Forget about numbers. Microsoft chose not to call their latest device the Surface Pro 5, simply calling their new detachable 2-in-1 the Surface Pro. Announced today in Shanghai, the new device isn’t much different from its predecessor. It’s mostly a hardware upgrade, although there are some little changes that might make artists happier — or more annoyed.
Inside, not too much has changed. As expected, Microsoft moved to 7th generation Intel Core m3, i5, and i7 processors, and that upgrade along with some hardware design changes has allowed them to improve the battery life to about 13.5 hours. Interestingly, both the m3 and the i5 Surface Pro are also fanless now. The m3 is no surprise, but it’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft does thermal management with the i5 — and this is a real i5, not one from the low-power Y-series. The rest of the specs and the 12.3″ PixelSense display have gone unchanged.
On the outside, the main change is on the hinge. It’s been reinforced, but more importantly for artists, it can now be laid down ever farther. It can now go as low as 165 degrees, allowing it to be used as a small drafting board. The separately sold Microsoft Dial can also be used directly on the screen to act as a color wheel or to control other settings, like on the larger Surface Studio.
And, like before, Microsoft still hasn’t implemented USB Type-C ports. In a way, this isn’t too bad — there still aren’t enough USB Type-C peripherals out there to make this a pressing matter. The one downside is that it prevents Microsoft from putting in Thunderbolt 3 ports, which have super fast transfer speeds for people who need to move a lot of large files frequently.
Here’s the part artists might find annoying, and it’s a double-edged sword (well, the mightier version of the sword). The pen Microsoft used to bundle in with the Surface Pro now is sold separately for $99. But, it’s been improved in a key way many users have been clamoring for — it can now detect tilt levels, which helps artists with shading or finer details. There are also more levels of pressure sensitivity, now going up to 4,096.
Microsoft will introduce an LTE model, although this won’t be available at launch. The non-LTE models can all be preordered now and start at $800 (for the m3 configuration). It’ll then cost $99 for the Surface Pen and $129 for the keyboard cover, remains a separate purchase. $159 will get you that same keyboard cover with the soft-touch Alcantra cover Microsoft has grown fond of lately.