Microsoft Announces New Surface Pro, Surface Pen, and Signature Type Covers

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 34 Comments

Microsoft Announces New Surface Pro, Surface Pen, and Signature Type Covers

At a long-awaited event in Shanghai, China, Microsoft today formally announced a new Surface Pro along with an improved Surface Pen and new Signature Type Covers. Here is everything you need to know, all in one place.

As we’ve come to expect, this new Surface Pro is a minor refresh to the Surface Pro 4, which has been in the market since late 2015, and not a major Surface Pro 5-type revision. That is, it retains the basic design of its predecessor while offering a host of smaller but still very desirable changes.

Here’s a rundown of what’s happening, and how this device differs (and doesn’t) from the Surface Pro 4.

The name is Surface Pro. Microsoft has dropped the numbering scheme, and this new device is simply called Surface Pro. This is in keeping with the other computers in the Surface family, which include Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Laptop, Surface Studio, and Surface Hub. Or, Pro, Book, Laptop, Studio, and Hub, which is how Surface chief Panos Panay often refers to these devices.

Now it’s marketed as a laptop. In a non-subtle shift from the “tablet that can replace your laptop” marketing of past years, the new Surface Pro is now being marketed as a laptop. Why? Because that’s how Microsoft’s customers use these devices. So the Pro is now positioned as “the most versatile laptop,” while Book is “the ultimate laptop,” and Laptop (ahem) is “the most personal laptop.”

Better performance. Surface Pro is based on faster and more reliable Intel “Kaby Lake” chipsets in Core m3-7Y30 with HD Graphics 615, Core i5-7300U with HD Graphics 620, and Core i7-7660U with Iris Plus Graphics 640 variants, which should make for a better experience.

Fanless and silent. As with the previous version, the Core m3 version of the new Surface Pro is fanless and thus silent. But this is new: The Core i5 versions of the new Surface Pro are also fanless and silent. (Now that is interesting.) And a new thermal design helps Microsoft claim that the i7 versions are quieter than ever, too.

Better battery life. The new Surface Pro is rated at 13.5 hours of battery life (for video playback), compared to just 9 hours for Surface Pro 4. That’s a 50 percent improvement.

Same RAM options. Surface Pro can be had with 4, 8, or 16 GB of 1866Mhz LPDDR3 RAM. Same as before.

Same storage options. Likewise, the storage is the same as before: 128, 256, or 512 GB, or 1TB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage.

Same ports as before. Nothing has changed from a ports perspective: The new Surface Pro is built around the USB 3-based Surface Connect connector and features one full-sized USB 3 port and one miniDisplayPort port. There is also a microSD slot, as before, under the kickstand.

Virtually the same connectivity as before. The new Surface Pro offers 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Wireless 4.1. (Pro 4 had Bluetooth 4.0.) But…

4G LTE is coming. Models with 4G LTE connectivity are coming later this year, marking the first time that a pro-level Surface device has offered such a thing.

Same display. The new Surface Pro features the same 3:2 12.3-inch PixelSense display as its predecessor, providing a resolution of 2736 x 1824 (267 ppi) and 10 point multi-touch capabilities.

Same cameras, but better hidden. The 5 MP front-facing camera is Windows Hello-compatible, as before, and the rear unit is 8 MP as before. But both are now grayed out so that they fade into the design of the device more nicely.

Still thin and light. The new Surface Pro is just 8.5 mm thin and weighs just 1.69 pounds, which is about the same as Surface Pro 4 (8.45 mm, 1.69 pounds). Or, as Microsoft puts it, “the new Surface Pro is lighter than the bag it will be carried in.” That’s good stuff.

Subtle design changes only. While the new Surface Pro looks identical to Surface Pro 4 at first glance and offers the same silver magnesium body color, there are in fact subtle differences, and the newer device is more refined, with softer, more rounded corners, and redesigned heat venting. The magnets that hold Surface Pen to the device are much stronger than before as well.

Improved kickstand. The hinge on the new Surface Pro’s kickstand allows the display to tilt back all the way to 165 degrees, enabling a “full Studio Mode” that emulates the Surface Studio design and allows for some new Surface Dial functionality. (See below.) By comparison, Surface Pro 4 can be tilted back to 150 degrees. The new kickstand is frictionless, as before, but even smoother.

Surface Dial works on the screen. Previously, unique to Surface Studio, you can now use a Surface Dial directly on the Surface Pro screen. This functionality will be added to Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 via firmware updates later this year, too.

