In Depth

Can Microsoft's Surface Studio challenge Apple's iMac?

All-in-one computer launches in UK next month, but can it compete with Apple's popular desktop?

Microsoft's Surface Studio will arrive on our shores in June, around six months after the all-in-one desktop made its public debut in the US.

Featuring a 28ins touchscreen with a premium finish, the laptop appears to be invading the territory long held by the Apple iMac.

The ability to draw on the display with the Surface Pen adds another dimension for design professionals. But what sets the Studio apart from the rest of the competition?

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Design

The Surface Studio acts as both as a desktop PC and touchscreen tablet, with the ability to plug in peripherals such as a sleek-looking keyboard and mouse. There's also a new

accessory called the Surface Dial, which opens up a round menu and allows you to make fine adjustments through circular movements.

The Verge says the touchscreen feels "totally naturally to use" and "easy to adjust" thanks to Microsoft's zero-gravity hinge, which allows the screen to be adjusted from the top "with a single finger".

The Surface Studio's display is also packed with pixels - 13.5 million of them - which the site says "makes things feel oddly lifelike". The only improvement Microsoft could make would be to introduce an OLED monitor, it adds. 

Hardware

While praising the Studio's Apple-rivalling design and hinge mechanism, Digital Trends says the 2TB hybrid hard drive's slower speed "could become an annoyance" if you manage multiple applications at once.

It features an older generation Nvidia GTX 980M graphics card, which won't appeal to hardcore gamers, but it surpasses the AMD Radeon unit in the iMac with Retina display, the site adds.

At its lowest 20-degree angle, the Surface Studio begins to feel like "the most powerful Wacom tablet in the world", says TechRadar. The technology allows for a "seamless drawing experience" and gesture controls are registered with "near 1:1" precision.

Some may "balk" at the older graphics architecture, but "in our brief time with the device we didn't encounter any graphical performance issues that we think would be fixed with the absolute latest Nvidia graphics", says the site, adding: "While you could certainly game on this device, that shouldn't be the end goal for your three grand spent."

Cnet says the Surface Studio is an "inventive contrast" to the current Apple range, offering "multiple USB-A" and "even an Ethernet jack" - "the exact opposite approach" to the Cupertino giant.

"Some VR experiences may run", the website says, but "mileage may vary" as the Nvidia 980M graphics chip doesn't meet the "official guidelines of HTC Vive or Oculus Rift". 

Ease of use

The thinness of the Surface Studio's screen and the accuracy of the pen mean that "there's virtually no gap" between the accessory and the display, says ArsTechnica. This allows users to draw in a way that feels very precise without any errors caused by lag from pen inputs. 

But the website says that Microsoft's touchscreen "isn't as capable" as Wacom's Cintiq graphics tablet. Wacom's tablet has double the amount of pressure points and "can detect the angle of the pen against the screen". 

Nevertheless, the Surface Studio may not be an immediate market leader in the graphics industry, argues the site, but it has given artists "something to think about". Those looking for a strong desktop PC that's also a graphics tablet will "definitely" find the Surface Studio a "viable option". 

Price 

Pre-orders for the Surface Studio are open now, with deliveries starting in June.

The range kicks off with a £2,999 Intel i5 model with 2GB of graphics RAM, which is followed by an Intel i7 variant at £3,549. The range-topping Studio gets 2TB of storage and 4GB of graphics RAM, which is priced at £4,249. 

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