Didn't we almost have it all? When you started showing off the Surface Studio, I was entranced by what looked like the ultimate all-in-one. I wanted to run my hands along the aluminum edges of the ultrathin, 0.49-inch LCD display. I was amazed by the 4500 x 3000-pixel resolution and was already envisioning cupping my hand over the new Surface Dial.
Hyped as the intersection between creativity and productivity, the Studio also boasts a foldable, "zero-gravity" hinge. This allows the Studio to transform from a traditional desktop to a flat tablet, letting you draw on it with very little effort.
I was all in, especially when I saw the optional, knob-like Surface Dial, an innovative wireless peripheral that's used on the Studio's display. Depending on the app, you can change the color or thickness of your digital pencil, adjust the volume on your music, scroll through articles and do other cool tricks.
But then, you announced the price — and I died a little inside. I knew you were going to do some major damage to my wallet, but not to the tune of $3,000. Plus, the Dial costs $99 extra. Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at market research firm NPD, said there's a Microsoft "tax" at play here.
"I think they feel like they're not in the business of creating basic devices," he said. "They want something that has the Microsoft name on it to be special, and when you do that, there's going to be a tax [i.e., premium to pay]."
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My enthusiasm waned even further when I read the specs. The all-in-one, which is supposed to appeal to creative professionals, has only a 6th-gen quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hybrid hard drive (HHD) and a last-gen Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M GPU with 2GB of RAM.
Sure, you can get better specs — if you spend even more. You can go up to 6th-gen Core i7, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB HHD and a 980M GPU — for a whopping $4,199. But Microsoft, that's still woefully far from what current gaming desktops or laptops are offering. You basically rendered this potentially awesome product obsolete, and it hasn't even come on the market yet. It's kind of like giving a kid a chocolate-dipped Brussels sprout.
My emotions ran cold, then hot. I turned to Twitter:
Although it's supposed to be for creative types, your Surface Studio doesn't cut it for power users like me. A last-gen Maxwell mobile GPU lacks the power to compete with the current line of Nvidia Pascal GPUs. In a head-to-head competition, a laptop GTX 1080 GPU has about 30 percent better performance than a 980M GPU. That's power that could be used for mapping out cities in AutoCAD or creating the next cinematic masterpiece.
Thinking of VR? None of the Studio's GPU options support the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. And even if they could, this PC lacks the HDMI 1.4 port necessary for both headsets. It's not clear whether the new mixed-reality headsets coming from Acer, Asus, HP, Dell and Lenovo will work with the Studio, either; those start at $299.
VR consumers and developers aren't the only ones you’re giving the cold shoulder. Animators, filmmakers and photographers who would appreciate the blistering speeds of a Thunderbolt 3 port, like Tiny Tim, will not get what they want this Christmas.
Not everyone believes consumers are getting shortchanged with this product. Avi Greengart, research director for consumer platforms and devices at market research firm Current Analysis, is pretty excited about the Surface Studio, and described it as an "aspirational device."
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"Nobody was making good all-in-ones because nobody thought that anybody wanted a good all-in-one," Greengart said. "Microsoft is showing there's plenty of room for innovation in plain old desktop PCs."
It's a point I agree with in terms of pushing the user-experience envelope, but this lofty praise isn't warranted overall.
Outside of the glittering display, insanely thin dimensions and innovative Surface Dial, this all-in-one is already behind the times. There are already several notebooks and some all-in-ones with more powerful specs than the Studio's — and they even have touch screens. And if you really like the idea of using the Surface Dial, you can still get it and use it with the cheaper Surface Pro or Surface Book (although it won't work with the screen itself).
For $3,000, I expect both new ways to interact with a PC and the latest and greatest specs, not last season's leftovers.
A Wannabe Fan.