Confession: when the new Surface Pro was announced dorsum in May I was distinctly underwhelmed.
I’d fully expected a new Surface Pro 5 to land with a planet-splitting, subsonic boom; my fevered little imagination had equipped it with a 5K screen, a Type Cover hewn from alien hide, and an all-new Intel processor that was 8 times the speed of any previously known chip. All for the low, depression price of £199, keyboard included.
So to discover that the Pro 5 was, in fact, simply the Surface Pro, and that it was basically a vigorous refresh of the existing model accompanied by a price hike, was a scrap disappointing. But so, equally the news sank in, I came to realise that my hunger for seismic modify may have been sick considered.
Certain, the original Surface Pro was obviously undercooked when it launched back in Feb of 2013, suffering every bit it did from soul-destroying bugs that took months (and what seemed similar countless hour-long firmware updates) to eradicate. But let’s give Microsoft credit for its patience and faith: the Surface Pro format has advisedly evolved into something that tons of other manufacturers shamelessly emulate (take a bow, HP, Lenovo, Acer and Asus).
And as the Surface’s problems accept evaporated with the fixes, so the sales have steadily increased. And so I kind of understand Microsoft’s reluctance to risk wrecking a winning formula with all-new features or out-of-kilter hardware changes. The Pro’s hybrid format clearly has a place in the world, which means that the job is to tweak everything until it shuffles a little closer to perfection.
If you accept that as true (and that’due south a big ‘if’, I know), the question then becomes… practice the latest Pro’southward refinements represent bodily improvements, and exercise they warrant the price hike?
The 12.3in display: why change perfection?
The Surface Pro 4’southward PixelSense screen was stunning – so stunning that Microsoft has sensibly carried information technology direct over to the Surface Pro.
Information technology’due south a 3:2 ratio, 12.3in screen set to a native 2736 10 1824 resolution, offering 267 pixels per inch. As impressive equally those numbers (still) are, they cannot hope to tell the story of how good this screen is in everyday use.
It’s calibrated beautifully; colours pop without suffering from the glaring vibrancy that afflicts some rivals (howdy, Samsung); you tin can look at the Surface Pro’south screen for hours without tiring your optics; and text is beautifully crisp, almost regardless of how much you enlarge it. It’ll get bright enough for outdoor use on the sunniest of days, and dark enough to not wake the neighbourhood if you lot’re using it in bed at nighttime.
The touchscreen is incredibly responsive, besides, and my review sample suffered none of the calorie-free bleed that I’d experienced in a Surface Pro iv a twelvemonth or and so back.
The display resolution itself is a little unusual, a cistron that at one fourth dimension proved a problem for software vendors, who struggled to become their apps to render prettily. Happily, those days are long behind u.s.a.: just about everything you install will look good by scaling correctly straight out of the box. Notwithstanding, yous’ll still have a decision to make in how you want to calibration text and iconography, set by default to a recommended 200%. As with the Surface Pro 4, I reset the scaling in Settings to 175%, creating more room on the display for content.
If I have one pocket-size niggle, it’s with the software more than information technology is the screen. The auto brightness in Windows 10 adjusts at quite brutal gradients that distract from the feel, so much so that I normally disable it. Quite why Microsoft hasn’t smoothed this out by now is across me – I can just hope information technology’s put to balance with the big upcoming fall update. But that’south a niggle, and one you can prepare yourself in seconds.
If y’all decide on a Surface Pro tomorrow, you tin can exist confident that while rivals may come forth in the near future with higher-resolution screens or a myriad of other caput-turning claims, they’ll struggle to ameliorate the Surface’s combination of quality, usability and battery life (now a claimed 13.5 hours).
Performance: more than powerful enough for day-to-day utilise
If you’re new to the whole Surface Pro concept, don’t let its compact tablet-hybrid course cistron fool yous. Equally with its predecessor, the ‘new’ Pro packs the dial of a full desktop machine, pretty much regardless of which of the processor options you go for. You have a pick betwixt three Intel chips: the base m3 (starting at £799 without the keyboard), the midrange i5 (at £979 for the 128GB / 4GB, and £1249 for the 256GB / 8GB), and the superlative-of-the-line i7 (topping out at a dizzy £2699 for the 1TB / 16GB model).
