Updated

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review: More power for more money

A Kaby Lake CPU upgrade makes a big difference, but the competition is closing in.

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Still, that’s way short of the 13.5 hours Microsoft promised, even though we both test using video rundowns that loop video until the machine dies. (If it matters, Microsoft used a Core i5 in its tests, not the Core i7 machine we tested. Differences in screen brightness could also help explain the discrepancies, as well as the possibility that Microsoft inadvertently loaned us a defective machine.)

Conclusion: The competition is catching up

By leaving the new Surface Pro largely unchanged from its predecessor, Microsoft may imply that it can’t be improved upon. I disagree. The obvious thermal issues are one area where the new Surface Pro has regressed, and I still believe that Lenovo’s X1 Tablet offers a superior kickstand design. That might be academic, of course, because Microsoft now offers a true notebook: the Surface Laptop. Despite Microsoft’s claim that its Surface Pro is a laptop, the Surface Laptop undeniably offers the superior “lapability” experience.

We’re obligated to point out these flaws. On balance, however, Microsoft has crafted a winning Windows tablet. The new Surface Pro is pricey, though a $999 Core i5 version Microsoft sells may be far more affordable. The Surface Pro absolutely excels under short, bursty applications, though performance tends to suffer when the fan kicks in. Though the battery life falls short of the 13.5 hours Microsoft promises, it’s still better than the older Surface Pro 4.

I thought about whether the new Surface Pro (2017) deserved a full four stars, and finally decided against it. True, other tablets lack the Surface Dial integration and don’t lean back quite so far. That, for me, doesn’t change the game. Microsoft has simply made an improved Surface Pro 4 for Surface Pro 4 fans. Meanwhile, through each successive generation, competition has grown more intense. That’s fine—Microsoft intended to break trail with its Surface devices, but always acknowledged that it was leading other hardware makers into the market.

It’s possible that Microsoft may simply offer incremental improvements to its tablets going forward. That’s left a window of opportunity to the competition. I endorsed Microsoft’s leap into the Surface Pro 3, and still believe that the Surface Pro 4 represents Microsoft’s best Windows tablet. At the time, however, I wondered whether the others would catch up. They have. I still recommend the new Surface Pro (2017), but I’d also encourage you to check out the competition.

Updated at August 3, 2018 with some details and clarifications.

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At a Glance
  • Microsoft's latest Windows tablet packs a powerful Intel Kaby Lake chip and Iris Plus GPU inside, though a high price tag and disappointing battery life hinder it somewhat.

    Pros

    • Iris Plus GPU gives it the graphics oomph of a discrete GPU
    • Kickstand folds back, almost flat
    • If you loved the Surface Pro 4, you'll love the new Surface Pro

    Cons

    • Surface Pro doesn't skimp on price
    • Battery life is nowhere near promised 13.5 hours
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