The Microsoft Surface Studio has just recently been announced which gave me a few days to mull over what must be one of the most out of left field showings, and one that many people think may well have the power to overtake a flagging Apple, certainly with regard to their often below par support of the VFX industry with their workstations.
So, what is the Microsoft Surface Pro and why should we care? Well, and please remember this is an EDITORIAL, let us look firstly at what makes this a game changer in this author’s humble opinion by starting with what we usually have to use for our 3ds Max, Mudbox, 3dcoat, Marmoset, Houdini, Unreal Engine, Unity3d, Lumberyard or whatever the hell tool you prefer.
“There’s room for this VRay dongle in here somewhere” – every PC artist ever.
On a serious note – especially for the more modern studios with their open plan layouts and clean desks, PCs are frankly a messy nightmare. It is no wonder that for years people have looked to the Apple products with their clean lines, minimalist looks and lack of cables frankly EVERYWHERE and said to themselves, “that looks convenient. Wonder if I can afford it / if it will run my PC application I use every hour of every working day?”
NO OF COURSE IT DOESN’T WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!
Well, that used to be the reply. Yes you can install Linux, yes you can install Bootcamp and put on Windows 7, however you are basically disguising your cat as a dog. It will still prefer to hunt mice and do a dump in your plant pot – Apple is not a great solution for your Windows needs and we have a LOT of Windows software we need as artists. (And yes I can already head the clickety clack of the Apple die-hard writing a comment but please read on…)
Apple products are good for Apple users, of that there is no doubt. Apple makes a solid product in a design that is recognisable and sells to design studios and other industries very well both at a studio and indie level; However it is still Apple and, especially taking into account their lack of innovation recently, something like this from Microsoft has to be a massive game changer for those for whom design and convenience coupled with power is important.
Cable hater’s wet dream? I think so…
Anyway back to the article. What we have here from Microsoft is their bold entry into a modern desktop market – originally spearheaded by their Surfacebooks and Surface, this is a new and exciting direction in my opinion – obviously if your studio has the money to support this kind of hardware upgrade as it does not come cheap. However… again let’s break that down some; Firstly we have to bear in mind that there are no Xeons yet in the Surface Studio – unlike the Mac Pro, instead the options are for i5 and i7 processors, which I have to say the i7 is a bulldozer of a processor however as I have had one for some 6 years (first generation) and it still slays everything I throw at it. Anyway… I am looking at the basic specs at the moment for their i7. This is what you get for your $3499;
- 6th generation i7 Intel Processor
- 16GB Ram
- 2GB GPU
Well that’s not a lot of specifications… Admittedly we have the issue that the press release is heavily controlled by MS and perhaps as it is advance orders only they are wanting to be a little bit vague however thanks to the detective work of the team (and simply typing some words into google) we can now clarify the specifications more. Here we go…
- No more details at the moment on that i7
- i7 Intel 16GB: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memory
- No real details on memory speed (sorry)
- 28″ Pixelsense display 4500×3000 192 dpi display
- Color settings: sRGB, DCI-P3 and Vivid Color Profiles, Individually color calibrated display
- Touch: 10 point multi-touch
- TPM chip for enterprise security
So that reads slightly better – thats a pretty good GFX card and the specs are reasonable if still a little vague. I think though that what people are going to be paying for here is clean edges, a mac-like experience in feel and the ability to run Windows applications natively. For any small studio really I can see this being – not an essential purchase certainly- one that they would consider deeply. If I had a spare few thousand dollars knocking about I am sure I would give it a good old English try.
In the meantime enjoy this blatantly promotional video of the Surface Studio – certainly until I manage to get my grubby hands on one to try it out! Next editorial will be more in depth on the Microsoft Surface Studio puck.