Microsoft's Surface Studio 2+ could be an illustrator's dream PC
The new Surface Studio 2+ isn’t exactly the Studio 3, but at least the CPU and GPU are much faster, and there are Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports.
After four years, Microsoft is finally updating its all-in-one Surface Studio desktop computer... sort of.
At its fall Surface event on Thursday, the tech giant announced the Surface Studio 2+ — not the Studio 3 that everyone was hoping for — alongside the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Laptop 5. The sleek computer’s adjustable 28-inch touchscreen remains unchanged and so does the overall design, but essential components such as the CPU, GPU, and ports have been refreshed.
More power inside — The biggest knock on the Surface Studio 2 was its seventh-generation Intel CPU and underpowered Nvidia GTX 1070 and 1080 GPUs. At its release in 2018, these specs immediately made the Studio 2 unable to play the latest PC games and lacked the performance to prevent the machine from bottlenecking quickly for power-hungry apps.
Microsoft has improved the performance of the Surface Studio 2+ with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11370 CPU and Nvidia GTX 3060 laptop graphics, but these specs are a far cry from the bleeding edge. Microsoft says the Studio 2+’s CPU is “up to 50 percent faster” than the Studio 2 and “5x more powerful” than the original Studio; GPU performance is “double” compared to the Studio 2.
Notably, there’s only one configuration now for CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage.
Surface Studio 2+ specs
- Display: 28-inch PixelSense touchscreen with 10-point multi-touch
- Aspect ratio and resolution: 3:2; 4,500 x 3,000
- CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11370
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 laptop GPU with 6GB GDDR6 RAM
- RAM: 32GB DDR4
- Storage: 1TB SSD
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax
- Webcam: 1080p full HD resolution
- Audio: Dual far-field Studio mics; Stereo 2.1 speakers with Dolby Atmos
- Ports: 3x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB-A 3.1, headphone jack, Ethernet port
- Software: Windows 11 Pro
Hello Thunderbolt 4, goodbye SDXC slot — The old Surface Studio 2 had four USB-A 3.0 ports, 1x USB-C, and 1x SDXC card reader. On the Surface Studio 2+, Microsoft’s removed the SDXC card slot — a major loss for creatives such as photographers and video editors in my opinion — and replaced it with four USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports and two faster USB-A 3.1 ports. If you need an SDXC card reader, you can buy an inexpensive adapter or a multi-port dongle. But the removal of the SDXC reader is somewhat baffling when even Apple, famous for removing useful ports, included one — prominently on the front — in the Mac Studio.
Price and release date — The Surface Studio 2+ comes out on October 25 for $4,299.99 sans Surface Pen, keyboard, and mouse. If you need these accessories, they’ll cost an extra $200 for a total of $4,499.99.
Who is the Surface Studio 2+ for? — One look at these prices and your jaw will likely drop. But consider what you’re getting and who Microsoft is selling the Surface Studio 2+ to: creative professionals. Sure, a Mac Studio starts at $1,999 for the M1 Pro version, but it doesn’t come with a display, let alone a 28-inch touchscreen that angles down into a drafting table-like angle. If you were to add in Apple’s Studio display, which starts at $1,599, Mac Studio set would run $3,589. A Mac Studio with the beefier M1 Ultra chip would cost $3,999; with a Studio Display that balloons to $5,598.
If you’re the type of creative professional who illustrates for a living, the Surface Studio 2+ — even with its six-year-old design — will pay for itself in no time. And if you’re not — maybe you’re an aspiring artist — this machine will last for a while so long as you’re not expecting to play the latest games on the highest settings. As somebody who has used and lusted over the Studio 2, I assure you that the Surface Studio 2+ is as futuristic as it looks.