Microsoft hasn't released a new Surface Pro in a while, nor have there been any significant redesigns. Surface Pro 8 is a new design that features a slimmer chassis and a bigger display than Surface Pro 7. The new 13-inch thin-bezel screen makes it more appealing, while its core functionality remains unchanged. It is still a top-of-the-line detachable 2-in-1 tablet in design. When paired with our 11th Generation Core i7 Tiger Lake processor (and all the benefits of Windows 11), the tablet could be a viable replacement for a laptop.
The Surface Pro 7's starting price of $1,099.99 is significantly higher than its $749.99 counterpart, which reduces the value of lower-end models. The Pro 8's expensive accessories increase the price of any configuration you select. A keyboard is essential for anyone who wants to replace a laptop with it. The Surface Pro 8 is a worthy successor to the original Editors' choice winner, despite losing some of its value.
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The past few iterations of the Surface Pro hadn't seen much physical design change, but some noteworthy alterations finally—ahem—surface with the Pro 8.
Let's start with the dimensions. The chassis measures 0.37 inches by 11.3 inches by 8.2 inch (HWD) and weighs 1.96 pounds without the keyboard. This redesign does not reduce the footprint of the Pro 7, which measures 0.33 by 11.5, 7.9, and 1.7 inches.
That said, this is an exceedingly compact and portable device to begin with, so those margins are mostly negligible (and if anything, slightly more thermal space may lead to improved performance, which we'll get to). The chassis has also swapped from magnesium alloy to recycled anodized aluminum, which is another recent example of Microsoft employing more environmentally conscious design.
It is still a premium, sleek tablet with a high-quality, sturdy build. The Pro 8 has a modern and more rounded appearance than the Surface Pro 7. It also feels great to touch. The Pro 8's larger screen makes it more appealing from the moment you first see it.
It actually feels slimmer than it is, although that may be due to its dimensions. Surface Pro Series set the standard for such devices and has been a model to follow. However, its build quality remains unsurpassed. The Surface Pro series is not the best detachable 2-in-1, but it helped to create a market. Our top picks this year have been the Dell Latitude7320 Detachable as well the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable.
At its core, the design ethos is the same as it's been for years with the Surface Pro, which may not thrill you as a prospective buyer looking for radical changes. Microsoft has made upgrades beyond the general shape, though, so let's dive into those.
You can choose from a classic Platinum or Graphite color scheme for the Pro 8. This is our sample. Although it looks black, the Pro 8 is more like a greyish-brown.
More than the size or the new hue, though, it's the display bezels that make the biggest visual impact. If you're familiar with the previous Surface Pro devices, you'll notice how much thinner the bezels are on the Pro 8, and if you're not, you'll just see a sleek tablet with plenty of screen real estate. The Pro 7's bezel design was already looking a bit long in the tooth in Pro models before it, so it was due for an update. We got a tease of this update in the slim Surface Pro X, a Qualcomm-silicon-based device that offered a more modern design, but that wasn't quite up to snuff on the performance and software end.
Like on the Pro X, the thinner bezels make a bigger difference than you may expect. Thick bezels have rapidly become synonymous with older tech—nearly every smartphone, monitor, and laptop has adopted minimal (or no) screen borders. So that's not a club that premium products want to be a part of. The Pro 8 looks much more modern than the Pro 7, in addition to the, in practical fact, larger display.
The display is a major plus. It's sharp and dense, which Microsoft calls "PixelSense". Despite the difference in overall size, the Pro 7's screen is larger due to the thinner bezels. The Pro 7's screen measures 13 inches rather than 12.3 inches. This much extra real estate on a smaller device is very noticeable.
Another big upgrade is a bump to a peak 120Hz display refresh rate instead of the standard 60Hz. Refresh rates above 60Hz are generally reserved for gaming laptops, but other devices (notably many major smartphones) have adopted higher refresh rates, as well. Scrolling, web browsing, and digital drawing all look smoother when the screen is refreshing more often, so this is a nice plus for a tablet with a roomy touch screen and a compatible pen. Note that 60Hz is the default setting (it saves on battery), but you can change it to 120Hz in the Windows 11 display options.
The native resolution of 2,880 x 1,920 pixels isn't a common one due to the Surface product's 3:2 aspect ratio. This device is popular among mainstream consumers. The screen has a bright display, sharp edges, 10-point touch, and looks great.
The Surface Pro 8 is compatible with the Surface Slim Pen 2 (Opens in new window) and makes use of Windows GPU ink acceleration to draw. Along with Windows 11, the new pen uses improved haptics in order to replicate the feel of drawing on paper and canvas. Although it is better than the standard tap feedback, there are some minordesires.
