The Microsoft Surface Pro has undeniably carved out a new segment in the PC space. But what was once a powerful, but heavy, thick, and unwieldly tablet when it was first launched, has become a thin, light, and even more powerful tablet in the following years. It was really the launch of the Surface Pro 3 that finally changed Microsoft’s fortunes in the hardware game. This was the first Surface Pro that was able to bring the weight and thickness into check, and the 3:2 aspect ratio screen was a revelation in this product category where 16:9 or 16:10 displays were really all that was offered in the Windows world.

In October 2015, Microsoft launched the refreshed Surface Pro 4 which was a bigger improvement than you would have guessed. The overall dimensions and look of the tablet were similar to the Pro 3, but the display was a big step forward, offering 267 pixels per inch, and outstanding color reproduction. The new keyboard launched with the Surface Pro 4 was really one of the biggest highlights though, offering an edge to edge keyboard with island keys, and a far more useable trackpad as well.

Now approaching the summer of 2017, it’s been a while since the Surface Pro 4 launched, but its successor has finally come to market: the Microsoft Surface Pro (2017). Yes, Microsoft has dropped the numbering system – and this is probably the the most appropriate time to do it, I feel – but far more important than whatever name Microsoft picks is the hardware. Although on the outside it may seem to be a small refresh, Microsoft has over 800 new custom parts inside, improving their flagship 2-in-1 device in several key areas.

The Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book were the first devices launched with Intel’s Skylake-U series processors, and Microsoft had to work overtime to sort out some power management issues with the then-new Skylake platform and Modern Standby. So it’s perhaps not that surprising to see them sit out the initial launch of Kaby Lake until they could ensure they had all the bugs worked out.

But with the launch of the Surface Pro this year, they’ve now moved onto the latest Intel CPUs, which offer both improved performance and thermals. Microsoft has not made any other dramatic changes for processing though, and the Surface Pro keeps the same CPU lineup as the outgoing model, but with 7th generation replacing 6th generation. That means there is a Core m3-7Y30 4.5 W CPU in the base model, a Core i5-7300U in the mid-range, and a Core i7-7660U in the top end. However Microsoft has also extended the passive cooling configuration to the Core i5 as well. This change comes thanks to some important improvements in the cooling system, which we’ll take a look at in a bit.

Microsoft Surface Pro
  Model Tested: Core i7-7660U, 16GB, 512GB, $2199
Processor Intel Core m3-7Y30 (2C/4T, 1.0-2.6GHz, 4MB L3, 14nm, 4.5w)

Intel Core i5-7300U (2C/4T, 2.6-3.5GHz, 3MB L3, 14nm, 15w)

Intel Core i7-7660U (2C/4T, 2.5-4.0GHz, 4MB L3, 14nm, 15w)
Memory 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB Dual-Channel
Graphics Intel Core m3-7Y30
Intel HD 615 (24 EUs, 300-900 MHz)
Intel Core i5-7300U
Intel HD Graphics 620 (24 EUs, 300-1100 MHz)
Intel Core i7-7660U
Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 (48 EUs, 64 MB eDRAM, 300-1100 MHz)
Display 12.3" 2736x1824 3:2 PixelSense
LG Display, Touch and Pen support
100% sRGB color + enhanced color, individually calibrated panels
Storage 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB PCIe NVMe PM971
Networking 802.11ac, 2x2:2, 866Mpbs Max, 2.4 and 5GHz
Bluetooth 4.1
Marvell AVASTAR
Audio Stereo Speakers (front facing)
Dolby Audio Premium
Battery 45 Wh, 45 W AC Adapter with USB charging port
Right Side USB 3.0
Mini DisplayPort 1.2
Surface Connect Port (charging and docking)
Left Side Headset Jack
  Power Button
Volume Rocker
  Keyboard Connector
Dimensions 292 x 201 x 8.5 mm (11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches)
Weight Core m3: 766 grams (1.69 lbs)
Core i5/i7: 786 grams (1.73 lbs)
Cameras Rear: 8.0 MP auto-focus
Front: 5.0 MP auto-focus and Windows Hello support
Extras Surface Pen and Dial (sold separately)
Surface Dock - 2 x mDP 1.2, 4 x USB 3.0, 1 x Gigabit (sold separately)
micro SD card slot
TPM 2.0
Pricing 128 GB Intel Core m3 with 4GB of RAM: $799
128 GB Intel Core i5 with 4GB of RAM: $999
256 GB Intel Core i5 with 8GB of RAM: $1299
256 GB Intel Core i7 with 8GB of RAM: $1599
512 GB Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM: $2199
1 TB Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM: $2699

The new Surface Pro is certainly evolution rather than revolution, but considering the success Microsoft has seen with the Pro, it’s hard to argue with the company's choice. In fact, despite the older generation CPU, it wouldn't be a stretch to state that the Surface Pro 4 was still the top of its category, with the best display, good battery life, and great performance. The new Surface Pro makes more subtle improvements, keeping many of the successful attributes of the outgoing model.

