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Microsoft Surface Pro review: Pro by name, pro by nature

The new Surface Pro is finally here. Microsoft's long-awaited follow-up to the Surface Pro 4 has dropped the number - and that's not the only change. Improvements both great and small have been made across the board, and the Surface Pro is looking more than ever like a lean, mean, hybrid business machine.

Specs and performance

The company's flagship convertible line is known for its power and performance, and the latest model is no exception. Microsoft has packed the new Surface Pro with Intel's latest Kaby Lake processors, with the top-end model sporting a Core i7 processor and a sizeable 16GB of RAM.

As you might expect, this means it's very nippy indeed, and it managed to rack up a blazing score of 60 in our benchmarks, blowing pretty much all its competitors out of the water. For reference, that's better than the Dell XPS 13, the Surface Laptop and even the HP Elitebook X360. If you're looking for power, this little machine has it in spades.

Convertible devices are sometimes a little lacking in the battery department, but that's not the case here. In our battery tests, the Surface Pro lasted more than 11 and a half hours. That's an absolutely stonking result, and you can count on Microsoft's new hybrid to power you through even the most demanding workdays, and then some.

Display

Unsurprisingly, the display is also excellent. Microsoft has built this device for graphic designers, and the quality of the 12.3in PixelSense screen is immediately evident. Brightness is blazing, and the deep contrast levels make it as excellent for office work as it is for watching movies on.

Covering almost 95% of the sRGB colour spectrum, this display should be perfect for photo editing and the gorgeous 2736 x 1824 screen means that both pictures and video will look pin-sharp and packed with detail.

TypeCover keyboard

The Surface Pro's TypeCover keyboard has been updated, too. You may be hard-pressed to tell the difference, though, as hardly anything has changed from the Surface Pro 4's keyboard. That's no bad thing - the previous TypeCover was truly excellent. Not only was it by far the best detachable laptop keyboard we'd ever seen, it was one of the best laptop keyboards around, full stop.

Thankfully, the new TypeCover retains this crown, and the minor additions that Microsoft has made - a slightly increased travel distance on the keys and a water-resistant Alcantara covering - have only made it better. It's beaten by the keyboard on the latest MacBook Pro - but not by much.

Design and appearance

In terms of the device's actual design, very little has changed compared to the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft has pretty much nailed the perfect design for a detachable hybrid - as evidenced by the legions of companies that have since copied it - and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The new model is a tiny bit thinner and lighter than the Pro 4 and the hinge has been slightly improved, but otherwise, it's business as usual.

A good thing, too; the Surface Pro is absolutely lovely. Thin and light, with an attractive, matte-finished chassis, it's by far one of the most eye-catching devices on the market - and that's including Apple's range of devices.

Ports and features

Another touch that will please creatives and digital artists is the new Surface Pen, which has been upgraded from last generation's model. Microsoft has more than quadrupled the level of pressure sensitivity and added tilt shading to make it even more like using a real pencil.

If there's one flaw, it's in Microsoft's choice of ports. The Surface Pro has just one USB 3.0 port and a mini DisplayPort, and doesn't support the emerging USB-C standard. The main benefit of using USB-C is that one port can do everything - it allows you to charge your device, connect peripherals like keyboards, mice and displays and even connect to wired internet networks. It's great for agile working, because you don't need to spend five minutes unplugging everything if you need to duck out of the office in a hurry.

It's a shame that the Surface Pro doesn't support this, as it's the only thing holding it back from being the best business device on the market today.

Verdict

Even with these scant flaws in mind though, the Surface Pro is an absolutely excellent piece of kit. It's small, attractive and almost scarily powerful.

Be warned, though: it doesn't come cheap. The Surface Pro starts at £800, and tops out at well over two and a half grand for the most expensive model. It's a lot of money, admittedly, but on the other hand, you're getting one of the most capable machines on the planet for your investment.

Microsoft's latest flagship is the peak of the company's research and development efforts. It may be expensive, but for those that can afford it, it's the best Windows hybrid around.

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