back to article Surface Studio 2: The Vulture rakes a talon over Microsoft's latest box of desktop delight

El Reg has spent some time talking Surface Studio with Mark Rowland, Microsoft's category lead for Surface UK, and we also pawed at the pricey box of tricks itself so we could give you the real skinny on what's under the hood. To start with, unless you knew what to look for, you'd be hard-pressed to spot the difference between …

  1. jason 7


    " A seventh-gen Intel i7 and Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 graphics are all very good, but one can imagine things starting to wheeze a bit as the years pass."

    Really? Maybe after 7 or 8 years but by then...if you are the type that buys this kind of kit, will you care? Will you still have it?

    Hardware has largely far outpaced most productivity software.

    1. Teddy the Bear

      Re: Hmmmmm!

      Alas, hardware hasn't outpaced Windows ever-burgeoning requirements...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmmmm!

        So that's why the recommended base specs for Windows 10 are identical to those of Windows 7, huh?

        Or in other words: The recommended base specs for Windows haven't changed in nearly a decade.

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge

          Re: Hmmmmm!

          So that's why the recommended base specs for Windows 10 are identical to those of Windows 7, huh?

          Win10 v1607 or something like that doubled the memory requirements to 2 gigs...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hmmmmm!

            Citation needed.

            64 bit Windows 7 has always needed 2GB of RAM. Just like 64 bit Windows 10.

            1. Sandtitz Silver badge

              Re: Hmmmmm!

              "Citation needed."


              Windows 10 (or Win8?) upped the CPU requirements somewhat. The CPU must include PAE, NX and SSE2 instructions, and the NX part rules out anything before Athlon 64 and Pentium 4 (Prescott revision).

              1. Dave K

                Re: Hmmmmm!

                Essentially, this does mean that a PC from 2004 can still run Windows 10 - assuming you could find drivers for everything and you have sufficient RAM. Windows requirements have moved very little since Vista first came along. The odd minor tweak, sure, but a far cry from the 90s and early 2000s where a PC 4 years old was below minimum spec for the latest Windows release. It's also worth noting that since Windows 7, the 64bit version of Windows has required 2GB minimum.

                Regarding the Surface Studio, it's a nice bit of kit. However I'm never a fan of AIO systems for the lack of upgradability mentioned. Not a specific dig at MS, it applies to them all - they're just not for me. Now what would be lovely is if MS could make standalone 3:2 monitors for use with other computers. Imagine being able to take any old workstation and connect a couple of beautiful 3:2 monitors to it. That would be fantastic for productivity! I'm still using an old ViewSonic 28" monitor from about 2008. Why? Because it's 16:10 and almost all current screens would be a downgrade from the point of aspect ratio.

                1. aks

                  Re: Hmmmmm!

                  The question then becomes: Who created the screen used in the Surface Studio 2?

                  Samsung seem to be involved but Wikipedia says it's developed in-house.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Hmmmmm!

                Interestingly the Microsoft page that CNET article links to still claims only 1GB is needed for the 32 bit desktop version of Windows 10. I suspect Microsoft backtracked and updated that page closer to the release date.

                Regardless, how long ago did anyone actually have a PC with only 1GB of memory?

                As others have pointed out, the base line specs for Windows have been stagnant for a very long time. I remember bitching to friends who worked at Microsoft back in 2005/2006 about how each new version of Windows was basically pushing the requirements to help Intel shift new processors (which they denied, obviously). I, for one, am glad to see that that is no longer the case.

                1. Robert Sneddon

                  Re: Hmmmmm!

                  Regardless, how long ago did anyone actually have a PC with only 1GB of memory?

                  I've got a Windows tablet with Win 10 Home on it, 1GB of RAM and an Atom CPU. Does that count? It's not fast but it runs.

                2. Updraft102

                  Re: Hmmmmm!

                  Regardless, how long ago did anyone actually have a PC with only 1GB of memory?

                  I've got three with < 1 GB!