As part of the Pro revamp, Microsoft has said adieu to Intel’s 6th generation Skylake processors in favour of the latest, 7th generation Kaby Lake fries, a move that brings a small-but-worthwhile ability hike and much greater power efficiency. Unfortunately, my review unit of measurement was the powerful i7, complete with a whopping 16GB of RAM and a massive, speedy 512GB SSD difficult bulldoze.
I say unfortunate, not because I disliked the i7 Pro’s performance, but because this spec is likely to correspond a very small proportion of Surface Pro sales. I’d rather, given the pick, have spent time with either the basic m3, or the ‘new’ i5. The latter is particularly interesting; with the shift to Kaby Lake, Microsoft has decided that the i5 should bring together the m3 in no longer needing a fan… which means that yous should enjoy silent operation without needing to worry near overheating.
Given our experience with Kaby Lake chips elsewhere, I’ll happily predict that fifty-fifty the base Pro should have more than enough oomph for 95% of users slogging their way through the routine office, web browsing, watching videos and listening to tunes. It’s only once you lot start straying into more than demanding jobs that you may need to recall twice before spending the greenbacks.
For the record, my review i7 predictably chomped through just most everything I could throw at it in my two days with the unit of measurement, from playing
at healthy frame rates and high-ish settings with almost zero lag to retouching some fairly circuitous images in Photoshop (thanks to the i7’s Iris Plus graphics).
The Pro with this spec is a monster, launching and switching between applications at the speed of thought, and managing to remain adequately absurd throughout. Simply then, yous’re paying a whopping £2149 for the benefit (a premium of £620 over the equivalently-specced Pro four you can buy in PC World today). Frankly, at that toll, it should fly.
Practicality: lighter, bacteria, longer-lasting
If you’re tempted to buy a Surface Pro, you’ll exercise so for its matrimony of full-on desktop PC ability and tablet portability. Truth is, you tin buy much better laptops and much amend tablets (enter stage left, respectively, the Dell XPS 13 and 12.9in iPad Pro). But then you’ll struggle to notice either a laptop or tablet that can replicate the Surface’s residual betwixt office workhorse, artistic powerhouse and option-up-and-drib tablet.
As with the original Pro back in 2013, its political party flim-flam remains the detachable Blazon Cover keyboard, which snaps on and off in seconds with a simple pull and a click. Without the Cover, you accept a fairly not-descript 12.3 inch tablet. With it, you have a meaty laptop with a keyboard that forces none of the compromises you may expect from something that, on first acquaintance, looks and then impractical and fragile.
In fact, the Blazon Embrace’due south a delight to apply – although how much you love it may depend on your typing style. If you lot’ve cracked the subtle art of touch typing, yous’ll detect the keys and their i.3mm of travel to exist spot on. Those with a heavier, two fingered style (me included) volition have no problem with the travel of the keys or their spacing, merely may exist irritated past the resonance of the Type Cover’due south backing board (unavoidable, given the materials used in the Type Cover bankroll board and the gap betwixt it and the surface you remainder the, er, Surface on).
That small irritant aside, the Surface Pro’due south folding arrangement works well in places where yous’d expect information technology to fail miserably. For case, the fold-and-hinge arrangement looks every bit though it will render it useless on your lap. Yet once you’ve folded the rear hinge back to the right angle, the Pro’s is a please to use. Yes, you’ll need to use both easily if you pickup the unfolded Surface from the flooring or a work surface, only yous soon become used to the small-scale inconvenience.
At i.69lbs for the base model including keyboard, the Surface Pro is brilliantly unobtrusive to behave around during the day (in fact, as Microsoft rightly points out, most laptop bags are considerably heavier than the Surface). In truth, I reckon very few people could spot the difference between the new ‘Pro 5′ and its forebear, although the newer model has a more rounded, slightly lighter tablet casing.
