Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 review: Is the upgrade from the Surface Pro 4 worth it?

Hardware Reviews / Microsoft / Reviews / Tech

The 2017 Surface Pro is a slight step up from the Surface Pro 4 that came out two years, but is it enough to make you upgrade?

TA-ratings-88If there’s one thing Microsoft is good at other than coming out with game systems and Windows OS, it’s the Surface family. Every year the company comes out with the next generation of the Surface Pro series and there’s a bit of change to it on the inside and a slight change to the outside. This year, Microsoft went away with the numbering scheme and kept it simple by calling the new Surface unit the Surface Pro. The 2017 Surface Pro is a slight step up from the Surface Pro 4 that came out two years, but is it enough to make you upgrade? Let’s take a look.

Specifications

  • Operating System: Windows 10 Pro
  • Display: 12.3 PixelSense (2736 x 1824), aspect ration 3:2
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7300 @ 2.60GHz
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Graphics: Intel HD 620
  • Ports: 1x USB 3.0, Micro SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect, Cover Port
  • Camera: 8MP rear, 5MP front
  • Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
  • Security: TPM chip, Windows Hello face sign in
  • Battery: Up to 13.5 hours

What’s in the box

  • Surface Pro
  • Power supply
  • Manual
  • Warranty papers

Design

The design of Microsoft’s Surface units tend to be the same every year with a few different aesthetics, but even with those small upgrades, the next gen looks a bit better than its predecessor. The 2017 Surface Pro fits in that category of not looking any different than last year, but it’s not all about the outside that matters and I’ll get to that later.

Much like the Surface Pro 4, the 2017 Surface Pro has a similar design. You’ve got a 12.3-inch display with a small bezel all the way around. The front facing camera is centered right up top along side with the ambient/proximity sensor and mic. On the left and right side of the screen is a small sliver for the front facing speakers. The only thing on the left side is the 3.5mm headphone jack and a small area to open up the kickstand while the right side has a mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0 port, and the charging port and the same small area to open the kickstand. Up top, you’ll see the power and volume rocker button.

Surface-Pro-2017-Back

Back view of the Microsoft Surface Pro 2017.

The backside has the rear facing camera with the mic next to it, vents for airflow along the border above that, Microsoft’s logo towards the bottom, and the kickstand which lets you adjust the screen angle for better viewing when you’re doing your work. The kickstand can go back far enough to just barely look like it’s flat on a table or lap. It’s convenient for people who may be using the Surface Pen to sketch or touch up on some pictures, etc.

Underneath the kickstand is a microSD card slot for extra storage. As for the bottom, you’ll notice that it’s open and has six magnetic holes, that’s where the keyboard cover will come in and snap onto. The one drawback that people won’t like is that there is no USB Type-C port. Microsoft could have added one in since it’s becoming the norm now and it’s definitely a glaring omission.

Display

Just like Surface Pro 4, the new Surface Pro comes with a 12.3-inch PixelSense display with a resolution of  2736 x 1824. Why Microsoft kept it the same and not make it 4k like some other laptops out there is beyond me, but the display quality is still really good. Viewing angles are great while keeping words readable up to a certain, but all screens tend to be like that. When looking at the screen, colors are vibrant with little saturation with white and blacks being natural. There is a bit of a glare when using it the Surface Pro outside or in bright rooms, but you’ll still be able to make out what’s on the screen.

Surface-Pro-2017-Front

Surface Pro with keyboard attached.

Software

Like all other Windows laptops or 2-in-1, Windows 10 is pre-installed. You get Windows 10 Pro with the Surface Pro and also a few games pre-installed already like Candy Crush Soda Saga and others, but those can easily be uninstalled. With the Surface Pro, you can use tablet mode to change the layout on how programs and apps show up along with using the on screen keyboard, but if you have the Type Cover accessory and attach it, tablet mode kicks in automatically and it’s a nice transition. You can turn that feature on and off at any time through the settings, but I left mine on since I like using tablet mode.

