New Surface Pro 5 sports pen with 4,096 levels and tilt
Microsoft has now readied the new Surface Pro 5, which is actually just called the Surface Pro, for release (so I guess it’s time to party like it’s 2013, when the first Surface Pro came out). The new SP is available for preorder. This updated 2-in-1 tablet/laptop has some very interesting offerings for the art crowd.
The biggest difference is the new Surface Pen, which has 4x more levels of pressure sensitivity, making it 4,192, like the new Lenovo Active Pen 2. It also has tilt including shading. It will have the usual button that opens OneNote and other apps. The pen requires an AAAA battery.
This isn’t the Wacom-Microsoft pen we’ve been hearing about (at least, no one has said there’s any Wacom connection is so far). Microsoft is still going with N-trig.
The new pen also still has a rubberish eraser, and hopefully will still have the nib kit with a variety of nibs with different points and textures in a nib kit, like the current Surface Pen.
If the new pen sounds like the Apple Pencil, it underlines how Microsoft sees the iPad Pro as the rival to this version of the Surface Pro. Indeed, the upgraded pen may tilt the scales for artists frustrated with the iPad Pro’s inability to use desktop programs and inefficient file organization.
I’ll have to try out the new pen before knowing if it’s really as sensitive as Apple Pencil. Up to now, I haven’t been that big a fan of the Surface Pen for drawing, but this new one sounds like a different ballgame.
Surface Dial works on Surface Pro 5
Though the new Surface Pro “5” doesn’t look all that different from the Surface Pro 4, it will also work with the puckish Surface Dial, which brings up an array of on-screen menus aimed at designers.
Now, whether or not the Dial will be of much use on a small screen is hard to say. I’m a believer in the potential of the Dial, but right now it doesn’t seem like a must-have accessory. It makes more sense on the gloriously large Surface Studio.
Surface Pro 4 vs. new Surface Pro 5 2017
The pen is the biggest difference. The old Surface Pen had 1,024 levels and no tilt. This one will have tilt for shading; it’s unclear what else they mean by tilt, since they only mention shading. The Apple Pencil both has angle sensitivity with the tip and shading with the side.
Windows Ink apps include Sketchable, Plumbago, Mental Canvas, Drawboard PDF, and StaffPad. Of course, you can use the pen with any program, including Adobe Creative Cloud.
The pen will have backwards compatibility with all the Surfaces going back to Surface 3, including the Surface Book and Studio. It won’t work on the earlier Surface 2 and original Surface Pro, which were Wacom-penabled. It’s safe to assume it will only deliver previous levels of pressure sensitivity on those.
New Surface hinge makes kickstand more adjustable
Another aspect that’s different and consequential for digital artists is that the attached kickstand will go lower then previous ones. The updated hinge is deeper. The angle is designed to work better for those using the pen. So now the pen use is built into the design.
The new design also has more rounded edges and is “softer,” more Apple-like.
Like its Surface cousins, it comes in configurations of Intel 7th Gen. M3, i5, and i7.
The PixelSense screen of the Surface Pro 2017 is the same size and resolution as the PixelSense SP4–sharp, but not 4K.
The company says the new Surface Pro will get up to 13.5 hours of battery life. That reflects a considerably stronger processor. The processors are now Kaby Lake (7th gen) not Skylake (6th gen). Photoshop rendering and video processing should work faster on this.
The new Surface Pro 5 pen is sold separately, as are the Dial and Type Cover. (The Surface 4 included the Surface Pen.)
The new Surface Pro’s graphics cards will be Intel HD Graphics 615 for the M3, 620 for the i5, and Iris Plus Graphics 640 for the i7. These are next-generation and a bit faster.
The high-res PixelSense screen will be 10-pt. multitouch, 12.3″ diagonal, with a 3:2 aspect ratio, which we like.
The keyboard is upgraded with improved key travel.
Each model will weigh about 1.7 lbs or 766-786g, making it easy to carry around.
Microsoft is talking about how it goes from “laptop” mode to “studio” mode to “tablet” mode.
Apple may be getting nervous about the new Surface Pro 5. On the other hand, perhaps the competition will spur Apple to make a real laptop or even a monitor with an active digitizer.
Microsoft does plan to make a Surface Pro with LTE.
You can see or order the new Surface Pro (5) at Microsoft. Or see/order it on Amazon
See our article on the 10 top tablet PCs for art.
Read our homepage article to learn all about drawing tablets.