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Microsoft’s first-ever desktop is a crazy powerful $3,000 giant tablet

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Panos Panay, Corporate Vice President for Surface Computing holds the new Microsoft Surface Book i7 laptop. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

For the first time in its 40-year history, Microsoft (MSFT) is building a desktop PC. And man, is it pretty.

Unveiled during a press event in New York on Wednesday, the Microsoft Surface Studio is an all-in-one (AIO) computer. The Studio has a 28-inch touch screen display that also happens to be the thinnest such screen ever made. This isn’t your average AIO, though. That’s because its screen can also be folded down into a massive tabletop tablet for artists including painters using the Surface Pen, professional photographers and video editors.

The Studio starts at a $3,000, so Microsoft is clearly targeting a high-end market.

As with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book — which were designed specifically to take on the likes of Apple’s (AAPL) MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — the Surface Studio is aimed squarely at taking on Apple’s own iMac AIO and Mac Pro desktop computers.

Microsoft’s head of Surface products, Panos Panay, showed off the Studio, and, as is his style, was more than emphatic in his enthusiasm about the desktop’s capabilities. According to Panay, the Studio’s display offers 63% more pixels than a 4K television.

Inside, the desktop gets a high-powered Intel Core i7 processor, a hardcore Nvidia GTX 980m graphics card and 32GB of RAM. All of that power is situated in a small square block connected to the Studio’s display via a pair of chrome arms.

Panay said Microsoft went out of its way to limit the number of wires coming out of the Surface Studio, so the only cable you’ll see is its power cord. You can, of course, connect a wired mouse or keyboard, but the Studio also includes wireless versions of those, so there’s no need for wired ones.

According to Panay, the Surface Studio’s hinge has been specifically designed to make it easy to move between desktop mode and tablet mode. So you don’t have to be the Incredible Hulk to lift the Studio’s massive screen back into desktop mode.

Alongside the Studio, Microsoft introduced its new Surface Dial. The device can be placed on the Studio’s display in tablet mode, or left on your desk in desktop mode and allows you to manipulate the device using Windows global controls, so you can do things like zoom in on photos and select different settings.

It’s clear the Studio is meant to attract the kind of professionals currently using Apple’s iMac and Mac Pro desktops. Unlike, the Studio, though, the iMac is available in both 21.5-inch and 27-inch models and can be outfitted with a vast array of customization options ranging from a basic Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive to a Core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM and a speedy 256GB solid-state drive. Pricing for the iMacs range from $1,100 to $2,528.

While the iMac is mostly built for high-end consumers, Apple’s Mac Pro is designed for commercial users including graphic designers, video editors and engineers; basically anyone who needs a ridiculously over-powered computer. So if you’re just checking your email and playing basic games, the Mac Pro isn’t for you.

The Mac Pro can be equipped with anything from a quad-core processor to a ridiculous 12-core processor, 64GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD and dual graphics cards. That’s a bonkers powerful computer, but it also costs an incredible $9,600.

The Surface Studio could play nicely in between the iMac and Mac Pro, but I’ll have to wait until I can get my hands on it to find out. Stay tuned.

Dan Howley is tech editor at Yahoo Finance.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.