What it is: Microsoft unveiled the new Surface Studio PC designed especially for graphic artists.
If you were Dell, Lenovo, or Hewlett-Packard, you might be wary of Microsoft’s latest hardware offerings. The bottom line is that most third-party PC manufacturers make decent machines but Microsoft is pushing the envelope by making premium machines. In the old days, critics used to complain that the Macintosh was too expensive because PCs were much cheaper. Now that Microsoft PCs are far more expensive than most PCs made by other companies, that complaint no longer makes sense.
When you pay more, you get more. That’s why so many people willingly paid more for a Macintosh and that’s why many people will willingly pay more for a Microsoft Surface tablet or a Surface Studio PC. One extremely innovative feature of the Surface Studio PC is the Surface Dial input device, which looks like a cylinder that you can use on your desk as an additional input device, or placed directly on the touch screen.
Creating a new input device for touch screens further separates the Surface Studio from the Macintosh because the Macintosh lacks a touch screen. For artists, the Surface Dial lets you draw with one hand while choosing various tools with the other using the Surface Dial placed directly on the touch screen of a PC. This is brilliant — as long as you have a large enough screen like the Surface Studio.
You can still use the Surface Dial on the smaller screens of the Surface tablets and Surface Book laptop, but the smaller screen limits the usefulness of the Surface Dial because there’s far less room to use the Surface Dial.
There’s no question the Surface Dial will be great for graphic artists using the large screen of the Surface Studio. It’s less clear how useful the Surface Dial will be on the smaller screens of the Surface tablets. It’s also less clear how useful the Surface Dial will be with non-graphic artists.
If you use a spreadsheet or word processor, how will the Surface Dial make your tasks easier? If you write C# code in Visual Studio, how will the Surface Dial make your tasks faster? If you just use a browser, how will the Surface Dial make browsing the Internet more convenient?
Microsoft needs to answer these questions with clear demonstrations, or else the Surface Dial will likely remain a niche input device for graphic artists using the larger screen of the Surface Studio. Another question Microsoft needs to address is the keyboard of the Surface Studio.
The Surface Studio is geared towards graphic artists so it’s likely to steal away previous users of the Macintosh. Yet despite the Surface Studio’s massive innovations in hardware, look at its keyboard.
The numeric keypad still displays the dual function of numbers and cursor control keys, a feature that has long been obsolete for decades. How many people want to turn the numeric keypad into a cursor keypad when there already exists a dedicated cursor keypad already? This antiquated feature should have been killed decades ago, which the Macintosh has done but even the Surface Studio still retains despite its uselessness.
Also notice that the Surface Studio keyboard still retains the obsolete row of function keys at the top. Functions keys haven’t been used since the popularity of Windows as a graphical user interface, yet PC manufacturers still insist on shipping keyboards with useless function keys at the top, which often double as hardware controls instead. The latest Macintosh laptops have dumped these useless rows of function keys and replaced them with the more versatile touch panel instead that lets a program display customized keys instead. The Macintosh has also long since dumped the dual cursor/numeric keypad and made it a dedicated numeric keypad. That’s far more useful and futuristic than another antiquated keyboard with useless function keys and equally pointless cursor/numeric keypads that the Surface Studio keyboard still offers.
Microsoft’s Surface Studio PC is an amazing PC ($2,999) that’s priced out of the range of most people but perfect for graphic artists. It’s a shame that Microsoft still can’t update their keyboards into the 21st century at the same time they’re advancing the state of Windows PCs with their Surface Studio PCs.