                3. The Average Joe

                  Re: Hmmmmm!

                  standard issue corporate laptop/desktop is 4gb of RAM. They all suck so bad I took a Lenovo T420 with 16gb of RAM and a 160gb SSD. It was the right decision. Me with Firefox and Chrome up with 10-20 tabs the thing is using 8gb of RAM. So i think all PC's should have 16gb of RAM and a SSD, if not you suck and the erperince is crap.

                  That is why users are so happy with iPad's, they do not require 16 gb of RAM to run without swapping. The PC is dead.

                  This AIO needs to allow me to run older OSes and Linux, or it is rubbish. At least an iMac you can put MacOS back on it and sell it later. A year in and this will be a $500 use PC....

          2. Blitterbug

            Re: Hmmmmm!

            Nope. Win 10 gracefully scales down to 1GB with no problems, disabling more and more system services as it goes. Don't get me wrong - I despise the bloat, and install classicshell on all my clients' machines, and switch background apps to off, etc etc - but the engineer in me is delighted by the under-the-bonnet work put in by the busy bees working at the coalface. Luckily, the monetization of Windows and the (largely cosmetic) bloat has no impact when installing on low-RAM devices.

            1. The Average Joe

              Re: Hmmmmm!

              Windows 10 with 1gb? The 32 bit version is dead, the 64 bit one will NOT do what your saying. You should have issues with software on 32 bit, I would not waste my time on 32 bit apps if I were selling a product. It is a dead end street.

              1. Blitterbug

                Re: Hmmmmm!

                Are you a Windows software engineer? I'm guessing not. Have you, like me, tested this on both 32 AND 64 bit? I'm guessing not. I said Windows 10 degrades *gracefully* - I never said it degrades well, or performs well. But it does perform, and MS appear to have made it deliberately scalable for deployment on headless systems such as PoS terminals etc (yes, haha I know what you'll say to that...)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmmmm!

      “Hardware has largely far outpaced most productivity software.”

      Mainly true, but this thing is not really aimed at users of “productivity” software. It’s aimed at designers that use Adobe tools, Autodesk tools, possibly people that use it for video rendering. As such, upgradeability would be nice. It seems Microsoft followed Apple’s example (specifically the abomination that is the iMac Pro, and to a lesser extent the current Mac Pro)

      1. Ragarath

        Re: Hmmmmm!

        You wold not be using a workstation for rendering. If you're stumping up this much money for a pretty PC you would have a dedicated machine rendering stuff out. If you didn't you'd not be able to create.

        I do still remain confused about this sentence: Mainly true, but this thing is not really aimed at users of “productivity” software. Adobe tools are still productivity tools, just used for productivity in a different business than what you think the only productivity tools are.

        1. jason 7

          Re: Hmmmmm!

          Yeah as far as I'm concerned this machine is a toy waiting to break and then go into landfill.

          I'll build a custom rig for heavy lifting or some tank from Dell that I can swap a part out with a moments notice.

          Serious productivity folk would not really buy this. Any IT guy who looks after hardware would feel their heart sink seeing and having to look after this type of kit.

          1. gnwiii

            Re: Hmmmmm!

            Space is at premium in cubicle farms. Every watt the gear consumes adds to the A/C bill. Noise from desktop cooling fans and rotating storage mean that mass storage and compute-intensive processing is done in server rooms. Small form factor PC's with external monitors need extra power outlets and clutter tiny workspaces with cables. All-in-one has one or two cables (power and perhaps network). Desktops with external monitors need 3 or 4 cables (2x power, monitor, and perhaps network), which means you need more cleaners. IT time to set up and relocate desktops costs more than all-in-one systems and could be significant if worker turnover is high. The retail pricing for all-in-one systems seems inflated. Bulk purchases all-in-one should come in below the cost of similar spec desktop+monitor configurations.

        2. CheesyTheClown

          Re: Hmmmmm!

          I work in post-production for a while. We were almost exclusively a Mac shop at the time, but we did most of our rendering on the workstation. Even more so when people began using laptops for post.

