Should you buy a Surface Studio for gaming?

Surface Studio

Creators was the theme of the Surface Studio launch event, with a heavy focus on what you can do with it of a creative nature. Gaming also had its time in the spotlight during the event, and since lots of gamers are also content creators, maybe the Surface Studio (opens in new tab) is right up their alley.

Even though we're a little way out from real world experience, there's enough to go on to come to an informed conclusion. Let's break down the facts.

What's inside the Surface Studio

Surface Studio

Despite the ridiculously slim design, the Surface Studio has some serious hardware inside for an all-in-one PC. There are a few different tiers, but this is essentially the main talking points from a gaming perspective:

  • Quad-core 6th generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor
  • 8, 16 or 32GB of RAM
  • 1 or 2TB hybrid drive
  • 2GB GTX 965M or 4GB GTX 980M graphics

For an all-in-one PC that's by no means a paltry offering. Traditionally this form factor is more about being a workstation than a gaming machine, though there are always exceptions. The difference with the Surface Studio is what else you get; that fold (almost) flat design, the stunning touch display and the Surface Pen, to name a few.

So can you game on it?

Surface Studio

The short answer is yes, you can. The longer answer involves keeping expectations in check. Even the 2GB 965M will probably get reasonable results, but you're not going to be playing new titles at Ultra graphics and getting 60 FPS and above. The 4GB 980M, however, will yield better results. The quad-core processor and amount of RAM available shouldn't pose an issue.

Until NVIDIA dropped its 10 series GPUs suitable for both PCs and laptops, the 980M was about the best graphics you'd find in a gaming laptop. It's a good GPU, if you keep it in the correct mindset. It is, however, a laptop GPU, not a full desktop-class graphics option, so you're going to get performance on par with previous generation, yet still high-end gaming laptops.

What you won't be doing is making full use of that high-resolution display. Turning the graphics down to 1080p will be the best solution.

The elephant in the room: the price

Surface Studio

The Surface Studio starts at $2,999. That's a lot of money. You also only get the i5, 2GB 965M model at that price. To get the 980M and a better gaming experience you'll be handing over $4,199. Which is a crazy amount of money, whichever way you look at it.

Whether you build your own or you buy a pre-built system, you will get a lot more gaming machine for substantially less money elsewhere. And if you really, really want an all-in-one PC that's fit for serious gaming, you'll need to look elsewhere, like Lenovo's Ideacentre Y910 with a full desktop graphics card inside.

The bottom line

Surface Studio

You can game on a Surface Studio but you shouldn't buy one if that's a big part of your decision making process. There are many reasons one might want a Surface Studio, and any of those would probably be a better justification to buy than playing games.

But, if you're partial to a bit of PC gaming on the side you can buy a Surface Studio knowing you'll get something from it. Its content creation credentials are certainly a better sell. Just don't expect more from your gaming than you're going to get with the hardware on offer. Especially with how much you'll be spending.

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Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

