Microsoft used to have one Surface, now it has four: Here's what each one is for

  • Microsoft has a whole family of Surface computers
  • Unless you've been paying close attention, you might find them a hair confusing
  • We'll walk you through who the Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Laptop and Surface Studio are for
Handout: Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro on Tuesday. It joins several other Surface-branded products that are built and sold by Microsoft.

You have a right to be confused, however, especially since Microsoft hasn't been known as a computer maker until just a couple of years ago. You might even remember that Microsoft introduced a different product, the Surface Laptop, just last week

What the heck is the difference?

Fear not. Microsoft's strategy is relatively simple to understand, if a bit different than Apple's product marketing.

Here are Microsoft's Surface products, what they offer and who they're for.

Surface Pro

Handout: Surface Pro

Microsoft's Surface Pro is the successor to the Surface Pro 4 -- Microsoft abandoned the number this time.

You can think of it as a tablet (Microsoft would have you think otherwise), that doubles as a laptop if you purchase Microsoft's keyboard accessory. It's the most versatile machine, making it the most appealing to all consumer types.

It offers a range of processors, from the entry-level Intel Core M to the high-end Intel Core 7, a touchscreen display, support for pen input and more. It even has a built-in kickstand, so you can work or watch movies without the keyboard attached. The Surface Pro starts at $799 without a keyboard or pen.

Surface Laptop

Handout: Surface Laptop 5

The Surface Laptop was introduced a couple of weeks ago and is going to be initially targeted at the education sector. That's because it runs a special version of Windows 10 called Windows 10 S out of the box. It's easier for school IT departments to manage and prevents users from installing apps that aren't in the Windows Store.

It's available with powerful processors, but most users are going to want to pay to upgrade to a full version of Windows to take full advantage of the device. With that unlocked, you're looking at a high-end thin-and-light machine.

The Surface Laptop does have a touch screen, but the display and keyboard can't be removed, like they can on the Surface Book and Surface Pro. The Surface Laptop starts at $999.

Surface Book

Handout: Surface Book

The Surface Book is Microsoft's premium laptop with the most powerful parts. Unlike the Surface Laptop, the screen can be detached and used as a tablet. With a full metal body and a metal keyboard, you can think of this as the machine that most competes with Apple's high-end MacBook Pros.

The Surface Book with Performance base, the top-tier version, was introduced last year and includes the latest graphics processing units from NVIDIA, making this a machine more capable of editing video and photos than the Surface Pro or Surface Laptop. If you aren't doing those sorts of tasks, consider the Surface Laptop or Surface Pro instead.

The Surface Book starts at $1,499.

Surface Studio

Handout: Surface Studio

The Surface Studio is Microsoft's desktop computer. It's an all-in-one machine with a touchscreen display, support for Microsoft's Surface Pen and more. The components inside the laptop are attached to the display, like an iMac, which is why it's called an "all in one."

It's also the most powerful out of all of these machines, since Microsoft is able to fit more components inside a machine that's not portable. Microsoft believes it's a machine best suited by creators, like folks working in Photoshop, 3D software and more. It could work just as well as a home computer, though it's certainly not a cheap one.

The Surface Studio starts at $2,999.