sitting just a couple of feet from it. Even though you never take advantage of the truth that the screen pivots down almost flat, it’s still one of the most engulfing PC displays I’ve ever used. It’s a crying shame that Microsoft doesn’t sell it as a monitor-only option.

The base design of the Studio 2 can also be just like before, but Microsoft has added a USB Type-C port alongside the full-size SD card reader, gigabit Ethernet jack, and four USB 3.0 ports. Unfortunately, the USB-C port doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3, so you can’t use an additional GPU or high-speed storage devices with the Studio 2. All of the ports will also be on the back of the beds base, which can make sure they are hard to reach. It could have been nice if Microsoft moved the SD card reader and one USB port in advance for easier access.

Inside that base is just a quad-core Core i7 processor, around 32GB of RAM, up to a 2TB SSD, and either an Nvidia GTX1060 or GTX1070 mobile GPU. Wisely, Microsoft dropped the Core i5 / 8GB RAM base model option. (Even the entry-level Studio 2 has the Core i7 chip and 16GB of RAM.) Frustratingly, Microsoft is using a 7th Gen chip rather than the 8th Gen Core processors which were arriving in devices all year and have significant multicore performance bumps on the older chips. For a reduced device with reduced cost, Microsoft should be utilizing the latest and greatest processors available.

That isn’t to state performance is bad on the Studio 2. In fact, it’s quite the contrary: the $4,199 midlevel model I’ve been testing, that has 1TB of storage, 32GB of RAM, and the GTX1070 GPU, positively screams through most tasks, whether that’s daily productivity work, video or photo processing, graphics work, as well as AAA games. The Studio 2 is precisely as snappy and responsive as you’d expect a multi-thousand-dollar workstation to be.

Utilizing Studio 2 for productivity work is unlike any desktop setup. I make use of a 34-inch ultrawide monitor when working from my desk because it provides over 400 square inches of screen real-estate for me to throw windows around. The Studio’s taller aspect ratio means it gives me even more screen real-estate: over 430 square inches. It’s a huge digital canvas for me to place windows wherever I want.

Though it’s not targeted toward gamers and it’s not just a dedicated gaming PC, playing games on the Studio 2 is just a joy. Its native resolution is too much to create most AAA games playable, however, the 1070 GPU can maintain 60 frames per second on visually intensive titles such as Forza Horizon 4 and Star Wars Battlefront II at 3000 x 2000 pixels. More demanding games, such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider require ratcheting down the resolution to 2250 x 1500 to keep up 60 fps. But even at the lower resolutions, the bright, colorful display that’s only a few feet from my face makes any game I tried look great.

The unique 3:2 aspect ratio could cause some problems with games like Overwatch that require a 16:9 viewport (you’ll have to manage an important percentage of the screen being blacked out with titles like that), but every one of the games I tested scaled fully screen without any problems.

Of course, Studio 2 isn’t really designed for gamers or writers like me; it’s designed for creative experts who might make use of a drawing tablet and pen input to generate digital artwork. Unlike an iMac, the Studio doesn’t require a different Wacom tablet and pen, because it’s built-in support for Microsoft’s Surface Pen and is a giant tablet itself. When you desire to draw on the screen, just pivot it right down to its lowered, 20-degree position, and suddenly, the Studio is a giant 28-inch surface for digital art.

I’m not an artist, so I had Verge reporter and published cartoonist Dami Lee check out the Studio 2 for creating digital artwork. Here’s what she’d to state:

The 3:2 display ratio really makes the screen feel huge. There’s plenty of space on the screen to check out reference images on another window while drawing, and I liked having a video tutorial open in another window while following along in After Effects.

The included Surface Pen is thicker and much much more comfortable to hold compared to Apple Pencil. It’s closer to a Wacom stylus having its replaceable nibs and re-mappable side button and end button, the latter that also doubles being an eraser. It’s got 4,096 degrees of pressure sensitivity, includes tilt support, and I didn’t experience almost any lag or notice any offset involving the cursor and stylus with it (a problem that sometimes affects the Wacom Cintiq lines). Additionally, it attaches magnetically aside of the screen, which may be nice, so you don’t lose it.

One weird issue I ran into while drawing was finding that the Surface Pen was still experiencing the jitter issue that’s plagued the Surface line for months. Microsoft said it’d fixed the problem in August by way of a firmware update, so I’m unsure if the thing is back or if the jitter issue was once worse. I tried drawing straight lines, both freehand and with a ruler, and the problem of wobbly lines persist in case that you draw slowly. It goes away in case that you draw with fast strokes, so the problem isn’t too large of an offer, nonetheless, it still feels as being a problem that the $3,500 creative device shouldn’t be having.

There’s also a $99 Surface Dial accessory that isn’t within the box, and it hasn’t been updated since the ultimate Surface Studio. You can find always a few drawing apps which are optimized to offer the Dial more features like Sketchable, but because I’m accustomed to keyboard shortcuts, I can’t really see myself adopting the Dial for everyday use. On a screen that already has touch support to help you certainly do such things as pinch to zoom, having a phone feels almost redundant.

DespiteDespite the improvements Microsoft has made, you will find still plenty of areas where actually the Studio 2 may be a more compelling machine. I can’t plug in an additional GPU to offer it much more graphical oomph since it doesn’t have Thunderbolt 3. I can’t use the Studio 2’s gorgeous display as an always check for a stronger workstation since it doesn’t support video input. And this can sound as being a nitpick, but with a $3,500 and up the computer, no nit is too small to pick: Microsoft packages the worst mouse with the Studio, a cheap-feeling, two-button scroll wheel wireless deal. Microsoft has greater mice in its hardware portfolio, so it’d be nice when it included some of those having its high-end flagship desktop PC. Fortunately, the wireless keyboard is very good, and Microsoft does range from the Surface Pen, which it stopped doing with portable Surface computers.
IT’S HARD TO NOT INSTANTLY WANT THE STUDIO 2 FROM THE FIRST TIME YOU SIT DOWN IN FRONT OF IT

But overall, this really is hard never to instantly want a Surface Studio 2 from the very first time you settle-back in front of it. It’s a creatively stunning, highly capable pc with versatility you won’t find anywhere else. I will use it to utilize to publish, browse the internet, or play games, and if I really could actually draw worth a damn, I really could use it to utilize to generate artwork, as well. Studio 2 is simply more fun to make use of compared to standard all-in-one or desktop and monitor setup. It surely is good for a distinct segment market where cost isn’t as big of a problem as what the machine is able to do, nevertheless when that’s you, it’s hard to identify a better option.

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