Surface Pen is not included. Microsoft no longer bundles a Surface Pen with any new Surface Pro models because so few people actually use it.

New Surface Pen. That said, the new Surface Pen is much improved, with twice the accuracy as the previous version. It sports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (vs. 1024) and new tilt/shading capabilities, and it requires much less on-screen pressure (10 grams) than before (20 grams). There’s no pocket clip, as with the previous models, but it now comes in four colors: Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue and Black.

New Surface Pro Signature Type Cover. The new Surface Pro will ship alongside three new Signature Type Cover designs that provide a full 1.3 mm of key travel, a full-sized glass trackpad with 500 dpi sup-pixel resolution and five-finger multiple touch support, and that awesome Alcantara material in your choice of Platinum, Burgundy, and Cobalt Blue. These Type Covers are $160, and the normal Black Type Cover carries over at $129. Yes, they are all backward compatible with Surface Pro 4.

Windows 10 Pro. The new Surface Pro will ship with Windows 10 Pro. But Microsoft says it will offer Windows 10 S as well in the future. There’s no concrete timeline for that, however.

Holding the line on pricing, sort of. As with Surface Pro 4, the new Surface Pro starts at just $799. That said, it’s arguably not as good a value because Surface Pen (a $60 value) is no longer included.

Availability. In very good news, the new Surface Pro and most of its accessories are launching on June 15 in 26 markets (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States), a sharp improvement from the limited launch windows from previous Surface device launches. (This explains the China event: It’s a global launch.) You can preorder most of this hardware starting today at Microsoft Store, BestBuy.com, and JD.com. But the new Surface Pen will be available “in the coming weeks.”

 

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Comments (41)

41 responses to “Microsoft Announces New Surface Pro, Surface Pen, and Signature Type Covers”

  1. Avatar

    Curtis Quick

    Good evolutionary improvements. Apple would have claimed similar improvements to the iPad to be revolutionary and given it a new number. Pity the price could not have gone down by $50 to reflect the lack of a pen. Alternatively, it would have been nice to include the keyboard, since everyone does use that! I hope my SurfaceBook can take full advantage of the new pen, although why on Earth they dropped the clip boggles the mind. Would have thought it would be released on June 18 (6:18).

  2. Avatar

    openmisere

    Will the new Surface Pen work on the Surface Pro 4 AND deliver the better performance marketed (i.e., 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, new tilt/shading capabilities, much less on-screen pressure) or do you need the new Surface Pro to experience these benefits?

  3. Avatar

    OwenM

    Any word on compatibility with the Pen Loop?

  4. Avatar

    Jeffrey Tschiltsch

    LTE ... Finally!! :) I'll be upgrading my personal SP3 for sure to the LTE model. I think my work SP4 will be fine for at least another year or so, it has no trouble keeping up with what I do on it now and the battery life is more than acceptable.

    Funny about the Surface Pen, I never use it with my personal/home SP3 but I use it daily at work with the SP4 in OneNote. I have terrible handwriting and always used devices with keyboards at work to take notes, but the SP4's pen got me to start taking "ink" notes that actually are readable because when I start going too fast and just scribble I can instantly erase it and re-write it more legibly. My handwriting has actually improved somewhat over the last year using the SP4 pen (something no teacher accomplished throughout grade school). I find that no one notices you jotting down "ink" notes with a Surface lying flat on the table/desk, but if its sitting up like a laptop everyone seems wary of what you're typing :)

  5. Avatar

    Darmok N Jalad

    Seems like if you go to calling it a laptop, you should offer the keyboard with it. Since they now offer different colors and styles, maybe offer it as an external pack-in with an up-charge for the premium covers. Hard to market a device as a laptop if it doesn't come with a keyboard by default.

  6. Avatar

    lhavenst

    I wonder if the old pen will work on the Surface Pro? I have a couple already.

  7. Avatar

    jimchamplin

    So they sell it as a laptop, took the pen out, and don't include at least a basic keyboard cover? They took the pen out but didn't lower the cost, and still make you buy the keyboard.

    That, put simply, sucks. If they're going to push it as a lappy, they should include a pack-in keyboard cover. Just a basic one. No light, no fancy materials, just something to get up and running without having to shell out more.

