Hands on with the Surface Studio 2: A meaningful upgrade

When Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 at an event in Manhattan yesterday, I was skeptical. After all, they still don't have USB Type-C, and they run Windows 10 Home now instead of Pro. Then, Surface chief Panos Panay returned to the stage to show off the Surface Studio 2, a device that's truly exciting.

The reason that I find it exciting is because I didn't think the original was good enough. It had a mobile processor, a mobile GPU, and frankly, it just seemed too underpowered to be a real desktop PC. I believe that's changed now.

Like the other products that were announced, the Surface Studio 2 retains its old form factor, and in this case, that's a good thing. While the GPU has seen a major upgrade to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, the CPU is a modest upgrade. It's now a Core i7-7820HQ, a 45W CPU that's designed for high-powered laptops.

I asked why it was still using a laptop processor, and the answer I got was actually a good one. If Microsoft went for a full 65W desktop chip, it would have had to include a larger power supply and that would have compromised the overall form factor of the PC. I think that in most cases, it's the better GPU that you'll really want anyway.

While the Surface Pro 6 and Laptop 2 didn't get USB Type-C this time around, the Surface Studio 2 did. Just like the Surface Book 2 and Surface Go, it's USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, rather than Thunderbolt 3. This is actually more common in desktops, as Thunderbolt 3 isn't as necessary when you don't really need the kind of extensibility that you might need in modern laptops. And that's exactly the answer I got from Microsoft when I asked about it.

I do wish that the Surface team would add a couple of USB ports to the side, rather than putting them all in the back. Microsoft seems to like to opt for a more minimalistic design, but in this case, it's form over function. Still, this is a really minor gripe.

The hinge is still the same on Studio 2, and I still find that to be the most impressive part. You can talk to anyone on the Surface team and they can speak with pure passion about it. There was so much decision-making that went into it, such as how much resistance there should be, whether users should be able to adjust the angles at the different ends, and so on.

Ultimately, the goal is to allow people to adjust the screen with one finger, and that's why you'll see that in so many demo videos. Personally, I think that this is one bit of Surface engineering that Microsoft really nailed.

The display is a big improvement over the original Surface Studio. The resolution is still 4,500x3,000 but Microsoft said that it's 500 nits, or 38% brighter. It uses new liquid crystal technology, and it has 22% more contrast.

If all of that doesn't mean anything to you, think of it this way. The old Surface Studio display looked awesome, and this is even better.

You can pre-order the Surface Studio now, but it's pretty pricey. The base model includes a Core i7, 16GB RAM, and 1TB SSD for $3,499. The top-end model is $4,799, and that comes with a Core i7, 32GB RAM, and a 2TB SSD.

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