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Microsoft Surface Studio versus HP Envy 27: which all-in-one truly has it all?

The latest addition to Microsoft’s lineup of Surface products is the Surface Studio, an all-in-one computer designed for artists and other creative professionals. From what we have seen so far, it’s an impressive device. The Surface Studio could be a shot across the bow to other all-in-one manufacturers like HP, whose latest Envy 27 model is one of the best all-in-one desktops around. In this clash of the expensive titans, who will prevail? While we cannot say for sure until we test the Studio for ourselves, we can make a preliminary ruling by examining the available specs.

Related: Microsoft unveils pricey but powerful Surface Book update, Surface Studio at NY event

Microsoft Surface Studio

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HP Envy All-in-One 27

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Dimensions 25.1 x 17.3 x 0.5 in 25.7 x 19.3 x 7.95 in
Weight 21 lbs 24 lbs
Processor  Intel i5 or i7  Intel i5 or i7
RAM 8, 16, 32GB 8, 12, 16GB
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M, Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M  2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M
Display 28” PixelSense Display LCD 27” LED QHD
Resolution 4,500 x 3,000 2,560 x 1,440
Storage 1TB or 2TB Rapid Hybrid Drive 1TB SATA hard disk, optional SSDs
Networking  802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Xbox Wireless  802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports 4 x USB 3.0 (one high power port)Full-size SD card reader (SDXC) compatibleMini DisplayPortHeadset jackCompatible with Surface Dial on-screen interaction*1 Gigabit Ethernet port USB 3.0 Type A, one USB 3.1 Type C, plus HDMI-in and HDMI-out, headphone/microphone jack
Webcam 5.0 MP camera with 1080p HD video (front)Autofocus camera with 1080p HD video (rear) 1080p HD IR camera
Operating System Windows 10 Windows 10
Price $3,000 $1,300
Availability Pre-order at Microsoft HP
Review  N/A N/A

Specs

Both of these computers offer models that include Intel Core i5 or i7 processors. We actually don’t know yet what exact models the Surface Studio will ship with, but they’ll probably be 65-watt or 95-watt variants of the desktop line. HP’s Envy, by contrast, has a 35-watt “T” series chip. So it’s likely that, due to its lower power draw, its performance will be a hair behind the Surface Studio.

The Studio and the Envy start at 8GB of RAM, although the Studio maxes out at 32GB, which is twice that of the Envy’s maximum of 16GB. Frankly, 32GB is overkill for all but the most extreme scenarios. But if you want it, only the Surface Studio has it.

The Studio also edges the Envy out in terms of graphical power — its lower-tier option is a GeForce 965M, a graphics card that is still better than the Envy’s GeForce 950M. This should help when powering professional 3D applications, performing GPU compute operations and, of course, when playing games.

Overall, the Surface Studio has a bit more juice than the Envy, although the differences are not massive.

Display

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The Envy sports a 27-inch QHD display with 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution, which amounts to 3.6 million pixels. The Studio features a 28-inch display, with 13.5 million pixels and 4,500 x 3,000-pixel resolution.

Both displays have touchscreens, although the Studio’s display works with the Surface pen as well as the new Surface Dial, which can fasten to the screen, allowing users to easily use rotary functions.

The Surface Studio also has the built-in ability to instantly switch color spaces using a toggle in the Windows notification pane. That’s a handy extra that artists and photographers will love.

Although the Envy’s display is great, the Surface Studio looks to blow it out of the water.

Connectivity

There isn’t much difference in connectivity. Both machines have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, however, the Studio only uses Bluetooth 4.0, whereas the Envy has 4.2, which is slightly faster.

The Surface Studio does have Xbox Wireless built-in, so if you want to connect an Xbox controller to your PC, you can do so easily. Given how the Surface seems geared toward art and design, this seems somewhat superfluous, but it’s a nice addition nonetheless.

Design

This is a win-win scenario. Both machines are designed with an eye toward artistry, cramming the computer components into discrete base units, allowing for thin, lightweight monitors. The Envy has a glass display mounted on a slim metal stand;, resulting in a machine with a unobtrusive profile. The built-in webcam can also retract into the display when not in use, keeping the profile simple and protecting the user’s privacy. The Envy’s base has built-in Bang & Olufsen speakers, with a simple touchpad for adjusting volume.

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Microsoft described the Studio’s display as a “floating sheet of pixels,” and the metaphor is apt. The absurdly slim display rests on a chrome “zero gravity hinge,” which allows the user to maneuver the display to various configurations. Keep it upright, lay it flat, or anything in between. This makes it a great tool for creative sorts who want to draw or edit images by hand. Going off the claims by Microsoft, moving the display should feel effortless. The Studio features a discrete webcam and Dolby speakers.

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The Studio’s accessories are a big part of the draw. The Surface Pen and Dial open up huge possibilities for those who like to work with their hands. The Dial allows users to rotate images on the screen, shrink or enlarge images, and more, with straightforward haptic feedback.

Availability and price

Perhaps the biggest distinction between the two machines is pricing. The cheapest version of of the Envy costs $1,300, running up to $1,700. The Studio, meanwhile, bottoms out at an astounding $3,000, with the most expensive version running a cost of $4,200. The latest model Envy is available now, while the Surface is currently available for preorder, set to be released December 15, 2016.

Conclusion

Overall, the Surface Studio seems like a more powerful, more beautiful machine than the Envy, but it comes with a tremendous price tag. Whether users should choose one or the other is largely a matter of lifestyle.

For creative professionals — artists, architects, and so on — who want a desktop they can do all their work on, the Surface is clearly designed for them. It can recline back for easier touch use, which is something the HP Envy AIO doesn’t do, and it has unique productivity peripherals, like the Surface Dial.

For everyone else, the Envy seems like a much more affordable device with a great deal of functionality.