Microsoft sketches out its latest Surface Pro

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 2736×1824 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.

Comments closed
    • Cuhulin
    • 2 years ago

    Two other changes made for the Surface Pro make this a much better tablet than my prior Surface Pro’s – I’ve had each of them when they were current:

    1) The system is now “instant-on” like an Ipad; and

    2) The edges have been rounded some, allowing it to be more comfortable held in one’s hand.

    These two features have had me using an Ipad Pro 9.7 as my go-to tablet for the last year or so, despite the fact that much of my work is in Windows programs.

    Add the improved inking qualities of the hardware and the fact that Windows is a better OS for stylus use for notes and things, and I think MS may have a winner here.

    • Drachasor
    • 2 years ago

    A bit more expensive, no included pen (or keyboard, but that’s not new), and no USB C….I am not sure what the point of this is. A bit better battery life doesn’t seem worth it, and it already was pretty expensive.

    I’d be more impressed if they had dropped the propriety connector, replaced it with two USB-C connectors, and then had an adapter for USB-C that made it magnetically attach. That’s not too hard. I don’t think anyone would complain about losing the old charging system and gaining a USB-C charging system. Well, hardly anyone.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 2 years ago

    Man, those upgrade prices. $300 to go from a Core i5 to a Core i7? $600 for 8GB extra RAM and 256GB extra storage? Did Satya hit his head and decide he’s now CEO of Apple?

    Edit: The [url=https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/d/product/8NKT9WTTRBJK/S1SN<]specs page[/url<] doesn't explicitly say the SSD is an NVMe drive, which makes me think it's a run-of-the-mill AHCI controller. No way they'd miss that opportunity to justify the price gouge.

      • BurntMyBacon
      • 2 years ago

      [quote=”derFunkenstein”<]The specs page doesn't explicitly say the SSD is an NVMe drive, which makes me think it's a run-of-the-mill AHCI controller. No way they'd miss that opportunity to justify the price gouge.[/quote<] The Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book use NVMe storage. It is doubtful that they'd take a back step now. They probably didn't need to do much if any motherboard redesign (Skylake and Kaby Lake are pin compatible IIRC). Moving back to AHCI would invoke additional design costs. There is plenty of price gouging going on without taking such a step and there is an increase of viable Surface Pro competitors that are starting to crop up. I doubt they'd risk a successful product line for such little ROI. [quote="derFunkenstein"<]Did Satya hit his head and decide he's now CEO of Apple?[/quote<] ☑Product upgrades that cost more than both the baseline and the upgrade parts ☑Premium display with uncommon aspect ratio (though, I'm actually a fan of 3:2) ☑Removed identifying details in the model number creating undue confusion with older models ☑Promoting product based on features (pen, keyboard)that don't come with the package I'd say it's a good possibility.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        OK, I didn’t realize that about the older Surfaces, so I agree it probably is NVMe storage. Thanks for the correction.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 2 years ago

      It’s almost certainly an NVMe drive as previous Surface’s had those already.

      The pricing is indeed a bit nutty but still not quite as nuts as the Surface laptop and Surface book. I imagine it’s still a very intentional nod to put it out of the range of competition of similar OEM designs to avoid pissing them off too much more than they already have.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        Well if they used it in the past, then I agree that it probably still is.

        You’re probably also right on the pricing. They’re way overshooting everything comparable from Dell and HP. XPS 2-in-1 maxes out with a Core i7-7Y75 CPU but it also maxes out at $1300. The regular XPS 13 can have up to a 7560U but with 1TB of storage and 16GB of memory it’s “only” $2349 (512GB is $400 less).

    • Andrew Lauritzen
    • 2 years ago

    The Core i5 being fanless is a bit odd… I wonder if that means it’s actually a ~5W previously-called-Core M. If so while the bursty performance will be similar to the 15W Core i5’s of previous Surface Pro’s, it’s hard to imagine the sustained performance being anywhere near that level.

    Not an unreasonable trade-off to make in a machine this size of course (especially given its intended uses), but I don’t like how the naming muddies the waters significantly. Now we basically have to wait until reviews or more detailed model names to have an idea of whether this is a ~5W or 15W machine, and whether the i7 is an Iris model w/ EDRAM still or not, etc.

    [Edit] LTE is mentioned in the video as well… that’s actually a very nice addition!

      • tipoo
      • 2 years ago

      The model number indicates a 15W CPU, but the fanless part probably will make it act Core M-ey.

      [url<]http://i.imgur.com/sx9x7Jn.png[/url<]

        • Andrew Lauritzen
        • 2 years ago

        Modern Core M’s are basically the same chips as the 15W ones hardware-wise, they’re just very thermally/power constrained so after bursting for a few seconds if there’s a sustained workload they have to downclock quite a bit.