One of the features that many will be happy to see is that Microsoft will finally be offering a 4G LTE model as well, although it won’t be available for a couple of months. It’s one of the requests they’ve had from many of their customers, so it’s great to see it as an option.

Accessories have been one of Microsoft’s strongest suits, especially with the keyboard and pen that launched with the Surface Pro 4. Both the keyboard and pen have seen continuous improvement, and once again, Microsoft has released new versions as well. The flip side to that however is that the one accessory that was included with previous Surface Pros, the Surface Pen, is no longer included. This is a process that started with the Surface Pro 4 – where Microsoft introduced some mid-cycle SKUs that dropped the pen for a lower cost – and has now been extended to the entire lineup.

Overall it's tough to make massive changes when you already have one of the most successful products in a category, but we’ll dig into the changes that are here and see how the latest Surface Pro stacks up both against the competition, as well as the outgoing model.

Design
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  • mkozakewich - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    I swear I say this every time, but it bears repeating: One of the original ideas about ultrabooks was that we could throttle them while mobile, but then run them at full power by using some kind of cooling dock. Same thing here: If you had (or made?) something that cools off the chassis, it'll reach higher performance levels. Using it outside on a cold and windy day will give you more frames per second. Stuff like that. Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, June 19, 2017 - link

    Yup, very interested about the fanless 15W i5 and how well that can keep up. In theory it would act pretty Core M-ey. Reply
  • anactoraaron - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    I remember owning a pro 4 and being disappointed learning that the review samples used a faster ssd. All retail units had much slower ssds and a ridiculous amount of light bleed on the displays. I had one at launch (and returned a few to try and get less light bleed and perhaps the faster ssd used by the review units) but the first time I got a blue screen negating over an hour of work it had to go. It was a great concept, as I ultimately went with the Vaio Z Canvas (during the fire sale). The Vaio has been by far the better option, with plenty of ports and power (not to mention it also has a better display) to its advantage over the surface pro. Reply
  • SaolDan - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    I actually owned a sp4 i5 with the toshiba ssd and it had faster write. about 1GBps write speed. But tbe screen developed a small preasure point and i got it replaced. I got a samsung ssd on the replacement. not as fast. Reply
  • samnish - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    As an owner of Surface Pro 2 and 4, I must say, I went from loving the idea to hating the series. To list a few issues:
    - Normal sleep mode never works. Either it wakes up to a black screen, or it used up all the battery while sleeping. It is pretty much required to disable sleep and use hibernation instead.
    - The Wacom pen on SP2 worked well. The one on the SP4 is a huge step downwards. If you want to draw a straight line, you need to draw it by the edge of the screen, because when you draw in the middle of the screen it'd give you a squigly line. Happaned even after exchanging for another one at MS store.
    - On the SP4, I encountered a bug where a process "Microsoft IME" would hog up 100% of the CPU. If memory serves, it was introduced by the Anniversary Update. After a lengthy thread on Microsoft forum with many other victims, MS did fix it. But it took them 3 months.
    - When charging, if the SP4 is grounded slightly different than myself, the touchpad would have an jittery response. I have to touch the chassis of the SP4 with my other hand to make the touchpad work normally. Happaned even after exchanging for another one at MS store.

    This is enough examples. The Surface Pro series was Microsoft's poster child, yet they couldn't even get all the basic laptop features working stably for 4 generations. With laptops from other manufacturers, one can defend MS by saying "they have many different hardware to support, drivers take time to mature". Sure. What about the Surface Pro series? You can't really defend them with the same points - all the hardware is chosen and supported by Microsoft themselves. By Surface Pro 4, they really shouldn't still be struggling with delivering firmware that don't break your hardware and a sleep mode that works. I hope the new Surface Pro fares better this time on these departments, but I don't have high hopes for them. Microsoft has a much stronger showing for innovation in recent years, yet the hardware that they deliver are full of small glitches, and the stability of their consumer operating system has been such a mess.
    Reply
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    I had a lot of problems with the little things. When I close my cover, the touchpad starts activating the screen, causing it to wake from sleep or start dragging icons around. I'm actually having a more consistent time with my $400 Chuwi. It feels weirdly magical to be able to close it without worrying about it waking up again. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    Pretty curious about that 15W fanless middle tier. I'm assuming it would act pretty Core M-ey, but I wonder if it would do worse than silicon selected for the lower TDP, or if the chips are pretty much the same with different TDP-Downs. Reply
  • id4andrei - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    The Core M SP4 had great cooling. As long as the fanless i5 throttles at about the same threshold as ultrabooks with fans it would be a success. Reply
  • KPOM - Sunday, June 18, 2017 - link

    The 15w cpus can downvolt to 7W. I wounded if that is what Microsoft is doing with the i5. Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, June 19, 2017 - link

    Yeah that's what I meant about the TDP-Down, in theory a 15W chip with a tdp-down to 7W and a 5W chip with a TDP-up to 7W would act the same as the silicon is the same. Reply

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