The 2017 version of the Surface Pro (Microsoft has decided to dispense with version numbers) is a huge improvement on the previous iteration, showing that Microsoft has taken the time to listen to users and factor in their feedback on last year's device.
The Intel Core i5 version, and the expected Core m3 edition of the Surface Pro are both fanless thanks to an improved thermal design, and battery life has been improved. The Surface Pro's hinge has been improved too in response to comments from users, and can now bend back to a flatter 165-degree angle.
The Surface Pro's accessories – the Surface Pen and Type Cover – have also had a major reworking. The Surface Pen offers far more degrees of sensitivity, plus lower latency and tilt detection for artists and designers, while the Type Cover now features deeper-set keys covered with a material the feels more pleasant to the touch. Neither of these peripherals are included with the Surface Pro as standard though, so you'll have to buy them separately.
The Surface Pro's launch hasn't been entirely smooth, but Microsoft has responded quickly to users' worries.
One problem involved the device entering a 'Sleep' state at random intervals, sometimes causing them to lose work if they haven't been hitting the save button regularly. Thankfully, Microsoft was quick to respond and released a fix via the Windows Update Channel within days of the problem being reported.
The Surface line has had some other teething problems too. Earlier this month, leaked figures revealed that the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book both suffered from high return rates when they were first launched two years ago (around 17% for the Surface Book and 15% for the Surface Pro 4).
However, those numbers date from 2015, and the picture is now very different. Return rates are now around 3% and just under 5% for the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book respectively. It'll be interesting to see the initial return figures for the new Surface Pro once they're released.
Microsoft had another problem on its hands when Surface devices – including the new Surface Pro – came last in a reliability survey conducted by consumer watchdog and reviews outlet Consumer Reports. The site pulled all Surface product recommendations as a result of subscriber surveys claiming a two-year breakage rate of 25%.
In a blog post titled We Stand Behind Surface, Microsoft’s Panos Panay (corporate VP, Microsoft Devices) called the findings of Consumer Reports disappointing, and said that “predicted 1-2-year failure and actual return rates for Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are significantly lower than 25%”.
He further noted that "incidents per unit" as tracked by Microsoft were at record lows, and indeed under 1%.
Panay concluded: “We stand firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices.”
What's coming next?
We recently saw a leaked version of Microsoft's forthcoming Whiteboard app, which looks like a perfect fit for the new Surface Pro and Surface Pen. The app is essentially a collaborative drawing board for group brainstorming and doodling, and will include a customizable toolkit of pens, plus Bing image searches so you can find pictures for your presentations without opening your browser.
We're also expecting lots of additions and improvements in the Windows 10 Fall Creator's Update later this year.
One of the new tools coming soon is Windows Story Remix, which lets you combine lots of different media, including photos, 3D objects, videos and music, to create a mixed-reality presentation.
The Creator's Update will also see the introduction of Fluid Design – a new design language created with accessibility in mind. Fluid Design will make greater use of touch and ink, as well as voice, gaze and gesture on devices like the new Surface Pro.
Android fans will be interested to know that Microsoft recently pushed out a Windows 10 preview build with the ability to send links from your smartphone to a PC.
The new build also features enhanced Cortana commands, enabling you to sign out, shut down or restart your PC with your voice.
- It's not too late to shell out for the still-excellent Surface Pro 4