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Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Small changes make this the best Surface Pro yet
By Kenny Yeo - 9 Sep 2017

Introduction

Surface Story

The new Surface Pro 5 may look identical to its predecessor, but it has numerous small changes that have a profound impact, making this the most refined Surface Pro device yet.

Microsoft has been developing operating systems for PCs for over 30 years, but it was only in 2012 that it began making its own PC. That PC was called the Surface. Microsoft’s Surface devices have always represented the company’s vision for the future of personal computing. The Surface Pro, in particular, was billed as the tablet that could replace your computer and was a clear indication from Microsoft that computing in the future would be more tablet-like and less like a traditional notebook.

It wasn’t easy. The early Surface Pro devices weren’t particularly well-received. They were heavy, cumbersome, expensive, and didn’t work that well in the initial attempts. But that changed when Microsoft released the Surface Pro 3 in May 2014. The changes, though slight, are well thought out and had a profound impact on the usability of the Surface Pro 3. 

The new Surface Pro has the same excellent 12.3-inch PixelSense display as its predecessor.

And in late 2015, Microsoft updated the Surface Pro lineup with the Surface Pro 4, which came with significant improvements over the Surface Pro 3. Newer processors from Intel, a higher resolution, an improved display, a thinner and lighter design, are just some of the improvements of the Surface Pro 4.

When Intel finally released the full range of its 7th gen Intel Core (Kaby Lake) processors earlier this year, fans wondered when the new Surface Pro would arrive. Fans were particularly worried earlier this year when Surface boss Panos Panay said that there would be no Surface Pro 5.

Well, technically speaking, he was right, because the newest Surface Pro device is simply called Surface Pro - not Surface Pro 5. And there’s a pretty good reason for that: it is not all that different from the Surface Pro 4. With this mind, we won't cover the bits that are the same. For that, you can check out our review of the Surface Pro 4. So what’s new? Let’s get down to that right now.

 

What’s new?

Intel's newest Kaby Lake processors promise better performance and efficiency.

New processors - The new Surface Pro gets Intel’s newest seventh generation Kaby Lake processors. CPU model options are Core m3-7Y30, Core i5-7300U and Core i7-7660U processors. Expect improved compute and graphics performance as well as better power efficiency. Better power efficiency equals longer battery life.

The new hinge moves through 165 degrees. Allowing the new Surface Pro to do this.

New hinge - The Surface Pro comes with a redesigned hinge that allows the Surface Pro to tilt up to 165 degrees, allowing it to lie almost completely flat. Microsoft calls this the “Studio Mode”, a reference to the Surface Studio all-in-one PC and to better allow one to use the Surface Pro to sketch and design with ease.

Bigger battery - The new Surface Pro comes with a slightly larger 45Wh battery. In comparison, the battery in the Surface Pro 4 was only 39Wh. The increase isn’t much, but every little bit counts. In fact, Microsoft claims battery life is now up by 50%.

Notice the groove running on the sides? There are actually vents within that let warm air escape.

Fan-less design - Surface Pro models powered by the Core m3 and Core i5 models now come with a fanless design for whisper quiet operation. The Core i7 model, on the other hand, has an improved cooling system that is even quieter and less intrusive under load.

Lighter - Although the new Surface Pro is identical to the Surface Pro 4 in terms of dimensions, the Core i5 and Core i7 models are slightly lighter. The Core i5 and Core i7 Surface Pro models weigh 770g and 784g respectively, while the Core i5 and Core i7 models of the Surface Pro 4 weighed in at 786g.

The new Surface Pen is remarkably fluid and responsive.

New Surface Pen - The Surface Pen has been improved and is now sold separately from the Surface Pro. Pressure sensitivity is now up to 4,096 levels, which is four times greater. In addition, the Surface Pen can now be used tilted, allowing creatives to shade on their Surface Pro.

Surface Pro Signature Type Cover in Platinum to the right. Regular Surface Pro Type Cover in black to the left.

New Surface Pro Signature Type Cover - If you want your Surface Pro to stand out a little, there’s the new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover. It has full-sized keys, LED backlighting, a generous amount of travel, and a large glass trackpad. But most of all, it is covered in Alcantara, the same luscious velvety material that covers the dashboards of many supercars. Available in three colors: Platinum, Burgundy, and Cobalt Blue. If you don’t care for Alcantara there’s the “regular” Surface Pro Type Cover that comes in black and is a tad cheaper.

Supports Surface Dial - Remember funky looking puck-like device that debuted with the Surface Studio? That’s called the Surface Dial and it will be compatible with the new Surface Pro. The Surface Dial basically provides contextually relevant shortcuts within apps and Windows 10. So if you were using Photoshop, for example, the dial can let you zoom in and out quickly, or access colors without going to various menus and tabs.

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