With its new Surface Studio, Microsoft is hoping to redefine the PC. At first glance, it looks like a stylish all-in-one. But it’s more than that. With a push on the hinge, the 28-inch multitouch LCD drops down to become an digital drawing board.
Powered by a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor, the Surface Studio comes with a 1TB or 2TB hybrid drive, up to 32GB of RAM and either a GeForce GTX 965M or GTX 980M graphics card.
But it’s the PixelSense Display that truly impresses here. Not only is it eye-catchingly thin, but it’s designed for creatives with a 4.5K 4500 x 3000 resolution (13.5 million pixels) and 10-bit color depth.
Pick up a Surface Pen and you can paint, write or draw on it. Place the unique Surface Dial accessory on the screen and you can access digital tools, scroll, zoom or navigate with a simple twist.
And thanks to a built-in 5MP front camera and Windows Hello, your face is now the only password you need.
The Surface Studio launched at Microsoft’s Windows 10 event, which also saw the unveiling of a more powerful Surface Book and the 3D/mixed reality-enabled Windows 10 Creators Update.
It’s another example of how PCs have changed dramatically since those big, beige boxes of yesteryear. Those early PCs were often bigger than the screens they were cabled to. Now the computing components can either be squeezed into the display or, like a Compute Stick, plugged discretely into the back.
Computers now come in all shapes and sizes, bolted together to suit all uses and budgets. The Deep Cool Tristellar is a mini-ITX case in the shape of three-pointed star. The HP Pavilion Wave is a triangle-shaped desktop system wrapped in fabric. At the other end of the scale, the Skull Canyon NUC packs a Core i7 processor, yet is small enough to hold in your hand.
Some desktop PCs can even be worn. The MSI VR One, for example, combines an overclocked Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card into a futuristic-looking, battery-powered system you wear as a backpack.
The Surface Studio might be a niche product. At a starting price of $2,999, it’s certainly not cheap. But it embraces a spirit of invention that refuses to let the desktop PC die out. Because sometimes, whether you’re a designer, gamer or a VR adventurer, only the power and performance of a desktop PC will do.