Comparing Microsoft's Surface Studio to Apple's Long-Favored iMac

Comparing Microsoft's Surface Studio to Apple's Long-Favored iMac
Both Models Target the Same Market
Only One Supports a Stylus
Let's Talk About Design
Display Sizes Vary
Users Can Express With Operating System Preferences
Microsoft Might Win on Power
A Different Pitch to Different Customers
Only One Device Comes With a Touch Screen
Both Devices Include Plenty of Ports for Accessories
These Aren't Cheap Computers
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Comparing Microsoft's Surface Studio to Apple's Long-Favored iMac

How does Microsoft's new Surface Studio all-in-one desktop measure up to Apple's iMac? This slide show looks at how the two systems are different—and similar.

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Both Models Target the Same Market

Both the Microsoft Surface Studio and Apple's iMac are all-in-one PCs. In general, the computer type is a desktop that doesn't come with a separate tower. Instead, the device's components sit within the display. All-in-one PCs typically are less powerful than tower desktops but more powerful than notebooks. That's certainly the case with both the iMac and Surface Studio, but that might be about to change.

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Only One Supports a Stylus

Apple's iMac is a standard all-in-one PC that requires a keyboard and mouse to navigate software. While the Surface Studio also works with a mouse and keyboard, its touch screen also supports Microsoft's Surface Pen, a sophisticated stylus that lets users digitally write on the display.

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Let's Talk About Design

Although both computers are all-in-ones, they have slightly different designs. The iMac, for instance, has a big display and all of its computing components sit behind the screen. Microsoft's Surface Studio has some components behind its display, but houses many of them in a separate case around its stand. That enables the Surface Studio to be thinner without sacrificing power.

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Display Sizes Vary

If screen size matters to customers, Apple and Microsoft offer some variety. On the iMac front, customers have the choice of a 21.5-inch or 27-inch display. The Surface Studio, on the other hand, only comes in a 28-inch version. Both the iMac and the Surface Studio feature high-resolution and exceedingly colorful screens.

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Users Can Express With Operating System Preferences

Operating systems are also differentiating factors. On the iMac side, customers will find Apple's latest operating system, macOS Sierra. The Surface Studio comes with Microsoft's Windows 10 Pro. It's perhaps worth noting, however, that iMac owners also can run Windows with help from virtualization software such as Parallels.

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Microsoft Might Win on Power

Apple's iMac, which wasn't updated at the company's Oct. 27 event, is underpowered compared with the Surface Studio. Apple's computer comes standard with an Intel Core i5 processor with a clock speed up to 3.1GHz. Customers who want to pay a little extra can opt for a 3.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 chip. The Surface Studio comes with newer Intel Core i5 and i7 processors that perform better than the iMac-ready chips. In addition, the Surface Studio is a graphics powerhouse, thanks to its support for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M and 980M GPUs.

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A Different Pitch to Different Customers

Different customers might find value in the iMac and Surface Studio. Microsoft's Surface Studio is designed for creative professionals and power users who want the ability to work with design software. While the iMac can work with design software, it's pitched more as right for consumers who want a family computer. But some iMacs find their way into enterprises.

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Only One Device Comes With a Touch Screen

Different customers might find value in the iMac and Surface Studio. Microsoft's Surface Studio is designed for creative professionals and power users who want the ability to work with design software. While the iMac can work with design software, it's pitched more as right for consumers who want a family computer. But some iMacs find their way into enterprises.

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Both Devices Include Plenty of Ports for Accessories

The iMac has four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a headphone jack, and a place to plug in both an SD card and Gigabit Ethernet. The Surface Studio has a similar selection of ports, including four USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort and headphone jack. There's also SD card support and a headphone jack.

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These Aren't Cheap Computers

Customers hoping to get away with a cheap purchase won't find it from either the iMac or Surface Studio. Depending on the version customers choose, they could pay between $2,999 and $4,199 for a Surface Studio. Apple's iMac is more affordable, starting at $1,099 and going to $1,499 for the 21.5-inch model. The price of the 27-inch iMac, the closer Surface Studio competitor, ranges between $1,799 and $2,299 before customization.

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