Just create a Surface Monitor, Microsoft!

Microsoft has at last upgraded the Surface Studio 2 after four long years—during which I nearly forgot about it! This updated model of its all-in-one PC for creative professionals keeps its acclaimed design while bringing it more in line with current processing power trends, while it is still not at the forefront.

But now that three of these (admirably brilliantly designed) devices have been introduced with mobile processors and out-of-date graphics, I have to wonder: Why does Microsoft even bother with the computer component of the Studio equation any more?

The 27-inch, beyond-4K display linked to Microsoft’s innovative Zero Gravity Hinge is evidently the object of almost everyone’s affection. The problem seems to be the computer component, which quickly makes each Studio essentially outdated. Therefore, why not omit the computer component entirely and create a Surface Monitor powered by Thunderbolt 4?

But first, let’s look into the positives and negatives of the current Surface Studio while maintaining the all-in-one strategy.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN ALL-IN-ONE PC FOR THE SURFACE STUDIO? It’s obvious that the Surface Studio totally works as a concept for an all-in-one PC for digital artists and designers—unless Microsoft is cool with selling these at a loss. The introduction of the Surface Studio 2 is sufficient proof that there is at least a sizable enough market to support two sequels. (Although, once more, the four-year gap between releases raised some questions.)

The Studio’s simplicity is its main advantage as an AIO. A Surface Pen, Surface Keyboard, and Surface Mouse are bundled in the box that houses the item. You only need to connect it into an outlet to get started.

On a related note, space savings is still another significant advantage. It would save you a lot of desk space if the computer gear is included with the display stands. Another space-saving feature is that The Studio uses a laptop-grade Nvidia GPU instead of the integrated graphics found in the majority of other tiny PCs.

That leads us to the specific issue that seems to degrade the Surface Studio product with each iteration, and it’s one that could probably be fixed without too much difficulty.

HOW DOES THE ALL-IN-ONE DESIGN RESTRICT THE SURFACE STUDIO? The mobile processors are the problem, to go right to the point. (Well, that and normal update delay, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)

Over the past ten years, the capabilities of Intel and Nvidia’s mobile CPUs have obviously increased, decreasing the gap between them and typical desktop components—but the gap still exists. Desktop-grade CPUs and GPUs continue to remain the performance kings, efficiency be damned.

But I doubt that end users’ top concerns are energy efficiency when using a 27-inch drafting-table computer. The question “how rapidly can this thing render and export my projects?” is much more likely to be asked.

The Studio primarily caters to creative individuals who work in all forms of visual media, but especially in the fields of art, design, and photography. Since I’ve worked in the larger media industry for more than ten years, I’ve learned that deadlines are important.

What could make it easier and more reliable to fulfill such deadlines? Obviously, quicker processing, like that found in desktop-grade technology. You should be able to achieve that deadline more quickly the faster your machine renders or exports your work.

It also makes sense that a Studio with stronger desktop components attached would be able to manage projects that are much richer and more complex—not to mention just more projects at once.

Finally, the Studio is using mobile hardware that has frequently arrived far too late, in addition to working with laptop components in a desktop environment. In reality, Intel debuted their 13th Gen “Raptor Lake” desktop CPUs weeks before the Surface Studio 2 , which will ship with an 11th Gen “Tiger Lake” Intel Core i7-11370H. Furthermore, it implies that 13th Gen mobile processors can’t be too far behind.

Even if Microsoft doesn’t have many direct rivals to the Studio to worry about, it still has a metaphorical ball and chain around its ankle.


WHAT STEPS SHOULD SURFACE STUDIO TAKE NEXT? A surface observer! The problem is this Why limit yourself to components made for laptops only to save a few millimeters of space if you’re going to be desk-bound with a product like the Surface Studio 2 ? In my opinion, you lose more by doing it that way than you gain.

What prevents Microsoft from just gutting the Studio, stuffing it with weights, and allowing any extremely powerful PC to drive the display through Thunderbolt 4 because the majority of the Studio’s computational components are located within the device’s base? I don’t see it, except from the fact that Microsoft would no longer be able to charge $4,500 per device.

Okay, I’ll play devil’s advocate and make a case for big capitalism here: Microsoft, consider the volume you might be able to drive as opposed to the Surface Studio 2 ‘s current high yield (and probably lesser volume). Even if you had to justifiably reduce the price of such a thing, you wouldn’t need to do so significantly.

Look no further than Apple’s $5,000 Pro Display XR. Even though it’s one of the greatest screens ever created and was created to replace $5,000 monitors used in professional film editing, Apple isn’t hesitant to charge a hefty premium for it. Now think about Apple’s $1,599 Studio Display, which is a basic, non-touch panel and is still sharper than the Surface Studio screen.

If Microsoft were to slash the cost of a hypothetical, computer-free “Surface Slab” (trademarked, all rights reserved) in half (to, say, $2,000), you’ve just opened up the Studio’s key innovation—its enormous, mobile touch display—to a much larger market. Independent contractors could use their existing powerful desktop computers and save thousands of dollars. Larger design and media companies would also stand to save much thanks to their unique sales methods.

most significant? If Microsoft’s amazing digital drafting table weren’t permanently connected to a whole computer, which is, in fact, bottlenecking the full potential of this wonderful creators’ tool, it could reach a lot more pros.

I don’t care if you call it a Surface Slab or a Surface Monitor. I only know that, in this particular case, taking the computer out of the PC might be the wisest course of action to maintain a continually appealing, relevant offering.

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