Although we finally got an update for the Surface Pro 4 this week, it’s not the true sequel we’ve all been waiting for.
While the 2017 Surface Pro, simply called the ‘new’ Surface Pro, certainly performs a lot faster and runs much longer than its predecessor, the exclusion of the Type Cover keyboard and the lack of a USB Type-C port, all while the price has been jacked up, makes it difficult to recommend this 2-in-1 laptop for most people.
It seems as if Microsoft just pulled an iPad Pro on this one.
The Type Cover has always been included in all Surface Pro laptops since the first model came out about five years ago, but now when you get a 2017 Surface Pro, you’ll have to spend another US$130 for it. It’s absurd because you’re not getting the most out of the Surface Pro without a physical keyboard.
Sure, you could easily get a cheap bluetooth keyboard, but the Type Cover has the magnetic and removable connection to the Surface Pro that gives this machine a more complete experience.
This won’t be much of a problem if you are upgrading from an old generation Surface Pro and you still have a working Type Cover lying around though. For newcomers to the Surface Pro, having to purchase the Type Cover separately is somewhat of an annoyance.
The Surface Pro also does not have the new USB-C or even a Thunderbolt 3 connectivty. This is a bummer for power users who need these ports. Instead you only get a full-size USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort, a headphone jack, a microSD slot and a proprietary power connector Surface Connect.
To remedy this, Microsoft will supply a USB-C dongle to support both Type-C charging and peripherals. This dongle will use the magnetic Surface Connect port.
Also, there’s still no SD card reader to be found, and that’s going to irk most photographers and videographers. I don’t see them slotting in a microSD card anytime soon.
Despite these compromises, the Surface Pro has received upgrades mostly under the hood. All models use the latest and power-efficient Intel ‘Kaby Lake’ processors and better-performing integrated graphics processors. It starts of with an Intel Core M3 chip and go all the way up to a Core i7, with max storage configuration of 1TB.
The battery life on the Surface Pro is dramatically improved as well, pushing 14 hours of video playback on a single charge – that’s up from nine hours on the Surface Pro 4 (Your mileage will vary).
And thanks to Kaby Lake, the M3 and i5 variants are also fanless, so working on a Surface Pro is pretty silent now, at least for the base and mid-tier models.
Microsoft is also offering new Surface Pro models with built-in LTE connectivity.
Aesthetically, the new Surface Pro is nearly identical to the older Surface Pro 4, except for the more curved edges. The touch display is also unchanged from the previous Surface Pro, carrying the same 3:2 12.3-inch PixelSense screen with 2736 x 1824 pixel resolution.
However, the kickstand can now be folded back at an angle that turns the Surface Pro into table-top mode, much like the Surface Studio desktop PC. The laptop also supports the Surface Dial.
Also getting the big upgrade treatment is the Surface Pen (sold separately), which now has 4,096 levels of sensitivity, four times higher than the older version. There’s definitely less lag this time around, and you can also draw with the side of the tip to do shading effects, just like an Apple Pencil.
Overall, the upgrade on the new Surface Pro is more incremental than radical. It may be an attractive machine for owners of older generation Surface Pro, but the 2014 Surface Pro 4 is still a great deal for those new to this series right now, at least until Microsoft releases a true Surface Pro 5.
Thankfully you have an abundance of 2-in-1 detachable laptops to choose from today. Other OEMs offer better alternatives, and most of them even throw in a free keyboard.