Microsoft Surface Studio needs work

A lot of Surface Studio 1 and Surface Studio 2 devices are sitting on shelves at retailers doing nothing, when they should be doing work at graphic design offices. The Surface Studio needs work. Here's our design brief for the Surface Studio version 3.

Surface Studio 1

Ladies and gentlemen, the Surface Studio 1 was an amaaaaaaazing device, and every tech nerd and graphic designer on the planet wanted one... until we realised it would eternally suffer in the graphics scrap heap.

Yes, it may have taken Microsoft between two and four years to design and produce the Surface Studio, with a lot of that time taken up on making the huge screen perfect, and the hinge a piece of art.

However, it suffered and did not sell well, held back by the inclusion of a two year old part: the GPU.

The Surface Studio 1 launched with an old-news GTX 965 chip that was approaching two years old on the day of the debut of the "new" and otherwise amazing Surface Studio. The high-end more expensive version was available with a GTX 980 chip.

We had not even seen those GTX-9-series chips appear in anything for a year before the launch.

Yes, Microsoft was constrained by engineering time frames, heat management, thermal throttling, physical size and space, and other issues. We accept that the screen technology for the actual display would have taken years to get right. That explains the inclusion of an old GPU. Still, it was disappointing, given how amazing the rest of the machine was.

Surface Studio 2

Then Britney did it again. Someone at Microsoft (probably ultimately Panos Panay) green-lighted the Surface Studio 2, and authorised the inclusion of a GTX 1060 or GTX 1070, depending on the configuration you choose.

While we agree that the GTX 1060 and 1070 is a big improvement over the 965, and we accept that Microsoft moved mountains to include it in a chassis with severe physical space limitations without resorting to using the mobile version, buying a $4000 PC in 2018 with a GTX 1060 or 1070 still hurts.

Microsoft included USB-C on the Studio 2, but not Thunderbolt, so we still can't attach an external GPU.

It sold. It wasn't a flop, but it still sold slowly.

Surface Studio version 3

With the above details firmly in mind, the Surface Studio 3 needs to be super and awesome.

Here are two ways Microsoft can make the Surface Studio version 3 super-awesome:

1) Break it in to two parts:

Create a monitor and monitor stand section, that looks much like the current Surface Studio form factor. The base can be a dock that includes a power supply and ports. We want Ethernet, two USB-C, four Thunderbolt ports, UHS-III SD card slot, audio jack, Bluetooth, speakers, and microphones.

Create a second chassis that contains the guts of the computer. Motherboard, CPU, GPU, RAM, SSD, two DisplayPorts for additional monitors, and second power supply to power this unit.

Connect the two with Thunderbolt or a revised version of Surface Connect.

Using a Surface Connect cable would ensure that you must buy both sections, not just the monitor.


2) Sell me the Monitor on its own

Sell me the monitor on its own, and I'll supply my own computer.

Let us have the amazing 28" PixelSense display, the housing, the hinge, the base unit, with a power supply and a dock in the base.

I'll bring my own super computer, and connect it via Thunderbolt to the display/dock combo.

Alternatively, if Microsoft wont give us either of the above...

If we can't have either of the above, then at the very least, give us a Surface Studio 3 with the newest-possible GPU inside, and bless it with Thunderbolt, so we can connect an external GPU.

While you're at it, put a separate HDMI or DisplayPort socket on the back of the base, so that I can run a HDMI or DisplayPort cable from my external GPU to the display, without having my GPU performance bottlenecked by being funnelled back down the Thunderbolt cable and across the motherboard to the display again.

We love you, but...

Microsoft, we love you, but bits and pieces of the Surface portfolio really infuriate the tech community.

For instance:

  • The Surface Pro 6 is awesome, but it needs Thunderbolt 3.

  • The Surface Laptop 2 is great, but it needs two USB-C ports and two Thunderbolt 3.

  • The Surface Book 2 is awesome, but it needs Thunerbolt 3.

  • The Surface Go, just needs to go away and die.

  • The Type Covers need to come in the box with the Surface Pro, or get a 50% price cut.

  • The Surface Studio 3 needs to be re-imagined, as discussed above.

  • The Surface Dial 2 needs to be flatter and lighter.

  • The Surface Keyboard (desktop keyboards) are great, but too expensive. It's a keyboard, not a Bugatti.

While we're at it:

  • Windows Hello face unlock needs to be a standard feature on any Windows 10 device that costs more than US$900.

  • Windows Hello fingerprint scanning needs to be a standard feature on any Windows 10 device that costs more than US$600, excluding tablets.

  • Chin cameras need to be banned. (i'm looking at you, Dell XPS 13 and friends).

  • Digital Audio (Toslink) should be a standard on all desktop PCs. (Microsoft can't force that).

The Surface Studio display is an awesome monitor.

Microsoft, please force everyone else to make awesome monitors!

Now that we are moving forward in to 2019 and 2020, can we pleeeeeeeeease have Microsoft use your influence to encourage display manufacturers to hurry up and get the USB-C and Thunderbolt action happening.

I'm talking about killing VGA ports, DisplayPorts, mini-DisplayPorts, and HDMI ports, and making my external monitor connect over USB-C's DisplayPort channel (for cheaper monitors) or over Thunderbolt (for higher-priced monitors). I bought my first VGA monitor in the 1980s with a blue VGA port. Why am I still seeing VGA ports on new desktops and laptops in 2018? Why?

Moreover, let's put weight on the monitor manufacturers to value-add to their monitors by integrating docking and charging.

I want to have a new monitor with:

  • Thunderbolt port for serving pixels to the screen

  • A second Thunderbolt port to supply bandwidth for the dock

  • The dock will have:

  • Two powered USB-C ports

  • Two non-powered USB-C ports

  • Ethernet port

  • SD card slot

  • TOSLINK audio jack

  • A Qi wireless charging station in the foot of the monitor

Just imagine, you arrive home with your new HP laptop. You walk in to your home office, and put your laptop on the desk. You plug in one Thunderbolt cable to your laptop (the other end goes to the docking station built in to the rear of your monitor), and a second Thunderbolt cable that goes out to my external GPU and back to my main external display.

Now, my portable and power efficient HP laptop becomes the heart of my desktop PC experience. It is supplemented by an external GPU, to give me more horsepower for editing videos or playing games. I don't have to plug in any other cables, because everything is connected to the integrated dock in the rear of my monitor.

My wired keyboard and gaming mouse connect over USB-C.

My Ethernet connection plugs in to the dock on the monitor.

My external SSDs and backup drives are on Thunderbolt connected to the dock.

My wired or Bluetooth headset sit on the desk.

My printer connects over wifi.

My home media server connects to my wired network.

All of my home automation devices connect on a separate SSID on the wifi network.

Once it's all set up, I don't need to worry about what plugs in where, because it's all networked and docked. I just plug in two Thunderbolt cables to my laptop, and I'm done.

Wouldn't that be nice!

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas


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