Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Still worth buying?

Microsoft's latest hybrid packs a serious punch

Price
£1,791
  • Blazing performance; Excellent design; High-quality display
  • No USB-C support

Since posting our review of Microsoft's fifth-generation Surface Pro, a new generation of the device, the Surface Pro 6, has been released worldwide, boasting eighth-generation Intel Core processors and some tweaks to its configurations. Given that it has technically superceded the fifth-generation model, is its older sibling still worth looking at?

The short answer is yes, absolutely. The sixth-gen Surface Pro is, unapologetically, a hardware refresh, and does very little to change the winning formula that's made the device a market leader. With this generation, however, the range starts with an i5 Kaby Lake processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB internal SSD storage for 732.50 (excl VAT), with the option to build up to the powerhouse 1,790 (excl VAT) model.

Thanks to testing from our sister site Expert Reviews, we know that the processor upgrade translates to a marginal performance boost at best, with the device scoring 61 in our 4K benchmarks over the fifth-generation's 60.

More concerningly, the battery life on the newer sixth-gen model is far weaker. In a looped video test, the Surface Pro 6 lasted eight hours before needing to be recharged, while the Surface Pro (5) managed over 11 hours 30 minutes.

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If you own the last generation Surface Pro, it will be difficult to justify an upgrade. The performance is largely the same on the lower-end configurations, and that battery life downgrade could be a deal-breaker. Given that the 2017 Surface Pro is still available to buy directly from Microsoft for 586 (excl VAT), it's absolutely still worth a look.

The original review continues below

If there's one product line that has done more to popularise 2-in-1 devices than any other, it's Microsoft's Surface Pro family. The sleek, shiny detachables have made the historically-unpopular category appealing almost single-handedly, thanks to an elegant aesthetic combined with impressive performance.

Now we have the latest addition to the line, simply dubbed the Surface Pro. The successor to the Surface Pro 4 has big shoes to fill though; that device was not just one of our favourite hybrids of 2015, but one of our favourite laptops overall. Matching its combination of speed and portability is no mean feat.

Thankfully, it appears that Microsoft has changed very little with its latest hybrid, keeping the same look and feel as its predecessor with only minor tweaks to its features and functionality. The exception to this is some rather beefy upgrades to the internal hardware, which combined with the classic design looks like a recipe for success.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Specs and performance

Although it's now been surpassed by Intel's 8th-generation Coffee Lake chips, the Surface Pro's Kaby Lake processor is still frighteningly fast. Our Core i7 review unit, paired with 16GB of RAM, racked up an astounding overall score of 102. Not only is that considerably better than any other Microsoft device to date, it's also beating out pretty much all of its competition from the likes of HP and Dell. In fact, that's approaching the kind of speeds we'd expect from a desktop PC.

Convertible devices are sometimes a little lacking in the battery department, but that's not the case here. In our battery tests, the Surface Pro lasted more than 11 and a half hours. That's an absolutely stonking result - especially given the amount of performance on display - and you can count on Microsoft's new hybrid to power you through even the most demanding workdays, and then some.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Display

Unsurprisingly, the display is also excellent. Microsoft has built this device for graphic designers, and the quality of the 12.3in PixelSense screen is immediately evident. Brightness is blazing, and the deep contrast levels make it as excellent for office work as it is for watching movies on.

Covering almost 95% of the sRGB colour spectrum, this display should be perfect for photo editing and the gorgeous 2736 x 1824 screen means that both pictures and video will look pin-sharp and packed with detail.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: TypeCover keyboard

The Surface Pro's TypeCover keyboard has been updated, too. You may be hard-pressed to tell the difference, though, as hardly anything has changed from the Surface Pro 4's keyboard. That's no bad thing - the previous TypeCover was truly excellent. Not only was it by far the best detachable laptop keyboard we'd ever seen, it was one of the best laptop keyboards around, full stop.

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Thankfully, the new TypeCover retains this crown, and the minor additions that Microsoft has made - a slightly increased travel distance on the keys and a water-resistant Alcantara covering - have only made it better. It's beaten by the keyboard on the latest MacBook Pro - but not by much.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Design and appearance

In terms of the device's actual design, very little has changed compared to the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft has pretty much nailed the perfect design for a detachable hybrid - as evidenced by the legions of companies that have since copied it - and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The new model is a tiny bit thinner and lighter than the Pro 4 and the hinge has been slightly improved, but otherwise, it's business as usual.

A good thing, too; the Surface Pro is absolutely lovely. Thin and light, with an attractive, matte-finished chassis, it's by far one of the most eye-catching devices on the market - and that's including Apple's range of devices.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Ports and features

Another touch that will please creatives and digital artists is the new Surface Pen, which has been upgraded from last generation's model. Microsoft has more than quadrupled the level of pressure sensitivity and added tilt shading to make it even more like using a real pencil.

If there's one flaw, it's in Microsoft's choice of ports. The Surface Pro has just one USB 3.0 port and a mini DisplayPort, and doesn't support the emerging USB-C standard. The main benefit of using USB-C is that one port can do everything - it allows you to charge your device, connect peripherals like keyboards, mice and displays and even connect to wired internet networks. It's great for agile working because you don't need to spend five minutes unplugging everything if you need to duck out of the office in a hurry.

It's a shame that the Surface Pro doesn't support this, as it's the only thing holding it back from being the best business device on the market today.

Taking it on the go is also made much easier and more convenient by the addition of an LTE-enabled model, which allows you to stay connected even without a Wi-Fi signal, either via an e-SIM or by popping in a nano-SIM.

Microsoft claims that the device will still retain around 90% of its battery life even when using it exclusively on a mobile connection, although we haven't had an opportunity to test this out. LTE speeds are capped at 450Mbps, unfortunately, which is a shame considering Gigabit LTE is on the horizon.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Verdict

Even with these scant flaws in mind though, the Surface Pro is an absolutely excellent piece of kit. It's small, attractive and almost scarily powerful.

Be warned, though: it doesn't come cheap. The Surface Pro starts at 800, and tops out at well over two and a half grand for the most expensive model. It's a lot of money, admittedly, but on the other hand, you're getting one of the most capable machines on the planet for your investment.

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Microsoft's latest flagship is the peak of the company's research and development efforts. It may be expensive, but for those that can afford it, it's the best Windows hybrid around.

CPUDual core 2.5GHz Intel i7-7660U
RAM16GB
Screen12.3in, 2736 x 1824
Dimensions292 x 201 x 8.5mm
Weight784g
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