The new model is the third cheapest SP3 option, coming in at US$1,299 for the tablet and pen only (its keyboard cover, as always, will set you back an extra $130). The new tier has an Intel Core i7 CPU, with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.
All three of those specs were previously available in different configurations, but this is the first time they've come together in one model. It shares that $1,299 price point with an i5 model that also has 8 GB of RAM, but double the storage, at 256 GB.
So in that price tier, you now have the choice between a better processor and less storage, or vice versa.
If there is indeed a Surface Pro 4 waiting around the corner, then this is a strange move. Microsoft isn't going to add a new tier for a product that's going to be obsolete in a month. So our take is that this means the SP4 either isn't coming next month after all, or the SP3 will stick around as a slightly cheaper option after the Pro 4 launch (as was the case with older models).
Microsoft has reportedly been working closely with OEM partners, like on HP's Spectre x360, so it isn't completely out of the question that the Surface is set to be phased out. But with the lineup seeing a surge in popularity (and sales) during the Surface Pro 3's run, it's hard to see Microsoft ditching the Surface now. There's also the fact that the Surface is still one of the few 2-in-1s that heavily encourages pen input – something Microsoft is doubling down on with Windows 10's handwriting recognition and its recent purchase of N-Trig's pen technology.
In other words, we think the Surface's place is likely safe, whether we see a new Surface Pro next month or not. In the meantime, at least last year's model feels like a brand new device when it jumps from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.
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