The 2017 Surface Pro’s biggest competition is Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 4. Which you should buy depends on whether drawing and longer battery life are worth more to you than the money you could save going with the Surface Pro 4.
The 2017 Surface Pro’s processors and bigger batteries allow it to run for 13.5 hours between charges. Its screen is more sensitive to pressure and knows when its user is holding their Surface Pen at an angle. These features make for a fine upgrade. They don’t instantly make the Surface Pro 4 obsolete.
The Surface Pro 4 has the same features that its successor does, they’re just less advanced. Users can take notes and draw using the included Surface Pen. Microsoft’s Windows Store has desktop programs and new touch-friendly apps that work just fine with it. It has a kickstand, and you can buy keyboard covers and docking accessories for it.
Pre-orders of the 2017 Surface Pro are available now ahead of its June 15th launch.
2017 Surface Pro vs Surface Pro 4: Design & Performance
The Surface Pro 4 and 2017 Surface Pro are both one-third of an inch thick magnesium and glass slabs. Each tablet weighs between 1.69 and 1.73 pounds, depending on the Intel Core processor that it has inside. Kickstands that extend out of their rear-casing allow buyers to prop them up without a case. A MicroSD card slot, USB 3.0 port, Surface Connect charging port, Mini Display Port and headphone jack are on them both.
The two computers share a lot of components. Their 5-megapixel front-facing cameras let buyers avoid passwords. An 8-megapixel camera on their rear can scan documents and take decent photos. Because the 12.3-inch 2736 x 1824 display in the Surface Pro 4 is the same display that’s in the 2017 Surface Pro, movies and videos will appear the same on either device.
Internally, the two Windows 2-in-1s have some big differences. The 2017 Surface Pro uses Intel 7th Generation Core m3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Microsoft claims that these processors allow the 2017 Surface Pro to play back video for 13.5 hours on a single charge. That’s more than the 9 hours of video the Surface Pro 4 is capable of. Starting up and opening programs on the 2017 Surface Pro is a little faster thanks to these new processors too.
How Digital Inking is Different on the 2017 Surface Pro
Digital inking is a core feature of the Surface Pro 4. The device comes with a Surface Pen. Its screen can detect 1,024 different levels of pressure as users write and draw. A rubber cap on the end of its pen gives users a convenient way to erase what they’ve written, and the built-in kickstand lets users lower the screen to a 150-degree angle for writing or drawing.
Despite all that, drawing is better on Microsoft’s newest device. Only the 2017 Surface Pro knows when users are tilting their Surface Pen while sketching. It detects 4,096 different levels of pressure so that strokes have the exact thickness that the artist wants. Microsoft claims in an interview with The Verge that new technology lets strokes and lines show up two times faster than before. Drawing on tables is easier with the kickstand’s lower 165-degree maximum angle. This lower angle allows for more comfortable wrist and arm movement.
The digital inking experience on the 2017 Surface Pro does take a step back in one major way. Microsoft doesn’t bundle the new Surface Pen with the new Surface Pro. Instead, shoppers must buy the accessory separately. Getting the expanded pressure sensitivity and tilting requires users to spend $99. If the improved pressure sensitivity isn’t important, they can get by with the older $59 Surface Pen.
2017 Surface Pro vs Surface Pro 4: Accessories
Your experience with either Surface Pro is only as good as the accessories you have for it. The Surface Type Cover is the only way that you’ll get the laptop experience Microsoft teases in its ads. Unless you’d like to draw with your finger, a Surface Pen is a must. The Surface Dock conveniently connects the tablet to a monitor, hard drive, mouse and keyboard with a single cable.
All older accessories work with all Surface Pros, but require the latest hardware to unlock all features. Only buyers of the 2017 Surface Pro get tilt sensitivity and boosted pressure detection with the new Surface Pen. Microsoft’s Surface Dial locks to Surface Pro 4’s screen. It doesn’t show any extra settings or options today. You can pair it with Bluetooth and change settings with it on your desk. That’s not as appealing.
No Surface Pro comes with a cover, so you’ll need to factor that into your buying decision. The $159 Surface Pro Signature Type Covers launch alongside the 2017 Surface Pro. Only their softer Alcantara fabric makes them different from the $129 Surface Pro 4 Type Covers.
2017 Surface Pro vs Surface Pro 4: Price
The Surface Pro 4 offers a great display, a fine writing experience and Windows programs without the hefty price tag of the 2017 Surface Pro. Only one Surface Pro 4 lacks the Surface Pen. Shoppers can upgrade the RAM and storage of three models for a bit more than their base price. These upgraded models still cost less than similar 2017 Surface Pro configurations.
A Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core m3 processor is $699 at the Microsoft Store. This model doesn’t include a Surface Pen. It does boast 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. This base model is only available in this configuration, which means you can’t pair more RAM or more storage with the Intel Core m3 processor.
The $849.99 Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM comes with the Surface Pen. The $999 model comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Going up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage bumps the price up to $1,799.
$1,299 gets shoppers a Surface Pro 4 with 256GB of storage, an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. A $1,499 upgrade to this model adds 16GB of RAM. RAM helps you run more apps and programs at the same time. 16GB is the most any Surface Pro has. A Surface Pen comes in the box with this model.
The 2017 Surface Pro models are slightly faster and more power efficient than the Surface Pro 4. That’s despite them having the same name. Also, keep in mind that no 2017 Surface Pro comes with a Type Cover or Surface Pen.
A 2017 Surface Pro with Intel Core m3 processor and 4GB of RAM is $799 from the Microsoft Store. This model doesn’t have any upgrade options.
The 2017 Surface Pro with Intel Core i5 has 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive for $999. Only a single upgrade to this model is available for pre-order. For $1,299, you will get 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM.
Intel’s Core i7 processor is in the last 2017 Surface Pro. The base model has 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. Adding 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM pushes the price to $2,199. The 1TB of storage and 16GB of RAM add-on increases the price to $2,699.
2017 Surface Pro vs Surface Pro 4: Which to Buy?
Very few things in technology are as simple as choosing between the Surface Pro 4 and the 2017 Surface Pro. The advantages and disadvantages of buying these machines are clear.
Those that must stay mobile for long periods need Intel’s latest processors and longer battery life, whatever the cost. Artists serious about their craft need that added pressure sensitivity and tilting. Both groups should go with the 2017 Surface Pro.
All others should buy the Surface Pro 4. Buyers on a budget certainly get more for their money. A Surface Pro 4 with 8GB of RAM, Core i5 processor and 256GB storage is $999. The included Surface Pen makes Surface Pro 4 an even better bargain. Compare that to the $1,299 that a 2017 Surface Pro with the same configuration costs. That’s $300 in savings to cover a Surface Type Cover or any needed software. Note takers and casual computer users will do fine with the Surface Pro 4’s pressure sensitivity and processing power.