Microsoft's beautiful Surface Studio is a PC that's much more than an all-in-one. While you can do all the regular PC things you'd expect from a Windows PC, it's really the screen that makes it different from a regular computer. It's a screen that folds down to transform the PC into a drawing board, designed for stylus, touch, and new Dial input. It's unlike any regular all-in-one PC we've seen before, but I want to turn any laptop into a Surface Studio.
As speculation mounted over Microsoft's PC plans, I hoped that the company was planning to create a super monitor with the skills of the Surface Studio, and a powerful graphics card inside that would work with any laptop. I even speculated that Microsoft could go this route, but ultimately the company decided a full all-in-one PC was the better choice. That's not stopping me wanting a Surface Studio monitor.
A Surface monitor could bring real gaming to Surface laptops
I've been using a Surface Book with the official Surface Dock and two external monitors for the past six months, and DPI issues aside it feels like I'm just using a regular desktop PC. The Surface Book is powerful enough for my needs, and it handles 24-inch and 27-inch monitors just fine. The only thing it doesn't handle fine is PC games. I've tried Microsoft's latest Forza or Gears of War releases on the Surface Book, and even the discrete GPU doesn't really help me reach reliable frame rates. That's fine and expected as this isn't a gaming laptop, but it could be a real gaming PC if Microsoft wanted.
Microsoft has a good opportunity to really sell a Surface Studio monitor to existing Surface owners who have opted for a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Studio, but also want to turn their devices into a full desktop PC at home or work. A powerful GPU in the base of a potential Surface Studio monitor would transform a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book into a gaming machine by just attaching the single dock cable, and Microsoft could provide regular connectors for other laptops.
Microsoft already knows how to switch GPUs on the fly
Microsoft has already proved it has the ability to switch to a discrete GPU in the base of the Surface Book on the fly, and Razer has produced a Core accessory that acts as an external graphics enclosure to transform its Stealth ultrabook into a full gaming PC. Nvidia's Pascal architecture now means companies can bring powerful desktop graphics cards into notebooks and all-in-one PCs that have space limitations.
Unfortunately, Microsoft opted for an old Nivida GeForce 980M inside the Surface Studio. It's a baffling choice that has disappointed gamers and creatives who wanted more power, but it's likely that the decision was made before Nvidia's latest chips were ready. A Surface Studio monitor could opt for a Nvidia GTX 1070 or even possibly a 1080, and provide VR gaming alongside its impressive touchscreen features. Microsoft even added Xbox Wireless support to the Surface Studio, allowing any Xbox controller to work with it, so any potential monitor could also feature this.
Gaming aside, a powerful graphics card inside a monitor like this would aid professionals working on game development, 3D applications, or other graphically intensive tasks. Those are the creatives that Microsoft will miss out on with its Surface Studio, but who might just enjoy the mobility of a laptop and the power of a desktop PC.
Cost is probably a limiting factor with any potential Surface Studio monitor, and it's clear from the specs on the Studio that you're largely paying for the screen itself. Either way, if Microsoft produces a Surface Studio monitor then I'd clear a space on my desk for it instantly.