Surface-Pro-2017-Type-Cover-Back

The Surface Pro cover.

Performance

There are different variations of the 2017 Surface Pro that you can purchase, but I went with the 7th gen Intel Core i5 CPU with 8GB of RAM and man does it work wonders. Yes, for a tablet like this the power inside of it will be great, but I mean this was able to keep up with my HP OMEN desktop and the only difference was the processor being an i7. The GPU is different too, but I don’t play games on laptops/convertibles. Regardless, if you’re going to be putting your device through hell with 10 different browser tabs open doing your thing, this device will definitely handle it. Playing games can be done on the Surface Pro, but it’s not going to be the greatest experience.

Camera

The rear facing camera is set at 8MP and it’s not a bad camera — when used outdoors. Some photos came out a bit grainy while some others did just fine. Indoor shots were OK as well in the right amount of lighting, but I doubt many people will be using this hybrid for photos. As for the front facing camera, it’s a 5MP shooter and pictures turned out close to how the indoor shots of the rear facing camera were. If you’re expecting to doodle on some photos with your kids or just for fun, then this will work out just for you, but other, wise there’s no point in taking photos.

Speakers

With everything you’ve read so far, you’re wondering how the speakers are and I think they’re pretty good. The Surface Pro has front facing speakers and with the volume set to around 22 to 28 was a sweet point, at least for me. Like many other speaker tests I do with review units, I crank it up to 100 and see how it sounds and in my opinion, having the volume at that level was alright. It doesn’t take away from the actual quality making it sound like the speakers are being covered by something nor did I hear any crackling.

Battery Life

The battery life offers up 50% more than its predecessor with the Surface Pro 4 getting a bump from 9 hours of playback to 13.5 hours of playback. Each night after working on whatever I’m doing, from writing articles or reviews or just keeping up with current technology, I would end up watching about two hours worth of shows and keep track of the battery percentage. When I was leaving the power mode on Battery Saver I could get just about an entire week of battery life out of this, but when I had the power mode set to recommended I was getting about two days worth. There are two more options giving you better performance, but you’re sacrificing battery life. Either way, I was able to get either over 13.5 hours of usage accumulated or around it.

Accessories

You can purchase the Surface Pro by itself, but you can also add a Signature Type cover to make your unit even nicer looking. The type covers come in four colors, black, platinum, burgundy, and cobalt blue. The last three colors come in an Alcantara finish and will cost you $160 versus if you get just the black at $130. You can also purchase the new Surface Arc Mouse for $80 or the Surface Pen for $100.

Price

There are six different models to choose from with a different price tag to each of them. The lowest model starts you out at $799USD while the highest spec model will run you $2699. The price point isn’t exactly the best whether you’re looking at purchasing any model, but if you don’t think you’ll be doing heavy duty projects with the Surface Pro, then definitely choose the $800 unit.

Wrap Up

Microsoft has stepped their game up with the Surface series giving it some great specs under the hood, but the design has generally been the same with the Surface Pro 3/4. If you already have the Surface Pro 4 with the higher end specs, then there’s no point in upgrading. If funds aren’t an issue, sure go ahead and upgrade, but only get what you think you’ll need because, in my opinion, no one needs to go out and spend $2700 on a 2-in-1 that could be obsolete in the next year or two.

*We reviewed a retail unit of the Microsoft Surface Pro which was purchased by the reviewer.

Microsoft Surface Pro

$799+ USD
Microsoft Surface Pro
8.8

Design

8/10

    Display

    9/10

      Software

      10/10

        Performance

        10/10

          Camera

          7/10

            Speakers

            9/10

              Battery Life

              10/10

                Price/Value

                8/10

                  Nailed it

                  • Great Battery Life
                  • Accessory options
                  • Display
                  • Speakers

                  Needs work

                  • Price
                  • Same design as Surface Pro 4
                  • Pen not included
                  • Missing USB Type-C port
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