Looking to buy Microsoft’s awesome new Surface Pro? Here’s all you need to know

Mark Coppock
Surface Pro

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 was introduced in 2015 as the company’s newest “tablet that can replace your notebook” style of 2-in-1. The Windows 10 machine offered a larger and higher-resolution display, as well as sixth-generation Intel Core processors, which is likely why it sold far better than Microsoft expected it to. Fans of the Surface Pro had been waiting months for a successor, and Microsoft finally unveiled one at an event on May 23, 2017, in Shanghai, China.

It was not a Surface Pro 5, however, as was long assumed to be the next major revision to the line. Instead, Microsoft released a rather incremental update to the Surface Pro 4, while dropping the numbering scheme. The result, the Surface Pro (2017), which we reviewed here, represents a solid addition to the detachable tablet 2-in-1 market but doesn’t break any new ground.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Surface Pro.

Specifications

As expected, Microsoft updated the Surface Pro’s CPU to the latest seventh-generation “Kaby Lake” Intel Core processors, bringing along some improved performance and longer battery life. In fact, Microsoft leveraged the new chip’s power-saving features to extend battery life to 13.5 hours from the Surface Pro 4’s less impressive nine hours.

Microsoft also enhanced the Surface Pro’s ultimate portability, adding in LTE support — a first in the Surface Pro line — with more information on which carriers will be involved to come in later announcements. And the new Surface Pro is easier to carry around, having shaved off a few millimeters and grams compared to the Surface Pro 4.

In terms of connectivity, Microsoft maintained its anti-USB Type-C stance and kept the Surface Pro’s ports unchanged. There’s a single USB Type-A port, a mini-DisplayPort, a microSDXC card reader, and a 3.5mm headphone jack to go with the all-purpose Surface Connect port and Type Cover connector.

Here are the specifications for the new Surface Pro:

Screen size 12.3 inches
Screen resolution 2,736 x 1,824  – 267PPI
Display type PixelSense touchscreen with enhanced Surface Pen support, 3:2 aspect ratio
Processor Intel Core m3-7Y30
Intel Core i5-7300U
Intel Core i7-7660U
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 615 (m3)
Intel HD Graphics 620 (i5)
Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 (i7)
System memory 4GB/8GB/16GB LPDDR3-1866MHz RAM
Storage 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
Audio Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium support
Connectivity 801.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1
Ports Surface Connect
1x USB 3.0 Type-A
mini-DisplayPort
microSDXC card reader
Type Cover Port
3.5mm headphone jack
Keyboard Microsoft Type Cover, Alcantara fabric and four color options — Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Black
Camera 5.0MP Full HD camera front-facing
8.0MP Full HD autofocus camera rear-facing
Infrared camera with Windows Hello support
Battery Up to 13.5 hours battery life
Dimensions 11.50 in x 7.90 in x 0.33 in
Weight 1.69 pounds / 768 grams (m3)
1.70 pounds / 770 grams (i5)
1.73 pounds / 784 grams (i7)
Materials Machined magnesium chassis
Starting price $799
Warranty One-year limited hardware warranty
Availability June 15, 2017

Design

Put the new Surface Pro side-by-side with the Surface Pro 4 and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. The Surface Pro is just a tad thinner and lighter, and its corners are just a bit more rounded. The familiar kickstand has been updated with the ability to open to a full 165 degrees, meaning it lets the Surface Pro lay almost completely flat — which Microsoft calls Studio Mode, projecting the company’s newfound focus on creative types.

Otherwise, the Surface Pro maintains the strong Surface branding and design, with a magnesium chassis, venting along the edge, and full glass along the front. There’s a new splash of color that comes with the new Type Cover options, which we cover in the accessories section below.

Microsoft also redesigned the Surface Pro’s copper heatsink-based cooling system to make it fanless with the Intel Core i5. That’s an improvement on the Surface Pro 4, which only offered a fanless design with the much less powerful Core m3 processor. In addition, the thermal management improvements carry over to the Core i7, providing a quieter experience even when its fan needs to kick on.

