Surface Pro 5 release date, news and rumors

You might suspect that the 2017 Surface Pro is the closest we’ll ever get to the Surface Pro 5, but if Microsoft itself is anything to go by, you would be dead wrong.

The Surface Pro 5 doesn’t exist right now, as Microsoft Surface leader Panos Panay confirmed last May, though he claims it will come to fruition once more meaningful changes erupt from the talent at Microsoft’s hardware design lab.

More specifically, echoing Panay, while there’s ‘no such thing as a [Surface] Pro 5’ right now, there will be when the time is right. When Microsoft can come up with upgrades that radically improve the dynamics of its wildly popular Surface Pro 4, it isn’t too far-fetched to presume that we’ll see a name change beyond the confiscation of a numerical value.

And as the next major Windows update, along with Windows 10 S are coming in the next few months, we could see an announcement very soon.

Just like the 2017 Surface Pro emerged in June 2017, the next Surface Pro – whether it’s called the 5, the Next, or whatever – is probably just a few months away at this point. And though the new and improved 2017 Surface Pro brought us a better battery life and a Surface Pen capable of 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, it wasn’t enough to justify calling it the Surface Pro 5, which makes us wonder what would be enough. Let’s dive in.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The would-be fifth Surface Pro tablet
  • When is it out? Spring 2018 at the earliest
  • What will it cost? Likely as much as – if not more than – the current model

Surface Pro 5 release date

Two years ago, we were convinced we would see the Surface Pro 5 as early as last year, a prophecy that wasn’t exactly fulfilled by the time we did see another Surface Pro in May 2017. As much hearsay that had reached our offices at the time, you would have expected a full-fledged Surface Pro 4 sequel, but instead what we received was more of refresh.

At a Microsoft event that took place in Shanghai, China, the Surface Pro was unveiled in front of the whole world, though its improvements weren’t as revolutionary as we had anticipated before. In other words, the spec boost was nice, but not as nice as it would have been to get a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports or two for external graphics. As such, we’re convinced that the Surface Pro 5 is still on its way. 

Especially as Windows 10 has finally ousted Windows 7 as the most popular of Microsoft’s desktop operating systems, it’s crucial for Redmond to come out with a slate that brandishes only the latest and greatest software. We would suspect that, as the major Redstone 4 and 5 updates are being tested simultaneously, we’ll start to hear more rumors regarding the Surface Pro 5 release date.

Until then, here’s a look at the history of initial Surface Pro release dates:

  • Surface Pro: February 9, 2013
  • Surface Pro 2: October 22, 2013
  • Surface Pro 3: June 20, 2014
  • Surface Pro 4: October 26, 2015
  • Surface Pro (2017): June 15, 2017

Surface Pro 5

We doubt the Surface Pro 5 will look terribly different from the previous

Surface Pro 5 price

Historically, Surface pricing rarely fluctuates with each new variation. At the Shanghai event on May 23, the Surface Pro was revealed to come with a $799 price in the US or £799 in the UK (that’s around AU$1,380) for the entry-level model.

If the Surface Pro 5 is indeed the Surface Pro, then we now know for sure what the price will be. But, if the Surface Pro 5 is the would-be successor to the Surface Pro, then maybe we can expect a higher price tag. 

While it wouldn’t be ideal for Microsoft’s loyal following if the company deviated too far from the norm, ambitious upgrades may necessitate that it does. For the price of the next Surface Pro to differ from its predecessors, it would have to offer some serious advantages over its last-gen sibling – not just a run-of-the-mill spec boost.

Should the Surface Pro 5 team take any hints from the Surface Book 2, it’s possible that Microsoft’s next tablet will come in two different screen size variants, at two different starting prices. Considering Apple offers both a 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it would make sense for the Surface Pro 5 to get with the program and introduce a smaller option as well.

Surface Pro 5

Image Credit: Patently Mobile

Surface Pro 5 specs

As it stands right now, the Surface Pro has some major catching up to do when it comes to specs. Just two months after it released, Intel announced its 8th-generation Ultrabook processors, which are quad-core at the most affordable level. 

The existing 2017 Surface Pro, on the other hand, bears only a dual-core, 7th-gen Intel CPU regardless of how much money you shell out for it. So when a Surface Pro 5 inevitably does arrive, realistically we would like to see an Intel Core i5-8250U to start, with pricier configurations allowing for an Intel Core i7-8550U on board. 

Though as much as we’d like to see the death of the entry-level Core m3 Surface Pro, it’s unlikely to take place with the Surface Pro – especially seeing as Microsoft’s other Surface devices have only recently begun to adopt it for the first time.

Port-wise, for the time being, the Surface Connect proprietary charger is here to stay, meaning the latest Surface Pro – and presumably the Surface Pro 5 – don’t use USB Type-C for charging or data transfers. That said, this is bound to change given that the Surface Book 2 does offer native support for USB-C.

Surface Pro 5 design

Ahead of its announcement, a leak published by VentureBeat showed off a number of press renders that claimed to be of the Surface Pro 4’s successor. As it turns out, that was only half true. These designs ended up representing the Surface Pro rather than a true Surface Pro 5.

Those who were hoping for an intense overhaul of the Surface Pro 4’s appearance will certainly be in for a rude awakening. Yet, for those of us who adore the SP4’s current look and only care about performance refinements, this will do just fine.

Those who were hoping for an intense overhaul of the Surface Pro 4’s appearance will certainly be in for a rude awakening. Yet, for those of us who adore the SP4’s current look and only care about performance refinements, this will do just fine.

