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Microsoft’s Gorgeous Surface Studio Might Be A Cintiq Killer

With today’s announcement of its all-in-one touchscreen desktop Surface Studio, Microsoft is making a play for the creative community and edging its way into territory long dominated by companies such as Apple and Wacom.

Here is the announcement video:

Building on its portable Surface Pro line, which has proven to be a big hit with artists including animation artists, the Surface Studio looks to be custom-designed from the ground-up for the creative community.

With i5 and i7 Intel Core processors and NVIDIA GeForce graphic cards, the Surface Studio is ready for heavy-duty graphics work. It has a hinge that allows the user to easily tilt the screen from an upright angle down to a nearly-flat angle for drawing. Its centerpiece—a 28″ screen that Microsoft says is the “world’s thinnest LCD monitor ever built”—has a 10-point multi-touch and 4500×3000 resolution (higher than 4K), easily besting any offering from Wacom’s Cintiq line.

Microsoft is so confident that its device exceeds the Cintiq’s specs and performance that the company’s hardware chief, Panos Panay, told Fast Company, “I don’t want to say [the Cintiq] is gone because I’m a big fan of Wacom but, fundamentally what this product is doing is replacing that.” The key sticking point preventing artists from abandoning Wacom completely might be the Surface Pen, which, despite its 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, has been criticized by some illustrators for lacking the accuracy that can be achieved with Wacom stylus pens.

As impressive as the Surface Studio looks, it’s most revolutionary aspect isn’t the computer itself, but rather the accompanying $100 puck-like peripheral Surface Dial, a physical scroll-wheel with haptic feedback that aims to change the way artists interact with technology by creating a more natural and physical experience. The Dial, which was a big hit with the tech community at its unveiling today, is most easily understood when seen in action:

The Surface Studio starts at $2,999, a relative bargain considering that a 27″ Wacom display (minus the computer) costs only slightly less. Microsoft will start shipping the Surface Studio in limited quantities this holiday season, followed by general availability in 2017. It can be pre-ordered on the Microsoft web site.

The early reaction within the animation community has been extremely positive, although it should be cautioned that the device isn’t out yet and artists still haven’t offered their thoughts based on actual usage of the computer:

The key specs for the Surface Studio:

  • Display: 28-inch 4500 x 3000 PixelSense LCD (192 PPI), 3:2 aspect ratio, Adobe sRGB/DCI-P3/Vivid Color settings, 10-point multitouch
  • Weight: 21 pounds
  • Processor: 6th Generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7
  • Storage: 1TB or 2TB hybrid drive
  • Memory: 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB of RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 965M 2GB (in Core i5 Studio) or GTX 980M 4GB (in Core i7 Studio)
  • I/O: 4 USB 3.0 (one high-power port), 3.5mm headset jack, SD card slot, Ethernet, Mini DisplayPort
  • Surface Pen: 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity
  • Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Cameras: 5.0 MP camera with 1080p HD video (front)
  • Sound: Stereo 2.1 speakers with Dolby Audio Premium
  • siskavard

    No HDMI out tho!

  • Iuri Monteiro

    its not wacom made a pen for it because the normal that come just have 1024 lvl pressure and the wacom version have from 2048 to 8000 lvls

    • Gary

      Not to mention with the new wacom stylus: tilt control, almost 1:1 latency , no parallex etc… WACOM is determined to stay on top by doing what it does best now that they know apple and microsoft are trying to challenge them

  • Dudedudedue

    I dunno. One big thing the cintiq has over this is the lack of planned obsolescence. I can’t imagine it would be easy to upgrade the parts on the computer. But I would love it if they just sold the tablet part.

    Anyway, certainly looks interesting and the commercial was really well done.

  • Ntrig in a laptop is one thing, ntrig in a $3k desktop is another. No tilt, issues with subtle pressure and line jitters on my desktop are not things I would look forward too.

    • Mike

      Agreed. If the surface studio had better pen tech, I’d return this cintiq I just got and order one. I’m already considering it but it probably wont happen for pen reasons. The studio will probably be better for everything except for drawing/painting.

  • schwarzgrau

    It seems since apple doesn’t give a shit about creatives anymore, Microsoft tries to get them. Probably to get some “street cred” back. Cause creatives are “cool” and if you build the tools for the “cool” people you soon will make the tools for everybody.
    But they even try to get some good work tools for creatives out. If Windows would be a bit more stable I would love to switch to it completely.

