Microsoft Surface Pro Review: Hybrid Evolution

Microsoft’s Surface made its debut way back in 2012, the first ever personal computer made by Redmond, and a device that stoked interest in hybrid tablet-come-laptop devices.

Limitations with the Windows 8 based Windows RT didn’t win the Surface much critical acclaim; while the design was solid the hardware and software was found wanting.

A few months later in February 2013, Microsoft released the Surface Pro which sported more powerful Intel Core i processors.

Roll on several generations and the release of Windows 10 and the Surface Pro 4 had started to iron out the kinks in the Surface range and set the standard for what a Windows-based hybrid should be.

Now in its fifth iteration Microsoft has ditched the numbers and gone with the Simple Surface Pro moniker.

At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking the new Surface Pro was the Surface Pro 4, but take a closer look and the refinements in design and boost in performance become more transparent.

Design evolution

The first changes you’ll notice about the new Surface Pro are likely to found with your hands than eyes as Microsoft has rounded the corners of the Surface Pro’s magnesium-alloy chassis making it much more comfortable to hold in portrait and landscape positions than its more angular predecessor.

The kickstand on the back of the tablet that allows it to be propped up in landscape orientation to facilitate its use with the optional Type Cover keyboard, has been tweaked to allow for smoother motion and enable the tablet to be almost laid flat.

This is handy for people keen to draw and paint on the tablet using the reworked Surface Pen,  which offers more pressure sensitivity and less latency than the one bundled with the Surface Pro 4, but comes as a £60 optional extra.

In terms of dimensions the new Surface Pro measures up pretty the same as its predecessor, with dimensions of 292 x 201 x 8.4mm.

The weight of the Surface Pro will vary depending on the configuration of the internal hardware, as the models with Intel’s Core m3 and Core i5 processors sport a fanless design, while models with the more powerful Core i7 need additional cooling, and thus gain a few grams.

Previously only the Core m3 model had a fanless design, but reworked thermal design, evident by the slight design changes in the ventilation on the new Surface Pro’s rear edges, now allow for the Core i5 versions to shed the weight and noise caused by fans.

There’s a front facing 5MP camera for delivering video calls in Full HD and a rear-facing 8MP camera which in use was adequate a snapping the odd photo, but on a tablet it’s unwieldy and no substitute for the cameras found in the latest crop of Apple and Android smartphones.

Port selection hasn’t changed much either with a single USB 3.0 port, mini DisplayPort, a microSD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a magnetic port for the charger.

Sadly, Microsoft has neglected to include a USB Type-C port. While USB 3.0 accessories may be more prolific, more devices are adopting the Type-C port, and with its ability to support Thunderbolt 3 connectivity to facilitate connectivity with high resolution 4K displays and faster data transfer, it would have been a welcome addition to the Surface Pro.

While I’m glad Microsoft hasn’t take the Apple MacBook Pro approach and gone for just USB Type-C ports, the lack of one means the Surface Pro is isolated from more modern accessories.

For example, if it had Thunderbolt 3 connectivity it could be used with an external graphics processors enclosures to gain a power boost for video editing or some 3D gaming.

Despite this minor omission, the Surface Pro is a very well built and designed tablet that stands out from similar devices from the likes of Apple, Huawei, Acer and Samsung.

Read more about the Surface display on Page 2…

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Roland Moore-Colyer

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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