As a videographer and motion graphic designer for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen my fair share of new design tools –from the clunky Gateway I used when I was first starting out, to Boxx, Alienware, and my current HP Z640.
I’m always willing to try out the latest and greatest tools, but when it comes to my workstation, I am staunchly in favor of desktops over laptops due to their vast superiority in processing power, memory, and storage. Laptops have come a long way, but when you are working with HD video and graphics-intensive files in After Effects, inferior computing power can make a difference in whether you meet your deadline and also whether you meet your vision of how you want your video/design to look.
So pardon my skepticism over a computer that doesn’t feature the usual rectangular tower and box that usually drives my computing power and gets me home in time for dinner. That said, the new Microsoft Surface Studio offers a glimpse into the future of graphic design workstations, and I was willing (can I even say, excited) to give it a try.
My colleague Trevor had the honor of unboxing the Surface Studio, and I was immediately impressed.
The presentation is certainly sleek and elegant, and the monitor delivers vibrant and vivid colors that pop off the screen. The glass screen did present a noticeable glare from my office lights, but adjusting the angle with the zero gravity hinge remedied that fairly quickly. By default, Microsoft displays an owl on the desktop and you can see nearly every feather in great detail—a wow factor, for sure, and an early indicator of the machine’s high-quality graphics. The wireless and battery operated mouse and keyboard serve their usual function and are comforting to a desktop loyalist like me.
My first course of action was to open Adobe Premiere, and insert a USB drive to upload some video footage into the program. Sounds simple enough, but it took a bit of searching to find the USB ports, which are located on the back of the base unit, along with the headphone jack. Certainly not a deal breaker, but not very convenient.
I was more impressed with the Studio Surface’s performance. I didn’t experience any lag with the 4K video files I was working on. Processing and rendering was certainly compatible to any desktop, and the big and bright display was an acceptable replacement for my usual dual monitor setup.
I then opened Adobe After Effects. The magnetic pen glides easily over the screen, and is convenient for drawing shapes or masks and rotoscoping. I also tested the Microsoft Dial (which is sold separately). While switching colors and menus with a simple turn of the dial can be convenient, I didn’t find it pressing enough to warrant the additional expense. Playing with it more might change my mind, which makes me think that Microsoft should at least initially include it with the unit to get more people accustomed (addicted) to it.
Like Premiere, After Effects responded well to what I asked of it. RAM previews were quick and effects didn’t stall. The big monitor is also convenient for playback of your final video output, and beat out smaller, less-detailed computer screens that make it necessary to transfer your file to a TV monitor to review your work..
At the end of the day, I was impressed with the Microsoft Surface Studio, and see it as a viable tool for designers, editors, and artists to achieve their creative visions in the years ahead. It’s a robust and eye-catching workstation that I could see myself using regularly without loss of functionality or productivity.
Have you tried the Microsoft Surface Studio yet? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.