With its recent announcement of a Windows 10 Devices event on October 6, Microsoft has all but confirmed that its next-generation Surface Pro will make an appearance soon. What we don’t know, however, is what kind of improvements Microsoft has in store for its laptop-killing flagship hybrid. But the rumor mill has some pretty convincing reports, so let’s take a look at what may come on the Surface Pro 4.
In an effort to court enterprise adoption of the Surface, Microsoft has already said the its next generation tablet will support the existing Surface Pro 3 Type Cover and accessories such as the Surface Pro 3 docking station. This would let businesses upgrade to new hardware without repurchasing the $130 detachable keyboards, but it also means that the general dimensions of the system shouldn't change too much. That means you'll likely get something close to 11.5 x 7.8 x 0.36-inches with a kickstand, bright HD+ display, stylus, and magnetic port for connecting Microsoft's detachable Type Cover keyboard.
The Surface Mini, which we expected to release last year along with the Surface Pro 3, could finally make its debut at the Windows 10 Devices event. This rumored Microsoft hybrid is expected to pack a screen size between 7 and 9 inches (the regular Surface 3 features a 10.8-inch screen).
Last year’s Surface Pro 3 shipped with a 12-inch, 2160 x 1440 display, and while that's already plenty of pixels, we wouldn’t put it past Microsoft to try to one up Apple and the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro's super dense 2732 x 2048 resolution.
However, last fall, Taiwanese site Digitimes reported that Microsoft was planning to roll out an even larger version of the Surface Pro, which means we could see either see the display size jump to 13 or 14 inches, or see a separate, plus-sized variation of the Surface Pro 4.
The biggest improvement in power should come in the form of Intel’s new sixth generation Skylake CPUs. Intel’s new chips allow for increased battery life, significantly better graphics performance and smoother 4K video playback. Options for RAM and storage will likely stay the same, with choices for either 4GB of 8GB of memory, and SSDs from 64GB all the way up to 512GB.
On the other hand, a conflicting report from Chinese site 36KR says that the upcoming Surface Pro 4 may stick with a Broadwell CPU in an attempt to go completely fanless. This seems less likely, though, given that the upcoming Windows 10 event is taking place just a short time after Intel’s Skylake launch.
Even though Microsoft said the Surface Pro 4 would be backward compatible with the existing Surface Pro 3 keyboards, that doesn’t stop it from unveiling a new and improved Type Cover at the October Event as well. Microsoft has been iterating on its folding keyboard accessory with every version of the Surface, and the latest non-pro Surface 3 featured a keyboard with a noticeably improved feel and a more satisfying tactile actuation than the one that shipped with the Surface Pro 3. We may even see the return of a chiclet-style layout, which both Apple and Lenovo have embraced on their latest tablet hybrids.
The Surface Pro 4's stylus should be similar to last generation's. Earlier this year, Microsoft bought the Surface Pen's underlying tech from N-trig, the Israel-based company responsible for originally developing the software.
Regardless of what bits and bytes end up shipping on the final surface Pro 4, what we’re really looking for is Microsoft’s ability to push the growing category of productivity-friendly hybrids forward. Lenovo’s Miix 700 offers an impressive value starting at $699 (with a detachable keyboard included), and Apple's upcoming iPad Pro offers iOS users something made for more than just watching movies and playing Monument Valley. Just remember to check back in on October 6 to see how things shake out.