Design and the Zero-Gravity Hinge

Microsoft has built a brand around Surface, and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. The Surface Studio fits in very well with the design ethos of the rest of the Surface lineup, and there has been quite a bit of attention to details paid in the creation of their first desktop computer. The first, and most obvious, is the finish, which matches perfectly with the other Surface devices, despite being made from aluminum rather than the magnesium alloy used on the portable products.

The 3:2 aspect ratio of the Surface Studio display is now a hallmark of the Surface brand (outside of Surface Hub), and having a taller display makes doing most tasks on a desktop a more pleasant experience. The increased surface area can’t be forgotten either, with the Surface Studio offering 17% more screen real estate than what's arguably the Studio's closest competitor, the 27-inch iMac, which amounts to an additional 54 square inches of display. Widescreen at 16:9 has never been a great aspect ratio for PC tasks, but the proliferation of high definition television seems to have moved the entire industry this way in an effort to save costs. When looking at the price of the Surface Studio, it’s important to remember that the entire display industry has moved to 16:9 as a standard, which impacts the entire supply chain and tooling required. Moving to an aspect ratio outside of 16:9 has large cost implications, but the end results are certainly worth it. Hopefully we will see a few other manufacturers use this as a means to source displays like this, much like the Surface Pro 3 and Pro 4 have ushered in more 3:2 devices at that much smaller size. And speaking of attention to detail, the Surface Studio is actually 28.125-inches diagonal, and as we'll see in a bit, that last 0.125-inches is very important.

It seems with Surface, Microsoft always wants to have a trick up their sleeve. With the original Surface RT and Surface Pro, it was the kickstand, which has been adopted by quite a few manufacturers for their own device since it works so well. When they launched their first laptop, the Surface Book, it was the muscle wire locking mechanism to remove the display from the base, as well as the dynamic fulcrum hinge to make the top-heavy laptop more stable. With the Surface Studio, the zero-gravity hinge is most definitely its signature design feature.

With two chrome arms flanking the base, the Surface Studio can almost effortlessly be folded down into a drafting table. The hinge mechanism provides a perfect counterbalance to the weight of the display, making it feel like it has almost no weight at all. The hinge is a single movement as well, so you don’t tip and fold the screen, but instead folding the screen also causes it to move down. While this does limit the functionality somewhat – for instance, you can't move the screen half way down and then fold it up straight again – the result is truly a wonderful design which almost needs to be seen in person.

Because you can’t tip the screen without folding it, once you stop at any angle, the screen is very solid to work with, although it is the most secure when folded all the way down to the 20° angle. You would think a large desktop display would not be ideal to use with touch, but the Surface Studio zero-gravity hinge invites you to be more interactive with it, by keeping the display close and folding it down when needed. More traditional all-in-one computers with a touch screen are nowhere near as easy to work with, since holding your arm in dead-air can be tiring, but the folded display doesn’t suffer from these burdens.

The PC base also exudes Surface quality, with the signature color, and cooling vents all the way around in the same fashion as the Surface Pro and Surface Book. The PC base can be disassembled from the bottom if required, for access to the storage and fans, but the remainder of the system is soldered to the board as you would expect in a small form factor device like this. The most frustrating part of the Surface Studio base is that all the inputs and outputs are on the rear of the device, so connecting something over USB, or inserting a SD card into the PC, is not as simple as it should be. This is a form over function decision, and it would be nice to see some of the ports offered at least on the side of the base to make it a bit easier to access.

The desktop PC market has not been as exciting to watch as the smaller and more portable laptops and tablets, but the Surface Studio sets a new high mark for desktop PC design and looks. Some of the decisions are form over function, but the majority of the design decisions actually improve the user experience. The zero-gravity hinge is a masterpiece of engineering, with such a smooth action that it really does feel like the display has no mass at all.

Introduction Outfitting the Surface Studio: Keyboard, Mouse, Pen, and Dial


View All Comments

  • Brett Howse - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    It also has a much smaller, lower resolution display, without touch support. Reply
  • BillBear - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    That doesn't become worthless when you need to upgrade the computer's hardware.

    If you're going to make something this expensive, yet disposable due to a lack of hardware upgradability, it needs to at least be on par with existing professional drawing tools. Wacom's pen is much more advanced, it's color management is much more advanced, and the Express Key Remote is much more advanced than the Surface Dial.

    Also, I'm not sure where you get the notion that Wacom's products can not support multitouch.
  • jlabelle2 - Sunday, January 22, 2017 - link

    How does this "double pressure" sensitivity translates in real world?
    Let's imagine that you have 1024 level of pressure, and that the max displacement of the screen would be 1mm when pressing fully, it means that 1 increment of level of pressure corresponds to less than 0,001mm or 1um. Does home people really believe it makes a difference and people can be as precise as that? Lol.
  • id4andrei - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    Tipoo, all Surfii are hybrids. I think MS will never allow you to plug into a Surface to use just the screen. It's about driving(forcefully) a way of computing consisting with MS vision. It's PC plus as opposed to post PC. Reply
  • theuglyman0war - Saturday, January 28, 2017 - link

    There is a 27 inch wacom digitizer? No one tells me anything. :(
    I been waiting for a pressure sensitive pen enabled tablet/aio at 27 inches or higher forever. The nearly 5k fidelity is nearly to much to resist. Breathtaking? Id take one of these first attempts at this form factor over a front row seat for the next Hailey's comet at the grand canyon with the playmate of the year giving me a lap dance. Even knowing that improved versions are most likely going to be released that address silly issues because I have been waiting forever for large. And for an old school traditional background artist who had the idea that going small, precious and timid was a sin where going large and drawing sweeping gesture friendly strokes on a large canvas using more than anemic carpal inducing wrist motion is an ingrained prejudice I have been suffering with no relief. I would have to believe then that I am the target market and anyone that doesn't find rabid excitement in the prospect of next years release simply because this AIO now exists... Simply is not the intended creative type in mind who has been waiting so long they r stupid enough to pay the ridiculous price and r grateful for the opportunity.
    Even the dial that slides down the screen.! Just the idea that future iterations might have the Jog Shuttle sexiness of an old GVG Grass Valley Group editing dial for dialing in sublime levels of interactive seeking has me literally frothing rabid with anticipation! ( Particularly if they allow future implementations to be as open and supported as their Dev friendly Kinect example! )
    I find more exciting at the prospect of future versions simply because the device form factor with it's initial faults is finally here! ( please.. must go larger )
    The last thing I want to hear is naysaying ( God forbid they decide to close shop on this line of product from as much negativity )
    Silly I know... But from my point of view the machine is as precariously fragile as a newborn infant from the point of view of a newborn father who thought he was infertile and only wants to see that potential grow up and be...
  • BillBear - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    The Surface Dial is not so much innovative as it is a direct copy of Adobe's "place a plastic object on the screen to give commands while drawing" Ink and Slide idea from several years ago.
  • BillBear - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    Youtube fail!
  • nathanddrews - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    Microsoft's Surface predates Adobe's Ink and Slide by several years. Detection and interaction with real world objects existed with Surface 1.0.
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    I beleive the point was that the DIAL, just released with the Surface Studio was predated by the Ink and Slide thingy from Adobe and doesn't appear to be a unique or new idea. Reply
  • BillBear - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    Likewise, in the professional drawing space, Wacom's Cintiq has long come with the Express Key Remote, which is another take on the "place a plastic object on the screen to give commands while drawing" concept.

    I was at a loss to see how so many reviewers claimed Microsoft was being "innovative" here.

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