  • I'm thinking if you're gonna run heavy for gaming, that box might catch fire >.<
  • Lads!  Naa sad ka dinhi hahaha!!!!
  • Abi nakog ako ray bisaya.. Haha!
  • Ay ambot nalang sa inyo.
  • Mga animal oh.. Heheheh
  • its not a gaming machine, its for designers, video creators, hipsters and money hoes etc.
  • Not a bad PC for somebody who does various creative things, which could include some indie game development. It's more than powerful enough for that and has the built in Xbox wireless tech
  • Can't believe I miss this in the tech specs. They also said they want motherboard makers to implement built in Xbox wireless into their motherboards too IIRC. Hope this takes off.
  • Nah. It isn't a Samsung Surface Studio.
  • MS lives on another planet when it comes to pricing.. they are even crazier than apple .. wtf. 3k $ rofl..
  • You get what you pay for buddy. It's not outlandish at all. For what it offers and who it targets. It will be mostly professionals purchasing them. MS doesn't need to worry if you purchase a Surface branded PC. Every PC you purchase is running their Windows Platform that the OEMs pay to use.
  • What makes you think that AT ALL? I went online and priced out the parts for this thing yesterday. The components run around $1,200, and that is for the $4,200 model's internals (i7 and 32 GB RAM, and with a dedicated SSD and HDD, not that hybrid junk). You think that monitor is worth $3,000? You're nuts.
  • You think it costs Apple $800 to make an iPhone? No, but people buy it. These are business pal. They're here to make money. I feel it's fair. Is it nuts, yes. Am I nuts for thinking so? Maybe so. If you don't like it, don't buy it.
  • Ummm... the monitor IS worth that. Find me a comparable monitor that's not in that price range
  • Find me a $3,000 touch monitor.
  • How is that a comparable monitor? It's nowhere close. 1080p vs almost 5k
    No pen input
    No DCI-P3 color space support. So that 16.7 million colors vs over a billion for the Surface Studio. Hell, the Acer isn't even an IPS display, so color reproduction isn't going to be anywhere close to accurate.
    No pixelsense display, so things like the Dial won't work on screen Here's something closer, but still with much lower resolution.
  • Ha!!!
  • Similar things in the industry (like Wacom Cintiq + PC) cost more than this beast. So, the pricing is justified.
  • Check the prices of 27" professional monitors, like NEC Spectraview or HP Dreamcolor (which the Surface Studio is closer to probably when it comes to colour gamut/depth). Then check the price of the 27" Cintique. Then add the cost of components and the likely cost of third party utililites from 3D Connexion Space Navigator or Logitech Nulooq to replicate certain functionality. Once you consider all that, then figure out how much the R&D and manufacturing costs for it, hint it's likely be millions if not double digit millions. Get back to me when you consider all that, this is a bespoke system and components designed for a specific market. If you don't see the value in that then this is not for you. 
  • How much do you think a 28" monitor with these capabilities normally costs? 10-finger touch
    DCI-P3 color space
    Near 5k resolution
    Pen input Find me pricing just for a monitor like that alone. I'll wait.
  • With one cord it still seems the portable option. Like a full time out of the way touch kitchen pc that can flip around the counter and be used as a work horse for school kids. Extreme pricing but good for that family level of gaming. If I had the cash id have one on order right now.
  • Why? One fewer cord than an actual PC? The only thing a desktop at half the price would add, with much better parts, is a video cable. This thing is a $1,200 PC with a touch screen (compared to the $4,200 model; the $3,000 one's internals are probably closer to $1,000).
  • Do you walk around art galleries adding up the costs of paints, frames and canvases declaring this stuff is over priced? There is a lot more that goes into getting something this well designed and manufactured to market, beyond just the basic components. If you don't see the value in its form factor and function then its not for you.
  • A computer is not the sum of it's parts but the sum of it's functions. Just like with the Razer Blade Pro, yes you can build a stronger desktop for less but it won't be as portable.
  • There's quite a bit of chatter about a Kaby Lake GTX1080 version in the works for possible mid year release. I will hold out til after CES to see what is coming down the pipe.
  • Yeah, once they announced the Studio being equipped with last generation GPUs I figured two things: 1) the device was probably very late into its development cycle when mobile Pascal GPUs were released mid-August, so reworking the product to ship with them would postpone its release too much, and b) it'll probably get a complete line refresh alongside the Pro and Book Surfaces next year. The Studio's main focus may be creatives, but the addition of native support for Xbox controllers clearly shows they expect some gamers to be interested in the product as well and that'll only happen with Pascal powered Studios. We'll just have to wait and see when the updated models will be released.
  • So.  Mr. Rubino.  The question on everybody's mind is.   WHEN IS "The Great WindowsCentral Surface Studio" Giveaway?  For the past couple of giveaways I've posted daily on forums, liked or subscribed to windowscentral social media channels, did all kinds of crazy stuff but I never went for the referrals.  I've never given a hint to my friends of my shameful and hidden obsession for free windows 10 stuff.  BUT FOR THIS baby, Imma willing to spam all my friends with referrals and lose a few. 
  • Exactly. And please nt for US Alone.
