The Surface Pro 4 was a fine product but had its fair share of issues, many of which took a bit too long to rectify or at least patch up. With the new, numberless Surface Pro, it's obvious that Microsoft took that feedback to heart.
The battery life has been improved by as much as 32%, based on our testing, in a design that refines the existing template without tangibly adding weight or thickness. Microsoft has also vastly improved the Surface Pen, Type Cover and even the Surface Pro hinge to make it a stronger laptop-and-tablet replacement than ever.
So, let’s find out why the Surface Pro has once again earned our Recommended award and whether it’s the right 2-in-1 device for you. Chances are it is.
Pricing and availability
The new Surface Pro is available now starting at AED 4,499, which offers an Intel Core i5 (Kaby Lake) processor coupled with 4GB of memory (RAM) and 128GB of solid-state storage (SSD).
Running the gamut through Intel Core i5 and i7 chips with more and more memory and storage, the Surface Pro maxes out at AED 10,799 for an Intel Core i7 CPU paired with a 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM.
Compared to the latest 10.5-inch iPad Pro, Apple's tablet starts at AED 2,499 with an A10X processor and 64GB of storage. On the other end of the spectrum, the most heavily-equipped version of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro goes for AED 3,799 and offer 512GB worth storage with the very same CPU.
Like the Surface Pro 4 before it, the new Surface Pro is dealing with sleep issues. A small number of Surface Pro users have described random instances of the computer entering hibernate mode without initiating it themselves. While likely not an issue of overheating, it has become a relatively common bug. The solution, according to Microsoft, is to reset the device back to factory settings.
Peering towards the future, Microsoft’s upcoming, stylus-driven Whiteboard app has leaked ahead of its late 2017 launch. Although this early build lacks the collaborative features set to be offered in the final version of Whiteboard, it did teach us that handwritten Bing searches will be integrated directly into the app.
At first glance, the new Surface Pro looks just like its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4. It has the same gorgeous 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreen with a 2,736 x 1,824-pixel resolution. But, a keen eye will notice key differences. For one, the magnesium-aluminum alloy frame dramatically more rounded at the edges than before.
If you’ve used a Surface Pro 4 frequently, your fingers will tell the difference before your eyes do.
Another key change comes in the hinge, which has been improved through drawing inspiration from the Surface Studio. The hinge now bends back further than before to a new “Studio mode” that makes for a narrower, 165-degree angle, at which, it's easier to draw than before.
The hinge looks markedly different, clearly incorporating new parts to make this more dramatic angle possible, but operates in exactly the same way.
The new Surface Pro comes in at the exact same 8.4mm of thickness with its 786g weight remaining unchanged. That's an impressive feat considering that Microsoft accomplished this while packing a 20% larger battery inside.
Microsoft has also improved thermal design allowing it to make the Intel Core i5 version of the Surface Pro a fanless device.
Sadly, you won't find any USB Type-C ports which makes the device less future-proof. Ideally, Microsoft would remove the proprietary charging port and add a USB Type-C port that can charge the Surface Pro and be used for connectivity purposes.
The new Alcantara Type Cover is a marked improvement in comfort over the previous generation, and largely worth the slight uptick in asking price over the microfiber cloth version. The keys feel like they’re deeper set and come back from a press with more force than ever, and the material looks like it will stand the test of time.
Surface Pen gets a big boost
The Surface Pen has also gotten a major upgrade. Starting off, Microsoft has upped the pressure sensitivity of its pen to 4,096 levels of detectable pressure, meaning creators have more control over the width and intensity of their lines in illustrations or designs than before. More importantly, the Pen now sports a much lower latency, meaning that the tip of your Pen has a far lower chance of “leading” the ink on the PixelSense display.
Finally, the Pen also supports tilt detection now, though only through the new Surface Pro – the other current Surface devices will get the support for this feature through a firmware update.
This feature will, again – short of some nifty navigation controls in some apps – largely matter most to true creators that would be concerned about representing tilt and direction of the strokes in their work.