        Thanks for the link on model numbers! If true the i7 does indeed have the EDRAM. Strangely in this video the i7 chip pictured is not the EDRAM version (which has 3 chips on package I believe – SoC, EDRAM, chipset), whereas that’s something they got “right” for the SP4 video.
        [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwWs2jIy4js[/url<] Time will tell I guess!

          • tipoo
          • 2 years ago

          I wonder if Core M could possibly actually be better here, if it’s better selected silicon for lower power than the 15W ones.

            • Zizy
            • 2 years ago

            Is it really? I doubt it. The first core-M were the same in perf/W, the ONLY difference was limitation to X W TDP.
            I don’t expect any binning to happen for new parts either, given list prices are the same (i7 vs m7 both supposedly cost 393$), features are the same, and that even i7 laptops are expected to spend majority of time in low performance states.

    • Kretschmer
    • 2 years ago

    This looks cool, but I’m surprised that these aren’t bundled with a basic pen SKU; written input is a Surface “killer app.” The new 4096 pen could be an upsell.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 2 years ago

      Where does it say they don’t come with the pen? The pro’s have always have come with the pen in the past…

        • Jeff Kampman
        • 2 years ago

        Microsoft itself says it’s sold separately if you follow the asterisks here: [url<]https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/devices/surface-pro/overview[/url<]

          • Andrew Lauritzen
          • 2 years ago

          Ugh, lame indeed! I guess the idea is that now you buy the color-matched one with whatever keyboard you get, although it’s still effectively yet another price hike for the proper experience, and one that many people will pass on without knowing what they are missing. IMHO neither the keyboard nor pen are really optional components, so it’d be better to just bundle them with the machine but let you select your colors when you buy it.

          Sigh… I love my Surface Pro 4 but they are making it kind of hard to justify an upgrade (and passing off my current machine to my wife). If the LTE options here are solid that might be the only compelling reason at this point.

            • tsk
            • 2 years ago

            Have you had a look at the Dell Latitude 5285, it might be what you want.

      • Zizy
      • 2 years ago

      Well, the problem is twofold. Base pen would push price up a bit (or make MS earn less), and would be useless addon for people not caring about pen or wanting the new one. No pen bundling lets them sell device about 25$ cheaper (in theory) and base pen for 50 and the improved one for 100.

      The other important problem here is that people reviewing this device are mostly tech writers. They require good keyboard and don’t care about diagrams (unless it is comparison with Apple). So, 150$ keyboard should be bundled with device and 50$ pen is completely irrelevant addition.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    I would still like to see a non-Pro, vanilla Surface 4.

    The Surface Pro 4 is a great bit of kit (we have a few for staff here) but I’m not going to buy one for my home use. I was waiting on an update to the Surface 3 but it never came, so I grabbed a bargain-basement W10 no-name tablet.

    Well, actually the name was Linx and it’s pretty decent with it’s magnetic keyboard dock, but it’s one tenth the price of an SP4 and the specs show it.

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 2 years ago

      at this point I think the pro is going to be the only product the update regularly, with discounts you can pickup an entry level one for 600 dollars regularly.

        • Chrispy_
        • 2 years ago

        Yeah, it’s nice, and with discounts it’s bordering on cheap enough, but it’s too big. Look at the iPad, and Android convertibles that it’s in the market with;

        Many iPads – 9.7″ screens
        Pixel C – 10.2″ screen
        Surface 3 – 10.8″ screen
        Many Galaxy Tab variants – 9.7″ screens
        Many Asus Zen/Transformer variants – 9.7″ screens
        Amazon Fire HD – 10.1″ screen

        The Surface 3 at 10.8″ is just about right.

        The Surface Pro 4 at 12.5″ is just in a different league when it comes to portability. You may not think two inches makes a huge difference but it’s huge, because it’s the difference between a device you naturally hold in one hand, and one that is awkward to hold in one hand. Let’s face it, being able to hold it in one hand and prod it with the other is what makes tablets so popular!

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 2 years ago

      Yeah the size of the Surface 3 is pretty nice. If there were a fanless Core M version w/ better storage (the real bummer about the Surface 3 in practice) I’d seriously consider it over a pro.

      • Zizy
      • 2 years ago

      Yeah, I want Surface to evolve towards A5 size (screen is there, just remove bezels), and Surface Pro to evolve towards A4 (physical device is there, just extend display).

      I still believe/hope Surface non-pro will come soon-ish, and is likely waiting for the SD 835 and the ARM->x86 translation to be ready and mature. It would make quite a lot of sense in lineup, both as a device and as a showcase of the new Windows on ARM.

      • curtisb
      • 2 years ago

      My speculation is they won’t update the non-Pro version until Windows 10 on ARM is ready.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 2 years ago

    Its nice to seen the annual updates to their core product lines. This is something that apple is not great at.

