Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review

The most massively improved Surface Pro yet

Surface Pro 5
The Surface Pro 5’s huge leap forward helps it keep our coveted Recommended award.

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Here’s how the Surface Pro performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Sky Diver: 6,431; Time Spy: 607; Fire Strike: 1,342
Cinebench CPU: 414 points; Graphics: 68 fps
Geekbench 4 Single-Core: 4,656; Multi-Core: 9,296
PCMark 8 Home: 2,874 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours and 3 minutes
TechRadar Battery Life Test: 6 hours and 58 minutes

Not surprisingly, the new Surface Pro 5 performs extremely well when handling every task in this editor’s workload. That includes web browsing with multiple tabs open at a time, word processing, and downloading and uploading lots of media files. Additionally, it performs more than adequately for light photo editing through Lightroom.

As for gaming, anything beyond indies or tablet-friendly games is most likely going to result in a poor, choppy experience, which is to be expected. However, touch-friendly games, like Hearthstone, are simply pleasurable to play on the sharp and vibrant 12.3-inch screen.

Of course, with media creation being the main reason of this device, the 3:2 display will make for larger black boxes than you might be used to when watching 16:9 and 21:9 video content.

Surface Pro 5

The new Surface Pro 5 performs extremely well when handling every task in this editor’s workload.

On the benchmarks, the new Surface Pro 5 is on par with the latest iPad Pro on Geekbench 4, one of the few tests that can measure both systems. The Surface Pro’s average multi-core processor score of 9,296 is within spitting distance of the iPad Pro’s 9,290-point ranking.

Keep in mind that this is the Surface Pro with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 processor, the most powerful version of the chip that it can be configured with. On the other hand, the iPad Pro is just as powerful no matter which configuration or model you go with. (Oh, and we’ll just say the Galaxy Book we reviewed doesn’t hold up to this configuration.)

Though to be fair to the Surface Pro, its Ultrabook-grade processor powers a deliberately more comprehensive PC experience, with an operating system that lets you to download apps from multiple sources and dig into system files deeper – things that the iOS 12 hasn’t been able to do.

Surface Pro 5

With the Surface Pro 2019 boasts a 20% bigger battery inside.

Battery life

One aspect that Microsoft has improved on every year that the competing MacBook and iPad Pro refreshes have not is battery life. With the Surface Pro 2019, the firm was able to shrink its motherboard design, making space for a 20% bigger battery inside.

Paired with power consumption optimizations that the 7th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel processor design delivers, Microsoft is promising up to 13 hours and 30 minutes of local video playback from the new Surface Pro.

That’s a lofty claim that, unfortunately, doesn’t hold up in our tests. That’s not really surprising since this has been the case with its previous products, much less all of its rivals.

The advantage, though, is that, based on our tests on the earlier model’s battery, we definitely see a perceptible improvement. PCMark 8 Battery Life and TechRadar Movie Test resulted in 24% and 32% longer running times than the previous model at 4 hours and 3 minutes, and 6 hours and 58 minutes, respectively.

Surface Pro 5

Surface Pro 5 runs 24% and 32% longer than the previous model.

In the meantime, the iPad Pro was assessed for between 6 and 7 hours of use, and the Galaxy Book lasted longer at 7 hours and 32 minutes playing back local video yet ran nearly an hour shorter in the more demanding PCMark 8 test.

These numbers are lower than what Microsoft claimed, but again that’s not too surprising. The point is that we’re seeing considerable improvements based on our own results, and that’s enough for us to praise Microsoft’s team of engineers and designers for getting the job done. You shouldn’t have to carry the Surface Pro charger with you everywhere you go, and they’re getting closer to that goal.

Surface Pro 5

The Surface Pro 5 earns our Recommended accolade.

Final verdict

The degree of how much improved the Surface Pro 5 is over its predecessor and how it keeps its lead over rival 2-in-1 laptops or tablets is not totally surprising. Still, it is more than worth talking about. From the accessories meant to make the Surface Pro 2017 feel even more of a worthy laptop alternative, to its longer battery life, every one of our past concerns have been addressed.

Sadly, Microsoft has decreased the Surface Pro’s value proposition by taking out vital parts of the deal. It made its case weaker, instead of stronger, for example, by pulling the new Surface Pen from every box. It’s not a very customer-friendly move, and it only makes deciding whether or not to purchase it harder for potential buyers who might be considering the device.

If you’re willing to drop a little more silver for its latest accessories, the new Surface Pro is still the ultimate 2-in-1 laptop and productivity tablet. So much so that, in spite of Microsoft’s decision to pull the Surface Pen from the box, it still earns our Recommended accolade.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.