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Microsoft Unveils New Surface Pro With Better Pen, Longer Endurance

Numbers are so 2016, so for the next edition of Microsoft's class-defining detachable, the company is skipping the 5 and going with something even simpler. Say hello the new Surface Pro.

Starting at $799, the exterior of the Surface Pro looks a lot like previous models. A close looks reveals a slightly more rounded, less edgy design, but you still get Microsoft's 12.3-inch Pixel Sense display, an adjustable kickstand and a sturdy magnesium body. Ports haven't changed either. The Surface Pro sports one USB 3.0 Type-A port, a mini DisplayPort, Microsoft's proprietary Surface Connect port and a microSD card reader hidden behind the kickstand. Those hoping for USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 are out of luck.

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Where the new Surface Pro improves on earlier versions is with a kickstand that reclines even further -- all the way back to 15 degrees -- while also quadrupling the Surface Pro's stylus sensitivity from 1024 levels of pressure to 4096 and reducing its input lag. The Surface Pro can even measure the angle at which you are holding then pen, so you can tilt to adjust the shape or texture of what you are drawing. And like the Surface Pro's big brother, the Surface Studio, the new detachable will also support that Surface Dial as both an on or off-screen creation tool.

Somewhat disappointingly, the Surface Pro's Type Cover still doesn't come in the box, and unlike previous generations, the Surface Pen won't come included either. Both will be available as optional extras, and will be available in four colors (platinum, burgundy, cobalt blue and black) that match the ones we saw on the Surface Laptop earlier this month. On the bright side, the magnets in the Type Cover are now even stronger, which should make using the Surface Pro on your lap a less frustrating endeavor.

When I got a chance to go hands-on with the new Surface Pro, using the new Type Cover felt quite similar to previous models, though since Microsoft's keyboard is already the best in its class, that's not really a bad thing. As for the inking experience, for an untrained hand like mine, it's hard to notice the effect of the Surface Pro's additional pressure sensitive. However, the tilt effect is readily apparent, and it's a fantastic addition even for the most casual of sketchers.

The biggest difference for the new Surface Pro is on the inside. Not only does the tablet features an Intel 7th Generation Core Series CPU, but the Microsoft says that battery life has improved by 50 percent.

The company has also made some big moves on the software front by taking a lot of the great inking features found in OneNote and expanding them to the whole Microsoft Office 365 suite, a move which will benefit anyone who uses Windows 10 with a pen. Now, your personal color palette, highlighters and favorite pen tips will be available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint across multiple machines, so you can spend less time configuring your tools and more time being productive. Microsoft has also built new smart selection tools, so you can draw a circle around a section of text to select it, or instead, draw a big "x' to delete it. It's a super intuitive way to edit and markup and essay, and was designed with the input of a group of local teachers.

The new inking features will even let you playback and rewind your notes so teachers can do things like see where a student went awry while solving a certain equation or if they are using the correct stroke when writing Chinese characters. These features will be available to all Office 365 subscribers starting in June.

For office workers around the world, the most tantalizing improvement could be Microsoft's new Whiteboard app, which takes the simplicity of drawing charts and diagrams on a physical board into the digital era. Soon you'll be able to use all of Microsoft's inking features to collaborate in real time, without the hassle of setting up cameras and conference calls. Unfortunately, there's still no conconcrete release date for the Whiteboard app.

The new Surface Pro will be available in a number of configurations, from Intel Core m to Core i7 CPUs, 4GB to 16GB of RAM and varying amounts of SSD storage. Both the Core m and Core i5 version will be fanless. On top of that, there will also be a model with 4G LTE, a first for the Surface Pro line.

In the end, the new Surface Pro is a logical evolution for Microsoft's flagship detachable, but what company is doing on the inside to improve the Windows Inking experience in Office 365 is even more significant. I'm a little disappointed that Microsoft has refrained from sprucing up the Surface Pro with a USB-C port, especially one of the Thunderbolt 3 variety. But if new Surface Pro can deliver anywhere close to it's claims for 50 percent extra battery life, it seems that Microsoft's flagship detachable will still be the system every other company is chasing.

Pre-orders for the new Surface Pro are available today, with the official launch slated for June 15.

Credit: Samuel Rutherford/Laptop Mag

While the Surface Pro itself will only be available in gray, the Surface Pen will be come in gray, black, burgundy and cobalt blue.

Check out all of the Surface Pro's new accessories in all their colors.

Editing an essay is now as simple circling something to select it, dragging the Surface Pen across a phrase to highlight it or X-ing something out to delete it.

From the back, the new Surface Pro looks pretty much identical to previous models.

For the first time, the Surface Pen will not come included with the purchase of a Surface Pro.

Thanks to increased pressure sensitivity and reduced input lag, your art can now be even more detailed.

Thanks to stronger magnets inside the Type Cover, using a Surface Pro on your lap should be more stable than before.

Aside from the new Type Cover with in burgundy Alcantara, the new Surface Pro still has the same profile from the side.

The new and improved hinge on the Surface Pro is stiffer and can now recline all the way down to 15 degrees.

The Whiteboard app promises to usher in a new era of digital collaboration.

Even though screen estate is more limited than on a Surface Studio, the Surface Dial can still be used as an onscreen creative device with the Surface Pro.

Sam is a former penguin trainer and archery instructor who dabbles in esports and has lived on three different continents. If you have some comments on new tech or the best noodle spots in NYC, drop a line @SamRutherford.