      • Kretschmer
      • 2 years ago

      Yeah, can’t wait for this year’s Windows Phone refreshes. The 2016 models are getting a bit long in the tooth.

        • drfish
        • 2 years ago

        lol’d

        • UberGerbil
        • 2 years ago

        They’re exactly as up to date as the Zunes are.

      • Zizy
      • 2 years ago

      Not sure if serious or sarcasm.
      Apple is doing great updates to its core device = iPhone. This one is updated every year, regular as a clockwork. Rest of stuff is quite irrelevant for current Apple in the grand scheme of things. Dead iPhone = dead iPad and dead Macs and dead gadgets and i-services. Dead Macs? So what?

      Look at SP update times and tell me where you see 12 months between devices. Or maybe take a look at Surface and predict when it is going to be updated. What about Surface book and its next update? Nah, MS’s update schedule is a mess and Ars recently raged about that too. I completely agree with the general point in that article – they killed any chances WP had (in EU) because they didn’t update devices, and their update schedule of Surface isn’t any better and keeping it will eventually kill that product line too (but won’t kill Windows).

    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    Curiously, looks like a 15W i5, but fanless…Seems like it may act pretty Core M-ey despite being 15W on paper, maybe uses TDP-Down? i7 does have a fan.

    TB3+eGPU support would have added to the pro-ness, alas.

      • tsk
      • 2 years ago

      Definitely cTDP 7.5W.

      • psuedonymous
      • 2 years ago

      [quote<] TB3+eGPU support would have added to the pro-ness, alas.[/quote<]On the one hamd, Thunderbolt is definitely the future. On the other hand, the existing magnetic Surface Dock connector is [i<]really nice[/i<]. A compatibility break is going to have to come at some point though.

        • Jeff Kampman
        • 2 years ago

        No reason you can’t have both. In fact, it would seem rather silly to burn a TB3 connector on a keyboard, of all things.

          • cygnus1
          • 2 years ago

          The connector I think he’s talking about is the one the charger connects to, not the one the keyboard connects to. The external dock connects to the same port as the charger:

          [url<]https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/d/microsoft-surface-dock/8qrh2npz0s0p/[/url<]

            • Jeff Kampman
            • 2 years ago

            Oh, doh.

            • cygnus1
            • 2 years ago

            I gotta disagree with him though. Keeping that dock proprietary is silly. Switching to an industry standard port that could do all of that would be a lot better. Especially since they could’ve easily put 2 TB3 ports on there in the same space.

            • Zizy
            • 2 years ago

            On the other hand, having nice magnets is better than plugging in a cable, even reversible one.

            I *demand* USB-D which is mostly the same thingy as USB-C, just magnetic 😛

        • cygnus1
        • 2 years ago

        [url=https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/d/microsoft-surface-dock/8qrh2npz0s0p/<]This thing[/url<] is garbage. It was already a compatibility break from the dock for the Surface 2. TB3/USB Type C is a glaring omission. There's no reason a $2200 tablet PC released in 2017 shouldn't have the current ports from 2016. My convertible HP laptop that cost about half as much has 2 TB3 ports and I can charge through either of them or hook an eGPU to either of them, or really anything to either of them, all simultaneously... I had been contemplating the new Surface because I assumed MS would actually update the ports, but alas this piece of junk is just a spec bumped Surface Pro 3/4.

        • Andrew Lauritzen
        • 2 years ago

        Yeah USB-C is great and all but until there’s a magnetic version (i.e. never) I’ll keep the charge connector the way it is, thanks 🙂

        No reason you couldn’t have both though. Would have been really nice to swap the mini-DP for a USB-C w/ TB3. Since you already need a dongle for most A/V connections there’s no reason a USB-C -> whatever is a worse option. As a bonus you could in theory also allow charging via USB-C as a fallback.

        Not having any USB-C does feel a bit outdated at this point, if only because many phones charge via USB-C and not having to bring an extra wall wart is really nice when traveling (especially given the very clever additional USB power port on Surface power bricks). A regular USB3 + a USB-C 3.1 + the power/dock port would have been a really nice and usable combo here. Oh well, maybe next time I guess.

          • tipoo
          • 2 years ago

          This was solved over a decade and a half (oh my god) ago with the OG Xbox. Have the magnetic portion right *before* where the USB C portion attaches to the device, so you still have a break away fail safe, while having an internally connected mass market port.

          Some third parties are making these.

          [url<]https://cdn.griffininternal.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/858x644/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/b/r/breaksafe_coiled_for_amazon.jpg[/url<]

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 2 years ago

            Better than nothing, but it’s much cleaner to have it built into the port itself so I don’t have a tiny piece I can lose that sticks out of the machine 🙂

            It’s also very nice to have the port flush against the machine rather than sticking out sideways, particularly in space constrained areas like planes (just flew back from Europe a couple days ago and this was a godsend).

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