Microsoft Releases Desperately Needed Internal Update for Surface Studio Desktop

Enlarge / Surface Studio 2+ is the first update to the desktop in four years.


For the first time in four years, Microsoft updated the only desktop in its Surface PC lineup. The Surface Studio 2+ improves on the Surface Studio 2 by modernizing the internals and updating its port selection while leaving the rest of the machine, particularly its large touchscreen and foldable hinge, alone.

But this all-in-one is still not for everyone. A Surface Studio 2+ with a Surface Pen, keyboard, and mouse will set you back a whopping $4,500, while a “cheap” version with the same specs but without those external accessories is $4,300. And despite a big jump in specs, we still have serious questions about the components Microsoft has chosen for a pricey all-in-one that’s aimed at creative professionals.

Surface Studio 2+ will be available in the US starting October 25.

The original Surface Studio 2 was introduced in October 2018 and has technically been available ever since (although it has mostly been out of stock recently). This long lifecycle, plus the fact that the computer didn’t use the latest available components in the first place, meant that when Windows 11 arrived last year, Microsoft needed to change system requirements specifically to include Studio 2. Otherwise, the PC would not have met the strict processor requirements of the new operating system.

The best upgrade to Studio 2+ is a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, decidedly mid-range, but a huge step up in power and capability from the 1060 and 1070-series GPUs still offered in the regular, ray-traced-capable Studio 2. Y other AI-accelerated workloads. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 support modernize wireless communication capabilities. And a total of three Thunderbolt 4 ports, along with two USB-A ports and a Gigabit Ethernet port, upgrade the wired connectivity options (although the SD card slot is gone). The better GPU and additional Thunderbolt ports also allow for better external display support: up to three 4K displays running at 60Hz, whereas the previous model could drive one 4K display at 60Hz or two at 30Hz.

Elsewhere, Microsoft has left it alone well enough. The 28-inch 4500×3000 DCI-P3 touchscreen remains the same, as does the 1080p webcam. That display still retains full compatibility with Surface Pen accessories, a useful feature for artists. And 1TB of user-upgradable storage and 32GB of non-upgradable DDR4 RAM will be more than enough for most things.

A revamped selection of ports supports up to three 4K 60Hz displays, though it's a shame the SD card reader is gone.
Enlarge / A revamped selection of ports supports up to three 4K 60Hz displays, though it’s a shame the SD card reader is gone.


But real puzzler, a decision that I struggle to find a justification for, is the processor. Yeah, the new studio breaks four CPU generations, from a Core i7-7820HQ to a Core i7-11370H. The main problem is that the i7-11370H, like the 7820HQ, is yet a quad-core chip: Microsoft includes the same CPU in some configurations of the surface portable studio. chips like the i7-11600H Y i7-11800H they offer six or eight CPU cores and are well within the Studio desktop’s power budget. And all of these processors, it must be said, are out of date from the start; 12th Gen Intel CPUs are available and offer even better multi-core performance for exactly the kind of high-end creative professionals the Surface Studio seems to target.

Us questioned the wisdom to include the i7-11370H CPU in Laptop Studio when competing with high-end laptops like Dell XPS 15 and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon Extreme had moved to those six- and eight-core CPU options. In the context of a $4,300 desktop, where there’s even more room for a large fan and heatsink to cool a high-performance CPU, it’s almost absurd. For a professional-focused desktop, thinking in terms of press releases and product pages, it’s profoundly odd that Microsoft would pass up an opportunity to advertise more than double CPU performance, given how much CPUs have changed since those Intel CPUs. seventh generation. were introduced.

For its part, when asked about the choice of processor, a Microsoft representative told Ars that Studio “has always been about more than components” and that “the experiences possible in this product have kept it in a class of its own.” In short, the desktop’s unique display and hinge combination and other capabilities are more important than the internal CPU.

That’s not an invalid point: You can’t get a large Surface Pen-compatible touchscreen and foldable hinge on any other desktop, regardless of how much you’re willing to pay. I also don’t want to fall into the trap of technical reviewers being picky spec sheets, insisting on a problem that won’t actually be noticeable to real people using the computer. But especially as a $4,300 desktop, there are certainly people who would do Consider this system that will be shut down by its underpowered CPU.

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