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
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.

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  • ivan.lazarenko - Friday, June 16, 2017 - link

    Brett, thank you for the great review! This evolution approach for new Microsoft Surface Pro is a pretty lame version of what the fans were expecting to be a true successor, the real Surface Pro 5
    You might like this video hits like the last nail in the coffin and is funny:
  • UtilityMax - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    I have never been fan of a "laptop" that's as unstable on your laps as the Surface Pro 4, and a "tablet" that's as thick as heavy as the Surface Pro, and with such relatively poor touch GUI and the lack of much tablet apps. In other words, it was a poor laptop, and a poor tablet. The new one looks like more of the same. I'd rather by myself a Lenovo Yoga 700 or 900-series ultra-tin laptops foldable keyboard (yes, real keyboard, not keyboard "covers")
  • serendip - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    Unfortunately yes, most tablets make poor laptops. Large Windows tablets also make poor tablets because they're heavy and Windows still isn't touch friendly. I'm a masochist who loves traveling light so I don't mind rocking a cheap Teclast Windows tablet. I couldn't justify spending on a Surface when it costs so much and it doesn't know what it is.
  • damianrobertjones - Friday, August 18, 2017 - link

    Why does it have to be defined as either one?
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    Okay, so there's never been anything more than rhetoric flying around about the pens. "Oh, it's so much better now!" It sounds good, but then I also hear people swear by the Apple Pencil. Is it possible to benchmark those kinds of things? Would it be possible for you to measure activation forces various pens, as well as maybe latency and pressure-levels-per-gram-of-force?

    Also, was the original Type Cover Alcantara? I haven't seen a word of it, but that material really surprised me when I first encountered it. It seems like it couldn't have been, because everyone is going gaga over this iteration.
  • Brett Howse - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    I haven't used the Apple Pencil for a while now, but it seems like both are pretty close in terms of usability. We can measure some of the things you mentioned, but not all, at least without new equipment which would have limited value outside of testing a stylus. But I don't have the Apple Pencil to compare it against anyway.

    The original Type Cover was not Alcantara, although they did release a Signature version with the synthetic fabric after the Surface Pro 4 launched.
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    About AnandTech
    A Message from Our Founder, Anand Shimpi
    We are motivated by one thing and one thing only: doing right by you.
    Can you please investigate my claims that this Laptop is using a Gov't Sponsored Spyware Platform "OR" provide "ANY" EVIDENCE that these claims are incorrect without simply deleting my posts without explanation?
    I will gladly provide hundreds of examples of spyware/extortionware and malware if you like
    Can't wait for an HONEST review
    Bullwinkle J Moose
  • mrbofus - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    "But it seems like wasted space to offer a mini DisplayPort connecter over a USB-C port which could easily handle DisplayPort duties (and so much more). But it seems like wasted space to offer a mini DisplayPort connecter over a USB-C port which could easily handle DisplayPort duties (and so much more). "

    It would also be nice if they got rid of the proprietary power connector and used USB-C. Two full USB-C ports and a USB-A port would have been a perfect port combination, in my opinion.
  • simard57 - Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - link

    as someone that trips over the power cable too often, I appreciate the magnetic connector.
    do agree with the comment regarding replacing Mini Display Port with USB-C but that would be dependent on cost impact.
  • Gunbuster - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    Can you test Wi-Fi with Bluetooth in use? I'm wondering if they ever fixed the (extra) poor performance with it doing both...

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