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Microsoft's Surface Studio is only powerful enough for "light" virtual reality duties

Surface Studio Hands On
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Microsoft’s innovative new Surface Studio all-in-one has created some real buzz among creative professionals, a market that’s so clearly the target for the machine that it hasn’t often been recommended for anyone else given the price. It’s not a great gaming machine, and in general, it’s overkill for anyone who doesn’t need the accurate colors and Surface Dial accessory for their artwork.

That likely means the Surface Studio isn’t going to be anyone’s first choice as the PC driving their virtual reality system. And given that Microsoft outfitted the two most affordable models of the all-in-one with a mobile version of the decidedly midrange Nvidia GTX 965 GPU, the company isn’t touting the machine as VR Ready. Microsoft did, however, present a demo at the Virtual Reality Developers Conference 2016 event in San Francisco, where 14 VR titles were shown running on the Surface Studio, according to Road to VR reports.

Some of the titles, such as Tilt Brush, SculptVR, and SoundStage, are clearly aimed at creative types. Others, such as Hoops VR, Space Pirate Trainer, and Gnomes and Goblins, don’t exactly represent the most intensive VR games around. Microsoft seems to be making the point that the Surface Studio can handle light VR duties when paired with a system like the HTC Vive, particularly the high-end model that utilizes the Nvidia GTX 980M.

Of course, Oculus has its “minimum” VR specifications, which lowers the bar in terms of GPU support to Nvidia’s GTX 970 and AMD’s 290. While that’s still a notch above the entry-level Surface Studio’s specifications, it’s exceeded by the the high-end model. Oculus achieved the lower requirements by implementing technology that will assist lower-end machines with running VR. One such technology is “asynchronous spacewarp,” which helps maintain the 90 frames per second required for a smooth VR experience.

If you’re in the market for a new desktop and want to be able to experience VR in all its glory, then the most affordable version of the current Surface Studio won’t be a very good choice. Even the high-end model won’t provide the best experience, and at $4,200, it’s a very expensive solution, indeed. Microsoft will likely utilize higher-end GPUs in future Surface Studio editions, and so if you want both VR and the ultimate creative solution, then you might want to wait until the next version is released.

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