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Microsoft's Surface Pro is a good tablet, but it's way too expensive for most people

  • The Surface Pro is a great computer, but it's way too expensive.
  • Microsoft doesn't include the Surface Pen or keyboard, which add to the price.
  • You're better served buying the older Surface Pro 4 model or even a Surface Book.

Microsoft Surface Pro is the long-awaited upgrade to the 2015 Surface Pro 4 and, while it offers new features, you should probably just buy the older model instead.

Fully configured, as we received from Microsoft, the Surface Pro costs $2,200. That's before you get a keyboard.

Yikes.

It's loaded with plenty of features — like a new kickstand that can bend further back (more on that in a bit), a new keyboard, support for a more accurate Surface Pen for jotting notes and more.

Still, after days of testing, it's a tough product to recommend at that price.

It's almost identical to the older Surface Pro 4 from 2015

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Jeniece Pettitt

The Surface Pro was completely redesigned with more than 600 tweaks, Microsoft explained to CNBC, though it looks almost identical to last year's model.

The corners are more curved than the Surface Pro 4, and it's technically a hair thinner and a hair lighter, though you won't notice. Our review unit had Intel's most high-end Core i7 processor, a long-overdue upgrade over the chip in the Surface Pro 4, and probably the main reason Microsoft built this machine. Surface revenues were down 26 percent last quarter, after all.

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Jeniece Pettitt

There's a redesigned kickstand that bends slightly further back, allowing you to lean down on the tablet to draw with the brand new and more sensitive Surface Pen. The new angle was barely noticeable in practice and writing on the predecessor felt just as comfortable.

The 'improved' pen doesn't feel improved

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Jeniece Pettitt

The pen is more sensitive than ever. It now offers more than 4,000 different levels of pressure. That's supposed to make it feel more like natural writing when you jot on the screen. There isn't supposed to be any lag while drawing quickly, either.

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Jeniece Pettitt

I'm not a great artist but I couldn't find a discernible difference between its performance and last year's pen, at least while taking work notes. I preferred taking notes on my personal 9.7-inch iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil over either device.

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Jeniece Pettitt

I also used the new Surface Pen to edit a Word document, but my editor thought it was silly and a waste of time, as if I were working for a magazine in the 1990s. He has a good point — who really works like this anymore? Maybe students, but are they spending this much money on computers?

The Surface Pro keyboard still isn't good

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Jeniece Pettitt

I didn't mind using the new keyboard for writing emails and short articles here and there, or for making quick edits, but it's not even close to the top-notch keyboards you'll find on a full-blown laptop like a MacBook Pro or even Microsoft's Surface Book.

It still has a bit of flex to it, and it's still terribly uncomfortable and nearly impossible to type on in my lap.

None of the upgrades justifies the price you'll pay for a fully packed Surface Pro

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Jeniece Petitt

Keep this in mind: While the entry-level Surface Pro starts at $799, that's just for the tablet.

Once you add in a keyboard and the Surface Pen, you're over $1,000. The model I tested was configured with the most high-end Intel Core i7 processor, 512GB of hard drive space and 16GB of RAM.

Again, this configuration is priced at $2,199 without a keyboard and Surface Pen.

Yes, the newer processor is faster and provides better battery life. But I can't see how that, paired with a better pen, is worth the price Microsoft is charging.

You'll get an almost identical software and hardware experience with last year's Surface Pro 4, save for processor speed and battery life, but you'll save a whole lot of money.

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Jeniece Pettitt

I'm not knocking Microsoft's form factor. I think it works really well, and I applaud Microsoft for continuing to develop and sell new hardware. The Surface Pro just seems unnecessarily expensive.

Wait until there's a sale, or until Microsoft wises up and includes a pen and keyboard with a $2,200 tablet. Or just buy the much more affordable Surface Pro 4.

Or, if you don't need Windows, consider the more reasonable 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which starts at $649 and costs $969 with a keyboard and pencil.

Watch: Lance Ulanoff & the ultimate tablet battle