Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review

The most massively improved Surface yet

microsoft surface pro

Our Verdict

We’re surprised Microsoft has refrained from calling this the Surface Pro 5, as it’s the biggest improvement on a Surface we’ve ever seen. Despite losing the included Surface Pen, the Surface Pro’s huge improvements help it retain our Recommended award.

For

  • Hugely improved battery life
  • Much better Surface Pen
  • Comfier, punchier Type Cover

Against

  • Surface Pen pulled from package
  • Only Core i7 can challenge A10X

Did you know the 2017 Surface Pro isn’t the newest Surface on the block? Check out our review of the more recent Surface Pro 6

The 2017 Surface Pro is almost two years old at this point, but even in the shadow of its successor, it’s still one of the best Windows tablets to date. It’s an impressive showcase for everything Windows 10 is capable of, thanks to some excellent design decisions that have proven to stand the test of time.

Turning the Surface Pro on for the first time, you’ll appreciate that Windows 10 makes this device better than the first three tablets that shipped with Windows 8.1. With Amazon Prime Day coming on 15th July 2019, Amazon might bring some decent discounts for the Surface Pro, making this an even more tempting purchase. 

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Still, does the Microsoft Surface Pro succeed as a follow-up to the beloved Surface Pro 4? Does it improve on the aspects that made the premium Windows tablets so popular to begin with? We’ve been asking ourselves these questions since the 2017 Surface Pro was revealed in Shanghai. And since then, we’ve answered with a definitive ‘yes’. 

It’s easy to see why the Surface Pro is such a beloved Windows tablet, even if it did make some compromises to the Surface formula. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 doesn’t radically change the formula, but it was still instrumental in shaping the future of Windows tablets. It has a similar chassis to the Surface Pro 4, but changes the design ever so slightly. 

This approach even continues with the Surface Pro 6, but with a new black color option. With iterative updates like this, we can’t wait to see what Surface Pro devices look like in the future.

Starting with where you can buy it and for how much, let’s get up close and personal with the Surface Pro 2017, to find out exactly why the device once again earned our ‘Recommended’ seal of approval.

Spec Sheet

Here is the Surface Pro configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-7660U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 4GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
RAM: 16GB LPDDR3
Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display (Contrast ratio: 1,300:1, 100% sRGB color, 10-point multi-touch, 3:2 aspect ratio)
Storage: 512GB SSD (PCIe 3.0)
Ports: 1x USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, microSDXC card reader (UHS-I), headphone/mic jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2 x 2 MIMO), Bluetooth 4.1 (Low Energy)
Cameras: 8MP rear-facing, auto-focus camera (1080p HD); 5MP front-facing, 1080p HD camera
Weight: 1.73 pounds
Size: 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.33 inches (W x D x H)

Pricing and availability

Falling in line with previous Surface devices, the Surface Pro 2017 starts at $749 (£749, AU$1,129), and the price goes up from there. For that entry-level price tag, you’re getting a Kaby Lake Intel Core m3 processor paired with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage.

If you have a workload similar to ours, that’s really not enough power to get the job done, so we’d advise going with a Surface Pro configuration with at least an Intel Core i5 processor with more RAM and SSD space. 

In the US at the moment, the Surface Pro maxes out at $1,449 for an Intel Core i5 processor with 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. This should get you through many of your productivity tasks without a problem, though we’d be careful about filling up your storage with too many photos. Currently, a configuration with an Intel Core i7 chip is not available in the US, unless you’re purchasing it on Amazon, which still offers more configurations, and at cheaper prices at that.

It is, however, available in the UK, with the 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM priced at £1,119, and the more powerful 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM setting you back a hefty £1,611.

Stacked up against some of the Surface Pro’s competition, like the latest iPad Pro 11-inch, Apple kicks things off at $799 (£769, AU$1,229) for a tablet with Apple’s A12X Bionic processor and 64GB of SSD space. Meanwhile, the most heavily equipped version retails for $1,549 (£1,519, AU$2,349) with 1TB of storage and the same processor.

microsoft surface pro

The Samsung Galaxy Book 2, on the other hand, starts at $999 (about £784, A$1,440) for the 12-inch version with a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM powered by a Qualcomm SDM850 processor. This model is, however, not available in the UK and Australia.

