What to look for in the Microsoft Surface Pro 5

The rumor mill is in full force this week after several outlets speculated about a forthcoming Surface Pro 5.

microsoft surface pro 4 display detail
Credit: Peter Ruecktenwald

The rumor mill is in full force this week after several outlets speculated about a forthcoming Surface Pro 5. One site even named a release date in October of 2016. Many have surmised that Microsoft would address battery life problems, which I’ve experienced myself. For a device that’s supposed to last about nine hours, if you play a video or listen to music, you can expect the battery to last only 3-4 hours. Worse, it tends to drain even when it is just sitting on the table next to you due to a poorly implemented “sleep” mode.

I’ve also noticed a few other glitches on the Surface Pro. I used one recently when I was testing a Makerbot Replicator and had some trouble maintaining a consistent Wi-Fi connection. (I use the extraordinarily intelligent Google OnHub router in my office and never have any trouble.) There were a few times when the connection broke for no reason while a phone and another tablet kept humming along right next to me in the same room.

Another issue had to do with the speed. It’s a “pro” version for a reason and uses the Intel Skylake chipset. The display runs at 2736x1824 pixels. Yet, for many movies and YouTube clips, the Surface Pro 4 still ran slow -- unbearably so. It’s not a good sign when an older Apple iPad Mini runs a Hollywood movie smoother than a “high-end” tablet.

Microsoft has mostly addressed these problems with a recent patch, and I wrote about how the Surface Book is now worth a second look because of those fixes.

Yet, I’ve cooled off from the Surface Pro a bit, despite the software fixes. What do I want to see in the Surface Pro 5? There’s the obvious -- thinner, lighter, longer lasting.

I really want Microsoft to borrow some of the intelligence from the new Lumia line, specifically the 950 XL I tested recently. I want a dock that syncs to the tablet automatically, maybe even wirelessly, and then pops up on my HDTV without any fuss. (The 950 XL uses a small dock about the size of two thumbs, but it connects using a USB-C cable.) I see so many Surface Pro tablets at offices these days, but when people use them at their desks, there are cables everywhere. A Surface Pro 5 that connects wirelessly to a dock would reduce clutter.

Amazon recently lowered the price of the entry-level Surface Pro 4 (the one with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage) by $100, but I want Microsoft to get more aggressive with pricing. How about $699? How about $599? I’m hoping the Surface Pro 5 becomes “the tablet for everyone” not just customers who are expensing the device or buying one for the NFL sidelines.

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