Microsoft just released an updated version of their Surface Pro laptop/tablet hybrid. It's not a total redesign but it's still a pretty unique product. Yes, there are other tablets on the market, but nothing that works quite like this.
What is it?
The Microsoft Surface Pro is a touchscreen tablet with a kickstand that has full blown laptop components and runs Windows 10. It's a tablet when you want it to be and it's a laptop when you add on the optional Surface Pro Type Cover. What really makes the Surface Pro unique is it's ability to be paired with the Surface Pen, which happens to be all new and better than ever.
The new Surface Pro looks almost identical to the last one. It's got upgraded internals including the all new i7 7660U processor and a larger battery. The pen is all new and it reduces lag, has four times more pressure sensitivity, and is now a separate $100 purchase. The Surface Pro Signature type cover is also an optional accessory (that you will definitely need) that has a better typing experience and an alcantara fabric finish for another $160.
To Touch, or Not To Touch
I'm a Windows user all the way but I'm the first to admit that I love my iPhone and my iPad. IOS was designed with touch in mind and therefore, anyone can pick up an IOS device and know how to use it. Windows 10 is getting better for touch but it still isn't totally optimized. Surfing the web works fairly well with touch and you can turn your desktop into "tablet mode" which makes the icons and the start menu larger, but there is still so much more that you can do with the Surface Pro that isn't touch optimized. Because of this, I find myself using the Surface Pro most as a standard laptop, using the keyboard and mouse, rather than using my finger or the pen to touch the screen.
I tried to get into using the Wacom tablet years ago and I never could make it work for me. For that reason I'm probably not the best person to review the pens ability to edit images on the Surface Pro. I will say that the pen is better than ever and I do know many photographers who enjoy using the Surface Pro and pen for their retouching. If you already use a tablet, you will probably love it, if you don't, it'll take some getting used to.
How Powerful Is It?
The new top of the line Surface Pro has an I7 7660U dual core processor which is capable of editing 4k video footage smoothly in Adobe Premiere. If you try to play the footage back at double speed, frames will begin to drop and you'll have to start and stop playback to get caught up. This is not a deal breaker, but it does not perform as well has quad core processors found in larger laptops. Last week I did a Premiere render test on five different laptops. The older Dell XPS 15 was able to render the project out in around 3:30, The new Apple Macbook Pro 15 was able to export the project in 6:04, and the new Surface Pro could export this same project in 8:30. This proves to me that the Surface Pro is an incredible mobile option but it certainly isn't the most power laptop for rendering.
What I Love About It
The Surface Pro is the most convenient laptop/tablet that I've ever traveled with. If I'm surfing the web, I can just leave the keyboard in my bag and use the Surface Pro like an iPad. But, when it's time to actually get some work done, I can snap the keyboard back on, attach my wireless mouse, and use it like a normal laptop. The screen is a bit small to be used as my main editing laptop, but I still find myself doing everything on my Surface Pro that I can do on my larger laptops or my desktop. I haven't had the Surface Pro long enough to fully test out the battery life, but it does seem like a significant improvement. It seems silly but I love the kickstand. It's awesome being able to stand a tablet up without having to use an extra accessory. This kickstand is better than ever as it allows for even more angles.
What I Don't Love
As I mentioned above, I want a better touch experience in Windows and in the programs that I use on a regular basis. This may be too much to ask though. It's almost impossible to create a UI that works for both a mouse and touch and this is obviously the reason that Apple still hasn't released a touch screen mac.
In a perfect world I'd like to have a thinner Surface Pro with a larger screen and thinner bezel. Right now, the Surface Pro is the perfect size for a tablet but it's a little small to be my mobile work station. If they could incorporate some sort of external GPU in the future, this really could become my only laptop.
I also wish that the Surface Pro had a few more ports on it. One USB jack doesn't really cut it for me and I've had issues with USB hubs not working reliably. Luckily Microsoft makes the best dock/hub I've ever used.
The Ultimate Accessory Nobody Talks About
My favorite part about both the Surface Book and Surface Pro is the optional Surface Dock. This optional $200 accessory is an absolute must for me. This dock sits on your table and with a single magnetic connector it will power your Surface Pro plus give you four USB 3.0 ports, two mini display ports, an audio port, and an ethernet port. This dock makes using the Surface Pro as your main, and potentially only computer very possible because when you get home you can plug your Surface into the dock with a single cable and instantly dual monitors and all of your accessories will come to life. When my desktop at home died last year I used this setup with my Surface Pro for months. The only reason I purchased another desktop was because the Surface Pro doesn't have a GPU that can play video games. If you don't game, you may not need a dedicated GPU at all.
The Surface Pro starts at $799 and quickly jumps up to $2699 for the top of the line version (that I've been testing). If this is going to be your main computer, go crazy, buy the expensive one. For me though, the Surface Pro has become the laptop that I travel with when I'm not working on a video project. Because of that, I personally would purchase the $1599 version that has the i7 processor, 256gb SSD, and 8gb of RAM. It's powerful enough to run all of my Adobe software and is $1100 cheaper than the top of the line version. Keep in mind that you will definitely want to buy the premium keyboard for $160, the Surface Dock for $200, and you may want to buy the new pen for $100. It's not cheap, but you're paying a premium for a very niche product.
The new Surface Pro isn't a game changer but it is a nice upgrade from the previous version. If you're reading this I assume that you are a photographer or videographer and I can't honestly say that this is the best choice if you only have the money for a single computer. But if you're anything like me, your main machine is probably a desktop computer and you're looking for something like the Surface Pro to travel with. If you prefer to use a mouse the Surface Pro is not the ultimate mobile workstation, it's a tablet that can also be a workstation when you need it to be. However, if you're a retoucher or digital artist who uses a stylus, the Surface Pro may actually be the most valuable tool you own.