          The earlier comment that the hardware has far outpaced the software is true. Sure, there are some rare exceptions. And if you're working on feature length productions rather than a 45 second commercial spot at 2k (max resolution.. meaning 1125 frames at 2k resolution), you'll need substantially more. But a GTX1060 or GTX1070 is WAY MORE than enough to manage rendering most video using current generation Adobe tools. Even 3D rendering with ray tracing will be able to work ok. Remember, you don't ray trace while editing (though we might get closer now with GTX2060+ cards). Instead, we render and even then, with the settings turned way down. Ray tracing on a single workstation can generally run overnight and be ready in the morning. If it's a rush, cloud based rendering is becoming more popular.

          This machine should last 5-7 years without a problem. Most of the guys I know who still have jobs in TV (there is way too much supply and simply way too little demand for TV people) generally run 5-7 year old systems. Or more accurately, they wait that long before considering an upgrade.

          1. Ragarath

            Re: Hmmmmm!

            Yes, the machine can render, but what I said was if you were using it for rendering you would no longer be able to create (AKA do work) because it was rendering hence making it an expensive paperweight.

            If you were spending this much for a creative to work, you would want them working, not rendering.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "possibly people that use it for video rendering"

        I think it will be used more for showing the rendered video than actually rendering on it. It's also not a machine for high-end video editing where you may need reference displays that make this system look cheap (they can cost tens of thousands), plus dedicated editing consoles.

        It's surely an interesting albeit expensive device when you need something with pen input, plus the dial.

        Monitor color spaces don't make it a great photo editing station, though, it does support DCI-P3, but that's designed mostly for projectors and video, AdobeRGB is usually a better choices for photo.

      3. A-nonCoward

        curious Re: Hmmmmm!

        I'm curious about how much memory is needed for that kind of i-tax software

        not that I would touch Autodesk or any Adobe with the the longest 10-foot pole I could find, but even my Firefox needs 3+ Gb by itself, and a decent size image in GIMP also eats some memory. Why am I reading about MS stuff? Saturday, no vulture news...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: curious Hmmmmm!

          Thanks to some god image editing/CAD software don't use Javascript and HTML so they use far less memory than browsers to display anything. Firefox usually use more memory than Photoshop even with a 30-50 megapixel image open, 16bit RGB in ProPhoto color space.

          32GB should really be enough for most graphic work, but heavier 3D rendering or CAD - but people working on those kind of thing will use ad-hoc workstations probably running a couple of Xeons, GPUs and a lot of RAM - plus the required cooling. But I can imagine top creatives doing the preliminary work on such thing, and then delivering the ideas to those who will finalize them on different dedicated hardware - you may need more than one machine for the final rendering of big projects.

          This device is not a workstation replacement - anyway, this is not a device for gimps also...

  2. JDX Gold badge

    Before people jump in to lampoon overpriced kit, I'll reiterate what I said on a recent review of another high end MS laptop (I forget which): if you're paying someone 6 figures to work for you, or earning 7 figures from the work they do for you, an extra £3000 on their laptop is a small outlay if it a)improves productivity even a small amount b)makes them feel happy and valued (which probably leads to a) regardless)

    1. Snake Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Before people jump...

      I agree. Also, if the kit is being purchased by the company for said productive employee, it will be amortized over the expected usage life, and then sold for a (relatively high, based upon initial selling price) residual amount. Even if it is being bought personally, it will be a tool for their use and sold off at the next upgrade cycle - is this any different than any other kit?

      With the exception of MacBookPro's, who's resale value is kept [artificially] high due to, frankly, the Apple fandom, when you buy a $1,600 laptop it'll be worth $600 to $800 (if you are lucky) in 16 months. Is this any different? It's part of the known tech upgrade cycle game (and serves me well: I buy kit after said 16 months and pay about 2/5 of what it was new. Tech no longer moves fast enough to warrant / worry about the 16 months time, nothing really has changed!)

      Seems that artistic creatives have no problem being told that they should / need / want to invest in expensive (Apple) kit, but when Microsoft comes out with a competitor it is 'shame about the price'? We say "Too much money!" about said Apple kit yet that doesn't stop those pro-Apple creatives; why should it stop pro-Windows creatives?

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      an extra £3000 on their laptop is a small outlay if it a)improves productivity even a small amount

      Indeed a mere fraction of what will get paid to the recruitment agency

      However, I've read the article and I still don't know what this Studio thing is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "why should it stop pro-Windows creatives?"

