Artist Review: Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 with New Surface Pen

I finally found a secondhand Surface Pro 2017 to produce this review. The official retail price of the new Surface Pro is a bit too high for me and this time the Surface Pen is not even included. So I had to wait for a good deal.

This review will cover the specifications, capability of the new Surface Pen, how various graphic apps perform and also compare it with the earlier model, the Surface Pro 4 that I've reviewed last year.

My review will be from the perspective of an artist, graphic designer and also someone who creates a lot of content online. The Surface Pro model I bought has Intel i5, 256GB and 8GB RAM. This review is written for those who are thinking of getting a portable tablet to draw on.

CONFIGURATIONS

Here are the different configurations of the Surface Pro 2017.


Incremental spec bumps given to the processor and graphics aren't particularly exciting. The storage and RAM capacity remains. In short, performance is still snappy when it comes to basic operations like startup and reboot, opening apps, opening and saving big files, switching between apps. Everything appears and feels responsive.

The one that's most value for money in my opinion is the model running Intel i5 with 256GB storage and 8GB of RAM. The next model with Intel i7 cost USD $300 more.

If you want to check out the current price, just visit these Amazon links:

I would not recommend getting the 4GB RAM model for graphics work. Note that Windows OS uses RAM too. Then there are other apps that use RAM. Get at least 8GB RAM. RAM is needed so that apps can run smoothly.

128GB storage is still not too bad considering that there's a microSD card slot included so you can easily get a 200GB micro SD card under USD $100. But the model with 128GB storage only has 4GB RAM. That's a no-go there.

BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN

This is a good case of don't fix what's not broken.


The new Surface Pro 2017 retains the excellent build quality of SP4. Even the design looks very similar. I love the smooth matte surface to the metallic body. This definitely feels like a premium product.

The thickness of 8.5mm may not be as thin as the Apple iPad Pro 2017 (6.9mm), it is still considered incredibly thin for a tablet that runs the full Windows 10.

The new Intel i5 model has no fans equipped so it runs silent. However, passive cooling isn't as effective as fan cooling, so the tablet can feel quite warm after running more processor intensive tasks. Removing the fans is still a welcome move because the SP4 fan is noisy, irritating and comes on randomly. Drawing on the tablet will make it warm, but not uncomfortably warm like rendering videos. How warm is it exactly? It's as warm as the surface of typical 27-inch LCD monitors after an hour. If you want to test out how warm it really is, go to electronics stores and touch the surface of their large LCD monitors. Watching videos, web browsing and typing are not going to make the tablet warm.

Fans are only included in the Intel i7 models where the processors can boost to higher clock speeds.



The sturdy stand can now reach an even lower angle, which is one of the two angles for drawing -- the other is drawing without the stand deployed. I prefer SP4's design where the lowest angle is still steeper. It's too low on the 2017 model.

PORTS


The only ports available are the power port, USB 3, mini-DisplayPort and the micro SD card slot.


Micro SD card slot is located behind the stand.

Many tech websites criticise the SP 2017 for the lack of USB type-C port. Well, I don't because I'm still using a lot of devices that use the USB type-A ports, things like scanner, thumb drive, external drives, and even my phone cable. At the moment, the USB type-A port is still useful. However, for the next Surface Pro model, I hope Microsoft will include USB type-C ports, and just get rid of the power charging port.

Many external monitors still use the DisplayPort. To be able to connect the SP 2017 directly to a monitor is very convenient. I'm using the Accell mini-DisplayPort cable and it works really well.

When connected to an external monitor, you have the option to

  • Extend the desktop to the external monitor
  • Mirror the desktop to the external monitor
  • Use the external screen as main, and black out the Surface Pro's screen (for use as a screen-less graphics tablet)

Surface Pro's resolution of 2736 x 1824 is higher than my 2560 x 1440 monitor. When connected to the monitor, some settings have to be changed to make the user interface look the right size. If not, the 2736 x 1824 will be