Microsoft Surface Pro Review: Hybrid Evolution

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Tweaked design, a great screen and decent performance make the Surface Pro the best Windows 10 hybrid around

Screen star 

Surface Pro displayMicrosoft has stuck with the 12.3in PixelSense touchscreen display for the new Surface pro, and that no bad thing at all. With a resolution of  2,736 x 1,824 the IPS display is clear and sharp, making reading text and viewing web pages a joy on it whether its in portrait or landscape orientation.

Contrast is also good and the colour space hits the high levels of sRGB gamut, which combined with the glossy finish of the screen really make for a vibrant showing,

However, when it comes to pure colour accuracy, the PixelSense display falls a little short, with colours appearing more natural on displays such as Apple’s Retina display.  It can’t quite hit the highest levels in the Adobe RGB colour space or the ‘cinema correct’ DCI-P3 colour gamut. 

Surfacew Pro displayYet this should not be a problem unless you are planning on carrying out professional level photo editing on the Surface Pro, in which case it would be best to connect to a more colour accurate external display. 

The Surface Pro I had to test also avoided any backlight seepage issues, whereby the centre parts of the display appear brighter than the edges, a problem that has been noted to affect the Surface Pro 4. 

In everyday use, the Surface Pro’s display can put on a vibrant, colourful and contrast rich performance in both its standard sRGB profile or more punchy ‘Enhanced’ display mode, which trades colour accuracy for more punchy tones, notable when flicking through the tiles of Windows 10’s tablet mode or viewing videos. 

While I don’t think the PixelSense display can quite hit the high notes of tablets like the iPad Pro, especially now that the latest iteration has a high refresh screen, I am glad Microsoft have stuck with it as it is still a mighty fine display to behold and suites the interface and colours of Windows 10 very well. 

Type and tapping 

Surface Pro Type CoverMicrosoft doesn’t provide the Type Cover keyboard with the Surface Pro, leaving it out as a rather costly £125 optional extra for the microfibre version. But it’s a must have as opposed to an accessory if you want to get the most out of the Surface Pro. 

The unit I had to review came with the £150 Signature Edition Type Cover, which comes clad in Alcantara, there premium soft-touch fabric normally found in high-end sports and luxury cars. 

As nice as the Alcantara is to the eye and touch, I can’t help but feel its a little overkill for the Surface Pro, and it makes the device feel like something that needs to be swaddled in an extra cover rather than thrown into a laptop bag when on the move.

I would have to have longer with the Surface Pro and its Type Cover to see how long the pristine finish of the Alcantara lasts; it feels robust but still engenders a feeling of paranoia. 

However, to type on the Type Cover is very pleasant, with satisfying key travel and a nice level of tactile feedback that facilitates rapid typing.

Surface Pro keysIf you want to use the Surface Pro as a laptop in the literal sense, then things get a little wobbly when typing on your lap, but this is more down to the overall design of the hybrid rather than any Type Cover shortcomings; on a sturdy surface the Type Cover is comparable to some of the better ultraportable laptop keyboards. 

The glass topped trackpad is very smooth and accurate as well, thanks to the obvious use of Windows Precision drivers. It’s ever so slightly cramped for my liking, but then again it’s on a smallish device so that’s to be expected and having an accurate, responsive touchscreen to go alongside it negates and shortcomings to navigating Windows 10 with just the trackpad. 

The transition between using the Surface Pro in tablet mode to clipping on the keyboard with a satisfying magnetic connection is lovely and smooth, and I experienced little in the way of Windows 10 getting confused as to which mode it should be in. 

Surface Pro with Surface PenI wasn’t provided with the new Surface Pen to review, but I tried it our recently and was impressed with its extra sensitivity and accuracy. Digital artists and tablet doodlers, of which I’m not, will get the most out of the Surface Pen, but in my hands it still felt like a lovely if a pricey accessory. 

It’s a pity Microsoft hasn’t bundled the basic Type Cover and the Surface Pen together with the Surface Pro; I imagine this is a cost saving move to keep the RRP of the tablet down and leave people to decide on which accessories they want, but I feel this rather misses the whole flexibility and functionality of the hybrid device. 

Go to page 3 to see how the Surface Pro stacks up in the performance stakes…

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