New Surface Pro - Performance, battery and conclusion

Score

Sections

Surface Pro – Performance

Microsoft is currently offering the Surface in the configurations below, and performance will vary greatly depending on which you pick.
 

  • 4GB RAM/128GB SSD/Core m3, Intel HD Graphics 615  – £799
  • 4GB RAM/128GB SSD/Core i5, Intel HD Graphics 620 – £979
  • 8GB RAM/256GB SSD/Core i5, Intel HD Graphics 620 – £1249
  • 8GB RAM/256GB SSD/Core i7, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – £1549
  • 16GB RAM/512GB SSD/Core i7, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – £2149 (tested)
  • 16GB RAM/1TB SSD/Core i7, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – £2699

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 Surface Pro

Each of the CPUs falls into Intel’s latest seventh-generation Kaby Lake family, which as we noted in our dedicated review, offers marginal performance and moderate power-efficiency improvements over the company’s previous generation of chips.
 
Doing a direct comparison with the Surface Pro 4 is tricky, as I reviewed the i5 model, while the new Pro I tested features an Intel Core i7-7660U. However, it did perform admirably during TrustedReviews’ suite of synthetic benchmark tests.
 
The Surface Pro 4’s 4603 single-core and 9300 multi-core Geekbench 4 scores put it well above competing convertibles, and on a par with some Ultrabooks.
 
The new Surface Pro’s 2778 PCMark 8 score is also impressive, and while you won’t want to do anything more than casual gaming on the Surface Pro, its 60,096 score in the graphics-focused 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme benchmark is solid.

Related: Best laptops
 Surface Pro

The 512GB Samsung PCIe 3.0 SSD’s 1670MB/s and 915MB/s read and write speeds are also suitably nippy, but they sit below top-end laptops such as the Apple MacBook Pro, which offers incredible 2000MB/s-plus read and 1700MB/s write speeds.
 
In real-world use the benchmark scores rang true, and in general I didn’t have any issue with the Surface Pro’s performance. Multimedia browsing and casual bouts of Minecraft and Darkest Dungeon are well within its capabilities.
 
Large-scale digital painting projects and 3D modelling in Blender also ran silky smooth, although with prolonged use the device does noticeably heat up – not to lap-burning levels, however. It’s not overly loud either; during lengthy digital painting sessions the cooling fan didn’t kick up a fuss, although it was quite a lot louder when doing 3D work, but I’d wager you won’t find any fan-cooled laptop that doesn’t get a bit loud when working in 3D.  It’s worth bearing in mind that both the m3 and Core i5 are both fanless, so will remain completely silent, at the expense of a bit of performance.
 
My only minor quibble is that, despite featuring an upgraded 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, the new Surface Pen’s use of N-trig – not Wacom – tech means that, out of the box, it doesn’t play well with commonly used freeware programs such as Krita.
 
If you use programs such as this, you’ll have to download custom drivers to take advantage of the stylus’ pressure sensitivity.

 
Surface Pro – Battery

Microsoft quotes the new Surface as offering up to 13.5 hours’ video playback off a single charge, which is a cut above the Pro 4’s nine-hour estimate.
 
Running our standard battery test, which involves synthetically looping 10 minutes of web browsing and five minutes of video playback with the screen brightness set to 150 nits in Powermark, the device lasted an average of eight hours – which is very good.
 
Competing Windows 10 convertibles I’ve tested generally last between four and seven hours running the same test. The equivalently sized Asus Transformer Pro 3 lasted only 4 hours 45 minutes running the same test, by comparison.
 
Battery life with real-world use was also positive. Using the Surface Pro as my primary work machine it managed to get through a regular nine-to-five day off a single charge. The day involved a morning video call, constant web browsing and word processing, plus the odd spot of image resizing.
 
Intensive tasks such as gaming put a bigger dent in the battery life. Playing some low-power Steam games, the tablet lost 15-25% of its charge per hour.
 Surface Pro

Should I buy the Surface Pro?

The Surface Pro isn’t a groundbreaking device. Outside of improved battery life and a moderately tweaked design it’s all but identical to its predecessor. As a result, if you’ve already shelled out for a Surface Pro 4 then I wouldn’t recommend bothering with an upgrade. Given how old the SP4 is, this is a bit disappointing.
 
The lack of significant changes also makes the Surface Pro 4, which has since dropped in price, a compelling option for buyers on a budget while it remains on sale.
 
But for everyone else the new Surface Pro is a fantastic device. Thanks to the upgrade to Kaby Lake, the Surface has one of the best-performing batteries I’ve seen in a Windows 10 convertible and offers fantastic performance that will meet 99% of people’s needs.
 
My only serious issue is that Microsoft is still selling the Type Cover and Surface Pen stylus, required to make the most of the device, as expensive add-ons.
 
Considering the Surface Pro is already expensive, it makes the new Pro feel far worse value for money than competing devices such as the incoming Huawei MateBook E or 2016 Asus Transformer Pro 3, which come with one, if not both, of those accessories in the box.
 

Verdict

Still one of the best 2-in-1s around, but it’s not a big enough upgrade from its predecessor.

Score in detail

  • Performance 9
  • Keyboard 8
  • Design 8
  • Screen Quality 7
  • Build Quality 9
  • Value 7
  • Touchpad 8
  • Heat & Noise 8
  • Battery Life 8
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