To top it all off, the Pen also comes in new, slick colors platinum, black, cobalt blue and burgundy, designed naturally to match to the available colors of new Type Covers.
There’s no debating that both the new Surface Pen and Type Cover have earned their slight price hikes, but we remain disappointed in the lack of any bundling to save committed customers a bit of money for fully buying in on Microsoft’s products on day one.
The new Surface Pro performs as good as we were expecting it in everything- from browsing the web with several tabs open while word processing, and downloading benchmarks in the background. Not to mention it works just fine for basic photo editing through Lightroom.
As for gaming, it won't cut it for anything beyond Hearthstone. Luckily, touch-friendly games, like Hearthstone, are just delightful to play on the sharp and colorful, 12.3-inch display.
While great for productivity, the 3:2 screen isn't ideal for watching videos and films that are generally in a 16:9 or 21:9 ratio. Expect black bars around the screen when viewing Netflix or YouTube.
On the benchmarks, the new Surface Pro contends with the latest iPad Pro on Geekbench 4, one of the few tests that can measure both systems. The Surface Pro’s average multi-core processor score of 8,256 is not too far from the iPad Pro’s 9,290-point ranking.
Keep in mind that this is the Surface Pro containing a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor. On the higher-end you could go for the faster Core i7 version of the chip but that will cost a whopping AED 10,799. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro remains just as powerful regardless of which configuration or model you choose and starts at AED 2,999.
That said, the processor inside the Surface Pro powers a more deliberately open PC experience with an operating system that allows users to install apps from multiple sources and dig into system files deeper than iOS 11.
One area in which Microsoft has improved year-over-year where the competing MacBook and iPad Pro refreshes have not is longevity. This year, The firm managed to shrink its motherboard design, allowing for a 20% larger battery inside.
Coupled with power consumption optimizations the 7th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel processor design brings, Microsoft promises up to 13 hours and 30 minutes of local video playback from the new Surface Pro.
That’s a lofty claim and one that our test unit failed to live up to. That being said, based on our tests of the previous model’s battery, we no doubt see a noticeable improvement.
PCMark 8 Battery Life and TechRadar Movie Test results came in 24% and 32% longer than the previous model at 4 hours and 3 minutes, and 6 hours and 58 minutes, respectively. The iPad Pro was rated for between 6 and 7 hours of use.
Although the numbers are below Microsoft’s promise, the point is that we’re seeing a sizable improvement based on our own results, and that’s enough for us to commend Microsoft’s designers and engineers for making it happen.
Microsoft has improved just about every facet of the Surface Pro 4’s design while addressing complaints of battery life and even issues some might not have even noticed – like a hinge that could have titled even further. Frankly, with this much improvement inside and out, we’re surprised that Microsoft has refrained from calling this the Surface Pro 5.
Vastly improved or not, taking away the Surface Pen from the package is a tough sell. Not providing any sort of bundling incentive for any of the Surface Pro accessories is now a bigger issue than just refusing to include the Type Cover, and Microsoft is only making it more difficult for newcomers to jump that fence. Also, the lack of a Type-C slot makes the Surface Pro a bit less future-proof.
Even though it may not look like it from the outside, Microsoft has deeply improved the Surface Pro over the previous model and it continues to maintain its lead over competing 2-in-1 laptops or tablets. From the accessories designed to make Surface Pro feel like an even more worthy laptop-and-tablet replacement to its improved battery life, every one of our concerns have been addressed.
That said, Microsoft has again stumbled on the Surface Pro’s value proposition by removing the new Surface Pen from every box. That's not very consumer-friendly and makes the decision of buying the Surface Pro more difficult.
In short, if you’re willing to pay a bit more for the latest accessories, the new Surface Pro remains the ultimate 2-in-1 laptop and productivity tablet. So much so that, despite Microsoft’s decision to pull the Surface Pen from the box, it remains worthy of our Recommended award.