Surface Pro Review Roundup: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Microsoft's new Surface Pro provides portability and power. Starting at $799, this new Windows 2-in-1 boasts a stunning PixelSense touch screen display and improved Type Cover keyboard and great performance from its 7th-generation Kaby Lake processor. But it's certainly not perfect.
While the Surface Pro has received largely positive reviews, critics have spotted a few flaws, too. Here's a summary of our Surface Pro review, plus other critiques from around the web.
"The most noticeable change is on the kickstand, which now opens all the way to 165 degrees. This lets the Surface Pro transform into a low-profile drawing surface."
Score: 4 stars out of 5
Laptop's Sam Rutherford reviewed the Surface Pro and found a lot of value in its top-notch 2-in-1 design. Noting the Surface Pro's compact size, he pointed out that its 2.39-pound weight (Type Cover included) was significantly lighter than other laptops and 2-in-1s. "Sure, the company has rounded off a few edges to make the Surface Pro a little curvier and more pleasant to hold, but all the familiar elements are here," Rutherford said.
The real star of the show was the Surface Pro's PixelSense display, which impressed with its resolution and brightness. Its aspect ratio also earned a shoutout for offering vertical screen real estate when you want to work, while being wide enough for users to enjoy videos. Additionally, the Surface Pro earned high marks for its soft-touch Alcantara Type Cover, excellent keyboard and above-average cooling (it measured 87 degrees Fahrenheit after 15 minutes of YouTube streaming at 1080p in our heat test).
However, the Surface Pro has some drawbacks. Rutherford knocked Microsoft's missed chance at including USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports: "A company as large and influential as Microsoft should be influencing connectivity standards instead of kicking the can down the road." Other shortcomings include an occasionally problematic kickstand and its sold-separately Surface accessories.
The battery life has been improved, but it's still behind other ultraportable laptops.
"It is as good as or better than its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4, in every way. And yet, the new machine strikes me as unambitious in a way that older models weren't."
Score: None given
Ars Technica's Peter Bright said there have been some improvements to Microsoft's Surface Pro, but he was more impressed with the revamped, 4,096-pressure level Surface Pen than he was with the Pro. Aside from that, the Surface Pro provided Bright with a "first-rate typing experience," and had a healthy battery life and speedy runtime.
On the downside, Bright took issue with the Surface Pro's lack of innovation. "Where Surface Pro 3 nailed the basics of this approach, and Surface Pro 4 added refinement, the fifth-gen Surface Pro does little to push the envelope," he concluded.
Bright also conveyed his misgivings about the missing ports, cleanliness of the Alcantara Type Cover accessory and the 2-in-1's relatively high price.
"Microsoft's flagship Surface Pro gets an extremely conservative update, but better battery life keeps it the gold standard of Windows hybrid PCs — for now."
Score: 4 stars out of 5
Dan Ackerman at CNET couldn't help but note just how similar the Surface Pro looks to the Surface Pro 4; however, he added, "there's another adage at work here: If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Ackerman was impressed by the Surface Pro's evolution in terms of CPU performance, battery life, fanless models and flexible kickstand, which he believes are gold standards in Windows tablets. "It still feels modern and practical, despite only incremental changes," he said. Another great feature added to the Surface Pro is Windows Hello facial-recognition software, which can instantly log you in via webcam.
Beyond these improvements, Ackerman noted the Surface Pro isn't great for lap use and can be pricey if you want to use keyboard covers or the Surface Pen, since they no longer come in a bundle. Moreover, the magnetic power connector is awkward to use, but it's at least helpful if you happen to be someone who easily trips over wires.
"What sells the new Surface Pro is on the inside: a dramatic upgrade to the processor and graphics that propels it to the head of the 2-in-1 class."
Score: 3.5 stars out of 5
Mark Hachman at PC World focused on the Surface Pro's internal components, such as its 7th-generation Kaby Lake processor and Iris Plus integrated graphics: "The new Surface Pro almost doubles the performance of the two-year-old Surface Pro 4, and challenges notebooks like the original Surface Book." Other notable features include color-enhancement mode, Bluetooth 4.1, stereo microphones and speakers with Dolby Audio Premium, and front- and rear-facing 1080p cameras.
As mentioned in other reviews, the Surface Pro has improved in battery life, but that time is nowhere near Microsoft's promised 13.5 hours, nor does the Surface Pro push the boundaries of 2-in-1s. The Surface Pro's premium features also call for a premium price tag. What proved more disappointing were the thermal throttling under prolonged use and inferior kickstand in regard to "lapability."
"Between its battery life improvements and the enhancements to the pen experience that have been added to Windows 10, the new Surface Pro is ready for the mainstream."
Score: 8.1 stars out of 10
The Verge's Dan Seifert believes most people will be happy with the $1,300 Surface Pro," which happens to include 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a Core i5 processor. Another feature that Seifert said buyers would appreciate is the Surface Pro's crisp 12.3-inch screen, which displays pixels at 2736 x 1824 — a helpful feature when you're working with multiple documents on the go.
Like other critics, Seifert said Microsoft has taken a step backward design-wise with its untrendy bezels and refusal to add USB Type-C ports. In addition, pricing for the Surface Pro has increased enough that users may skip out on buying Surface Pens and Type Covers and potentially miss out on the "Surface experience." Or as Seifert put it, "The irony that Microsoft is now referring to the Surface Pro as a ‘laptop,' yet still doesn't include a keyboard with it is pretty rich."
Photo credit: Keith Agnello / Laptop Mag