Announced just last week, Microsoft’s Surface Studio all-in-one computer has been met with excitement and touted as an example of the company’s new approach to innovation. With a mobile GPU on board, you shouldn’t expect to be able to run the most demanding VR titles, but Microsoft says Surface Studio will be able to manage some VR experiences.

Microsoft says Surface Studio is made for designers and creators. The computer’s crowning feature is a huge 4500 x 3000 display that gracefully tilts down to make the touchscreen and stylus-enabled display ready for hands-on interaction. And while it may have a relatively small footprint, the company is trying to play up the device’s performance.

Microsoft was at VRDC 2016 in San Francisco last week showing the Surface Studio powering an attached HTC Vive. Given that the computer includes a mobile GPU (which neither Oculus, HTC/Valve, or NVIDIA have explicitly approved of as ‘VR Ready’), the company isn’t going so far as to say that Surface Studio is properly VR Ready, but they do say that it’s capable of handling lighter VR experiences.


At the event, Microsoft had a demo list featuring 14 VR titles running on Surface Studio:

  • Tilt Brush
  • SculptVR
  • SoundStage
  • theBlu
  • The Night Cafe
  • Gnomes and Goblins
  • The Lab
  • Hoops VR
  • Space Pirate Trainer
  • Paddle Up!
  • Duo
  • Cloudlands Minigolf
  • Audioshield
  • Budget Cuts

I was told that this wasn’t an inclusive list of VR games the system could handle, just that these made for good first-time VR demos. I hopped into Space Pirate Trainer and blasted my way through a few waves of deadly robots and it all worked as expected: smooth 90 FPS gameplay on the Vive.

It’s nice that the Surface Studio can handle some VR, but the fact that it doesn’t quite qualify as a VR Ready machine means that none of the above titles will necessarily work in perpetuity as they are being built with a different recommended specification in mind. Oculus’ new “minimum” (not “recommended”) specification could give the Surface Studio a bit more breathing room for handling VR experiences.

Inexpensive GTX 1050 Ti Gets Official Thumbs-Up for Oculus Minimum Spec

The ability to play “light” VR experiences on Surface Studio is going to weigh heavily on your wallet. At the event, I was shown the top-end configuration of the computer which includes a Core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and the GTX 980M GPU, for a cool $4,200. Lesser models only have the GTX 965M, which is less likely to be able to push frames as fast as VR demands.

Why didn’t Microsoft just go with one of NVIDIA’s new VR Ready 10-series mobile GPUs? An engineer from the Surface team told me that the Surface Studio spec was locked down some time before that line was introduced; it seems likely that future iterations of Surface Studio will pick up a 10-series card at a minimum, and be properly VR Ready across all configurations.

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  • DiGiCT Ltd

    I had a 970 GTX already before i got the Vive and used it for development.
    I ran against a lot of performance issues and trying to squeeze everything out to get the game working as i wanted just like mobile games development.

    At the end i ended up sacrificing many things as the performance was not there.
    Last month I decided just to try a 10 series card to see what it does, and you know what…… I should have done it earlier as stuff just runs on it without any performance issues or tweaking too much !

    I strongly recommend not to go below a 10x series for PC VR if you realy want to enjoy VR.
    Those minimum requirements are just for low end created apps, and not for the better ones.
    The lowered minimum specs for VR yeah you can watch movies and mobile game lookalike games on your PC , but did you pay so much money for your HMD just to see that ?
    I dont think so.
    Therefor our games will all roll out with a minimum spec of a gtx 10x series card or higher, 970 or lower is out of the question,they should make it clear that it is really comes with many issues on performance.

    Hope it makes it clear for others that wants to enjoy VR and devs which are wasting their time degrading their game, because of performance issues.
    I am using 1070gtx now and it is really worth the money, 1080 seems a little overpriced as 2x 1070 you can get for only 30% more as a 1080, as 1070 support sli 1060 doesn’t , that made me just buy a 1070.

    Don’t step into those traps of lower specs requirements to run VR, you will regret it sooner or later, just like me.

    • Firestorm185

      Well I can’t say this for much longer, but I’ve been playing lots of different VR games on my 970 and it’s been working fabulous for me. I am upgrading here shortly to a 1060, and yeah, a few funny frame drops have happened once in a while, but they’re not terribly common I think if people are on a tight budget (as I was at the time I built my min spec machine) it’s a good way to get into VR, then you have parts you can upgrade later.

