Lots of folks are saying Microsoft has out-Appled Apple, especially after the two company's most recent PC-focused launch events. In one corner, the Cupertino crew has long been known for pushing design boundaries on its products. In the other is team Redmond, known for Windows and Office.
It's the second of these two companies that arguably is delivering more "wow" factor in its hardware designs of late. The Surface Studio is Microsoft's first desktop PC, and it's an all-in-one no less. Its creative focus puts it firmly in the battleground with the iMac, the longest running all-in-one computer.
Updated Feb 7, 2017 We added some fresh new images, links and details for context.
Since Apple didn't refresh the iMac at its most recent hardware event, we'll be pitting the Surface Studio up against the latest models on sale in the Apple Store.
First, some specs.
|Category||Surface Studio||Apple iMac|
|Display||28-inch PixelSense Display|
|21.5-inch or 27-inch IPS|
|Display Resolution||4500 x 3000 (192 ppi)||1920 x 1080 (21.5-inch only), 4K (21.5-inch only), 5K (27-inch only)|
|CPU||6th gen Intel Core i5 or i7||6th gen Intel Core i5 (dual-core or quad-core), Core i7|
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M 2GB or 980M 4GB||Up to AMD Radeon R9 M395 2GB|
|Memory||8GB, 16GB, or 32GB RAM||8GB, 16GB or 32GB RAM|
|Storage||1TB or 2TB hybrid drive||Up to 2TB Fusion Drive|
|Ports||4 x USB 3.0, SD card, Mini Displayport, 3.5mm headset||4 x USB 3.0, 2 x Thunderbolt 2, SD card, 3.5mm headset|
|Wireless||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Xbox Wireless built-in||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Cameras||Windows Hello face sign-in camera|
5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video
|FaceTime HD camera|
|Dimensions||Display: 25.09 x 17.27 x 0.44 in (637.35 x 438.9 x 11.4 mm)|
Base: 9.84 x 8.66 x 1.26 in (250 x 220 x 32.2 mm)
|20.3 x 25.6 x 8in (516 x 650 x 203 mm)|
|Weight||21.07 lbs max (9.56 kg)||21 lbs (9.54kg)|
You can't compare the software directly because it's like comparing a train and a bus. Both will get you there, just in different ways. What is worth highlighting is the incredible focus Microsoft has put on creators in the Surface Studio and with the Surface Dial. Creative pros have long been buying Macs, and Microsoft has done an incredible job at outdoing the competition.
Does the iMac have touch? Pen input? Does it fold down? OK, the last one is probably super-niche, but the Surface Studio certainly has some stand-out hardware features. In comparison, the iMac is like most of the standard Windows all-in-ones: A PC and a monitor in one box.
Apple does, however, cater to those looking for high-resolution displays, with both 4K and a whopping 5K available across the iMac range. The Surface Studio has that True Scale technology built in and sRGB colors, while the iMac goes beyond sRGB and into a P3 color gamut with 25 percent more colors.
Much of the rest of the hardware is comparable. Similar processors, similar RAM, similar storage options all pad out the various configurations. The high-end 980M GPU in the Surface Studio will be a better pick than the Radeon mobile graphics in the iMac, but it's also only available on the most expensive model.
Then there's the price. For once, Apple isn't the most expensive technology vendror. That's mostly down to Microsoft's 4500 x 3000 resolution, 28-inch touch display, which on its own makes up a good chunk of the asking price of the Surface Studio. Those working in creative industries will often throw in a Wacom Cintiq drawing and display tablet (starting at around $800, all the way up to around $2,000) to accompany an iMac, inflating the price. Microsoft offers similar functionality in a single package, on a single display, which could be a workflow improvement.
The 27-inch iMac starts at $1,799, almost half of the $2,999 asking price of the cheapest Surface Studio. Even adding the specs to the iMac doesn't bring up the price to that level.
But here's the thing: The Surface Studio isn't just an all-in-one PC, which is sort of what it makes the iMac look like. It's pretty, packing some nice hardware and perfectly capable, but Microsoft has gone far beyond that. It has transcended the all-in-one and created a unique PC product unlike anything else out there today. Yes, it's expensive, but it's almost incomparable right now.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. 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 steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine