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Microsoft unveils Surface Pro 4 tablet as latest laptop killer

The screen for the new Surface Pro is only a bit larger than the previous model but a smaller bezel means there's even more real estate.

Microsoft's Panos Panay shows off the new Surface Pro 4 at a press event in New York on Tuesday. CNET

Microsoft has beefed up its Surface Pro tablet lineup to better compete with traditional laptops.

The Surface Pro 4, unveiled Tuesday at Microsoft's Windows 10 event, has a 12.3-inch screen, only slightly larger than the 12-inch screen on the Surface Pro 3. The bezel is smaller, however, meaning there's more space for the screen itself. The screen, with a 2,736x1,824-pixel resolution, also sports 5 million pixels with 267 pixels per inch.

The tablet market is going through tough times lately as more consumers choose to hang on to their tablets and opt for big-screened smartphones as alternatives. To generate greater demand, tablet makers such as Apple and Microsoft have launched hybrid tablets with large screens. Also known as convertibles, or 2-in-1s, such devices can function as standalone tablets as well as laptops when paired with attachable keyboards. That strategy seems to be working for Microsoft.

The flagship Surface Pro 3 has become the hub of the company's hybrid-tablet approach, and is being used in variety of workplaces, including on the sidelines of National Football League games. For the final quarter of 2014, the Surface tablet division generated more than $1 billion in sales, a 24 percent jump from the same quarter in 2013. It will be up to the Surface Pro 4 to carry on the success of its predecessor. But the company is about to face greater competition.

This month, Apple will launch its iPad Pro with a 12.9-inch, 2,732x2,048-pixel Retina screen, a powerful A9x chip processor and the ability to display two apps side by side. Last week, Google announced its new Pixel C tablet , equipped with a 10.9-inch screen and the ability to transform into a laptop via a slim magnetic keyboard.

The Surface Pro 4 comes with Intel's sixth-generation "Skylake" processor, available in M3, i5 and i7 editions. Skylake, an upgrade to the fourth-generation Broadwell chip in the Surface Pro 3, is designed to be friendlier to tablets, offering a boost in performance and more efficient power consumption.

The new Surface Pro lineup also comes with up to 1 terabyte of storage and 16GB of memory. Microsoft promises up to nine hours of battery life for video playback. Priced from $899 to $2,199, the new Surface will be released October 26. Preorders start Wednesday.

Also key to the new Surface tablet is a new pen, which attaches to the device magnetically. The Surface Pen offers 1,024 levels of pressure, so you can better control what you write on the tablet. The pen, which also has a tail eraser, has a built-in battery that can last for a full year without being recharged.

The new Surface Pro Type cover has keys that are more of an island style, meaning they're not as tightly packed together. The keyboard also comes with a glass trackpad and a fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor taps into Windows 10's Windows Hello biometric security, which allows you to log in to your device using your fingerprint or facial recognition. The cover will also work with the Surface Pro 3 and is available in five colors.