Hands-On With Microsoft Surface Studio: 5 Best Features Of The All-In-One PC

Trying Out The Newest Surface

After Microsoft finished its introduction of the Surface Studio to the world Wednesday, the company introduced it first-hand to journalists during a demo event in New York, and the CRN Test Center was on hand for it.

Beyond the flashiness of the 28-inch, super-thin display on the all-in-one PC -- which got its due during the Microsoft announcement -- we found plenty to like about the functionality of the Surface Studio.

In the following slides are the five aspects of Microsoft's new Surface Studio that most impressed us.

Display Plus Surface Pen

The most groundbreaking aspect of the Surface Studio is that it brings the ability to use a digital pen -- and use it very effectively -- on a huge display. The iMac doesn't have that ability, with the typical go-to option for creative professionals being low-resolution Wacom displays. The Surface Studio, then, is sort of a blending of iMac and Wacom -- a beautiful, massive high-resolution display that users can do serious drawing on.

Adjusting the display all the way downward allows users to work in a drawing board mode, and the display is designed to allow them to lean into it while working without doing any damage. In our tryout of the digital pen on the Surface Studio, the pen felt very natural to use and didn't suffer from any noticeable lag.


While it's destined to be overlooked by many, the adjustable arm on the Surface Studio struck us as one of its most impressive elements. The Surface Studio's display is huge and heavy -- about 13 pounds -- but you wouldn't know that from adjusting the display up and down. The display moved easily and fluidly in our tryout, the result of multiple mechanisms for counterbalancing the weight of the display. Compression springs at the base and torsion springs in the top and in the side -- along with other mechanisms hidden in the base of the PC -- provide stability and an intuitive path for the movements of the display. And that ease of use, ultimately, is pretty crucial for making professionals feel like they can really get to work on the Surface Studio.

Specialized Apps

The most impressive app we saw in use on the Surface Studio was not one made by Microsoft -- it was the graphic design app Mental Canvas, which allows users to combine 2-D and 3-D design and drawing.

Architect Carol Y. Hsiung of FXFOWLE in New York told the Test Center that she doesn't consider herself a "computer person," but she's found that Mental Canvas on Surface Studio expands what she can do -- such as by playing back what she just drew and more easily integrating 3-D with 2-D work.

A More-Useful Office Suite

New features for Microsoft Office apps are in the mix on Surface Studio, too. One new PowerPoint feature designed for Surface Studio is called Ink Replay, which lets users write or draw on PowerPoint slides and then let recipients play back the creation. For instance, this might let a math student could "look over their teacher's shoulder" to see how the teacher went about solving a problem. The replay can be done with a mouse but it's optimized for use with the new Surface Dial scroll-wheel. Office 365 subscribers are scheduled to get the feature in the near future.

Also coming to Microsoft Word is the new Ink Editor feature, which lets users mark up Word documents with handwritten notes while also using the digital pen to accomplish tasks such as highlighting and strike-through.

Surface Dial

In our tryout of the Surface Dial scroll-wheel, our main takeaway is that this is something we'd need to spend some more time with. It worked well for simple tasks like turning up the volume on the Surface Studio or zooming in on a web page, and it was definitely cool to try out the Dial both on and off of the display.

As a brand-new addition, though, we found there is unsurprisingly a bit of a learning curve with the device and, likely, a ton more that can be done with it in different apps. Some of the creative professionals at the Microsoft event were using the Dial expertly with illustration work, suggesting it could become another key enabling technology in creative professions in the future.