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Microsoft Announces the Surface Pro (2017)

It’s been two years since the release of the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft finally rewarded patient consumers with a successor at a recent unveiling. Dropping the numeric model number in favour of a simple naming convention, the Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) features 7th-Gen Kaby Lake™ Intel® Core™performance, as well as improved battery life, running up to 13.5 hours per charge (may vary).

Streamlined and refined, the Microsoft Surface Pro features softer, rounded edges and cameras that are built to fade into the bezel. At just 8.5mm thin and starting at 1.69 pounds, the Surface Pro is lightweight and portable, thanks to its fanless, quiet design. While the Microsoft Surface Pro maintains a 12.3" PixelSense display with a 2736 x 1824 resolution at 267 pixels per inch (PPI), it does have an improved hinge that allows it to be opened to 165°. The PixelSense display is also engineered to work with the updated Surface Pen, which doubles the pressure sensitivity of its predecessor, with 4,096 levels. The increased pressure sensitivity helps with accuracy and responsiveness, while the added tilt functionality enables more natural shading.

Main Talking Points

  • The idea behind the new Surface Pro is exactly like its predecessors. It’s still a big tablet running Windows 10 that you can connect to a keyboard and use like a laptop.
  • That means it’s still lighter and easier to carry around than most full-size laptops. It's still not as comfortable on your lap as a traditional notebook. And Windows 10 still plays much nicer with desktop-style work than tablet-style apps. All of this helps explain Microsoft’s marketing change.
  • The display is virtually identical to before. It’s still 12.3 inches big, with a sharp resolution of 2736 x 1824 and a squarish 3:2 aspect ratio. The Surface Pro 4’s screen was good, and this looks the same. Just don’t expect any 4K video or shrunken-down bezels a la Dell’s XPS 13.
  • Its corners are slightly more curved, but generally speaking the new Surface Pro looks and feels very similar to the Surface Pro 4. You’d likely have a hard time telling the two apart at first. It’s not the flashiest device around, but its magnesium finish still feels smooth, study, and suitably high-end.
  • The new model is the exact same size as the Surface Pro 4: 11.50 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches. It’s still huge if you look at it as a tablet, but not a big burden if you look at it like a laptop. Some of the new models are a hair lighter than before, but really not by much.
  • You can take full advantage of the Surface Pro and the Surface Pen with the added inking features (available in June 2017, for Office 365 users) to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Choose from a customizable gallery of your favourite pens, pencils, and highlighters that follow your account around as a personalised setting across Office apps and devices. Additional inking experiences will continue to roll out in the future, such as the Microsoft Whiteboard app.
  • The main difference is that you can push the kickstand on the back of the new Surface Pro much further. Microsoft says this model can now lean back as far as 165 degrees. That doesn’t make it any easier to use on your lap, but it could make it easier to use as a digital canvas, a la the Surface Studio.
  • The other main difference is that two entry level models are fanless. That means they should make less noise in operation than before. The little vents you’d see on the back of every Surface Pro 4 aren’t around on the non-Core-i7 models here.
  • The chipset has gotten the expected bump, going from the 6th-generation Intel Core chips on the Surface Pro 4 to 7th-generation Intel Core chips here. The jump from “Skylake” to “Kaby Lake,” as they're called, isn’t all that big, but it’s a bit more efficient and powerful all the same. The integrated graphics have received the same generational update with them.
  • You still get an okay Core m3 chip with the cheapest model, then stronger Core i5 and Core i7 chips as you go up the price ladder. You’ll get either 4 GB, 8 GB, or 16 GB of RAM, as well as 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB of storage.
  • The biggest technical improvement, if Microsoft’s claims are true, should be battery life. The company says the new Surface Pro can get up to 13.5 hours of juice. It used to market 9 hours with the Surface Pro 4. Per usual, take this proclamation with a grain of salt until we can test further, but, at least with some models, the new Surface Pro should last longer than before.
  • The port situation, however, is exactly the same. You’ve still got Microsoft’s proprietary, MagSafe-like charging port, a mini DisplayPort, one USB 3.0 port, a microSD card, and a headphone jack.
  • That, notably, means there are no USB-C (or Thunderbolt 3) ports. The new Surface Pro won't be as future-proofed in that regard. Microsoft reps said they don’t think the newer standard — which could theoretically let you use one cable for all your devices — is ready for prime time just yet, pointing to the fact that not all USB-C ports and cables support the same level of power. The company will release a USB-C dongle later in the year, however.
  • One thing that will be added is LTE support, which will let some Surface Pro buyers connect to the mobile internet on the go. This won’t be available right out of the gate, though — Microsoft only says it’ll release certain LTE models sometime later in the year.
  • Perhaps the most dramatic changes here are with the Surface Pen, which Microsoft says is four times as pressure-sensitive as the old model. So, it should be more precise and nuanced. The company says it’s fine-tuned the Pen to be particularly smooth on the new Surface Pro — I saw a little lag with my pre-production demo unit — but in general, it’s still a tool for artists and designers more than the typical PC buyer.
  • The catch is that the new Surface Pen doesn’t come with your purchase, as the last one did. Instead, you can only buy it as an accessory. That’s on top of the keyboard, which has always been sold separately. Other keyboards made from Alcantara fabric are now available as well.
  • The Type Cover keyboard looks almost identical to those made for the Surface Pro 4 but is slightly clickier than before. It’s nothing major, but it’s something. Those keyboards, like the Pen, can work with the older model, though.

The Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) comes with a 7th-Gen Kaby Lake Intel Core m3, i5, or i7 processor. You can also choose between 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of RAM, as well as a 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro does not have a USB Type-C port, but it does have USB 3.0 Type-A ports and mini DisplayPort. The best configuration for most is likely going to be the one with a Core i5 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage.

The Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) will be available at WebAntics.com from June 15, 2017.

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