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Microsoft’s 2017 Surface Pro and the law of diminishing returns


Microsoft’s Surface Pro lineup have pretty much set the standard for the 2-in-1 detachable category. I don’t think there’s a device in the market right now that can really match the package Microsoft offers with their Surface Pro.

But, like Surface Pros tend to be, they’re very expensive and that usually begs the question: Is it worth the premium over the other, more affordable, 2-in-1 detachables in the market? Well, today I got to spend some time with Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro and here’s what I think.

Before I begin, let’s get some specs out of the way. Microsoft’s new Surface Pro isn’t so much a new device than it is a refresh of the old Surface Pro 4. As a result, you get the usual bump in specifications including an upgrade to the newer 7th generation Intel Core processors (m3, i5 and i7) plus several nice hardware upgrades. These include a more refined magnesium shell with more rounded corners and more recessed cooling vents for a sleeker overall look. At a glance, though, don’t expect the untrained eye to be able to distinguish it from its predecessor.

Besides that, the Core m3 and Core i5 models are also completely fanless, which makes the device lighter than the Surface Pro 4. A reduction in weight for something you usually carry around all-day is definitely a welcomed feature.

Further, Microsoft also developed a brand new hinge mechanism for the Surface Pro which means it can now open far further than it used to, giving users access to a new stand mode called “Studio” where the Surface Pro is practically lying flat. This is designed for people who do artsy stuff and want to draw/paint on their Surface Pros.

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As good as those upgrades are, the best part about the 2017 Surface Pro, though, has to be the remarkable bump in battery life. This new device will last 50% longer than the one it precedes, bumping maximum time on battery up to a staggering 13.5 hours.

That said, while on the surface everything seems amazing, there’s one big omission that Microsoft made with the Surface Pro 2017 that I simply cannot forgive: Its I/O.

For a brand new — very expensive — flagship product which pretty much leads the entire market, the new Surface Pro doesn’t come with a USB Type-C port. Instead, you get a Surface Connector, a microSD card slot, a mini DisplayPort, and a full-sized USB Type-A port.

When I asked the Microsoft representatives during the workshop/event today, their answers — that ranged from somewhere along the lines of “it’s better for the consumer” to “there is no industry standard for USB C” — seemed more like they were trying to convince themselves rather than a legitimate reason.

As market leaders — industry leaders, even — why are Microsoft waiting around for an “industry standard” for USB C? Shouldn’t they be the ones to set the standard for the world to follow? With the Surface Pro lineup being the household name that it is, surely Microsoft has enough influence to push this new standard of technology. To show the world how it’s supposed to be done.

Just look at Apple, they up and decided one day that they were only going to use USB C on their laptops. And the world fell into place behind them.

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But I guess I’ve beat this dead horse enough times, so let’s move on to the big thing that I set out to investigate with this new Surface Pro.

Is it worth the premium?