First impression of the new Surface Pro

May 30, 2017

After watching the unveiling event:

  1. No fan on the most popular i5 version is great (after experiencing the Pro 4's issues, I never want to buy a portable device with a fan again)
  2. The new pen's 21 milliseconds of pen lag is better than the Apple Pencil's 38 milliseconds if that number holds up to real-world testing. I believe that when Apple announced the Pencil they explicitly noted that the iPad's variable screen refresh rate allowed for the Pencil to feel smooth. Without any mention of variable refresh rates at Microsoft's event, my skeptical assumption is that strokes are processed at 21ms, but are rendered on-screen at a lower rate, making the Apple Pencil still feel & look faster even though the Surface renders each stroke more accurately in the end. I imagine Apple won't let even this little technicality stay true for long.
  3. The Whiteboard app looks great. I can imagine using that to discuss user interface ideas and augment remote conference calls with team members.
  4. 13.5 hours of video playback (with no auto-brightness) isn't a useful number. I'd be very pleasantly surprised to see it get a solid 7 hours of realistic casual usage (the Pro 4 gets ~4-5).

I visited the Microsoft Store a few days ago to see it in-person. Unfortunately they didn't have the new pen (according to the store rep they might come in on June 15th in time for launch, but June 30th is when they expect them to arrive, which is weird).

  1. The slightly more rounded corners weren't noticeable.
  2. The fanless i5 model felt just as performant as the Pro 4 while browsing and opening up a bunch of apps. I didn't push it to the point of getting warm.
  3. I didn't think to try an old pen on the new device (I would've had to steal one from elsewhere), but I don't expect them to feel faster than they do on the Pro 4.

Marketing side note: I'm not at all impressed with the images on the preorder and product overview pages. Why on earth would someone on their marketing team use the same weird-looking bird not just once, but 12 times on those pages? Heck, every single image in the product carousel of the preorder page has the same dumb bird on it. Why? How?

Mmmm, yeah, I need me some of that.

Another marketing side note (can't help myself): shots of pen lag and screen jitter aside, the video for the new pen feels like it's trying too hard. Why is there sad piano music backing up this dialogue? Am I supposed to get emotional?

I've always been kind of a tactile person. Stuff that I could hold and feel and interact with. I want to be able to use my hands the way they were built to be used.

Growing up I learned how to express myself through writing. My thoughts, my feelings, became naturally linked to the motion of having a pen in my hand.

.... Epic music begins ....

The ability to convey thought and expression is so important. It's thoughts, turning into words, flowing seamlessly through my hand.

As a creative person it's elevated us to be able to do things we couldn't before.