Microsoft unveiled its latest Surface Pro, which it says offers faster performance, longer battery life and an improved design over the Surface Pro 4. The new Surface Pro will be available on June 15 starting at $799; an LTE version will also be available.
Microsoft says the new Surface Pro is 20% faster than the old Surface Pro 4. The company is also claiming 13.5 hours of battery life on a single charge, a 50% increase over the Surface Pro 4. That's also longer than the 12 hours Apple claims for its MacBook Air.
Microsoft's Surface Pen stylus is getting some improvements as well, including more precise pressure sensitivity and a new tilt mode for shading. Microsoft also says the "ink" is more responsive to movement, so people who use the tablet for quick sketches or jotting down notes shouldn't experience any lag.
The updated tablet, which Microsoft is simply calling the "new Surface Pro" rather than sticking with its numerical sequence, will be available in Core i7, Core i5, and Core m variants. Like the Pro 4, it offers USB 3.0 ports rather than USB-C connectivity. That means it will work with older accessories, but could be problematic as gadget makers shift to the new, speedier USB-C standard.
Some of Microsoft's design choices with the new tablet are a sign that the company is aiming the device at the professional, creative and educational worlds. It's compatible with the new Surface Dial, for instance, an accessory aimed at the artistic set. The kickstand has been redesigned so the tablet can lay nearly flat, which creative types may find useful. (It also resembles Microsoft's artsy Surface Studio all-in-one computer that was unveiled last October). Furthermore, Microsoft is updating workplace software like Word, Excel and PowerPoint to better integrate with the Surface Pen, which office workers may find useful.
The new Surface Pro comes just weeks after Microsoft unveiled its new Surface Laptop, a device the company is primarily marketing towards students but could be a worthy competitor to Apple's MacBook Air lineup.
Still, Microsoft's announcement comes as the overall tablet market is in free-fall. Shipments of the devices have declined for nine consecutive quarters as of the end of 2016, according to research firm IDC. That may explain why Microsoft is pitching its new Surface products towards students and creative professionals, two groups that have a clear use for tablets. But it's unclear if the new Surface Pro will be enough to revitalize Microsoft's Surface business, where revenue recently dropped by 26% compared to the year-ago quarter.