Surface Pro 5 stylus and Dial

One can’t help but wonder how Microsoft will go about refreshing Surface Pen this time around. A next-generation Surface Pen is an idea we’ve contemplated for quite some time, but it wasn’t until Microsoft itself patented haptic feedback technology for the Surface Pen that we saw a clearer picture of what’s to come.

Without divulging too many drab details, the patents suggests a stylus whose tip retracts when it’s pressed against a flat surface, such as a screen per sé. From there, a coil will be compacted and subsequently vibrate from within the Pen’s chassis. It’s an idea that Apple has been toying with for years, but has yet to integrate into its existing Pencil stylus. As such, it’s now more evident than ever that Microsoft wants to beat its Cupertino rival to the punch.

Another Surface Pen patent describes a retention clip that can emulate the functions of a mouse’s scroll wheel, perhaps indicating that the Surface Pro 5 won’t need a mouse (or a trackpad) at all. This would come in handy for those users who desire the creative benefits of the Surface Pen, but would prefer not to shell out the cash for a physical keyboard.

Of course, Microsoft also has the Surface Dial in its clasp. The designer-focused, puck-like accessory was briefly mentioned in a slideshow presentation in December, with ZDNet having picked up the slides itself for use in a news story. The company claims that peripherals such as the Dial, wearables, headsets and more are factors essential to what is perceived as the ‘modern PC.’

Also mentioned was the incorporation of ‘hero features,’ such as Cortana and Windows Hello, and although a fingerprint scanner didn’t make it into the new Surface Pro itself, there is an optional Type Cover that includes this functionality. With that in mind, we can surmise that, if or when a Surface Pro 5 is announced, it will also support fingerprint recognition.

Surface Pro 5

Microsoft’s Panos Panay revealing the Surface Pro 3 in May 2014

What we want to see

As much as we’ve been impressed by the Surface Pro 4 and its follow-up – hibernation bugs aside – there will always be room for improvement. (That would be the case even if it had earned our Editor’s Choice award.) From the screen size and resolution to the hardware found inside, we have a few ideas for how Microsoft could craft an even better Windows 10 tablet.

Longer battery life

This is a bit of low-hanging fruit, but countless customers have lamented the Surface Pro 4’s battery life, regardless of issues with its ‘Sleep’ mode. We rated the device for five hours and 15 minutes of local video playback.

That’s well below Microsoft’s promise of nine hours of video playback, a benchmark that even the 2017 Surface Pro couldn’t achieve in our review (our test resulted in 6 hours and 58 minutes of video playback). Our video playback figure is in line with the average laptop, though it’s a far cry from what its nemesis, the MacBook, can achieve.

Ideally, and realistically, we’d like to see at least seven hours of battery life reliably from the next Surface Pro tablet. That would put it closer in line with the MacBooks as well as competing tablets, like the iPad Pro. Surely, you’ll need as many milliampere hours in the Surface Pro 5’s lithium-ion battery as you can get.

That said, if the Surface Pro 5 could garner anywhere near the Surface Book 2 manufacturer’s suggested battery life of 17 hours, you would find no complaints from us. Come on, Microsoft, we know you’ve thought about it.

Surface Pro 5

Can the screen get much sharper? Why yes, it can

An even sharper (and/or bigger) screen

With the Surface Pro 4 and the subsequent Surface Pro, Microsoft managed to outrank countless rivals in both the laptop and tablet spaces when it comes to screen resolution. With a razor-sharp 267 ppi (pixels per inch) already at 2,736 x 1,824 pixels within a 12.3-inch screen, it’s not as if the Surface Pro 5 needs to be much sharper.

However, if the next Surface Pro were equipped with, say, a 4K (3,840 pixels wide at the very least) screen, that would rip its productivity and entertainment capabilities wide open. Film and photo editors could work at the native resolution that’s increasingly becoming the norm, while average Joe’s (teehee) could finally watch Netflix in 4K on a tablet.

That said, the realm of super sharp resolutions might be reserved for the Surface Book range at this point. So, why not up its size a bit?

The Surface Pro 4 is big enough for almost all tasks, but it’s still not the established default size for most laptops: 13.3 inches. Then again, doing so may cannibalize Microsoft’s market by negating the need for the Surface Book 2.

On the other hand, maybe the iPad Pro is onto something with its 12.9-inch display. After all, we’re not asking for a gargantuan, monster-sized tablet – just a slight size boost. Assuming the resolution doesn’t bump up too much alongside a size increase, the extra space could allow for a battery life boost.

Surface Pro 5

Now, imagine if the next Surface rocked USB-C

It might finally be time for USB-C

At this point, no Windows device is complete without implementing USB Type-C, the reversible, versatile port that can deliver power, audio and video while also transferring data at rates of up to 40Gbps. Traditional USB ports won’t cut it any longer, at least not on their own, so the Surface Pro 5 needs to get with the times. 

As the Surface Book 2 gradually makes its way to eager consumers, perhaps Microsoft will start to realize the potential of its USB Type-C port. The current Surface Pro requires a dongle for USB-C connections at the present, a sentence that those familiar with the criticisms of the new port standard will have a good chuckle at. 

At the same time, Microsoft may want to include a standard USB 3.0 port, too, in order to natively meet the system requirements for its own Windows Mixed Reality headsets. If the company wants to lead the pack in the business of affordable virtual reality solutions, it’s a no-brainer to make the Surface Pro 5 compatible.

Whether or not you believe it will be called the Surface Pro 5, the next iteration of Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet is an elusive concept. If one exists at all, we applaud Microsoft for how well it’s keeping its forthcoming hardware under wraps. Nevertheless, we’re sure to see some sort of new Surface product later this spring, whether it be at Build 2018 or otherwise. 

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

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