Microsoft Surface Studio Reviews: Apple Fans Might Be 'Tempted to Switch Camps', Despite High Price

A few weeks after Microsoft unveiled the Surface Studio to the public at a media event in New York City, a few websites have begun publishing the first reviews for Microsoft's new desktop PC/tablet hybrid. During its announcement in October, the Surface Studio was revealed to have a 12.5mm thin touch screen, with a 28-inch PixelSense Display that packs in 13.5 million pixels. Microsoft said that there's "no monitor like this on the planet."

The first reviews of the Surface Studio are largely positive, with many reviewers enamored with the computer's large screen and slick design, as well as its purpose to fulfill and enhance productivity for creatives. However, in line with the unrest over the price of the new MacBook Pros, most of the people who have been reviewing the Surface Studio for the past week admit the $3,000 price tag is one that prohibits casual users and sets an entry bar for serious power users only.

surface-studio-review-1

Images via Engadget

The Verge began by looking at the 28-inch display, which was described as "truly one of the best desktop monitors I’ve ever used." Everything from plain text to videos were said to look great on the screen, and even the 3:2 aspect ratio for the desktop monitor produced better environments for reading and writing, according to the site.

The Verge also had a freelance illustrator test out the Surface Studio, and they came away largely impressed, but hoped future iterations introduced a rotating display, more ergonomic stylus, and new input options for the Surface Dial accessory. Although a slight mention, one of the site's minor annoyances was the way the Surface Dial slipped down the screen slowly when not being cradled by the user's hand, even at the computer's lowest 20-degree angle.


The Verge concluded its review comparing the Surface Studio to the current lineup and ecosystem of Apple products. The site said that while Microsoft's device won't be invading the homes of die-hard Apple fans just yet, the fact that the Surface Studio even hints at that possibility "is remarkable." For that reason, the site admitted purchasing a $3,000 computer just for fun doodling tools in your spare time is illogical, but those Apple fans who could gain the most out of Microsoft's hardware "might well be tempted to switch camps."

Many creatives I’ve spoken to about the Surface Studio have said the same thing: why isn’t Apple doing this? Apple seems to be forcing creatives to choose an iPad Pro for touch and pen, but the powerful and professional apps just aren’t there yet on iOS, and it’s not clear if companies like Adobe are willing to rewrite their software to be just as useful on an iPad Pro. Microsoft has realized the potential in the market to reach out to creatives who feel abandoned by Apple, and it’s an influential crowd that could be swayed over by devices like the Surface Studio.

The fact that Microsoft is even being considered an alternative to Apple’s line of machines for creatives is not something anyone, not even Microsoft, was expecting for the Surface devices. The Surface Studio won't take over Mac-focused design houses just yet, but that it’s even a possibility is remarkable. The Studio is special because it knows exactly what it is and who it’s for — and it’s largely spot on. If Microsoft keeps developing its strengths here, some of Apple's most loyal customers might well be tempted to switch camps.

Engadget called the Surface Studio "the most interesting computer released this year," thanks in part to the fact that its zero gravity hinge gimmick "is actually useful." The site tested the top-of-the-line $4,200 tier, which includes a 2.7GHz Core i7 6820HQ CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and 2TB HDD, and a NVIDIA GTX 980M graphics with 4GB of VRAM, and admitted "it was one of the most powerful PCs I've ever tested."

surface-studio-review-3
The Surface Studio is also a good-enough gaming alternative, although it isn't entirely up to the task of most high-end gaming PCs, with Engadget noting that the computer scored 20 percent lower than the Radeon RX 480 GPU, as an anecdotal comparison. The computer still managed to run a few games at playable speeds, including Overwatch (60 frames per second in 1080p with high settings) and Gears of War 4 (50 frames per second with medium settings).

The Surface Studio is both familiar and new. It empowers us to work the way we always have, while also giving us entirely new modes of productivity. Personally, that's a philosophy I can get behind -- especially when compared with Apple's habit of pushing consumers down new roads that aren't necessarily improvements (hello, dongle life). But the Surface Studio's high price and lack of expandability could make it a tough sell for an already niche market, especially for people already devoted to their Wacom tablets.

CNET also asked some creative professionals to try out the Surface Studio and got their opinions on the machine. Creative director Nick Cogan, who's helped to illustrate and design films like Ice Age and Rio, said that the Surface Studio was a "great" drawing tool that could stimulate workflow and ultimately be a nice main device for professional work after the initial learning curve. But, like CNET described in its review, Cogan wasn't sure if the hardware of the Surface Studio was enough of an excuse to get over the Windows-based software.

The bigger challenge may be getting creative professionals to invest in such a high-end, high-price piece of gear, as many of them are creatures of habit, tied to familiar tools and hardware. As Cogan told us, "I think the big barrier is going to be that it's Windows-based, and so many people in the creative fields are really already decades down using Macs." But, he adds, "As a drawing tool, this is great, it's a lot of fun."