    • Malandrix

      Windows is a stable enough platform.

      • schwarzgrau

        Since I’m a bit annoyed by apple dropping every useable feature in the last few years I was kind of excited about trying Windows 10 on my Cintiq Companion 2. After a few month using Windows 10 I consider OS X the lesser evil.

        • Barrett

          It baffles me why Apple has completely stabbed the professional artist community in the back over the past decade. Even before Jobs died, it seemed like one thing after another was going AWAY from creative-friendly when it came to Apple’s designs and product offerings. The sudden shift of Final Cut Pro from an actual professional editing suite to a consumer-oriented, incompatible program that could have just as easily been sold as “iMovie Plus” was the big one, but there’s a lot that’s happened with the basic design of the software and hardware that’s seemed to say “hey, you helped keep us afloat for 30 years, but F U anyway, even though you pay for quality and are a loyal customer base.”

          • It is truly a shame to see how that confidence and brand loyalty has sorta eroded away like that.

    • Mfwebee Richards

      Only ‘business creatives’ are cool in the eyes of Silicon Valley.

    • Mike

      It sounds like you haven’t used windows in years. It’s been at least a few years since I had any sort of crash, and that was because I was overclocking…

      • schwarzgrau

        Please read my comment below. I don’t have crash issues, but a lot of tiny stuff which isn’t working like it should, which in the sum made it pretty annoying for me to use windows.
        Overall I don’t think OS X is better, but at least the UNIX base makes it a lot more useable for me, cause you don’t have to fiddle around with a lot of basic stuff like the wifi etc.

    • Roca

      I worked for a studio a couple years ago that was running Illustrator and Photoshop on a Windows machine. I hate to say, but it was way more stable and better than it ran on my Mac at home. With Adobe going to a subscription model, there isn’t much stopping artists from changing over to Windows now. I still love Apple but I hope they catch up. Every screen should be a touchscreen by now. The pencil function is a must-have. And I agree, Wacom is dead or going to be.

      • donnp

        I used the Mac from the mid eighties until a couple of years ago, when I switched to Cintiq Companion.

        People seem to forget that Apple almost went bankrupt catering to the niche creative market. Their riches come mostly from the iPhone, which is a mass market device.

        Since Windows 7, and especially 10, I see no reason to stay with the Mac. Apple doesn’t even offer Nvidia graphics cards. It would be a waste of money for them.

        As others have said, issues with the Surface Pen are the deal breaker here. However, these may be solved when Wacom releases its Surface-compatible pen at end of year.

  • Diego Dicaro

    Its a hard sale for me. The fact it is an all in one mean your getting rid of it in 1-2 years that just how tech is your gonna want a better graphic card, processor and more ram. Also why the two arms for mounting. I like to rotate. this is always gonna be landscape. What comes after this will be more interesting will wacom respond will apple give a shit will this even sell enough that they make a better model?

    • Alan

      actually that depends on what you use your computer for. gaming? than youre getting the wrong device. light gaming is fine and will be so for a few years but defintiely not intended to be a gaming machine. on the processor side, which is more important for digital artists, than this machine will probably last a lot longer. processor technology has hit a bit of a wall so you can expect todays processors to still be relevant in even 5 years time. in fact, a cpu from 2012 is still considered a decent to good cpu for gaming and productivity. but i do agree, wish this was just a display instead of a built in pc

  • I have the Surface Pro 4, but never use it because my cintiq does such a better job at mark making. This looks gorgeous but the pen technology just isn’t good enough sadly.

    • KW

      Do we know if the pen tech got any better or is it the same or is this just speculation? I havent seen any info saying either

  • I agree that it is a competitor to Wacom, and a little bit with Apple. I think it will be too great of a challenge to make that shift though due to artists’ deep roots with Wacom and the Cintiq model. But only time will tell.

  • Ant Harding

    As a Windows/ Cintiq 27hd user, i would really like to demo this.

  • Sid

    At $3K, one can only hope Willy Wonka music plays when you sit down at the computer.

  • TwirlyPop

    I would gladly trade in my Cintiq and my new iMac for this beautiful machine…if it ran MacOS. My clunky 22″ Cintiq looks like it was designed in 1992, and the iMac hasn’t changed in overall design since 2007. Other than the Pencil and iPadPro, Apple should be ashamed of their lack of innovation for the creative computing industry.

