Learning To Walk With The Surface Studio

Posted on March 20, 2017 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 48 Comments

Computing is an odd thing, at least if you think about it from the perspective of how we typically interact with a computer. We sit down, grab this round thing that moves a pointer on the screen and then poke letters on a keyboard to get the desired output; it works well and hasn’t changed much since the inception of the desktop computer.

Microsoft sent me a Surface Studio to play with, the full review will go up in a little bit on Petri as I am reviewing it through the lens of a corporate device, and while the device is not perfect, it is certainly unique. It has also given my daughter a new way to interact with a PC and even though we have a Surface Book in the house and a Pro 4, nothing is quite like the Studio.

This weekend, I decided I would put this $4200 machine on the floor and see what my daughter could do with it. Without much instruction, she was able to dive right into Fresh paint and began to draw, paint, doodle, write her name and most of all, have fun.

To her, this is how a computer works. No mouse or keyboard needed, simply a pen, canvas, and an unlimited imagination. House, birds and a dreaded sea monster were crafted on her digital canvas, and the pen was a natural input method that required no training to use.

While she created new monsters, I sat there nervously hoping she wouldn’t topple over onto the screen and destroy the glass which is frankly the best display I have laid my eyes upon. Thankfully she never fell on the screen, can you imagine how awkward it would be to call Microsoft and tell them my daughter destroyed their PC, but what she did do was get lost in a world of her own imagination.

I always hear companies say they are trying to get “hardware out of the way” and the Studio, in this scenario, does exactly that. My daughter could create the most dangerous sea monster in the world from our living room, all on her own. She figured out how to change the brush style, colors, and navigate around the canvas with little help; she doesn’t know what Windows is, nor does she care, but she does know how to color which is all that’s important to her.

As a writer, blogger, journalist, critic, analyst, reviewer or whatever title I have for my job, we often focus on what is not being executed well with a new product. Rarely do we get to see the viewpoint of a fresh mind that doesn’t understand how to use a keyboard and mouse and when those users can effectively use a new piece of hardware without instructions, that’s when hardware and software are at their best.

I know the Studio is expensive and putting one on the ground for a toddler to play with is never going to fly in a school environment, but it should. This is Windows and Surface at its best as the hardware is adapting to the user instead of the other way around.

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Comments (50)

50 responses to “Learning To Walk With The Surface Studio”

  1. Avatar

    mebby

    I don't need it, I can't afford it, but I would love the Surface Studio on my desk...

  2. Avatar

    Levi

    I often read about how expensive The Surface Studio is ,but in fact it is a bargain. My wife and I bought our first computer for our family in 1989. It was an Intel 486 machine with 4 megs of ram and a 40 meg hard drive came with a 14 inch color CRT display. The cost was $2500. We also purchased a HP model 500, I think that was the model number, inkjet printer for $500. I todays money that would be north of $6000. This introduced my children to this world of computers at an early point in their lives helped inspire them to learn. One became an IT employee and the other two have become doctors. The best investment you can make is in your children. Buy her that Surface Studio and see where it can help her go.

  3. Avatar

    glenn8878

    Studio looks like what CAD workstations should be when they replaced Ink and Velum drafting tables 20 years ago. At that time, many CAD workstations were clunky CRTs with light pens. I see no real home use aside from using it as a architecture and engineering student. Awfully pricey for an art student who may want to explore other mediums that are also very expensive. A small business and corporate enterprises will want a more powerful and sturdier unit.

  4. Avatar

    nbplopes

    If we take into account all the aspects that make a good product we can only conclude that Surface Studio in-spite of the goods, its an highly dysfunctional device if not for one function. The perfect display for Windows 10. Its made for Windows 10 not for humans wether in their personal or professional form. In both accounts can only be rated low if we take in all things that make a good product.

    From a Professional point is underpowered, limited and has an extremely low life expectancy for the price. From a Personal point of view is so expensive that one is afraid to break it. So whats the point?

  5. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    I can see that MS are trying to make devices for people to aspire to (a'la Apple), but the Studio is almost a device without a market, as the market for it is so niche and small it doesn't really count. Honestly though, if you'd have given your daughter a shiny bit of paper, and some new crayons, she'd have taken to it the same way. It doesn't take a $4000 PC to show off a kids imagination!


    The Studio is a display first, and a PC second. It's a highly optimized, over-engineered pane of glass that people look at and go 'wow', then look at the price and go 'wow'. It's sort of like Microsoft trying to show off but not really understanding why they're doing it. I'm sure if I saw one, I'd go wow, but I wouldn't break the bank to own one. As most aren't really creator's anyway, it would just become a very large high-res screen to read emails, look at websites and watch YouTube video's, which I can equally well do on something costing 1/10th the price. Pointless, but capitalism at it's best.

