Microsoft has pulled back the covers on its fifth-gen Surface tablet, giving the Windows 2-in-1 device a refresh on the inside and dropping the '5' from the Surface Pro series, on sale from June 15 from $1,119.
Taking a page from Apple's book, the company's flagship model is now know simply as the Surface Pro, flanked by variants such as the Surface Laptop and Surface Book.
As widely expected, the new 2017 Surface Pro isn't a major change from the current model – and it could be argued that since the Surface Pro 4 hit the sweet spot, you wouldn't want change for the sake of it.
There's a mandatory bump for the processor, with buyers able to choose between the fan-less Intel m3 or a meatier Core i5 or i7 processor from Intel's latest Kaby Lake silicon series.
The biggest advance is battery life, with Microsoft touting a 50% boost to a whopping 13.5 hours on the go (based on testing using the Core i5 chip).
Another tip of the hat to road warriors is the optional 4G LTE configuration, although we're hearing that this model won't be available on the Australian market.
And here's a handy tweak: the tablet can lie near flat in an angled 'studio mode' optimised for drawing or writing.
The pen and keyboard for the new 2017 Surface Pro have inherited a similar colour palette as the recently-released Surface Laptop...
... although there's no USB-C port which has become de rigueur among mobile hardware of late, with Microsoft opting to stick with the standard USB 3 and MicroSD card slot alongside its own proprietary magnetic Surface connector.
The entry-level 2017 Surface Pro lists at $1,119 for the Core m3 model with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage; the Core i5 variants sell for $1,499 (4GB/128GB) and $1,999 (8GB/256GB); while the top-shelf Core i7 tablets soar from $2,499 to a hefty $3,999 if you go all-out with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.
In what may be the best news for some business travellers, Microsoft is – for now – retaining the quite-acceptable Surface Pro 4 with the starting price dropped to an appealing $899.
PREVIOUS | Microsoft's Surface Pro is widely regarded as among the best Windows 2-in-1 devices for the business traveller, but the company could struggle to make the Surface Pro 5 a knockout update.
The fifth-gen Surface Pro is expected to break cover next month at Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference in Seattle, which runs from May 10 to 12. With the Surface Pro 4 already 18 months old, the timing is right.
However, there’s speculation that the Surface Pro 5 could be more of a 4.5 release.
A new powerplant is on the cards: specifically Intel's 'Kaby Lake' series of Core processors, which are already appearing on Windows notebooks and are tipped for the next round of MacBooks later this year.
The Surface Pen could contain a small rechargeable battery which is topped up whenever the stylus is sitting on the edge of the Surface Pro 5, held in place by a magnetic connector.
And while the specs could bump up to a 4K display, 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM, there’s nothing dramatic about that when taken into the context of today’s laptops.
The proprietary magnetic power connector is likely to remain rather than being displaced by USB-C – a decision which will cheer those who’ve splashed out on Surface accessories – although a USB-C port could be added to help the Surface Pro 5 play well with the latest add-ons and external monitors.
There’s also speculation that Microsoft could release a low-end Surface Pro 5 or Surface Cloud model running the rumoured Windows 10 Cloud edition (think of it as a hybrid 2-in-1 take on the netbook).