Microsoft Surface Pro (mid-2017) Review

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Every big player in the laptop market knows the demand for convertible notebook models. Microsoft’s answer to this need (or should I rather say, want) is Surface Pro, a detachable laptop first released in 2013. During the years, this notebook has been one of the most popular 2-in-1 models, and on 15 June 2017 yet another version will be released. By the time writing of this review, rarely anyone had true hands on experience with the product, so the below post concentrates on various advantages and disadvantages the Surface Pro offers for you.

From Entry Level to Top Shelf Performance, the Choice is Up to You

Microsoft didn’t make just one Surface Pro; instead, they smartly created several different versions with different processors, memory and storage drive. The line begins from Intel Core m3 powered entry-level ultrabook, and end ups in a powerhouse commanded by 7th Gen Core i7. There’s also Surface Pro with Core i5 if a mid-range version interests you. The m3 and i5 models are fanless while the i7 has a fan to keep the heavyweight processor cool.

In the same vein as the processor, also RAM comes in different amounts. You have the option to choose 4GB, 8GB or 16GB versions. These are the most common memory configurations for today, with four gigabytes being for home and 16GB for power users after multitasking and complex software support. At least the previous Surface Pro had memory connected to the mainboard; if the same is true here, the RAM won’t be upgradeable. The solid-state drive options are 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1024GB, and according to the same article, they can be replaced by a skilled user.

To call Surface Pro gaming friendly would be a lie. No matter the processor / RAM / storage configuration you won’t get a dedicated graphics card here. Even if you choose the i7 version you are confined within the limitations of Intel HD, an integrated graphics engine. Getting some heavier games, like Grand Theft Auto 5 or The Witcher 3, work with plenty of eye candy on wouldn’t be feasible. Yet, you can throw in an older game and be rather confident about its smooth frame rates!

Smaller Display, Bigger Resolution, Different Aspect Ratio

The smallish 12.3-inch screen is exactly why this product is a prime example of mobile computing. The display itself contributes to the 1.7 pounds weight and 0.33 inches thickness of the whole unit. Not only is the display compact, it also sports a sharp and fresh 2736 x 1824 resolution. Indeed, this configuration is not standard in many other notebooks, thus there is no fancy name like Full HD or Quad HD for it. The 2736 x 1824 resolution is a by-product of 3:2 aspect ratio, which many people find more enjoyable than the usual HDTV-like 16×9 or 16×10. One of the reasons for 3:2 superiority is the added screen estate. So, expect sharp image from this screen, and use it with your fingers (10-point touch) or the separately sold pen!

The Surface Pro 2017 has two useful cameras, located in front and back. The front-facing one supports up to 5.0MP photos with 1080p video, while the rear-facing cam has autofocus feature, 8.0MP photos and 1080p video capture.

First Look Video

A Couple of Ports for Minimum Connectivity

Not a surprising feature, the ports selection of the new Surface Pro is not astonishingly large. The small frame puts a limitation on how many connectors you can include, and Microsoft has decided to add a basic set: one USB 3.0, one miniDisplayPort, headphone port and Surface Connect (for power). MicroSD card reader is provided as well; too bad it’s not a full-sized one, which would be most useful for connecting a digital camera. Another quirk is the exclusion of USB Type-C – Microsoft thinks the new USB-C standard is not ready for their customers.

The Surface Pro 2017 offers 802.11ac wireless networking support, and is compatible with Bluetooth 4.1 too. There is no Ethernet port on these smaller models, however an USB dongle exists to solve this problem.

Battery Life not as Advertised, Plus a Few Miscellaneous Things

With big letters and much of hype, the Surface Pro 2017 battery life is advertised as fantastic: Microsoft speaks about 50% longer duration than Surface Pro 4, and mentions up to 13.5 hours battery life. Well, if the notebook actually reached that it would be almost the longest battery life there currently is. However, this was tested by Microsoft with video playback only – which is not a resemblance of how actual people use the laptop. Thus, my estimation is that in real life, 10 hours would be the maximum, with more or less 8 hours being the average you get out of this battery with one charge.

The product, naturally, works with a pen which is unfortunately not included. Another, perhaps more alarming disadvantage is the exclusion of keyboard. You need to buy the keyboard separately as well – if you want to use this Surface Pro like a laptop, that is.

The pre-installed operating system is Windows 10 Professional, the more advanced version than just the Home (Pro has, for example, work domain and remote desktop support).

Display worth it - In early reviews and user reports one thing can be found: people like the display. When you get used to the 3:2 aspect ratio you'll see the combination of high resolution and screen estate takes even a power user far!

Lightweight - At heaviest (the i7 version), this model weighs well under 2 pounds. Add in the less than half an inch thickness and you got a really portable, lightweight notebook at your fingertips.

No USB-C - Even though the Surface Pro 2017 is pricey and otherwise modern, Microsoft opted out of USB Type-C connector on these models. You will need to do with the basic USB 3.0 port the laptop offers.

Pen and keyboard not included - If you want to use the pen, or use the Surface Pro like a laptop, you'll need to buy the stylus and keyboard separately.

Microsoft Surface Pro of 2017 is a flexible, snappy detachable laptop without big flaws. For the demanding folks, it will provide up to Core i7 level performance, however the Core i5 (or Core M) versions will offer a lot for the modern user. The screen’s high resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio also contributes to crisp image and enjoyable overall experience. The battery life won’t be nearly as long as advertised, so do not be disappointed to see your unit running for eight hours or so. Yet, all in all, the Surface Pro delivers: it’s the essential sleek, fast and responsive detachable notebook of 2017!

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