Is the Microsoft Surface Studio 3 coming soon? There's no official announcements or even leaks about a new Surface desktop, but we could see the latest version of Microsoft's best all-in-one computer some time this year. Here are all of the current rumors and a few educated guesses about when the new Surface Studio 3 will be released, what it might cost, and what changes could be coming with the as-yet-unannounced model.
The Surface Studio line has been a regular favorite on our list of the best all-in-one computers ever since our first Microsoft Surface Studio review in 2016, and we loved the follow up in our Microsoft Surface Studio 2 review in 2018. But two years is a long time to wait for a new model with current hardware and capabilities, and we suspect a new version of the Surface Studio is right around the corner.
Editor's Note: May 21, 2021 It's looking less and less likely that we'll see a new version of the Surface Studio desktop from Microsoft this year. As abundant leaks emerge about new Surface devices, and product launches, like the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 keep the Surface line up to date, there's been nothing about a new desktop. Throw in pandemic-related disruptions and a global chip shortage, and it's not looking good for a Microsoft Surface Studio 3 in the coming months.
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The 28-inch Surface Studio is the biggest member of Microsoft's Surface family of tablets, 2-in-1s and laptops, boasting an impressive look that marries the all-in-one design with the most comfortable touchscreen for drawing we've ever seen.
With an impressive display that supports touch, pen and even the Surface Dial, along with an impressive dual-hinge design that lets the monitor adjust to a low angle for comfortable drawing, the Surface Studio has earned its place among the best computers available for serious creatives. Powerful hardware and strong performance make it a worthwhile choice for any professional users. And the whole thing is wrapped in a sleek, beautiful design that is at once simple and sophisticated, both technically and in its stylings.
Microsoft Surface Studio 3 release date
Microsoft has not announced the Surface Studio 3 yet, but a 2021 update to the desktop is likely. The first version of the Surface Studio launched in late 2016, and the follow-up Surface Studio 2 launched in November of 2018. Going by that 2-year cadence, we're overdue for a Surface Studio 3 announcement.
Microsoft Surface Studio 3 price
With no firm news of a new product or specifications, it's hard to be sure what will happen with the price of a new Surface Studio model, whether it will stay consistent with the pricing of the Surface Studio 2 or whether the price will be raised or lowered.
The Surface Studio 2 starts at $3,499, raising the base price of the desktop by $500, up from the $2,999 starting price of the original Surface Studio in 2016. If Microsoft is planning any significant upgrades or design changes to a new Surface Studio desktop, it could justify yet another price increase.
Alternatively, Microsoft could bring the price down in an attempt to make the premium all-in-one desktop more approachable to mainstream consumers. Given the heavy marketing toward creative professionals that surrounded the last two versions of the desktop, this move sounds unlikely. However, a less expensive starting price and a desktop aimed at regular consumers would go a long way to increasing the market share of the Surface brand, so it's not entirely implausible.
If a new model is announced, it's most likely that pricing will stay relatively in line with the current Surface Studio 2, which starts at $3,499 and comes outfitted with a Core i7 processor, an Nvidia graphics card and 16GB of RAM. Other configurations ramped up in price and added a more powerful CPU, better graphics card, and larger allotments of memory and storage, topping out at $4,799.
Microsoft Surface Studio 3 specs
While the Microsoft Surface Studio 3 has yet to be announced, we can make some educated guesses about what sort of changes could show up in a new model this year. Obviously, any discussion of hardware and features is speculative, but there are a number of features we would like to see improved in a new model, and that have room for improvement.
For starters, the 2018 Surface Studio 2 launched with an Intel Core i7-7820HQ processor, a 7th-generation CPU from early 2017 that was already aging when the Surface Studio 2 hit stores in 2018. If Microsoft makes any changes to the Surface all-in-one, a processor update is guaranteed. We just hope the new processor is one of the latest 10th-generation models, and not an aging CPU that's been out for more than a year.
Microsoft Surface Studio 3 ports
Switching the existing USB Type-C ports to Thunderbolt 3 (or even the newer Thunderbolt 4) is a potential change that has been on Surface-user's wish lists for years. Thunderbolt 3 offers significantly more versatility than USB-C, thanks to faster data speeds, allowing a whole range of peripherals to connect to a machine through a single port, from high-resolution monitors to external storage.
However, Thunderbolt 3's use of Direct Memory Access (DMA) for reading and writing directly to RAM runs up against Microsoft's design and security philosophies, seen in past Surface products using soldered RAM – ostensibly because it's more secure, but also less expensive from a manufacturing standpoint. But if Thunderbolt 3 or 4 is going to happen on any Surface device, the desktop Studio 3 would be the place it shows up.
Microsoft Surface Studio 3 display
The other upgrade that rates as highly likely is an improved display. The first and second-generation Studio all-in-ones boasted some of the best displays ever offered, with 4500 x 3000 resolution, a distinct 3:2 aspect ratio and factory color-calibration that delivered fantastic color and sharpness. But even a better-than-4K display feels a little less exciting when compared to Apple's 6K Pro XDR display, and the Surface Studio's 28-inch panels haven't yet offered HDR support, an increasingly essential feature for photographers and videographers alike.
Microsoft Surface Studio 3 redesign
On the more radical end of the spectrum, a Microsoft patent from 2016 has fueled rumors that the next Surface Studio may not be an all-in-one at all, with hints of a modular design that relies upon a standalone Surface monitor with the same touch capability and zero-gravity hinge, but without the PC hardware in the base. Such a change could move the Surface Studio away from the all-in-one design of past models and toward something closer to a high-end display paired with a compact desktop, similar to the best mini PCs.
Alternatively, this modular design could follow in the footsteps of the Surface Hub S2, Microsoft's group-oriented display for meetings and collaboration. While it retains something similar to an all-in-one design, it also offers upgradability by way of a separate module for the internal hardware, letting you slot in new hardware with a cartridge-like product that houses the PC components.
Microsoft Surface Studio 3 microphones
Another safe bet points to improved microphones, for easier voice interaction and improved video chat capability. A 2019 report from MSPowerUser.com suggests that Microsoft might be switching to directional micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) microphones, which can offer better noise and echo suppression than traditional mics.
Microsoft Surface Studio 3: What we want to see
All of the rumored changes to the Surface Studio 3 sound interesting, but what we would most like to see on a new version of Microsoft's all-in-one desktop is fairly modest: A move to more current hardware and a slightly more affordable price. The previous models have impressed us with their excellent ergonomics and still-impressive 4K+ screen, but we noted both the expense of the previous model and the behind-the-curve processor selection at the time.
Separating the display and PC would open up the benefits of the Surface Studio to a larger market, it would be a drastic departure from Microsoft's current product line, turning a single, complete package into less impressive mini PC paired with a great monitor. While I would love for Microsoft to offer a Surface monitor with the benefits of the Studio's ergonomics and input capabilities, doing so with the Surface Studio name would effectively reduce the most innovative Windows all-in-one on the market to nothing more than a nice monitor.