The design of the Surface Pro line of 2-in-1 laptops has remained unchanged for a number of years, including in its last update in 2017, which was simply named the “Surface Pro.” But in the product’s next major release cycle, all that’s expected to change.
Despite uncertainty about the final name for Microsoft’s forthcoming professional tablet, thanks to some recent leaks, we do know a little bit more about the device. Considered an important product in Microsoft’s hardware lineup, Thurrot.com said that Microsoft has been actively working on a successor to the current Surface Pro. That device is known internally by its Carmel codename.
Here’s everything we know so far about Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6.
Processor refresh coming on October 2?
Microsoft just recently announced its 2018 hardware event, which is scheduled for October 2 at 4pm EST. One of the products the company is expected to announce at the event is a smaller refresh of the Surface Pro, most likely giving the line a bump to Intel’s latest 8th generation processor from the 7th generation on today’s models.
If a move to Intel’s 8th generation silicon happens this year, it will likely be a smaller refresh, with the Surface Pro maintaining most — if not all — of its hardware design from the 2017 launch. That would mean that Microsoft would save the big changes and new features for next year, including a rumored switch to USB-C. Adopting the new connectivity option makes sense, given that Microsoft adopted the standard on the Surface Book 2 — that 2-in-1 launched after the latest Surface Pro’s debut.
And even with USB-C on board, Microsoft will likely keep the Surface Connect port. “I believe they will include the Surface Connect port,” Foley said. The Surface Connect port handles charging through a magnetic connector, similar to Apple’s now discontinued MagSafe charging tip. When Microsoft launched the Surface Book 2, it still advised customers to use the Surface Connect port for faster charging even though the laptop could be recharged through the USB-C port. Keeping the Surface Connect port would appease corporate owners who have invested in the Surface Dock and entice Apple users who were disappointed that the arrival of USB-C on the latest MacBook Pros also meant the death of MagSafe.
Microsoft’s desktop Surface Dock also connects to the Surface Pro through the Surface Connect port. Microsoft recently released an $80 USB-C adapter that connects through the Surface Connect port as an accessory for those who have invested in USB-C peripherals, like external storage drives. Having USB-C on the Surface Pro 6 would negate the need for that separate dongle.
An updated Surface Pen
Microsoft’s many investments in inking could materialize in the next generation of a Surface Pen alongside the Surface Pro 6. The company has filed a number of patents over the years, showing where it plans to innovate. While all these technologies that Microsoft is exploring won’t make it to a final consumer product, they give us some insights into what Microsoft envisions for its digital stylus.
One patent suggests that Microsoft may be working on a Surface Pen with a retractable tip, similar to regular pens today. A patent for haptic feedback on a Surface Pen, for example, allows the pen tip to retract when pressed against the screen. With the applied pressure, the coil inside pen will activate and vibrate. The pen will work in a similar manner to 3D Touch on Apple’s iPhone today.
Another pen patent that seems less likely to debut next year is a Surface Pen that can harness the light from the Surface Pro’s LCD screen to recharge itself while being used.
The last time Microsoft updated the Surface Pen was when it debuted the Surface Pro. Microsoft’s pen is more sensitive than the one it replaced, supporting 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. With the current pen, Microsoft dropped the pen clip from the previous generation model. In one patent, Microsoft suggests that it could add a touchpad to the pen clip, allowing the pen to replace a mouse. If this happens, the Surface Pen can regain the clip again.
Coming in 2019 with a major new design
Other rumors suggest that another Surface Pro will arrive in 2019. Although Thurrot.com writer Brad Sams notes that the device is expected in early 2019, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley said she heard this device “isn’t coming until mid-2019.” This 2019 revamp could be the Surface Pro 7, while the 2018 update could just be a processor update.
If this is the Surface Pro 6, a mid-2019 arrival would mean that Microsoft is taking almost two full years to give the current Surface Pro an overhaul. The wait, for Surface enthusiasts, may well be worth it, as the report said that it will be “heavily redesigned.” That wait may be even longer if you consider that the current Surface Pro’s design is very similar to the Surface Pro 4 that it replaced. Microsoft has made some smaller updates to the Surface Pro — like adding LTE support for cellular data and giving some models a bump in memory — but nothing that drastically changes the look of the device.
Microsoft has kept pricing on its Surface lineup consistent through the years. The tablet typically starts at around $800 for the entry level model, but that one typically ships with a 7th-generation Intel Core M processor and without an included Surface Pen or Type Cover. No word on whether or not that pricing will continue into the future.