  6. Avatar

    harmjr

    Boy I am reading a lot of negative comments on the Surface Studio. Yes its a $4,000 pc but its purpose is to push PC manufactures into building better machines. Almost 10 years nothing new no major game changers. Heck I have an HP TouchSmart 610 AIO machine it does everything the Surface Studio can do expect for the Pen and Dial. I have been wishing for a Pen 22"+ screen AIO for years. Just wait to see what comes in in the next couple of years. I am betting that one day we will see labs of Generic Surface Studios in classrooms. I can see this in peoples homes some day granted that will be after 2020. This tech will get cheaper.

  7. Avatar

    wolters

    I would consider myself a power user. But with the onset of parenthood, I don't really build systems anymore. I would absolutely LOVE a Surface Studio as my primary home PC and NAS's for my media via Plex. Would for sure help me in my quest to de-clutter.

  8. Avatar

    Chris_Kez

    Finally a reviewer at Thurrott.com that will use the pen!

  9. Avatar

    Care

    I'm hoping for Studio clones with more power and better prices. I am not an artist, but I have a hobby that used to be very expensive indeed, until it went digital: scrapbooking. If Adobe or Forever software ends up really taking advantage of pen and dial, I cannot wait to scrapbook with something like this! I love that I can easily order more than one digital book without more time with scissors, but I miss having family members write their thoughts in the books, too. And a beautiful, large, super-hi-res, responsive screen like this would be such a pleasure to work at.

  10. Avatar

    WP7Mango

    You only have to see the examples Microsoft showed when introducing the Surface Studio to appreciate how powerful and capable this device is for professional creatives, so it comes as no surprise to me that it allows children to fully immerse themselves in this creative world.

    I would imagine that with the Creators Update, the Surface Studio will become even more amazing with the ability to simply and quickly import and manipulate phone-scanned 3D objects.

  11. Avatar

    WP7Mango

    Brad, I would imagine your daughter would be very disappointed if she was given a Mac and tried to do the same thing!!!

  12. Avatar

    ianhead

    Your daughter is absolutely adorable!

  13. Avatar

    Michael

    Seagate's backup software will not run on the Surface Studio. I am disappointed that after 3 months of relying on Microsoft's level 3 engineers "actively" trying to fix it, I was the one who isolated that it works on any computer BUT the Surface Studio. It is more troubling that Microsoft can not even fix the problem than the hardware problem itself..


    That said the Studio is unassailably wonderful despite the haters.

  14. Avatar

    gregalto

    Neat little view into how you can use it, thanks for the post.

  15. Avatar

    JCerna

    Brad, not on the carpet! The air flow could be blocked and it can overheat. Your floor looks better, maybe on the edge of the carpet. Sorry jelous , really want one.

    • Avatar

      Brad Sams

      In reply to JCerna:

      The amount of people reaching about about the carpet was hiliarious...it was fine! Granted, this was only about an hour or two.

      • Avatar

        JCerna

        In reply to Brad Sams:
        :-)Many of us here work or worked in IT support so we had bad experiences on the subject. I once had a terrible model of laptop ruined by multiple staff members becuase they used it while on their bed. It sounds ridiculous, I know, and most new desings have moved vents away from the bottom of laptops. Loved the article.
        • Avatar

          Waethorn

          In reply to JCerna:

          When I sell laptops, I tell buyers to use them on a hard, flat surface. I recommend those "lapdesk" units for people that don't have a proper desk space. Desktops (towers and the like) should never be put on carpet either. I recommend putting them a foot off the floor to keep dust, lint, and pet hair out.


          I've seen lots of systems overheated just because somebody uses it on their bed or lap, and the vents were blocked.

    • Avatar

      MacLiam

      In reply to JCerna:
      I was an early adopter and love mine. Let me reassure you about airflow: it is hard to make one of these things overheat. I keep a messy desk, so a pile of papers and accessories periodically accumulates over the base of my machine and pretty much completely buries it. It can warm up but won't turn into a radiant heater. I have experience with less satisfactory outcomes, unfortunately. Years ago I slow-cooked an Ericsson phone when a stack of papers collapsed over it while it was plugged in and charging.
      When you get yours, and you should, you will be amazed. The display is indeed beyond belief.


  16. Avatar

    Patrick3D

    Very well written and couldn't agree more. It's a shame that devices with a decent digitizer are always so expensive. Keeps them out of the affordability range of most families.

  17. Avatar

    Waethorn

    Wow. No offense, but I would NOT be giving a kid a $4200 machine to play with. Nor would I use a computer like that on carpet.


    "I know the Studio is expensive and putting one on the ground for a toddler to play with is never going to fly in a school environment, but it should. This is Windows and Surface at its best as the hardware is adapting to the user instead of the other way around."