        Look what is about to happen with Apple and its artificial pricing. Greed is about to maroon them. Should ***/ "artistic creatives" \*** * be fed upon? Should more companies share the same fate?

        * artists

        1. A-nonCoward

          uh, the problem is not "feeding" on real artists, those with an income attaced to rightfully using that title.

          Problem is the wannabees that put Apple or this kind of kit on Mum's credit card. And I have a bit of a hard time feeling sorry for them.

          I do most of my "creative" on a touchscreen EliteBook 2740p, I believe 9 years old or so by now, bought on Ebay for parts adding to less than $180. 8Gb, SSD, FOSS all over. Of course I have 4-screen rig for some projects, but it's even older actually.

    3. Baldrickk

      Before people jump...

      Still going to.

      My PC matches the top end specs of this thing, CPU, RAM, graphics card. it cost ~£1100

      A separate touchscreen should cost less than £3000, right?

      And unlike the surface, it doesn't become junk as soon as the PC isn't up to the task any more.

      Sure, it's not as sleek as an all-in-one, but at the same time, if you need to move the monitor more than just tilting it, you don't have to move the whole PC either, so...

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: Before people jump...

        32" Wacom Cintiq... £3,500, and that lacks the hinge of the Surface Studio. The hinge is no gimmick: it lets you do "drawing work" and "desktop work" with the same display - I've never seen a Cintiq setup that didn't have another, also very expensive, monitor sitting on the desk too, so in many cases the Studio would actually be a cost-saving option (!)

        Like El Reg, I would really like MS to have offered a Video-in as an option, but the way modern computers are designed, I suspect that there's some place in the board design where a clever hacker could add a "bypass" video input once the motherboard is no longer viable..

        The real computing load in media production is in final rendering, compositing, grading and editing. Actually drawing or designing the parts for a feature doesn't need very much computing power. In a large creative house (animation studio, ad agency, etc), these will be on the desks of the artists, but the render farm will be in a server room, and the grading/editing suites will still use "regular" high-performance workstation PCs...which will have monitors that cost far more than £3000 attached to them.

        The economics of media production are about getting the maximum productivity out of each person - an extra two grand on tools for every artist's desk is not a big expense within a ten million dollar production (and ten million dollars puts you into the "small, independent" category when it comes to films these days) if it makes those artists even 5% more productive.

  3. karlkarl Silver badge

    "Hello Mr NHS IT Director. If you put in an order of 20,000 of these surface units, I will give you a free pen"

    Now I understand who buys this kind of hardware... All of us (indirectly) ;)

  4. BGatez

    Considering that for this kind of cash you can have a top flight and update-able computer AND a top screen tablet to plug into it I'm not feeling the MS love.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who is the target market?

    Remind me again why anyone needs a workstation-laptop? A tablet for general net surfing and email + proper, upgradeable tower on the side is a far cheaper more powerful, more reliable solution all round.

    But hey I'm not MS' target market anymore whether they choose to peddle Op Systems or Hardware. Quite who IS the market is beyond me.

    I'll carry on being a luddite.

    1. Ragarath

      Re: Who is the target market?

      As the article mentions, the creatives. Drawing on the screen is more natural than doing the same with a wacom (non-display) tablet. It is basically a wacom display tablet that is not a peripheral. It is all bult in.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Who is the target market?

      The target market is artists who want to draw pictures on a 28" screen. The alternative is a 12.9" iPad pro.

      It is a very niche market, but I suppose it probably does exist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The alternative is a 12.9" iPad pro."

        Actually the real alternative is a Wacom Cintiq or other specialized devices as such. They are expensive too.

        1. Baldrickk

          Re: "The alternative is a 12.9" iPad pro."

          They're also apparently very well optimised for the input. And still cheaper than this.

  6. Deimos

    Surface in the NHS ?

    In days gone by I spent many years advising the NHS buyers on IT. We would rather buy cheap efficient thin clients or repurpose ancient machines as “skinnies” than ever buy MS thickies.

