Doing Business | IT & Technologies

May 23, 2017

Microsoft's new Surface Pro has 13.5 hours of battery life and LTE option 115

Microsoft is launching a new Surface Pro today, and it’s dropping its numbering scheme as a result. While many were expecting a Surface Pro 5, Microsoft’s new tablet / laptop hybrid is simply the Surface Pro from now on.

At first glance, the new Surface Pro looks a lot like the old Surface Pro 4, but it’s the inside that counts this time. “It’s a meaningful change," explains Microsoft's Surface chief, Panos Panay, in an interview with The Verge. "There are about 800 new custom parts in the new Pro.”

These new custom parts all add up to a lot of refinement on the new Surface Pro. Microsoft is upgrading the Surface Pro to a new Intel seventh-generation Kaby Lake processor, with a fan-less design on the Core m3 and Core i5 models. This processor switch, and some improvements in Windows 10, means Microsoft is now confident the new Surface Pro will deliver up to 13.5 hours of battery life. That’s a huge increase over the Surface Pro 4, and if Microsoft’s claims are accurate then this new Surface Pro will have 50 percent more battery life than the previous model. While the Core m3 and i5 models will ship with a fan-less design, the top model, an Intel Core i7, still includes a fan.

“This isn’t just a processor change," claims Panay. "We did take Kaby Lake, it’s the latest generation, of course. But it’s the integrated SSD on the motherboard. It’s the fundamental architecture changes that we do in Windows and Surface. It brings 13.5 hours of battery. It’s lighter than the previous generation product, and it’s more powerful with no fan.”

Like the Surface Laptop, Microsoft is promising sleep improvements with the new Surface Pro so you can confidently open and close the device and maintain battery life. That’s been a problem on the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book previously, and it appears Microsoft has solved it for its latest Surface Laptop and Pro devices.

In photos, it’s hard to show exactly what’s changed with the new Surface Pro, but there are some subtle differences. The perimeter vent has shrunk a little around the device so it’s no longer so noticeable, and the device has rounded edges that make it feel better when you’re holding it as a tablet. While the Core m3 and Core i7 models are the same weight, the Core i5 has dropped a tiny bit of weight. It’s not noticeable at all, and it largely looks and feels like the Surface Pro 4.

Other subtle changes include a new hinge design. Microsoft has adopted the same Surface Studio 165-degree angle for the Surface Pro, allowing it to lay nearly flat. The hinge no longer snaps (for safety) if you push it too far, and Microsoft is confident the hinge won’t break if you lean on it too much. Microsoft’s Surface hinges have been sturdy in the past, so that’s a claim that’s easy to believe.

Alongside this new hinge angle, Microsoft is also including Surface Dial support on the display of the Surface Pro. You can use the Dial just like the Surface Studio, placing it on top of the display to interact with apps like Sketchable. Microsoft is still planning to include this support on the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 later this year with a firmware update, but it ships out of the box on the new Surface Pro.

One of the biggest changes to the Surface Pro is a new Surface Pen. It doesn’t come in the box anymore, so you’ll be able to purchase it separately for $99. While it will work on existing devices, a new tilt functionality is only available on the Surface Pro for now. Tilt will detect the angle of the pen to enable shading and better accuracy for inking. It’s something that creators who use Wacom tablets have been asking for, and Microsoft is finally delivering.

Microsoft has also altered the level of pressure sensitivity to 4096, alongside a reduction in the activation force. Inking now feels a lot less laggy and way more responsive on the Surface Pro. Even the Pen itself feels a little more refined, and Microsoft has removed the clip at the top of the device. We’ll have to see what creatives think, but it feels like a big improvement. "Right when you put the pen down, depending on how far you push, it’s like a ballpoint pen at this point," says Panay.

Just like the Surface Laptop, Microsoft is moving to Alcantara for the Surface Pro keyboard. Platinum, burgundy, and cobalt blue Surface Pro Type Covers will be available separately at $159, alongside a regular black Type Cover without the Alcantara fabric for $129. The new Surface Pen will also be available in these same colors to match. Sadly, just like the Surface Laptop, there's no USB-C ports on the Surface Pro. It's the same Surface connector, USB, and mini DisplayPort found on the Surface Pro 4.

For the first time on the Surface Pro, Microsoft will also offer a model with LTE connectivity. The LTE version will support micro SIM and eSIM, and will be priced slightly higher than models without LTE support. Microsoft isn’t revealing exact pricing or a release date, or even what processor will power the Surface Pro with LTE. It's possible that Microsoft could opt for an ARM-powered Surface. LTE versions should be available later this year.

Microsoft's Surface Pro devices are the most popular in the company's range, with some estimates suggesting more than 70 percent of all Surface devices in the US are Surface Pro. That makes this refresh an important one for Microsoft's Surface effort. “I believe it will be the fastest adopted Pro we’ve ever shipped," claims Panay. "There’s a reason for that, the brand is here and there’s people who have been waiting for it, and it turns out it’s just a kick-ass device."

Microsoft’s new Surface Pro is available for preorder today starting at $799. You’ll need to purchase a Type Cover (starting at $129) and Surface Pen ($99) separately, and devices will start shipping on June 15th in 26 countries.

Text by The Verge
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