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15 Minutes with the Surface Studio

Built for Creatives

I had a chance to try out the new Microsoft Surface Studio today at a local Microsoft store. I spent about fifteen minutes browsing the web, trying out Maps, and editing video in Adobe Premiere Pro. I came away really impressed with the screen, but what stole my attention was the Dial, a small puck-shaped control medium. Check out my thoughts on Microsoft’s latest desktop.

Dial: a new interface

The Dial can be physically placed on the screen to interact with your current window in a variety of ways, from changing the color of your brush in Photoshop to scrubbing through your current sequence in Premiere. I spent five or ten minutes playing around in Premiere Pro, and I was surprised by how quickly I integrated the Dial into my workflow. Having a physical Dial to scrub through video is incredibly convenient, in a way I can’t quite replicate on a touchscreen. The Dial also offers haptic feedback, which can simulate a clicking feel as you scroll through volume. This feedback also confirms a long press to change the dial function; having that physical feedback takes a bit of getting used to, but is definitely a welcome option.

It’s not just for creatives either; the dial can be used to scroll and zoom while surfing the web. It functions off the screen as well, so I can see it being nice to rest the Dial on a chair arm while you surf Reddit or read Twitter. The scrolling was buttery smooth in Edge, although I didn’t get a chance to try it in Chrome or Firefox.

Having a physical Dial to scrub through video is incredibly convenient, in a way I can’t quite replicate on a touchscreen.

Build Quality

The zero-gravity hinge really makes a difference here. For artists who will use the screen in the horizontal position, the ease of motion is critical. I would compare it to laptops balanced so you can lift the lid without moving the base of the laptop – you don’t notice it when it works, but you sure as hell do when it doesn’t.The screen is simply gorgeous, there isn’t really anything bad to say here. You can check the specs but simply using one in person is justification enough.

Professional artists who have had a chance to try the hardware have also come away impressed, including Gabe from Penny Arcade + Lawrence Mann. It hasn’t been a unanimous position, as Tested’s review found some issues, it will be interesting to see how the Studio is received as it trickles out into the wild. In my limited experience (and ability) I had a fantastic time using both the Pen and Dial in my workflow, and I came away impressed with Adobe’s integration of the Dial, although future updates will be welcome.

A Minor Frustration

The Dial slips on the screen. I was using the Surface Studio pretty close to the horizontal position (the maximum horizontal angle is 20 degrees), and I had the dial slowly slide down the surface repeatedly. The Dial is going to have enough buy-in issues as it is, and if this flaw is widespread in the model it may be a speedbump on the uphill road to adoption. I do think this issue will be easily resolved in the next update for the Studio, and I hope that they do.

 
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Check it out for yourself

Overall I really came away with the creative experience Microsoft delivered. Using the Pen and Dial simultaneously is a really awesome new interface for creative apps and I really hope that people get to take advantage of it. If you have a local Microsoft store I definitely encourage you to try one for a while. Try out your creative workflow, or just surf the net for a few minutes.

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