This is interesting … and confusing. A number of readers have pointed out that Microsoft has quietly added a new Intel Core i7-based model to its Surface Pro 3 lineup, boosting the number of models from 5 to 6. But why would Microsoft make such a change now when it is presumably prepping for a Surface Pro 4 with newer CPUs and chipsets?
For the past year or so Microsoft has offered five Surface Pro 3 models:
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Intel Core i3, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of solid state storage for $799.
Intel Core i5, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of solid state storage for $999.
Intel Core i5, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of solid state storage for $1299.
Intel Core i7, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of solid state storage for $1549.
Intel Core i7, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of solid state storage for $1949.
The new model sits neatly between the i5 and i7 versions and comes in like so:
Intel Core i7, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of solid state storage for $1299.
So it’s the same price as the highest-end i5 model but offers the Core i7 chip and less storage (128 GB vs. 256 GB).
Was this really a huge need?
I routinely get questions about whether people should buy a Surface Pro 3 or wait for Surface Pro 4. And of course there are rumors—stoked recently by Satya Nadella’s “tough choices” email to the troops—that Surface (and Lumia) could be on the chopping blocks, and that Surface Pro 4 may as a result never happen.
More personally troubling, I’ve never heard anything about Surface Pro 4 from my own sources. And while this may not seem important, this is the first Surface version I wasn’t privy to before release. (You may recall that Surface Pro 3 was originally the less-interesting side-show to the Surface mini launch that was cancelled at the last minute; Surface Pro 3 has ironically gone on to be the best-selling Surface version, ever, and by a wide margin.)
Frankly, this new Surface Pro 3 model confuses matters further. I’m curious whether the CPU/chipset in this device is of a newer variety than the rapidly aging hardware inside the original Surface Pro 3 models, but I doubt it. If it was, however, newer, I could imagine Surface Pro 3 continuing for a much longer time period, with Microsoft swapping out the internals for newer parts as we go. In this fantasy, this new model is a perhaps a preview of what’s coming.
Or perhaps not. But either way, you have to wonder what—if anything—this says about a potential Surface Pro 4 release.