Microsoft sketches out its latest Surface Pro


— 8:34 AM on May 23, 2017

Microsoft released its latest and greatest Surface Pro at an event in Shanghai this morning. The new Surface Pro drops version numbers from its name for consistency with the rest of the Surface lineup, and that's just the first of many refinements the company made to its tablet-laptop hybrid (tabtop?).

Microsoft imbued the 12.3" PixelSense display in the new Pro with the same gamut-switching mojo that debuted in the Surface Studio. That means folks who need wide color can switch between the sRGB and DCI P3 color gamuts at will and proof their work for different displays. The display maintains its 2736x1824 resolution and 10-point multi-touch capability. In another Studio-inspired touch, the Surface Pro can lay down in a nearly-flat "studio mode" for easier sketching.

The new Surface Pen offers 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity plus tilt support for artistic strokes. Microsoft claims it's lowered the latency of pen interactions to 21ms, and it also says it's reduced the parallax between pen and screen so that lines on the screen appear closer to the pen tip. Those improvements could make the Surface Pro a compelling alternative to drawing tablets like Wacom's Cintiq series. The new Pro boasts support for Microsoft's Surface Dial, too.

The Surface Pro gets its computing chops from unspecified Kaby Lake Core m3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors. The move to Kaby Lake let Microsoft go fanless for Surface Pros with the Core m3 and Core i5 processors, meaning those machines should be silent in operation. The Core i7 version still needs a fan, but Microsoft claims the device "can't be heard" in operation. Owners can expect as much as 13.5 hours of video playback on battery, according to Microsoft. More powerful CPUs and less-acceleration-amenable applications might cut into that time, though.

The most basic Surface Pro starts at $799 and offers the Core m3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. $999 switches out the Core m3 for a Core i5. $1299 doubles the Core i5 Pro's RAM to 8GB and storage to 256GB. Core i7 models start at $1599 for 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. A model with a 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM runs $2199, while the top-end model rings in at $2699 for a 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM. All configurations will begin shipping June 15.

Despite the machine's laptop-replacement ambitions, Microsoft still doesn't include the Type Cover keyboard or Surface Pen with the Surface Pro. The newly Alcantara-clad Type Cover is still an eye-watering $160 extra in burgundy, cobalt blue, or platinum colors. The improved Surface Pen doesn't have a price yet, but it'll come in the same colors as the Type Cover or in a stealthy black. No matter what color you choose, it'll no doubt cost quite a bit.

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