Personally, I always enjoyed the slightly mesomorphic cut to the Pro 4’s vanquish, and was relieved to notice that Microsoft hadn’t robbed the updated model of its solidity in the name of shaving some weight.
Features: the bare nuts, and no more
The Surface Pro 4 offered the bare bones in terms of socketry, and Microsoft has decided to stick to that philosophy with the ‘Pro 5′. Regardless of how much you spend, your new Surface will come with a unmarried USB3.0 port, one mini displayport, a single microSDXC card slot nether the rear hinge, a headphone socket, and the ability port that’s bespoke to the Surface range (none of that USB-C nonsense here).
Your view of that line up will come downwards to your mental attitude to spending money on and carrying dongles. For example, rivals such equally the Asus Transformer Pro three come with a total-sized HDMI port. Aye, I know that many of the globe’s offices take mini display adapters lying effectually in their boardrooms, but the chances are that you’ll feel the need to play safe and buy your own (given that full-sized HDMI cables are far more commonplace).
Then there’s the single USB port. Personally, I almost never demand to plumb in more than one USB device. Merely then, I know of colleagues (particularly those of an artistic or media bent) who would either turn down the Pro’s single USB outright, or feel the need to immediately invest in a USB block or the official Surface Dock (£189 for a block that adds 4 USB ports, an Ethernet port and two mini displayports).
Slowly only surely, this eats into one of the Surface Pro’s major selling points – its portability. Yes, you’re buying a wonderfully lightweight, powerful laptop hybrid, only y’all may also need to pack a small armory of extras just so you can live with it.
Gloat, world – 4G’due south on the manner
The revamped Pro’s connectivity options are either identical to or a minor refinement of what came before (for the record, Bluetooth bumps up from 4.0 to 4.i). Simply there’due south ane entirely new feature coming later in the twelvemonth that’ll elicit a million mini fist pumps from the world’southward road warriors – y’all’ll be able to buy your Surface Pro with a built-in 4G SIM slot.
Nosotros wouldn’t blame you if that simple fact alone stopped y’all from buying a new Pro on its UK launch date of June fifteen. As it stands, nosotros have no launch appointment for the 4G model – but be sure that you lot’ll know as soon as we know.
A scribbler’s delight (or at least, that’s what it says in this press release)
Sadly, our review unit of measurement came with the previous generation of Surface Pen. Given the claims for the improvements to the inking feel with the Pro (‘twice as responsive as its predecessor’, with 4096 levels of force per unit area sensitivity compared to 1024 in the previous iteration), that’s something of a shame.
Of class, nosotros’ll update this review in the next week or and so, once Microsoft tin supply us with the latest hardware (which will come up in a choice of iv colours – black, platinum, cobalt blue and burgundy). For now, I’ll happily predict that the upgraded Pro will be at to the lowest degree equally skilful every bit its forebear, which was already first-class.
I’chiliad no creative person, so my previous experience of using the Pen with a Surface was limited to capturing notes and doing quick diagrams and doodles in meetings, something I did most every solar day for a year with my Surface Pro 4. In that fourth dimension, I learned to fall in dearest with the integration of Microsoft’south OneNote app with the Pen.
OneNote beats Evernote hands downwards in the manner it volition let you blend drawings with typed and written notes, and the power to quickly launch a new note just by tapping the Pen is so powerful that y’all soon despair that it isn’t a standard feature on all PCs.
Oh, and one small just significant grumble, while we’re talking about the Pen. Believe it or not, but it’s no longer bundled with the Pro tablet. Yes, you read that correct. Given that the Pro’s already close to the edge when information technology comes to value, I can run across why this would be a deal-breaker for some.
The software: Windows x, with a Fluid upgrade waiting in the wings
Dissimilar the new Surface Laptop (which comes with Windows 10 S, locking yous into software from the official Windows Shop unless you have action and unlock information technology), your new Surface Pro runs the total fat version of Windows 10 Pro out of the box. This is good news: the foolhardy bravery of Windows 8 is now a thing of the afar past, and the Surface Pro’s the perfect showcase for Windows 10’southward successful balancing of desktop and tablet usability.