    A school would balk at that. A $0.50 pad of paper and a box of crayons accomplishes the same thing - THAT's "learning to walk". I'm all for teaching kids technology, but teach them technology AS technology, not as a tool that replaces something else just for the sake of "going digital". For instance, we have natural media paint programs. Fine. But real talent comes from being able to use the physical medium to which the computer simulates. The computer is just a shortcut in that scenario. A cheat. Unless the computer can do something that is implausible with natural medium, like compositing different media types, artistic and creative ability only really comes from the computer, not the supposed creator. Programs like Fresh Paint might make pretty pictures, but it doesn't teach people how to be good watercolour painters, so it's the computer making the art.

    • Avatar

      Brad Sams

      In reply to Waethorn:

      I think you are missing the point of this post, it's viewpoint of a different use for the Studio...a what is possible not "every parent and school go buy three dozen studios".

      • Avatar

        Waethorn

        In reply to Brad Sams:

        Maybe I am missing the point. The only takeaway I got from this article is "technology for the sake of technology". What is the benefit of the computer in scenarios like this? What does it teach the user in what the technology is really capable of? Because if a user only uses technology for the same purpose as the thing it replaces, what's the point?

        • Avatar

          jean

          In reply to Waethorn:

          ... people do buy 700+USD smartphones in order to place calls, send text messages and the occasional WhatsApp...

          • Avatar

            Waethorn

            In reply to jean:

            You can't make a call practically anywhere with a home phone, and communicate with someone instantly by pen and paper. And that's the point of a cellphone. You can't use WhatsApp on a dumbphone.


            You don't need to pay $700 for a smartphone that does that - that's about the only point of that argument.


            It's not even the same thing as what I'm talking about. A mouse is a tool. A keyboard is a tool. A computer is a whole other much more complicated thing, but it should never be looked at as an enabler of creativity. Otherwise, there is no creativity in the user.

            • Avatar

              VonBrick

              In reply to Waethorn:

              I'm not sure why this discussion became contrarian and inane.

              Show a 7-year-old kid a piece of paper and crayons. Then show a kid a computer screen they can draw on. And manipulate without eraser dust. And continue to modify as they see fit without having to redraw the original. Then save and share that work to anyone in an instant. (Or instantly print again and again and again.)

              Crayons and paper barely compare and it's laughable to pretend otherwise.

              • Avatar

                Waethorn

                In reply to VonBrick:

                Give a kid a computer screen, and they won't want to draw on it for very long - and that's the problem. There are no limitations. Sometimes kids need to understand that things that they do cannot always be easily undone with an "undo" button. It all boils back to being able to tell them "no". Set limitations for them, and let them learn to fluorish within them. Give them the world, and they're easily bored by it.

          • Avatar

            Waethorn

            In reply to jean:

            The most creative people work within limitations. Computers seek to undo limitations, and that damages creativity and imagination.

      • Avatar

        Waethorn

        In reply to Brad Sams:

        Tony Barrett has the same opinion as me.

      • Avatar

        Waethorn

        In reply to Brad Sams:

        I want to point out that at least your daughter knows how to use a drawing/writing utensil. Far too many kids are growing up not knowing how to hold a pencil, or write, or be able to sign their own name. All they know is how to push buttons - mostly fake ones on touchscreens.

      • Avatar

        chaad_losan

        In reply to Brad Sams:

        Brad for the love of all that is decent and kind. Band Waethorn and refund him his money. This thing is bitter, tormented and downright evil in his judgments and trolling of the lowest kind that have no part on this or any website.

  18. Avatar

    Cain69

    My kids have had a Surface Pro in their hands since Dec 2013. They were 4, 6, 8 and 8 yrs old. I never thought them - never had to explain how the horrible W8 worked - they just knew. These things are appliances now. Only reason we do not have a Studio is they like their SP3s. They rather have the SP3 mobility than the horsepower of the Studio.

    I am glad someone is talking about these devices and children. There should be more emphasis on children having tools such as these to do the creative work. And we can afford it - way too many schools out there spending billions on iPad in classes with such limited uses. As this tech becomes cheaper...I am sure we can find budgets for these - maybe not one for every kid, but maybe a classroom.

    • Avatar

      wolters

      "way too many schools out there spending billions on iPad in classes with such limited uses. As this tech becomes cheaper...I am sure we can find budgets for these - maybe not one for every kid, but maybe a classroom. "


      Same can be said of Chromebooks...most of the schools here have done Chromebooks...sure, it is cheaper but still limited.

  19. Avatar

    Elizabeth_Roger

    Dial + SurfaceStudio is really a unique product! This I can say as a creative person, as a writer of good history paper for writingcheap.com. There are ingenious manuscripts that are found in tables after the author's death, but there are successful and sold during life writers. It is impossible to deduce a single standard of the writer-genius.

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