    • Satalin

      LOL What have you seen the new Cintiq. Go research. PLEASE

  • Elsi Pote

    Ding dong Cintiq is ….. Wait!

    With no proven field/production tests and Microsoft’s skewed reputation I wouldn’t be waving any wacom killer flag yet.

    God know if this thing doesn’t bring the big $$$, they will kill it like the zune, their smart watches and whatever attempts they had to build a better mouse (trap for the costumers).

    • Mike

      I’d hate to see this thing get dropped… All they really need to do is upgrade then pen and I’m in for a studio as my next drawing platform.

  • Doconnor

    Penny-Arcade cartoonist Gabe has had one for a week and he raves about it.

    “drawing on the Cintiq now felt like drawing on a piece of dirty plexiglass hovering over a CRT monitor from 1997.”

    • schwarzgrau

      I believe it’s his honest opinion, but it’s hard to stay completely unbiased if Microsoft asks YOU how they could improve their product.

  • luca

    I had my cintiq 21 for 8 years now, I switched computers 3 times during those years. it makes no sense to me to buy an all in one machine when wacom makes such durable products that you can keep using while upgrading your computer. if this is for professionals they should have made a monitor not a computer. you`ll need a new drawing monitor every time you want to upgrade your machine.

    • gadgety

      “you`ll need a new drawing monitor every time you want to upgrade your machine” Exactly. The machine needs to be upgradeable.

    • gadgety

      “you`ll need a new drawing monitor every time you want to upgrade your machine” Exactly. The machine needs to be upgradeable.

    • KW

      There’s nothing that says it cant be upgraded. At the most you’ll be able to swap parts yourself like any other desktop PC. At least (and most annoyingly) you’ll have to take it to a specialist like with Apple products and have them upgrade it for you.

      • luca

        it doesnt look like the kind of machine you can upgrade yourself (but if it is that`s great) however upgrades or not at some point you will buy a new computer and you`ll lose your tablet monitor.

        • KW

          True, but that logic can be applied to nearly every computer and/or tablet.

    • Satalin

      Exactly I just want the monitor. Not a All-in-one.

      The new Cintiq is a win for me.

  • jojo

    At least it brings a bit of competition to the field. I hope wacom notices and put an upgraded cintiq out there.

  • Michel Van

    Would Steven Jobs be alive
    he would’ve presented this as the newest iMac…

    • schwarzgrau

      No he wouldn’t ! Apple started giving up creatives before Steve Jobs died. They try to maximize profit, Steve was no exception.

  • Marti386

    Oh, yeah. This is what I’ve been waiting for! :-)

  • FJGC

    The device looks neat. But hopefully they’ll release a display only version too (I am guessing the cool features, like the puck, would be Windows only, but who knows, maybe MS can surpise us), because one could argue that a Cintiq 27HD touch, which costs about 2800$, plus a 1000$ pc build could still be more cost effective and powerful, (if not form factor wise), than the top of the line Studio that MS is offering. I also hope it’s possible if they can sell the puck by itself, it looks really useful even if you couldn’t stick it on your normal monitor.

  • SnicksterFace

    Microsoft is officially trying to steal away creatives from Apple.

    But when it comes to creative applications, Windows has been terribly unstable for me. I’ll stick with my MacBook Pro and Cintiq.

    It’s a good start though, and when Windows won’t crash while I’m running Maya or Photoshop, I’ll take a look.

    • RSIlluminator

      It’s funny because Maya crashes daily for me. it doesn’t matter whether its Windows or MacOS. It’s the same situation with most other complex software packages. They’re full of bugs, and that’s why most of the good ones keep getting updated regularly.

  • Gary

    Lol it seriously isn’t. Anybody who used a cintiq will immediately tell u the surface pen is horrible, and is really behind even qhen compared to thr Apple Pencil. I bought the SP4 for the pen for drawing and schoolwork, and I am high disappointed at the accuracy and poor feel (when drawing on screen). The latency also sucks, and theres not enough levels of pressure sensitivity. With Cintiq Mobile Pro with Wacom Stylus 2 coming there is no way this overpriced piece of thing can compete with Wacom Cintiqs