Surface Pro 4 takes on brand-new Surface Pro: Let’s see who comes out on top

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

It’s been nearly two years, but today Microsoft finally unveiled a successor to the wildly popular Surface Pro 4 — though it’s not called the Surface Pro 5, but simply “Surface Pro.” While technically the fifth Surface Pro, Microsoft’s latest pro-grade tablet has a pared-down naming scheme similar to Apple’s iPad, or Microsoft’s own Surface Book.

So, is the new Surface Pro worth the wait, or is it just another incremental update without any major changes? Let’s dig into the specs just to see what the new Surface Pro is capable of.

Specifications Compared

Surface Pro 4

New Surface Pro

Dimensions 11.50 x 7.93 x 0.33 (in) 11.50 x 7.9 x 0.33 (in)
Weight  1.6 – 1.73 pounds 1.69 – 1.73 pounds
Processor  Intel Core m3-6Y30, Intel Core i5-6300U, Intel Core i7-6650U Intel Core m3-7Y30, Intel Core i5-7300U, Intel Core i7-7660U
RAM 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
Display 12.3-in PixelSense Display 12.3-in PixelSense Display
Resolution 2,736 x 1,824 2,736 x 1,824
Storage 128GB, 256Gb, 512Gb, 1TB SSD 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD
Networking 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports 1x USB Type-A, Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader 1x USB Type-A, Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, microSDXC card reader
Webcam Windows Hello face sign-in camera, 5.0MP 1080p front-facing camera, 8.0MP 1080p rear-facing autofocus camera Windows Hello face sign-in camera, 5.0MP 1080p front-facing camera, 8.0MP 1080p rear-facing autofocus camera
Operating System Windows 10 Windows 10
Battery Up to 9 hours Up to 13.5 hours
Price $700+ $800+
Availability Available now Available June 15, 2017
Review 8 out of 10 Hands-on

Not quite identical

Just looking at the specs, it’s clear that this is an incremental update rather than a radical redesign. Microsoft updated the Surface Pro’s CPU lineup to include Intel’s latest 7th-generation “Kaby Lake” processors, but there’s more to the new Surface Pro than meets the eye.

Inside, Microsoft has revamped the cooling system to make the internal fans quieter, and for one Surface Pro model, eliminate them entirely. That’s right: The Intel Core m3 and Intel Core i5 models are actually fan-less, relying only on clever thermal management to keep cool. With the Surface Pro 4, that was true only for the m3 version.

Microsoft claims even the Intel Core i7 Surface Pro model leverages advancements in thermal management to run faster and quieter, despite internal cooling fans. Battery life has also improved, up to 13.5 hours from the Pro 4’s 9 hours.

Otherwise, the new Surface Pro features the same storage and RAM options as the Surface Pro 4, and even the display is the same.

Refined and refreshed

Microsoft claims the new Surface Pro has received a complete, top-to-bottom “mechanical re-engineering.” Internally, the new Surface Pro features a few updated internal components, but the exterior remains relatively unchanged. The dimensions are the same, the weight is a little different, and visually both the Surface Pro 4 and new Surface Pro appear nearly identical.

There are a few small changes, though, such as the keyboard. While the original Surface Pro 4’s detachable keyboard cover was solid, it felt a little stiff. The new keyboard cover, while it looks almost identical to the previous model, features improved key travel, which makes the overall typing experience much less tiresome. The new keys have nice travel — sinking a little deeper than before — and provide less resistance.

Additionally, the new Surface Pro offers full support for the Surface Dial — that fancy peripheral designed for use with the Surface Studio. Anything the Studio can do with the dial, now the Surface Pro can do. It’s a welcome addition, particularly if you already own a Studio, but the Dial itself doesn’t shine quite as brightly as it does on the Surface Studio’s generous display. Placing the Dial on a 12.3-inch display ends up occluding your view significantly, so it does its best work on a desk right beside the Surface Pro.

These aren’t major changes on their own, but they contribute to an overall improvement to the Surface Pro’s user experience, as Microsoft continues to refine the Surface Pro formula.

So, which one should you buy?

That might seem like a tough question given their similarities, but the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Pro are also remarkably similar in one very important respect: Price. The Surface Pro 4 starts at $700, while the new Surface Pro starts at $800. That’s not a big margin, and while the two products are remarkably similar, the new Surface Pro has enough of a leg up on the old Surface Pro 4 that it’s definitely the one you should go with if you’re on the fence.