- 12.3-inch display
- Bundled Surface Pen
- Optional Type Cover
- Intel Core Kaby Lake processors
- Up to 13.5-hour battery
- 2736 x 1824 resolution
- Manufacturer: Microsoft
- Review Price: £799.00/$1198.5
HANDS-ON WITH THE NEW SURFACE PRO
So we were all expecting a Surface Pro 5 and, er, we didn’t really get one. What we got was the New Surface Pro.
If you’re expecting a major upgrade from the Surface Pro 4, you’ll only be excited if you’re the sort of person who gets excited by spec upgrades you can’t actually see. Almost nothing has outwardly changed.
Still, the spec changes alone mean the New Surface Pro is an improvement over the older model, and that should make it the best hybrid you can buy right now.
But let’s start with those changes you can (just about) see on this Windows 10 2-in-1. The more practical one is a change to the hinge for the kickstand, which enables the stand to be folded back a little more, into Studio Mode. This means you can sit the Surface Pro almost flat for more comfortably drawing on it with the optional Surface Pen stylus.
What this new hinge mechanism doesn’t help with is my biggest gripe with the Surface design: that it’s particularly awkward to sit on your lap like a standard laptop. But presumably that’s why Microsoft has introduced the Surface Laptop.
Those rounded edges on the New Surface Pro are subtle. Almost too subtle
Another, very much slighter, alteration is some rounding of the edges. Apparently this was a response to customer feedback, but the radius of the curvature is so wide that I’d be surprised if any customers really notice. I didn’t until it was pointed out to me.
Something else you might not (OK, definitely won’t) notice is that Microsoft has shaved a couple of grams off the weight. The top-spec model is 784g instead of 786g for the flagship Surface Pro 4. Every little helps, though, eh?
Dimensions remain 292 x 201 x 8.4mm, and it still feels like a beautiful device, even though the general design should, by rights, seem a little long in the tooth by now. The venting around the edge has been made a little subtler, which has probably helped keep it looking contemporary.
It’s a shame Microsoft hasn’t added an extra USB port, however, so you still just get the one USB 3.0 port, alongside a Mini DisplayPort, magnetic charging socket and a microSD slot that’s hidden when the kickstand’s closed.
Along the bottom edge are the contacts for the optional Type Cover keyboard. Microsoft claims to have made the attachment magnets stronger on the new Type Covers, although the one I was sent doesn’t seem to be one of the uprated models.
The New Surface Pro is compatible with the same Surface Pen stylus as before, which can magnetically attach to the left side of the screen when not in use, and works very well for drawing or note-taking, with little latency and a useful ‘eraser’ if you flip it around and use the other end. There’s a new Surface Pen on the way, although it still features the same 4096 pressure levels and appears very similiar, just without the pocket clip.
Spot the difference. New Surface Pro left, Surface Pro 4 right
And now to the really interesting upgrades… Possibly the most significant for many people will be the improved battery life, which has gone up from around 9 hours on the Pro 4 to 13.5 hours (with moderate usage). That’s a hefty hike, and worth the price of admission alone if you’re a long-haul traveller or frequent user of cafe Wi-Fi.
That battery bump has been achieved by the introduction of Intel’s seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors, with options ranging through Core m3, i5 and up to i7. Depending on processor choice, you get either an Intel HD 620 or Iris Plus 640 GPU, which is again an upgrade from the Surface Pro 4’s graphics.
Memory options are 4GB, 8GB or 16GB, while SSD storage choice is 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB. But you can’t really mix and match, so here’s a quick rundown of configuration options and their current UK prices:
- 4GB RAM/128GB SSD/Core m3 – £799/$1198.5
- 4GB RAM/128GB SSD/Core i5 – £979/$1468.5
- 8GB RAM/256GB SSD/Core i5 – £1249/$1873.5
- 8GB RAM/256GB SSD/Core i7 – £1549/$2323.5
- 16GB RAM/512GB SSD/Core i7 – £2149/$3223.5
- 16GB RAM/1TB SSD/Core i7 – £2699/$4048.5
All clear? Right, now let’s talk about the screen. It’s the same size and resolution as that of the Surface Pro 4, so a 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel touchscreen with PixelSense technology. However, Microsoft claims the new model has “enhanced colour”, so I did a little extra pixel peeping.
Out of the box, my New Surface Pro’s screen had slightly oversaturated colours, with reds, oranges and greens faring the worst. In some cases the oversaturation of red clearly obliterated a little detail in some images. Bringing up a photo of George Stubbs’ famous painting of ‘Whistlejacket’, the magnificent chestnut-brown horse looked, well, a bit gaudy and alien in colour.
It turns out that ‘enhanced’ isn’t just some marketing speak, but actually the name of the default colour profile. Thankfully, it can be swapped out in Display Settings for the standard sRGB profile. If you’re editing photos or wanting to get all artsy with the Surface Pen, that change should be the first thing you do.
Top is the Enhanced colour profile, which has destroyed some of the plumage detail in that parrot
With that fixed, the New Surface Pro’s display doesn’t appear any different to the excellent screen on the Surface Pro 4.
The New Surface Pro certainly is a natural progression from the Surface Pro 4, rather than a massive leap forward. The seventh-gen Kaby Lake processors and extra battery life are well worthwhile, but to be expected. The additional flexibility of the kickstand is fairly slight, albeit not unwelcome. Hopefully the new Type Covers and Surface Pen will similarly offer some improvements.
The screen was the one thing that gave me an initial headache, but once you get rid of the default Enhanced colour profile, it performs identically to the excellent screen on the Surface Pro 4.
All in all, this looks to be a solid, worthwhile upgrade to the best hybrid around.