This fall, I was gearing myself up to be tantalized by Apple’s update to the MacBook line. It had been quite awhile, and those MacBook Pros and Airs were starting to look a bit old compared to sexy touchscreen laptops with cool names like “Yoga” and “Flex.”
Apple’s new tiny MacBook is a noteworthy addition, and I used one for a few months at Zeus Jones. That said, once I was out on my own it didn’t quite feel worth the high price tag. (ALSO, it doesn’t connect to Apple’s Thunderbolt monitor, which is stupid. I went to the Apple store four times before they basically told me it was impossible.) I chose instead to buy a much less expensive MacBook Air and an iPad Pro for about the same price as a MacBook or MacBook Pro. It’s insane how much faster the iPad Pro is than my computer, and how much better the display is. But that’s another story.
What I didn’t expect was for Microsoft to sneak up on me and drop a beautiful machine the day before Apple’s announcement. I’m not in the market for a desktop computer at all, but I watched the Surface Studio video four or five times, entranced. While Apple has been busy making their desktop basically look like a chic garbage can, Microsoft managed to pack a whole computer into something the size of an external hard drive. The display was huge, flexible, beautiful and included not just a touch screen, but a “surface” that looked like every artist’s dream. Or really the dream of any kid who likes scribbling with crayons.
I love drawing on my iPad Pro a lot, and the experience on the Surface Studio looked just as great if not better.
Then there was that dial. I didn’t know I wanted such a thing, but I did. Could I become this ambidextrous artist moving my brush size up and down as I painted? Uh probably not, but I would like to try!
I stopped into the Microsoft store yesterday to take the Surface Studio for a spin. I’m not in the market to buy one, as I don’t think I can justify a 3k desktop computer, but it couldn’t hurt to try.
After the Microsoft guy tried to teach me the 80 things the dial could do, I finally got to give it a whirl. The first thing I’ll say is that the dial clearly has a learning curve. Most of what he said went right over my head and I’d have to work with it for a month or so to get it down. The dial also slips down the screen if you don’t have the screen tilted just so.
The monitor itself has a gorgeous resolution, and it seemed to operate at lightning speed. I could see using it for everything, not just drawing or visual apps.
The stylus attaches to the side with a magnet, which seems pretty handy. My Apple Pencil is always floating around my house on its own.
The keyboard is modest and has a nice feel, not so different from Apple’s wireless keyboard. It does have a little more bounce though. I tried typing for a bit on Microsoft Word, which still uses Calibri as its default font. Maybe time for an update there, too?
Overall, I found my short experience with the Suface Studio to match up to what I saw in their demo video. It was stunning, completely different from anything out there, and incredibly intuitive to use. (Other than the nuances of the dial.) I even found myself using the stylus over the mouse to close boxes, which goes against some of Apple’s arguments that people won’t use a “gorilla arm” on a laptop or desktop. It’s not so gorilla-like with a stylus.
Hate on touchscreen desktop or laptop computers all you want, but choosing not to have that feature is going to be increasingly controversial. This makes me wonder what Apple’s next move will be. Invest more in the iPad Pro experience and move away from laptops? Do something cooler than add a touchscreen strip to the laptop? Make a touchscreen desktop computer that is basically the same and sell it for $8,000? (Ok, that last one is my actual bet.) Whatever it is, it will probably make Microsoft’s 3k price tag look cheap by comparison.
The reviews are starting to roll in now, so I’m curious to see what other people think. Hopefully this new player will push the whole category forward.