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

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 41 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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