If you can afford it, and your profession aligns with Microsoft's intent to catalyze passion and ingenuity within creatives, the review consensus on the Surface Studio is largely suggesting a purchase. Those who are interested can order the computer from Microsoft's online store, although following initial pre-orders the Surface Studio's shipping estimate has now been pushed back to early 2017.

The cheapest model of Surface Studio includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 1TB hybrid drive, 8GB RAM, and a 2GB GPU for $2,999. That jumps up to $3,499 for an Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB RAM, with the top-of-the-line model running for $4,199 with a 2TB hybrid drive, i7 processor, 32GB RAM, and 4GB GPU. The Surface Dial comes packaged-in for pre-order customers who order the computer before December 1, but after that date it will cost $99 sold separately.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
49 months ago
Great computer but it still runs windows, I can't stand windows.
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
49 months ago
I really thought this was where the iMac was headed...interesting times
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
49 months ago
Windows is the new apple
Score: 57 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
49 months ago
Already thinking of making a Surface my next computer.
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
49 months ago

Despite High Price

That's not a high price. I think the same machine with the Apple logo would have been $4,500, not $3,000.
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
49 months ago
Innovation.

Nooo, not Apple's style (not any longer).

Nobody needs touch and pen input, according to Apple. A touch bar is sooo much better, right?
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Supposed iPhone 12 Display Unit Leaks

Thursday August 6, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
An image supposedly of an iPhone 12 display unit has been shared online by leaker "Twitter user Mr. White". Compared to images of an iPhone 11 Pro display piece, this new unit has a reoriented display connector, reaching up from the bottom of the display, rather than from the left-hand side on iPhone 11 Pro. This may be due to the logic board moving to the other side of the device. A...

8 Third-Party Home Screen Widgets That You Can Try Out Now on iOS 14

Wednesday August 5, 2020 12:56 pm PDT by
One of the biggest new features of iOS 14 is Home Screen widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. The widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. When the iOS 14 beta was first released in June, widgets were limited to Apple's own apps like Calendar and Weather, but several third-party developers have begun to test ...

Apple Seeds iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Public Beta 4 to Testers

Thursday August 6, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded new public betas of upcoming iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group. Today's software releases, which Apple labels as fourth betas to keep them in line with developer betas, are actually the third betas that Apple has provided and they come two weeks after the prior beta releases. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing...

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Google's $349 Pixel 4a vs. Apple's $399 iPhone SE

Wednesday August 5, 2020 1:45 pm PDT by
Google this week launched its newest smartphone, the $349 Pixel 4a, a low-cost device that's designed to compete with other affordable devices like Apple's iPhone SE. We picked up one of the new Pixel 4a smartphones and thought we'd check it out to see how it measures up to the iPhone SE, given that the two devices have such similar price points. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel ...

2020 iMac Benchmarks Surface Online [Updated]

Thursday August 6, 2020 7:16 am PDT by
Benchmarks from the new 2020 iMac have today been shared online by Mac Otakara. The Geekbench benchmarks are from the newly-released 27-inch iMac with 3.0GHz Intel Core i5 processor and Radeon Pro 5300 graphics, compared to multiple specs of the previous 2019 iMac. The lowest spec 27-inch i5 iMac from 2020 performs about 20 percent better in multicore than the lowest spec 27-inch i5...

New 27-Inch iMac's Storage Affixed to Logic Board, 4TB and 8TB Configurations Have Expansion Connector

Friday August 7, 2020 7:46 am PDT by
Following a report from German blog iFun.de that claimed the new 27-inch iMac's flash storage is soldered to the logic board, MacRumors has obtained additional information in an internal document for Apple technicians. In the document, Apple says that the flash storage is indeed affixed to the logic board and cannot be removed. However, for the 4TB and 8TB configurations, Apple says that a...

Microsoft's xCloud and Xbox Game Pass Not Coming to iOS Due to Apple's Restrictions [Updated]

Thursday August 6, 2020 1:06 pm PDT by
Microsoft's "Project xCloud" streaming game service that pairs with its Xbox Game Pass won't be available on iPhone and iPad when it launches this September, and Apple's App Store restrictions are to blame. Xbox Game Pass and its accompanying xCloud streaming feature offer access to hundreds of games that can be streamed to mobile devices, and Apple says that because it can't review each...

Apple Announces New 27-Inch iMac With 10th-Gen Processors, Up to 128GB RAM, 1080p Webcam, True Tone, and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 8:07 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new 27-inch iMac with faster 10th-generation Intel Core processor options, next-generation AMD graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, a higher-resolution 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, a T2 chip, higher fidelity speakers, studio-quality microphones, and more. A breakdown of the new 27-inch iMac's features and specs:10th...

Samsung Launches Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy Z Fold 2, and Galaxy Buds to Compete With Apple's iPhones and AirPods Pro

Wednesday August 5, 2020 10:07 am PDT by
Samsung today held a virtual Galaxy Unpacked event where it unveiled its next-generation smartphones that will compete with Apple's 2020 iPhone lineup, set to come out in the fall. Samsung announced the launch of the Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the two newest devices in the Note lineup, and, more notably, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung's latest foldable smartphone. The...