Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Still worth buying?
Microsoft's hybrid may be four years old, but it still manages to pack a punch
A lot has changed since 2017, but Microsoft's fifth-generation Surface Pro still holds up well. In the four years since our first review, the tech giant has released a Surface Pro 6, Pro 7 and Pro X, each with various upgrades and improvements, but the Surface Pro 5 still has its appeal in 2021.
The Surface Pro 6 was an unashamed hardware refresh with hardly any changes to the formula that made Microsoft's flagship 2-in-1 such a big hit. It came with an Intel Core i5 Kaby Lake processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage for £732.50 (exc VAT) - there was also an option to build that up to a more powerful unit for £1,790 (exc VAT).
That upgraded processor only translated to a slight performance boost as the device scored just a little above the fifth-generation model in GeekBench tests. What's worse, the battery only lasted eight hours in our looped video test, a far cry from the 11 hours and 30-plus minutes of the Surface Pro 5.
There are always reasonable arguments to not upgrade to the latest tech, no matter what the product is, and often the main reason people stick with their old machines is that they simply love them - especially if they still get the job done. That does seem the case for the Surface Pro 5 and its almost cult status
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
As you can probably guess, the display is also excellent. The quality of the 12.3in PixelSense screen is immediately evident, underlining how Microsoft has built this device for graphic designers. Brightness is blazing, and the levels of deep contrast ensure it is great for office work as well as watching films on.
This display should be perfect for photo editing as it covers almost 95% of the sRGB colour spectrum and the gorgeous 2736 x 1824 screen means that both video and pictures will look super sharp and full of detail.
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: TypeCover keyboard
Microsoft has also updated the Surface Pro’s TypeCover keyboard. However, you might find it hard to tell the difference as hardly anything has changed from the Surface Pro 4’s keyboard. This isn’t a bad thing as the former TypeCover was truly excellent. It wasn’t only one of the best laptop keyboards around, but also the best detachable laptop keyboard we’d ever seen.
The new TypeCover, thankfully, retains this achievement, and the small additions that Microsoft has made, a water-resistant Alcantara covering and a slightly increased travel distance on the keys, have only helped to make it better. It may still be beaten by the keyboard on the latest MacBook Pro, but not by much.
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: Design and appearance
When it comes to the device’s actual design, not much has changed compared to the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft has discovered the perfect design for a detachable hybrid device, as we can see from the legions of organisations that have copied it, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The new device is slightly thinner and lighter than the Pro 4 and the hinge has been slightly improved, but apart from that, it’s business as usual.
This is good as the Surface Pro is absolutely lovely. It is thin, light, has an attractive matte-finished chassis, and is by far one of the most eye-catching devices on the market - and that’s taking Apple’s range of devices into account too.
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.
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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.
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.
|CPU||Dual core 2.5GHz Intel i7-7660U|
|Screen||12.3in, 2736 x 1824|
|Dimensions||292 x 201 x 8.5mm|
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