Both the 10.6-inch and 12-inch Samsung Galaxy Book models are available in the UK, but currently these are only available at third-party retailers. In the US, the 12-inch version with a 7th Gen Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD is more expensive at $1,299 (about £1,020, A$1,873).

When you take into account the fact that the new Surface Pro doesn’t come with the Type Cover or Surface Pen, Samsung’s tablet might start to look like a much better value than both the Surface Pro and ever-accessory-challenged iPad Pro. It’s too bad, then, that neither its performance nor its design is mind blowing.

While Microsoft pulling the Surface Pen out of the box appears to indicate that the Surface Pro 2017 costs more to produce than its predecessor, a unit purchased with both the Pen and Type Cover would surpass the price of a comparable Galaxy Book by only $100. Still, we’d like to see the pen included in the initial purchase price.

Keep in mind, however, that while the Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 is still available for purchase, it has been succeeded by the Surface Pro 6. That means that you should be able to find it for much less than list price. You should start to see a lot of deals and bundles on whatever’s left on the shelf – not to mention the refurbished models, which will be cheaper.

microsoft surface pro

Design

The 2017 Surface Pro looks a lot like the Surface Pro 4 at first glance. It has the same, admittedly stunning, 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreen with a 2,736 x 1,824 pixel resolution. 

However, a keen eye will notice key differences. For one, the magnesium-aluminum alloy frame is rounded at the edges more dramatically than before. If you were a Surface Pro 4 user for a while before picking this one up, your fingers will tell the difference before your eyes do.

Another key difference is in the hinge, which has been vastly improved on the Surface Pro, drawing inspiration from the Surface Studio. The hinge now bends further back than ever before, thanks to a new ‘Studio mode’ that makes for a narrower, 165-degree angle that is ideal for artists. To that end, the hinge looks markedly different, obviously incorporating new parts to make this more dramatic angle possible, but operates in exactly the same way.

microsoft surface pro

Another enhancement worth mentioning is the thermal design, which Microsoft improved, allowing it to make both the Core i5 and Core m3 versions fanless devices.

The new Alcantara Type Cover is a striking improvement in comfort over the previous generation, and largely worth the slight uptick in asking price over the microfiber cloth version. The keys feel like they’re deeper set and come back from a press with more bounce than ever, and the material looks like it’s durable enough to last for a long time. For those who want to stay away from neutral colors, the burgundy and cobalt blue colors are already available.

At the end of the day, the Surface Pro 2017 measures at the same 0.33 inches (8.4mm) of thickness as its predecessor, with its 1.73 lbs (786g) of heft also staying the same. Considering that Microsoft managed this while still upping battery life by up to 20%, this is quite an impressive feat, indeed.

microsoft surface pro

Surface Pen gets a big boost 

Why the Surface Pro 2017 wasn’t given the ‘5’ moniker – even though it was followed by the Surface Pro 6 – is beyond us, especially since Microsoft has pretty drastically changed this product. However, the Surface Pen did get some of the most meticulous and belabored changes.

For starters, Microsoft enhanced the pressure sensitivity of the Surface Pen to 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, giving creators more control over the width and intensity of their lines in designs and illustrations than ever before. Plus, the Surface Pen now boasts lower latency, so its tip has a far lower chance of ‘leading’ the ink on the PixelSense display.

Finally, the Pen now supports tilt detection, though only through the new Surface Pro and Surface Book 2 – the other current Surface devices will get the support for this feature through a firmware update later on. This feature will – short of some useful navigation controls in some apps – largely matter most to true creators who would be concerned about representing tilt and direction of the strokes in their work.

microsoft surface pro

Looks-wise, the Pen comes in new slick colors: platinum, black, cobalt blue and burgundy, designed naturally to match to the available colors of new Type Covers.

There’s no debating that both the new Surface Pen and Type Cover have earned their slight price hikes. Still, we remain disappointed in the lack of any bundling to save loyal customers some money for fully buying in on Microsoft’s products since day one.

First reviewed June 2017

Images Credit: TechRadar