The display remains the same size and resolution as the Surface Pro 4, with a 12.3-inch PixelSense 3:2 display at 2,736 x 1,824 resolution, or 267PPI. However, Microsoft has improved the display’s responsiveness through hardware acceleration and thinner glass, and the new Surface Pen boasts significantly improved precision and features.

Accessories

Speaking of the newest Surface Pen, it now supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and offers new tilt support that further refines the Windows 10 Ink experience. Microsoft also promises significantly reduced latency, meaning that the delay between touching the pen to the display and digital ink showing up on screen is shorter than ever — the new Surface Pen is twice as fast as the previous version and matches up well against as the Pencil on Apple’s iPad Pro.

In fact, the new Surface Pro will be the first mobile Surface device to fully support the upcoming Whiteboard app, which applies machine intelligence for a better collaborative experience. The Surface pen follows the recently introduced Surface Laptop in offering additional matching colors, namely Platinum, Black, Burgundy, and Cobalt Blue.

Here are the Surface Pen specifications:

Weight 0.04 pounds / 20 grams
Compatibility Surface Studio
Surface Laptop
Surface Book
Surface Pro
Surface Pro 4
Surface Pro 3
Surface 3
Best performance with Surface Pro
Dimensions Length: 145mm
Width: 9.5mm
Height: 10.1mm
Available colors Platinum, Black, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue
Connection Bluetooth low energy-compatible 4.0/4.1
Buttons Right-click
Tail button: Erase, configurable functionality
Battery 1 AAAA with up to one-year battery life
In the box Surface Pen with HB tip
Battery
Warranty One-year limited hardware warranty

The Surface Type Cover has also received a refresh. It’s available in the same matching colors as the Surface Pen, and it utilizes the same Alcantara fabric as the older Premium Type Cover and the Surface Laptop keyboard tray. The new Type Cover offers the same consistent and stable 1.3mm key travel as the previous model and smooth glass touchpad, and adds in improved magnetic stability when attaching to the Surface Pro.

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

Here are the new Type Cover specifications:

Weight 310 grams
Compatibility Surface Pro devices
Dimension 295mm x 217mm x 5mm
Material and available colors Alcantara fabric
Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Black
Trackpad Large glass trackpad
Five-finger multi-touch gesture support
Keys Activation: Moving (mechanical) keys
Layout: QWERTY, full row of functions keys (F1-F12)
4 directional keys, Windows, Brightness and Media Control keys
LED backlighting
Interface Magnetic
Sensors Accelerometer
Warranty One-year limited hardware warranty

The Surface Pro even supports the Surface Dial accessory on-screen, joining the Surface Studio all-in-one with this distinction. This means that the Surface Dial can be placed on the Surface Pro display out of the box and on-screen controls will pop up letting users control various system settings.

Finally, Microsoft is shipping the Surface Arc Mouse in the same colors as the new Pen and Type Covers. Therefore, buyers can fully color-match their Surface Pro and its full complement of accessories.

Portability

As previously hinted, the new Surface Pro is a more portable machine than the Surface Pro 4, which is still for sale at reduced prices. First, the new machine is thinner at 8.5mm, and just slightly lighter, at 1.69 to 1.73 pounds depending on the processor. Most important, however, is how long the Surface Pro will work away from an external power source. Microsoft fully leveraged the power benefits of Intel’s seventh-generation Core processors, along with optimizations in Windows 10 Creators Update, to increase battery life from the Surface Pro 4’s mundane nine hours to a more impressive 13.5 hours. Our review showed significantly improved battery life, albeit not quite as impressive in real-world usage as Microsoft’s specifications indicate.

Pricing and availability

The Surface Pro starts at $799 for the tablet alone, and Microsoft started shipping the machine on June 15, 2017. That’s the same pricing for the tablet as the Surface Pro 4’s original cost, but there’s a catch. The new Surface Pen ($100) is no longer included, and so that’s an additional cost that needs to be added on for an accurate apples-to-apples comparison. And the new Signature Type Cover comes in at a hefty $160, meaning that a fully-equipped Surface Pro starts getting rather expensive even at the entry level.

Update: Refreshed pricing and availability information.