Microsoft's Surface Studio desk-slab, Dial knob, Surface Book: We get our claws on new kit
And Paint 3D – the emoji killer
Hands on After sitting through two hours of presentations, Microsoft has let journalists loose on the new kit it has announced, and the results are surprisingly good – at least from a hardware perspective.
Microsoft's engineers positively salivated about the attention to detail the Studio design has (see our earlier story), from its 20-to-100 degree viewing angle down to a custom-fitted (and patent pending) power supply cord that sort-of locks when put in. The touchscreen has beautiful resolution, but the key to the system is the hardware that gives it grunt.
The system runs a quad-core Intel i5 or i7 processor with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 965M/980M chipset running 2/4GB of RAM. In the base box are four USB 3.0 slots, a mini DisplayPort slot, and a full-size SD card reader.
Inside, the Studio has three fans – a high speed system, one quieter low-speed, low-noise fan, and a dedicated cooling fan for the power supply. The control software was designed to make sure that – where possible – the quiet fan is used to expel air away from the user's face.
The amount of computing power in the control unit is pretty good. As too is the screen, with omni-directional microphones and a "studio quality" HD camera built in.
The results are a very smooth onscreen experience, with virtually no lag on the unit we tried out when using the Surface pen or a mouse and keyboard – all connected in this case via Bluetooth LE. But the Surface Studio also has the Dial, which is something designers will most likely fetishize.
The Dial is a hockey-puck design with a customizable interface. It will work on the desktop with any Windows 10 PC running the new Creators Update, but onscreen use is reserved for the Studio. You can set up commands for rotating or pressing it down, but only on the Studio can you use it on the touchscreen itself to play with images produced.
The 59mm x 30mm device can be placed on screen and used to scroll through color palettes, rewind and forward through the last set of image revisions, or set up custom options. It's powered by twin AAA batteries that Microsoft says are good for a year of use.
As a creative device, the Dial looks like the kind of thing Apple should have come up with, and Satya Nadella couldn't resist putting the boot into Cook & Co with a comment that Microsoft was all about creators. Anyone who spent the last 20 years working in publishing knows designers love their Macs. It's a key market for the Cupertino crowd that Microsoft is looking to attack.
Surface Book gets MORE POWER
Panos Panay, Microsoft Surface boss, claimed the new and improved Surface Book is the fastest laptop on the market. Several gaming laptop firms might disagree, but its specs are impressive.
The 13.5-inch display remains the same but the Intel processor has been given an upgrade. That, and a beefed-up graphics system from Nvidia GTX 965m GPU, takes a bit more cooling. As a result, the hinge has had a redesign to make sure there's enough airflow and that it doesn't bother users.
"People like ultimate laptop and we wanted to keep that title, so we had a push in the graphics side," Brian Hall, VP of Microsoft Surface told The Reg. "We're very focused on enterprise, engineers and gamers."
While the Surface has its critics, particularly among some early adopters, it's still an awesomely powered machine that will suit heavy CPU users. Gamers have been less keen, but the increased graphics performance might tempt more to the fold.
Paint gets a reboot
For years, Microsoft Paint has hung around the Windows operating system like a slow cousin compared to GIMP or Photoshop – useful occasionally but just dead weight most of the time.
With the Windows 10 upgrade the application has been rewritten "from the ground up," said Struan Robertson, the British principal creative director at Microsoft. The rewrite has worked – for the first time, Paint 3D feels like something coded this century.
The new Paint 3D will come with a host of 3D models and the ability to craft your own emojis, which makes other manufacturers' claims for new and different options for the annoying characters somewhat moot.
The software still felt a tad clunky, but it works, and with a tender hand can produce 3D models that will be popping up on screens all over the place. That said, it'll need a lot more than a few happy faces to prove itself to serious designers. ®