  • All Surface devices should have eGPU support. Especially for the Surface Pro series because they only have the integrated Intel GPU (which is btw pretty good on kabylake). The problem is not only the performance but also the heat. The theoretical graphic power and the partial graphic power is not the same.
  • I could see it for the Studio but a Surface Pro doesn't need the external GPU support
  • No...I don't believe this was Microsoft's intent. This is a niche machine...nothing more...nothing less.
  • $3000-$4000 can definitely be spent better elsewhere if your primary intent is gaming.
  • All that needs to be said really. If you aren't using the touchscreen, you definitely don't need this.
  • Interested in comparing this Surface Studio to Wacom's new (but portable) MobileStudio Pro tablet.
  • If you want a gaming machine, build your own.  It's easy, there's tons of support on various web sites to help you, and you'll use the hardware you want, instead of getting caught in between the eternal fight between engineers and bean counters...
  • This is a rock stupid writeup.  Who in their right minds would ever buy an ALL IN ONE anything for gaming?  The Surface Studio is really really cool and has its place but stop making up crap so your writers have a reason to get paid.  It's stupidly offensive. 
  • It may not be so bad for game.....development. Depends if you're doing all of the design and coding etc. If you are then this has plenty of power for developing and testing decent indie games. Then again, if you don't have the budget you can create the same thing on lower end hardware.
  • I don't think that is the point of the article. Nobody expects anyone to buy this just as a gaming machine. This is one of those pro vs. Con situations. Tally up everything you want it to do. Gaming may not be the main reason for purchase, but it could be a positive in the pro column, as the article points out. With that said, a lot of us are curious about everything it can do, gaming included.
  • To be fair there isn't much to be curious about, the hardware was announced take a graphics becnhmark and see how the 980M fares :) It is a big laptop with a very nice screen nothing more nothing less.
  • Wow why so hostile? This article really hit a chord with me. I am a full time creative professional so the surface studio is very interesting to me. But at the same time, I still want a machine that is capable of playing some games too. Articles like this help me make my purchasing decisions.
  • Try reading the article.
  • #1 Computer Gamer's Rule: If you want a desktop gaming system then the computer components need to be UPGRADEABLE to adapt with evolving game spec requirements. I doubt there's anything on the Surface Studio that is user-upgradeable.
  • i would put it as a piece of art no one can touch it not even me  :D
  • I heard rumors prior to reveal saying it was going to have a 1080 so I honestly thought maybe I would pick this up for gaming instead of building a new one this spring. But after the reveal the mobile gpu and the price point I realize it's not for gaming for me at least. Think I would done it if the top Model was $3,000 though just due to how amazing the device is but I feel it wouldn't be what I would be looking for in a raw gaming machine.
  • The 1080 family alone is bigger than this entire device minus the screen. No way they could get that im there.
  • Yeah I know that, this has laptop gpu, if you read the article it shows you the specs, I am talking about 1080m...
  • Yea, exactly, you can get some of those options on Alienware PCs now..
  • Mobile 1080s are nearly as powerful as desktop 1080s, and they would fit in this easily.
  • Yup if you present a luxury all in one at least put the latest hardware in it.
  • If porpuse was to build a machine for designers, mostly, they didn't need to build it for gaming. So, you can play but not "core gaming".
  • If it had a Nvidia 1060, 1070 or 1080 I would have bought it. Now I will wait. I have been looking for something stylish, sleek and good looking for the living room. This device was hitting all the checkmarks and 3000$ is expensive but hey you can buy an egg chair for 12000$ .... which makes the Surface Studio look lige a bargain :-)
  • What? Of course not! You can build a gaming PC that would run circles around the Surface Studio for half the price.
  • Here's to hoping they release the touch display as a standalone monitor, that you could buy and connect to any desktop pc.
  • I very much support this idea. Assuming touch still works as a stand alone...
  • I would love that, especially with the 3:2 aspect ratio, which I contend is better than 16:10 and much, much better than 16:9 for actually doing work on a PC. I'd like a larger version though. Something in the 30" - 40" range. At 28", I'd still need 2. :-)
  • There's always this... :)
  • I know a lot of artists and animators that want exactly that.
  • if only i won the lottery time to buy a ticket.
  • I would not game on a 980M.......
  • The GTX980M is a capable moble gaming gpu. My ASUS G752VY can handle *most* current games at high/ultra settings just fine. For you it's  overkill for your CandyCrush sessions.
  • 280W simply isn't enough for gaming on that resolution.
  • Nah, cool tablet but, $4199 (before tax, upgrades, etc), is crazy money. Alienware will offer great specs with a spare battery for under $2500 and the specs would be better. And this is just one example, there is a bunch of companies that offer gaming laptops/tablets. There are a lot other "gaming laptops" that would offer a LOT MORE for your money. Of course if money is no object and you dont care about overpaying for something, this might be a fair option for you (tabet is very limited on upgradeds, A lot of the Alienware laptops allow video card upgrades, etc)
