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News & Insight

Microsoft’s New Surface Pro Gets 13+ Hours Battery Life, New Pen, Better Latency, More Power

By Kishore Sawh on May 23rd 2017

It’s been generally accepted that Apple’s last MacBook Pro offering was, by and large, off the mark – if you ask the Pro community. In terms of practicality and specs that pro users want, there were some major omissions; some, like 4 USB-C ports and none others marketed as forward thinking, and others, like maxing out at 16GB RAM, not marketed at all. It was not a matter of whether it was a good computer or not, but rather was it what those who would be buying it wanted it to be. It’s that distinction that Microsoft seems to want to exploit, and the new Surface Pro is proof in pudding of that.

The new Surface Pro deviates in nomenclature from the previous generations so it’s simply the Surface Pro, and not a Surface Pro 5 as most assumed, and while it may look like its forebearers its lack of alteration by way of notable cosmetic design seems to be in favor of a revamp of its innards, providing a significantly more powerful Surface Pro option. The new Surface Pro comes in six different configurations ranging from an Intel Core m3 4GB RM to an Intel Core i7 with 16GB RAM; the base model starting at $799 and the top end model over 3 times that amount at $2,699.

So what’s new? According to Microsoft’s Surface chief, Panos Panay, in an interview with The Verge, “There are about 800 new custom parts in the new Pro,” which include 7th generation Kaby Lake processors which are fan-less on the m3 and i5 versions. There have been upgrades to Windows 10 and that combined with the new processors and the SSD-on-motherboard pairing, MS is touting a whopping 13.5 hour battery life, which is about a 50% jump on the model before it.

There’s also a new hinge design which echoes that of the desktop Surface Studio, and again like the Studio, it will also support the Surface Dial.

Aside from that, one of the more prominent talking points for creatives will be the upgrades to the pen, which seems totally redesigned. The pen now comes with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition, and possibly more noticeable or appreciated than that number is the fact MS claims they’ve reduced the minimum activation pressure and reduced the latency so the response is more immediate and less laggy, thus, more accurate.

This was a big sticking point with Surface Pro users before, especially if they’d used a WACOM or even the Apple Pencil because the Pencil’s latency is so good, but it suggests too that there should be carry-over there to the sleep/wake performance of the machine.

[RELATED: TOP WINDOWS ALTERNATIVES TO THE NEW MACBOOK PRO]

While the pen itself is something to be happy about, something that won’t make many happy is that the pen is no longer in the box with your Surface Pro, but instead must be bought separately for $99, just like the Apple Pencil. Then there’s the fact that Surface Pro Type Covers will be sold separately and cost between $129-$159, and that Microsoft has eschewed advancing the port capability to any USB-C options and instead keeps the connector, USB, and Mini DisplayPort from the Surface 4.

There is said to be an LTE version that will take microSIM and eSIMs later this year, but no dates, specifications nor price have been revealed as yet for those. The non-LTE versions ship out next month.

Is the new Surface Pro a solution for photographers (note the marketing material image with a woman who has the Surface Pro tethered to what appears to be a camera from the 1800s)? For many creatives the MacBook Pros are their main workhorses, but how does this stack up as an alternative?

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Stephen Jennings

    I bought the top end Wacom msp16 – expensive, but a beautifully built machine. The competing tablets that have come out to take the msp on have all seemingly been in the same ballpark price wise. This sounds like a great computer, but got the price of the top end config …. buy the Wacom. I pair mine with an iMac, I can unplug and go hang out at a coffee spot or on a shoot with my Lightroom cat on the ssd exhdd and be working on a tablet out-specing the iMac. Luxurious convenience. 

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  2. Anders Madsen

    Hmmm – apart from the bizarre camera in the marketing image, the notion of using a Surface Pro as a tethering monitor is probably not that far off. Slap Capture One Pro on it, calibrate the monitor and go full screen and you should be good to go.

    However, given that connectivity is even worse than the current MacBook Pro, I don’t see it replacing many of those at all – especially since the price is in the same range as the MacBook Pro for the higher models. 

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I’m with you on all of that Anders. I think that was shortsighted of them to leave the connectivity as it was prior, and as you rightly point out, the price point for the models pros would use is MBP territory

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    • Steve VanSickle

      Yeah, I’m similarly torn about this. Add in the fact that I use my (aging) MBP for mobile app development, and I’m leaning towards waiting for the next MBP update. 

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