Maybe Wait for the Surface Studio 2

Posted on: March 16, 2017 - by Brad Colbow

Back in the fall I drooled over the Microsoft Surface Studio and in my video I went to the Microsoft store and tested it out and talked about my first impressions with the Surface pen and drawing on it. And that screen really is gorgeous.

And I had every intention of reviewing it. But it’s mid February and like I mentioned in another video why I’ve had problems getting my hands on one, but I’ve been digesting a lot of reviews and my initial excitement has turned into maybe I’ll wait until next year. I’m a Cleveland Browns fan so waiting until next year is just hard wired in me.

I have been compiling some of the better, more drawing oriented reviews and those are listed out on my website, there is a link down below if you want to check those out.

I’ve covered the good stuff before. I really really like the idea of the Surface studio, and that screen and that hinge are great. So why have I cooled on it. The hardware.

The hardware.

I saw one review where the guy said quote: “The graphics card can barely run the screen”. Now, I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. And As a person who records video I know I don’t choose my words as carefully when I’m talking as I do when I’m writing so I don’t think he meant it literally, but his point is this: more pixels means you need more processing power to use the display.

That makes sense and usually the lowest configured laptop or tablet someone makes is just good enough to run the hardware well, it’s not really a power machine which is why I usually step up a notch or two. That next step up on the Studio is $500 more.

The Surface studio is really a laptop with a giant monitor attached. There are some other little touches like a larger hard drive (more on that later) and when they did a teardown of it they found an arm chip they think helps run the screen, i don’t know.

The one thing that really gives me pause is the hard drive. It’s a hybrid drive. Actually it’s 2 hard drives. I don’t know if that qualifies technically as a hybrid.

An an old school platter drive that’s pretty big, 1TB. And a smaller speedy solid state hard drive with 64gb of space. The idea is that the stuff you are using frequently offloads to the solid state portion while the rest offloads to the older hard drive. And so most of the time you’re using your computer is seems speedy and modern. But if you never have to access something stored on that older drive, you get on a bus back to 2005 to retrieve it.

I’ve never used one of these 2 drive set ups but I’m kind of skeptical. An old platter drive is slooooooow. A few years back I upgraded my old Macbook pro. I had a tiny but fast ssd drive so I replaced it with a bigger one then removed the DVD drive and popped in a second hard drive, this was like a 500 gb drive I had sitting around from another laptop. That second hard drive was an older slower hard drive.

Bad move. I pulled that second hard drive out after a week. It slowed down my computer so much. Photoshop would use it for who knows what, you can set it up not to if you fiddle with the settings, but I also found that when I used finder it would often spin up that old slow hard drive. Overall I hated going back to that hard drive, even though it was a secondary hard drive I only planned to use for storage. I yanked it out and put in the old tiny SSD drive.

If your computer is slow all the time I can get used to that, but if your computer is fast fast fast sloooooow. That slowness seems even worse.

In something like the Surface Studio I would rather have less storage but hard drive that’s 100% ssd and go for the speed. That seems like a huge step backwards for me. And as a primary machine which is what the studio would be for me, and just about anyone spending $3000 on a computer I want the speed.

Also, for $3000… that is one of the most expensive computers you can buy, anywhere and that’s the starting price. Asking for a full SSD drive is not too much.

I did watch a video where they replaced the hard drive. No way. I’m not opening up my new $3000 computer to do that.

There are some things that I just don’t know about this device that really require you to use it to learn about.

Thoughts

  • One thing I’m really curious about is the form factor: One of the ways that the Surface Pro changed the way I worked was that I might be working on a layout or something that didn’t involve drawing and then I had to crop an image I would just grab the pen and make a mask. There are a lot of little productivity things like that which popped up once I started using the Surface Pro more and more.
  • When I used my Cintiq I had to unplug my monitor, plug in the Cintiq, rearranging all my windows to fit and then crop that image. I never did that, when the Cintiq was plugged in I was drawing, when it wasn’t I wasn’t drawing. SO I found myself setting time aside to draw because it takes a minute or two to set up.
  • That’s why the Surface Studio really stood out to me when I first used it. One is that the screen really is the most beautiful screen I’ve ever seen on any device anywhere, but I like my monitor to be away from me and my drawing tablet to be close to me and they screen doesn’t just fold down, but it really folds down to the perfect place, and that hinge makes it weightless.
  • So that idea of working on something and then just pulling the screen down to make a mask or sketching in something quick or make a note is really appealing. It’s not something I would have looked for in a computer until I started using the Surface Pro, now I’m spoiled.

So yeah, everything I loved about the product when I first saw it are still there and i still love, but I think they can do better. I also think Microsoft has started to establish a track record of making some big hardware improvements over time. Just look at the evolution of the original Surface to the Surface Pro 3. The steps forward with each iteration were huge.

As tempting at that screen is. I’m probably going to hold off on the Studio for this generation. Although I have been begging the folks at Microsoft to send me a review unit, yeah, they stopped returning my email.

Also there are rumors of Microsoft Wacom partnership. Actually they are beyond rumors. It’s a thing. I’m really curios to see what comes of that, I would love to see that blossom and see the n-trig tech replaced across the Surface line. The Surface pen isn’t bad, but I prefer drawing with Wacom’s tech.

Some folks think we might see Wacom tech in the new Surface Pro 5 and Surface books that are expected this spring. I think the Wacom announcement was made last winter or spring and product development cycles can be longer than you think so it’s possible that we will see Wacom tech in the new Surface Pros but I wouldn’t put bet the farm on that.

So yeah, that’s my advice. I think a $3000 computer is an investment that should last you 4 years, at least. I’m not sure this one will.