    As for surface kit, I suppose they might have sold 3 to the public sector since they were first launched but their local NHS BOFHs have ensured that they are buried in the same carpets as their buyers.

  7. DrBobK

    The choices one makes for reliability and consistency at work.

    As someone who is considered by some people to be worth giving a fair whack of money to to dispose of on kit as I like here is my take on high end laptops. I like to have exactly the same work environment wherever I am. In the office I have some lovely 4K HDR screens. I can plug my laptop into these through a nice box (and also connect to a big bit of spinning rust for backups) and have a great desktop experience (also via a wireless keyboard and mouse). If I unplug my laptop for the road then the work environment is the same but now seen through a pretty (very) good laptop screen. Software, data, operating system, everything, is exactly the same. I don't have to worry about internet access or any of that hideous roaming profiles crap to ensure this. I now do this with one of those overpriced Macbook pros, which I prefer to Thinkpad X1s that I used to have. Whichever you choose, the laptop powerful enough to create a fab desktop experience and be well enough equipped to work well on its own is a great thing. It makes work reliable and consistent. I don't care whether I can upgrade it or not. When I want a new one I will get a new one.

  8. TheProf


    Everyone wonders why manufacturers measure display screens across the diagonal when it'd make much more sense to give the height and width like this article has done.

    Except now I can't visualise how big this device actually is.

    Time to get out the tape measure.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: Diagonal

      It's a little larger than the size of an A2 sheet (four A4 sheets put together)

  9. N2


    Err how much? you are 'aving a larf,

    Sorry but you could get an iMac Pro for that, with a chance that in 24 months it will still work (no matter how much you hate Apple)

    1. David Webb

      Re: £4,249?

      LTT did a video on this, they gave it to their Apple loving designer chappie to have a play with, at the end the designer chappie asked if they could keep it. You know you're doing something right when designers who adore Mac's and buy everything Apple wants to keep a Microsoft product (even with it's shortcomings).

  10. MrReal

    It would be interesting to have a review of the Samsung (or similar) equivalent for 1/10th of the price.

    Microsoft's pricing is making Apple stuff look cheap.

  11. CheesyTheClown

    $100 a month? Not a bad ROI

    If you consider that this machine will last a minimum of 3 years, $3600 is pretty cheap actually. It's a nice looking machine and because of it's appearance, the user will be happy to hang onto it a little longer than a normal machine. I can easily see this machine lasting 5 years which would make the machine REALLY cheap.

    When you're thinking in terms of return on investment, if you can get a machine which will meet the needs of the user for around $100 a month, it's a bargain. This is why I bought a Surface Book 2 15" with little hesitation. The Office, Adobe and Visual Studio Subscriptions cost substantially more per month than the laptop.

    I'm considering this machine, but I have to be honest, I'd like to see a modular base. Meaning, take this precise design and make the base something that could slide apart into two pieces.

    The reason for this is actually service related. This is a heavy computer. It has to be to support the screen when being used as a tablet. 80% of the problems which will occur with this PC will occur in the base. When it comes to servicing these machines, they risk easy damage by being moved around. This is not an IT guy PC, it's something which is pretty. I'd like to simply slide a latch, then slide the PC part of the system off and bring it in for service.

    Upgradability would be nice using the same system as well. But I'm still waiting for Microsoft to say "Hey, bought a 15 inch Surface Book 2? We have an upgraded keyboard and GPU to sell you"

  12. airbrush

    Wacom Cintiq

    You should really be comparing this with it's main competitor, as far as I'm aware it doesn't compare so why would anyone buy it?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft's latest Surface Studio 2:

    Why does the design, color scheme and keyboard remind me of an Apple?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Why does the design, color scheme and keyboard remind me of an Apple?"

      It's to keep Apple fanboys calm when they see one....

  14. rskurat

    Allow me to be the 94th commenter to point out that creative is a common adjective, not a pretentious noun.

  15. tempemeaty
    Thumb Up

    Nice to see it still evolving and growing.

    Interesting. I hope the Surface Studio continues doing well. The one thing that would the next step beyond this would be a new MS OS built on a Unix kernal that makes even better use of RAM so the thing can really shine even brighter and kick ass on graphics rendering.

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