That said, in that location’s even so too many elements of the Windows 10 interface that show their mid-’90s origins. The Windows File Explorer, for instance, has changed little in the last 10 years, and looks every inch the compromise that information technology is when running in tablet style on the Surface (a shame, given the smoothen and refinement of the surrounding hardware).
Fortunately, Microsoft is finally dealing with the problem, and recently unveiled its new Fluid Blueprint linguistic communication. If you want a glimpse of where Fluid is heading, you can do and then today – download Groove Music or Calculator from the Windows Store, and you’ll see how Microsoft is adding subtlety and shading to the core Windows design linguistic communication. We’re promised that the side by side big update to Windows x in the autumn volition unveil Fluid Design throughout Windows 10 – which ways that your shiny new Surface Pro is only months away from a free makeover that will go far an even more polished experience.
Value for money: is the Pro a hike too far?
Is the Surface Pro likewise expensive? On one manus, we like Microsoft’s confidence; it wants the world to see its hybrid as a quality, desirable slab of hardware, and has stuck on cost tags that support its case. On the other mitt, yous can buy very similar products to the Surface Pro for less.
Today, for example, you can purchase an Asus Transformer Pro 3 from £599, complete with keyboard. The equivalent i5, 128GB Surface Pro will weigh in at £1118, including £139 for the Signature Type Cover. That’s a premium of £519 over the (admittedly old) Transformer, and £275 over the equivalent Surface Pro iv / Type Cover packet.
Those are non sums of money to be sniffed at, so – without wishing to sound like purveyors of the bleedin’ obvious – y’all need to weigh upwardly what’s of import before handing over the cash. For case, the new Surface Pro comes with a claimed battery life of xiii.5 hours (a effigy I’1000 happy to believe from my short time with the machine), performance that dwarves the ageing Transformer Pro 3, and which gives it a 50% improvement over the nine hours from the Surface Pro 4.
That’southward an impressive figure, sure, and a major selling point for the Pro. But then, yous may only spend short periods of your day away from a power port, in which case truthful all-solar day battery life is no practical benefit to you. And a £500 premium’south a lot to pay for something you may never utilise.
The same goes for processing power. Yep, the Pro comes with the latest, 7th-generation Kaby Lake processors under the hood. But the average user may struggle to notice dramatic speed hikes over the equivalent Skylake-equipped SP4. In which case, it’d exist understandable if yous decided to save over £200 and snap upwardly a Surface Pro four earlier it goes out of stock (and thank you to recent price drops, they’re now 18-carat bargains).
Has Microsoft pushed the price too far? Yep, and no. The Surface Pro is demonstrably better than any of its rivals today. And since at
nosotros run into no shame in wanting the best possible experience, nosotros’d happily pay a trivial more than.
And let’s remember, the Pro has like pricing to the Surface Pro iv when information technology launched back in October 2015 (starting at £749 for the m3). But the decision not to package the Type Embrace or Pen in with the new Pro’s cost has just a little whiff of cynicism every bit you movement up the range. By the fourth dimension you get to the £2699 i7 / 1TB, it looks plain miserly.
Microsoft Surface Pro verdict
The Surface Pro thoughtfully improves on a winning formula. Information technology’s beautifully built, a joy to employ, and will make 99% of owners unspeakably happy. I just wish that Microsoft would be a little more generous. At the very least, they could throw the keyboard or pen in with the price. Especially when you’re asking the wrong side of £2100.
Is the Surface Pro i7 a five-star product? At this spec, I’thou agape that it merely falls short. Aye, the i7 is delightful, and there’due south something unspeakably cool near a device that is this understated and compact packing this much raw horsepower. But then, you can (almost) purchase two Dell XPS 13s for the same money.
For my function, I can’t wait to get my hands on either the bare-bones m3 or the updated, fanless i5, the 256GB version of which may well prove the Surface Pro range sweetness spot – and which may but earn information technology that extra star.