    But the marketers would raise the price by a hundred bucks - which when considering you lost the pen, really raises it by $150 - and act like a pack in keyboard worth $50 is so worth the jacking up in price.

  8. Avatar

    jwpear

    Silent fan on the i5 IS interesting!  I still have the SP3 with i7 and the fan runs like crazy when I'm editing photos.  While it doesn't have the nails on chalkboard whir of some laptops I've had in the past, it can still get annoying simply due to the amount of time it runs.  And it gets seriously hot.  Even before reading this, I had decided my next SP will be an i5.  It's still too soon to replace my SP3, but I do like where they're going in terms of thermal handling.

  9. Avatar

    Polycrastinator

    I think it's a mistake to drop the pen, especially as they make it more expensive. Yes, people were using Surface Pro as a laptop, but if you want to push the pen interface, you need to give it to people. Some won't be willing to spend an extra $100, but if they'd had it, they would have found a use. I've always felt note taking on a tablet was one of its best pieces of functionality, a real differentiator. Taking that away makes the SP.. what, exactly? The Surface you buy if you can't afford Surface Laptop, I guess.

  10. Avatar

    pmeinl

    Does the new version give some audible or haptic feedback when powered on? When trying to revive my SP3 after it hangs again for whatever reason I often do not know if it has already accepted a button press to reboot and I am only too impatient or if it still is dead. Phones do vibrate to give a such feedback.

    In addition I would have liked it have a less symmetric design. When using it as a tablet it is not immediately clear which way one is holding it and where the buttons are.

  11. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    Does this version come with all the unreliability and bugs of the previous version, or does it get all new bugs and firmware issues?

    If I was to pay that much for a laptop (or whatever they call it), I'd expect perfection, and nothing less. The Surface brand may be premium in name and price, but the actual devices have been poor. Microsoft's QA is appalling.

    Interesting to see MS saying they might offer Win10S in the future, which by all accounts they absolutely will. This is the future of Windows everyone, and MS have got the builders in already to add a few more levels to that garden wall!

  12. Avatar

    adacosta

    Its a decent upgrade if are coming from say Surface Pro 2 or Surface 3. As much as I would love the part with my cash, I am going to wait a little for something more substantial over my Surface Pro 3. Yes, Windows Hello, fast Kabylake CPUs and lighter design are great, but not necessarily must haves. Maybe next years fall update (Surface Pro 5) will come with some forward technology like standard 8 GB of LPDDR4 RAM (its a struggle keeping a 32 bit WIN10 Hyper-VM on the SP3), I'm sure it will be same on the entry model. Other improvements, yes, USB C is a logical addition. To be honest, maybe my next device needs to be a Surface Book. The LTE is a major motivator to get this though if you want to be really mobile. Then again, only reason I would be getting that is so I can use the free Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Wikipedia I get on my data plans.

  13. Avatar

    RobertJasiek

    The improvements are welcome. The naming is stupid because it requires a cumbersome "Surface Pro (2017)" to avoid confusion. I do not buy it because the most important features (matte display, reasonable price for battery replacement, specified guaranteed number of years for that) are still missing.

    Since now Microsoft emphasises the device as a notebook, this leaves the obvious gap of a hybrid of Toshiba Dynapad (539g, Windows, display with colours, stylus) and an ebook reader (matte 4:3 display, very long battery life). In year 7 after iPad, this mobile dream device still does not exist. Microsoft lost the smartphone war but it can still create and therefore win the tablet/ebook hybrid category.

  14. Avatar

    Matt Goldman

     Microsoft no longer bundles a Surface Pen with any new Surface Pro models because so few people actually use it.


    So few people use it because Microsoft have crippled the functionality it provides. You only need to take a look at this TechNet thread. It's absurd, they're effectively neutralizing their differentiating advantage.

  15. Avatar

    LordPhantom

    Are you sure they unbundled the pen because nobody uses it, and not simply to let people choose the colour they want?

  16. Avatar

    ryguy

    Paul, any word on how the new pen will work on the Surface Pro 4?

  17. Avatar

    gurdas

    Paul, the two things, and only two, that I wanted to see major improvements compared to my SP3 are: better battery life and better thermal management (leading to lower thermal throttling). I know the SP4 was marketed as having made some improvement but user feedback seemed to suggest, not much improvement.


    Do you have a sense how much the Surface Pro 2017 (for want of a better name) addresses those two issues? Or, maybe you can write a post looking at these in detail at a future date?

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