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        You have no idea how certain thing in VR could be lol, im not talking as a gamer but as a developer, for example try to find a game title that has dynamic water and dynamic reflections on it.
        Also load times between the scenes was on a 970 much longer.
        And glithes during load like the loading screen in the lab, all those issues are gone.
        An other thing was using real terrains in VR with higher detail, on a 970 gtx its a no go in VR, only lower detailed ones.
        And from a pain running in 4x MSAA i can now more easy use 8X mSAA
        It all looks more smooth.
        Anyhow you will see it when you upgraded, did not go for 1060 but i think its still a big change, as the pascal boards are real VR ready cards.
        The gtx970 was never designed for VR.

        • Firestorm185

          Yeah. Can’t wait til I get that.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            You will be very happy, its like the similar feeling you went into your HMD, it looks like you got a new one again :D

          • Firestorm185

            Yeah. For the longest time I was hackin it together, didn’t even have a rift! Had a 750Ti running games through TEAMVIEWER over TriDef to an Ipod in an OpenDive! Man, those were dark days. Though fun ones to experiment with, I must say I was blown away when I finally got all the stuff I needed and upgraded to Rift. And with Touch coming soon, updating to a 1060, and all those new games coming out, just can’t wait!

          • Firestorm185

            And being able to develop stuff for touch too, obviously.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            Yeah those controlers are realy a need too for VR.
            I decided from the start to buy the preorder Vive instead of rift, also due to more completeness.
            Will order the rift later on with controllers for just testing our games work well with rift or not.
            For me the rift HMD is not ergonomic, as my glasses are hard to get into, compared to the vive which still can adjust the lens distance.

            For the rest i think the game can work just fine for rift owners too with Touch, I just refuse making VR games with a gamepad, unless the gamepad is also 100% trackable, but thats something i think would more early appear on Vive using valve lighthouse tech, as we know over 300 companies are working on their track product as we speak.

            I hope VR will be more fit in future for tracking, hopefully rift would just use the valve lighthouses in future, but seems now they want to go for CV based tracking instead.
            All those different aproaches makes it ard to develop.
            It bring me back to the time before PC with all those home computers, not having any compatibility with each other, MSX system was the 1st finally having different brand compatibility, compared to the others brand fixed home computers.
            Sad to see that atm this is all happening again too.

            And yeah, those early cardbox kinda VR was fun too and streaming via USB to a phone lol.
            It never reached more for me as simple prototyping due to hardware limits, now the PC vr is much better, but I cant wait for the next few years lol, it will be more amazing.

          • Firestorm185

            Oh yeah. Minecraft in VR with a gamepad is not only annoying (due to accidental button presses) but just not fun after a while. Those Touch controllers will be a HUGE gamechanger, not just for Minecraft but across their whole Store. that and then their social features with them. Yeah, I bought the Rift for two main reasons. A) I had followed it since the start, so I didn’t feel like switching to another platform right after the consumer released, and B) I don’t need glasses, so the Rift was better fit to me. Plus I like how the Rift looks, personally, and I don’t really have quite as much space (currently) in my office to put lighthouse sensors up, so I’m just one cam in front right now, probably two in front (at least at first) when Touch first arrives, although I’ll be pretty quickly changing to the triangle setup to do more SteamVR stuff.

        • Sebastien Mathieu

          agreed!! the 10 series are the real VR cards

  • GrangerFX

    $4200 is a lot for a computer that is not fully VR capable. And yes I have the same complaint about Apple’s computers.

  • Alexander D Womack

    The 980m may be a mobile part, but it’s not exactly underpowered compared to a 970 desktop card… In fact it may do significantly better on the Surface studio by virtue of not being limited to laptop power constraints and cooling (enjoying higher clocks).

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    just hoped they’ve waited a bit an included the GTX 10 Series…. that would have been awesome!

  • robax

    Nov 2017… Surface Studio 3D… with whatever hardware makes it happen. Things keep moving.

  • OgreTactics

    Of course it’s VR-Ready. Any device with a 5″ screen and a recent enough ultramobile-GPU base has the same capabilities as any smartphone-enabled VR.

    Now it means that the compatible experiences may be limited in terms of performance, but it shows how backward part of the VR industry is thinking: the capability to watch TV/movies in a blown-up cinema, to play any web/PC video, content or game on a giant screen, with the added stereo 3D capabilities, and access the wealth of 360° video/stereo-cubes or mobile apps already available, is in itself enough to justify buying a cheap VR headset, let alone if it adds internal head-tracking.