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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

Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi is Cartoon Brew's Publisher and Editor-at-large.

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