  • Alienware doesn't do touchscreens...
  • >Alienware doesn't do touchscreens... As the subject is about buying this tablet for GAMING..... Sure and if your buying a system for GAMING as your primary thing to do on it, unless your only playing Candy Crush type games (a moble gamer), you would not need a touch screen for the newest PC games, I am not even sure they support them...(GTA5, Newest Batman, Doom, Rise Of the Tomb Radier, etc) So, riddle me this, is a touch screen (that you would lose by getting a much more powerfull device) worth another $1500 to 2000 ? (basing that a very nice gaming laptops start around $2000-2500 and the gaming tablet here is $4200). As giving up a touch screen (other models might offer a touch screen), you will get a far faster system with a lot better video card for gaming. I dont see the need for a touch screen for a gaming device. So for almost 1/2 the cost of this device, I could get myself a more powerfull machine, a lot more powerfull for gaming...
  • I'd say don't buy this device unless you are a professional designer/artist in some way. Not that you can't, but that's who the Surface Studio was made for. If you are a professional designer and into gaming, consider the above article. Gamers don't need touch screen, ability to lower the screen to drafting/drawing table, ultra thin display, and small box for computing....but that is what you are paying for in this device.
  • When I look at it's display, the only question that comes to my mind is what were TV and monitor manufacturing companies doing all these days?
  • Also I think Windows 10 OS adapts well to smaller displays but for displays as big as this one, the OS needs to change a bit. May be some extra features may be provided for bigger displays. The full page start screen can be docked permanently on one side for quick access. No toggling is necessary. Task Bar can made larger and can be docked to one side of the display. OS should respond to touch and should bring important settings closer to the touch point. And last but not the least, include hand gestures. Or else what is the use of IR based 3D cameras? Anyways, it's enough of free consulting for the day.
  • No and no. The GPU is one thing but the aspect ratio makes it a no go for gaming. The tablet aspect ratio is fine for mobile, casual gaming but come on now, playing a Battlefield 1 at 3:2 is ridiculous. Here we go with another backward moving trend. Why don't we just all get out our old 4:3 monitors and TV's and use them. Stop already.
  • 3:2 is better for work which is why the next Windows update is the Creator's update, not the gamer's update.
  • Thinking a bit more about this, Microsoft just gave marching orders to its partners to build affordable devices for content creators.  HP is already in lock step, and no doubt others will fall in line (to beat a metaphor to death, exhume the corpse, and kill it again) by the time Creator Update is released. I find it amazing how little imagination Microsoft's hardware partners have, outside of copying MS (HP now being a notable exception) and beating them in price... 
  • MS has one of the highest r&d budgets and some of the most advanced tech. They also don't depend on hardware and any failure in new hardward initiatives can be swept under a rug. OEMs take bigger chances, especially since MS will gain the most from its software being used and likely in the future store percentage. So MS really shows OEMs, here's what can work. Band is an example of sweeping under the rug. Now, Lenovo did take a pretty big chance with the yogabook haptic keyboard and it's actually pretty neat. So props to them on that one.
  • For that price I'd get the Arcus 34 Xtreme from Cyberpowerpc, and still have money left for games and snacks.
  • No.
  • What about game developers?
  • Unnecessarily priced
  • ER, no. Not really much to see here for a gamer.
  • I appreciate the effort here but this article is kind of pointless. The Surface Studio is not aimed at gamers, it is aimed at artist who make a living producing content. Would any gamer shell out 4,000 for a Surface Studio PC when they could build 2 top of the line gaming rigs with that cash, the answer is no. Now if someone just wants a Surface Studio and has extra cash sure, but almost no one is going to buy this with the sole intention of gaming, especially with m-class graphics cards...
  • if you want to watch the Microsoft event 2016 in 11 minutes.. here the link.. I found it on youtube
  • quad core desktop cpu but mobile gpu?
  • It's quite clear who the Surface Studio is built for, and gamers are definitely not included. 
  • Must say it is damn expensive, imagine already in Euro zone the high end specs Surface Studio will be cost about 4000€, if it ever will be available in European Union.
  • Gotta say bye bye with my kidney..
  • LOL!!!
  • Why does Microsoft always overprice items? I'm a big fan of Microsoft amd it just disappoint me that they are only interest in business people.
  • Why do you think this is overpriced? I understand why you wish they made it more consumer focused, but it's not really over priced.
  • For the price, no.
  • How is gaming on 1080p with 3:2 Aspect ratio exactly ? Will people really buy it for that? Not sure.
    . Is there any way to get a 16:9 AR at 1080p in the middle of the large 28" display with the rest being TOTAL BLACK for awesome gaming ?
  • Pre orders all sold out as of today.
  • Everything has its purpose in life . The Xbox One S is for playing games. It would be foolish to say can you buy The Xb1 S for typing documents? No, I can't buy the Surface studio for games because the purpose of the Xbox One S is to play games. How do you like that? Isaiah Heart