The first Microsoft Surface Pro landed 4 years ago, so what does its latest incarnation have to offer?
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Note: Microsoft refers to the latest model as the “new Surface Pro”, but, to avoid confusion with earlier models I’ll call it the Surface Pro 5.
The first thing I noticed about the Surface Pro 5 was how easy it was to log in with Microsoft’s facial recognition software. It worked well, but there were a few failed logins. Tip: if you have hair past your ears, make sure it’s tied back when you register so it doesn’t have trouble recognising you.
I found it best to think of the Pro 5 not as a new model but as a refinement of the Surface Pro 4. Looks-wise, it isn’t much different from its predecessor. It’s essentially the same weight, screen size and resolution. So what has changed? Well, the processors mostly. Each Surface Pro 5 has a powerful 7th-generation processor – m3-7Y30, i5-7300U or i7-7660U.
If you’re new to the Surface world, here’s a summary of what these devices are known for. The high-quality touchscreen can also be used with the Microsoft Surface Pen and Dial for graphic design. Converting between laptop and tablet modes is easy: detach the keyboard for portable tablet mode, then reattach it (there’s a reassuring click) and pop out the kickstand for traditional tabletop laptop use. The only downside to tablet mode is it’s heavy to hold for long periods.
The keyboard is covered in Alcantara – a felt-like fabric. It was comfortable to use but, as with all Surface Pro keyboards, due to their thinness and lack of support underneath, it suffered from “bounce” when typing. The Surface Pro 5 doesn’t have many ports – just one USB port, a mini display port, a MicroSD card reader and a headphone jack. Don’t panic though, the charger has a USB port built into it so you can charge your phone and Surface simultaneously.
Like the detachable keyboard, the charging cable is held on to the screen with magnets. However, I found the charger was easy to knock out of the port. The Surface Pro 5 comes with a longer claimed battery life (13.5 hours video playback). I worked the Surface hard yet never ran the battery empty, even after accidentally leaving it on overnight.
For me, the best improvement was how quiet it is. Microsoft has improved on the Surface Pro 4’s hybrid liquid and fan cooling. The Surface Pro 5’s m3 and i5 models are fanless and silent, while the i7 retains a fan. I didn’t notice the Pro 5 get particularly hot, so Microsoft has done a good job in keeping things cool under the hood.
The Microsoft Surface Pen looks like a normal pen, except it doesn’t contain any ink. When used on Surface devices, it draws just like a pen or pencil would. This latest iteration includes a rubber “eraser” at the top and interchangeable drawing tips. The tips come in 4 thicknesses named after the pencil graphite grading scale (2H, H, HB and B). The Surface Pen comes with an HB tip. The Surface Pen registers pressure and angle changes, which means it can mimic a pencil or pen for thickness and shading. Handwriting, signatures and drawings look as realistic as they would if you were using pen and paper — a great accessory for artists as it turns your Surface into a sketch pad in seconds. The Surface Pen is so well designed that I often mistook it for a normal pen and was left wondering why it wasn’t working on my notebook.
You can also pair the Surface Pen with the Surface Dial — a funky, hockey puck-sized device that lets you easily adjust colours and shading, volume and access shortcuts by spinning it.
Overall, Microsoft has done it again. The Surface Pro 5 is versatile, easily switches from laptop to tablet, and has impressive specifications and processor options. But then again, Microsoft had a good starting point with the successful Surface Pro 4.
m3; i5; i7 versions
Price: $1349; $1699-$2199; $2649-$4449
Processor: Intel m3; i5; i7
Screen size: 12.3”
RAM: 4GB; 8GB; 16GB
Storage: 128GB; 256GB; 512GB; 1TB
Dimensions (HxWxD): 292x201x8.5mm
Weight: 768g; 770g; 784g
First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.
Our writer received a Microsoft Surface Pro 5 on loan for this First Look.
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