After years of development and millions of advertising dollars spent to convince us that a tablet could plausibly replace a laptop, Microsoft finally delivered the goods with the Surface Pro 4 in 2015. Equipped with robust processing power, a perfectly sized display and just-right aspect ratio, and a few critical add-on accessories, the current generation solidified the Surface's position as the gold standard for Windows tablets. And with the arrival of Windows 10, that which blemished all previous Surface models -- an inelegant operating system -- was finally replaced by a solid OS that could fulfill the potential of its form factor.
In fact, in a surprising turn, the Surface line has become something of a category trailblazer. Apple's iPad Pro and Google's Pixel C have lately borrowed envelope-pushing features like the Surface's snap-on keyboard and multitasking chops. Who saw that coming back when the Surface debuted back in 2012?
Since then, Microsoft extended its innovation tear. In October 2016, it updated its first-ever laptop, the competent Surface Book, with a higher-end edition, the Surface Book i7, which delivers increased power and battery life. And it also unveiled the $2,999 Surface Studio -- a desktop PC for artists and designers in need of high-end horsepower and display -- and the $100 Surface Dial accessory, a touch-friendly dial designed to sit beside your keyboard for fine contextual controls in whatever program you're using.
All of these innovations are just stoking the fires of the Internet rumor mill, generating speculation about what novelties Microsoft will debut with the next Surface Pro. Though there is so far precious little in the way of official detail, we'll use this space to collect the news, predictions, and rumors about the Microsoft Surface Pro 5 as they emerge.
Announcement and release dates
October has historically been the month of the Surface. Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 4 (and Surface Book) in October 2015. And it unveiled the newest, high-end Surface Book i7 in October 2016, along with the Surface Studio and Surface Dial. Though the majority of Surface-branded products have been released in the month of October, a handful of debuts have also come in February (the original) and June (the Surface Pro 3). Though some rumors point to an "early 2017" release, we don't expect to see the Surface Pro 5 until spring 2017, at the soonest.
Under the hood
The current Pro 4 already uses the latest and greatest sixth-generation "Skylake" Intel processors (Core m3, Core i5 or Core i7). At the end of May, Intel confirmed that Skylake's successor, "Kaby Lake," would launch by the end of 2016. And according to a report from Forbes, the Surface Pro 5 is likely to come equipped with the "Kaby Lake" Core i7.
It's always fun to consider Microsoft changing its position on the Surface Pro's keyboard cover. Though traditionally sold separately (for $129, £109 or AU$199), the keyboard cover has always been an integral component of the Surface experience. In fact, we rarely see a Surface in Microsoft's advertising materials or press previews without the keyboard cover attached, but for some reason, the company still won't pack it into the box. Could Microsoft roll it into the Surface Pro 5's base price, as Samsung does with the competing TabPro S? Unlikely -- but not impossible.
The touchscreen stylus, which is included by default, got a nice upgrade with the current model, shifting from the Pro 3's awkward plastic tether to the Pro 4's more elegant magnetic attachment. In January, Patently Mobile reported that Microsoft had filed a patent application for a rechargeable Surface Pen and dock. According to the filing, the Surface Pen's triple A or button cell battery would be replaced by a rechargeable battery, following in the footsteps of the iPad Pro's Apple Pen, which can be recharged via its Lightning connection.
Straight up, the Surface Pro 4 is expensive -- unless you opt for the very entry-level $899 model (£749, AU$1,349). For that price, you get a tablet with an Intel Core M3 CPU, 128GB of solid state storage and 4GB of RAM, plus a touchscreen stylus. Add in a more robust, Intel Skylake processor and the price increases to $999; upgrade the storage to 256GB and the RAM to 8GB, and you're at $1,299. An even faster processor and bigger hard drive could push the price above $2,000.
For reference, the new Microsoft Surface Book i7 starts at $2,399. (That converts to approximately AU$3,150 and £2,000 in Australia and the UK, respectively.) Back in March, News Everyday published a report that the Surface Pro 5's will start at $899; an Intel Core i7 model will cost $999; and the i7 Extreme version will cost for $1,599.
What about the non-Pro Surface tablet?
Keep in mind that there is a stepdown non-Pro Surface model -- the Surface 3 -- last updated in April 2015. It's possible we could see a separate update of that model any time in 2016 or later, too.
Scroll down for a reverse-chronological look at the latest rumors.
December 6, 2016
In the wake of a specification boost for the Surface Book, the next Surface Pro is rumored to feature a serious hardware upgrade.
October 26, 2016
It turns out, you can teach an old laptop new tricks.
October 26, 2016
The super high-end device -- it tops out at $4,200 -- is intended for professional creative types.
September 8, 2016
Microsoft's late October hardware launch this year may be as much about its partners' Windows 10 devices as much as its own Surface-branded ones, sources say.
May 31, 2016
It's been some time coming, but Intel has confirmed that its next generation of 'optimised' processors is on schedule and going into production this quarter.
March 29, 2016
The software giant has work to do if it's going to rally people to its software for PCs, tablets and phones.
March 7, 2016
ZDNet: Microsoft pushes back Windows 10 'Redstone 2' to Spring 2017 to line up with new Microsoft device wave
Microsoft's second major set of new features for Windows 10, known as "Redstone 2," are now a spring 2017 deliverable, meant to coincide with a new wave of Windows 10 hardware, sources say.
February 20, 2016
Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 had a big problem.
February 8, 2016
The latest Surface tablet is on sale for $100 off the regular price, while Microsoft's second-generation Band fitness tracker is now $50 less.
January 17, 2016
Patently Mobile: Microsoft Patent Reveals Future Surface Pen Recharger System
Earlier this month the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft that reveals their work on a rechargeable Surface Pen and dock.