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December 02, 2016

Why Microsoft should have released Surface Monitor instead of Surface Studio


When Microsoft's Panos Panay enthusiastically unveiled the Surface Studio a month back, honestly speaking I am very impressed, on both Panay's spirit and the Surface Studio itself. It felt like a deja-vu, reliving the same "wow" moment when Panay introduced the Surface Book last year.




Despite the fact that the technology itself is not totally new, for example, the Surface Book is just like a Asus Transformer while Surface Studio is a combination of mini desktop with laptop components and a Wacom Cintiq graphic pen display. However, you can't deny that Microsoft has done a really good job at reinventing the existing technology for certain use case, changing how humans interact with the hardware and software. That's why people are buying into the idea itself even though it is not new.

Is a touchscreen new to you? No. Is a small PC new to you? No.

So what makes the Surface Studio different? I'd say the implementation and use case of Zero Gravity hinge and the Surface Dial. You may argue that Apple iMac G4 aka Sunflower iMac, had almost the same display hinge, but lets not compare them because both are designed for different purposes. In short, the hardware and software are always designed to help us get things done with the least effort while providing a great user experience.


Armed with that understanding, now back to the topic itself. While the Surface Studio is a wonderful device. Why I personally think that Microsoft should have released the Surface Monitor instead of Surface Studio.

1. Beautiful 28-inch 4.5K PixelSense display


Having personally tested both Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4, I am happy to report that the display on both devices are amazing especially the latter one which has higher resolution and sharper. Hence, when Microsoft announced that the new 28-inch 4.5K PixelSense display will support wide colour gamut, I'm sure it will look brilliant and sharp.

Furthermore, 4K content is getting common nowadays and this is also part of the reason why 4K monitors is on the rise. Other than that, the 4.5K resolution is simply a wet dream for creative professionals especially editing 4K videos at native resolution with extra pixels for side bars and tools.

Not to mention that professional 4K monitors that support pen and touch input is simply non-existent at the time of writing. Wacom's 27-inch Cintiq that supports pen and touch with QuadHD 2560*1440 resolution retails for US$ 2799.95. While we can't simply compare both of them but clearly each of them have their own strengths and definitely Wacom have step up their game in terms of panel quality to justify the price premium.

2. Price


Speaking of the price, seriously, Surface Studio is extremely expensive for the offered hardware specifications. The base model retails at US$2999 for Intel Core i5-6440HQ, 8GB RAM, GTX965M 2GB and 1TB hybrid drive is kind of jaw-dropping.

I know that the Studio is targeted at creative professionals and there's always a reason for the price tag. However lets just assume if half of the price you paid is for the display and the Zero Gravity hinge, would you be happy to pay US$1499 for just the standalone 28-inch 4.5K PixelSense display with the hinge?

Come on, US$1499 for a 28-inch 4.5K display isn't half bad at all, consider that the Dell UP2715K 27-inch 5K monitor retails for around US$1800, and it does not support pen or touch input. The strong contender could be the latest LG UltraFine 5K display that retails for US$1299, but doesn't supporting pen and touch input.

3. Every Windows 10 PC can be a Surface Studio


Even if the actual price for the display and hinge would be US$1999, that is still US$1000 cheaper and lower barrier of entry consider that most of us already have a Windows PC. Why would I purposely buy a lower spec machine just for the monitor? Why can't I run AutoCAD or Premiere Pro on my much powerful desktop PC?

On top of that, the display also comes ready with Windows Hello, Windows 10 users can literally convert the existing desktops into a Surface Studio that not only supports Windows Hello, at the same time also supports the pen and touch input which Microsoft has been taken pride of in the Surface Pro and Surface Book lineup.

Conclusion

Of course I don't expect pen and touch is the future of desktop input. It is a niche and specific types of user requirement and use case, but the overall design and user experience would definitely spur competition and innovation among the PC and laptop manufacturers to provide on-par experience as delivered by the Surface family.

Nevertheless, since Microsoft has made it clear that they are open for partners to use their own technology to bring similar devices to the market, there will be more and more Surface Studios popping up from other manufacturers such as Dell, HP, Lenovo and etc. However, aren't you looking forward for a standalone Surface Monitor as well?

What do you think? Would you be more happier if Microsoft just remove the weak hardware and sell it as a monitor at lower price? Let us know in the comments.

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