Microsoft Surface Studio review: Creativity is a sublime, pricey experience

If history holds, expect to see cheaper Studio clones from the likes of HP and Dell.

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Microsoft Surface Studio base Adam Murray / IDG

If Microsoft wanted to expand the Surface Studio base a bit to provide more horsepower, it wouldn’t destroy the aesthetics.

The intangible power of the Surface Studio

Many reviews you’ll read of the Surface Studio—including this one—are somewhat clinical. Benchmarks don’t full describe the Surface Studio’s appeal.

What the Surface Studio does, though, as a whole, is maximize your potential. It focuses you. I’m no artist—you can certainly tell that from the illustrations. But one night, after everyone else had gone home I spent an hour or two with Autodesk Sketchbook. I didn’t need to stay. My dinner was waiting, and my stomach was already growling. But I felt that pull gamers say they feel: just one more turn.

With the Surface Pen in hand, I sketched out a region, added contours with a digital pencil, painted a surface color, then blended it using Sketchbook’s smudge brush. I’d tap the Dial, zoom in. Tap and hold, twist, bring up the color wheel. Over and over. It wasn’t just the Dial or the Surface Pen or the touchscreen or the angle or the palm recognition—it was all of them, working cohesively, just as a car's wheels, pedals, gears, and mirrors shepherd you from point A to point B. I’m no artist, and yet I created something I’m proud of. In that moment, I understood the Surface Studio.

Both the Microsoft Surface Studio’s vast, glorious sheet of glass and its hip Surface Dial accessory embody Microsoft’s great contribution to PC design: a declaration that the hardware itself means as much or more than what’s inside of it. But the Surface line has broken trail for the rest of the PC industry, too, as a number of tablets have followed the lead of the Surface Pro 4 and its older siblings. Let’s hope this happens again.

Microsoft has delivered an elite creative experience with the Surface Studio. Now I’m looking forward to the next step. Here’s hoping that Asus, Dell, HP, and others take Microsoft’s example and begin designing Surface Studios the rest of us can afford.

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At a Glance
  • Microsoft's Surface Studio is an artist's workstation for digital content creation, featuring a massive touchscreen that conveniently pivots down into an easel mode. Inconvenient port placement and mediocre components may cause you to consider other options, though.


    • A simply gorgeous 4.5K touchscreen
    • Microsoft's optional Surface Dial significantly improves the experience
    • Eliminates separate drawing tablet by letting you ink on the display


    • Placing all expansion ports on the rear of the base is inconvenient
    • Massive display reflects quite a bit of light
    • A premium experience with a premium price attached
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