Finally, the connectivity. There was a time when the complaint was that the Surface Pro included no USB-C ports, for longer than it should have gone without them, but one USB-C was finally added with the Pro 7. Now, the Pro 8 includes not one but two USB-C ports, both boasting Thunderbolt 4 support for faster throughput.
However, we've now settled to a place where, other than a headphone jack, those are the only ports—no standard USB-A ports in sight. Your bank of more traditional peripherals may not have a way to connect to the Surface Pro 8 without an adapter, a USB hub, or the use of a Microsoft Surface Dock, an added splurge. As for wireless connectivity, the Pro 8 supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1; a 4G LTE option (markedly, not a 5G one) will be offered with the business version of the tablet.
The Pro 8 is rounded out by upgraded webcams: a 5-megapixel front-facing 1080p camera (with 1080p video support), and a rear-facing 1080p camera (with 4K video support). Microsoft claims camera improvements for picture and video-meeting quality, such as dynamic color adjustment based on room lighting, better low-light performance, and improved face focus in the case of a strong background light source. As this 2020-2021 pandemic span of increased remote work and life dominated by endless Zoom calls has made painfully clear, most laptops have unremarkable 720p webcams. The Pro 8's added camera quality stands out and is a genuine benefit. The front-facing camera also includes Windows Hello support for fingers-free logins.
The Pro 8 camera was clearly superior to other laptop cameras in our testing. It produces sharp images that are better than any laptop in recent years. The Pro 8 is also comparable to a standalone 1080p USB webcam. The image was sharp and focused on the subject. It also performed well in low light conditions, so it didn't become too bright from a background like a ceiling lamp. It is a badge of merit in remote work.
The Pro 8 is an Intel Evo device because it meets all of the design requirements, as well as other features like meeting the minimum Intel battery life. (test results are below). Although this doesn't necessarily addany features to the Pro 8, it does indicate that the product has met a number of desired standards for portability, endurance, and performance. You can find out more information about Intel's Evo requirements here.
Also, we mentioned that Windows 11 is available on the machine. This product's default operating system, it should be noted, was also mentioned. Microsoft will launch this Surface along with several new Surfaces, each pushing Windows 11 forward and offering synergistic advantages. The new OS will offer many new features, including pen and screen compatibility. Read our complete Windows 11 review to learn more.
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The Surface Pro tablet is best known for its kickstand. However, its keyboard ranks right alongside its main features. It has been an interesting point of dissonance since, although the Surface Pro tablet is frequently shown with its detachable keyboard (and it works well), the keyboard has been sold separate from the tablet. This has not changed. Microsoft claims that Surface Pro is a great Windows tablet and can also be used as an individual device. This can, Microsoft says. However, the company positions it as an alternative to a laptop for real-world work. This makes it more than essential.
We won't belabor the specifics of the keyboard base's functionality too much, as it has remained roughly the same through the Surface Pro's existence, but there are a few new aspects to discuss. First and foremost, a new detachable keyboard launches with the Pro 8, named the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard.
It is different from the Type Covers used in previous versions. These keyboards do not work with the Pro 8. The Surface Pro 8's compatible keyboards are the Signature Keyboard, and Pro X's keyboard. New design: The Signature Keyboard features a slot in the trench ahead of the keys that houses the Slim Pen 2.
As a result, on the interface side, you'll see a whole different connection between tablet and keyboard...
Now, of course, rendering any past Type Covers you may own obsolete is inconvenient and adds another cost. The Signature Keyboard is priced at $179.99, a not-insignificant sum. Compared to the Type Cover, the Signature Keyboard has a stiffer core and a larger touchpad. It's available in Poppy Red, Ice Blue, Platinum, and Black. A version with a fingerprint reader is also available for $199.99, and Microsoft offers a $279.99 bundle of the Signature Keyboard and the Slim Pen 2. (The Slim Pen 2 is a weighty $129.99 bought alone, so the bundle saves you $30.)
The experience with that functionality is the same. Surface Pro's 'lapability" is always controversial. It can be used on a desk or table, but it isn't as stable and comfortable when placed in your lap. It turns out, "laptops", are quite aptly named.
Built-in kickstands are the standard for such devices. Although the hinge is not new, it can stop at any point in its swing range. The kickstand, however, is sturdy enough to support the device on either a surface or desk. The hinge's edge doesn't hold as well as a laptop stand for use on your lap. Also, the wide width means that you need to balance the device by keeping your legs close together.
This works, and Microsoft has updated the keyboard so that it snaps against the screen magnetically to make the setup more secure. However, the experience isn't as good as a laptop. With a Pro model, this is where there would be real innovation and improvement. Perhaps in the future. The Pro 8 is as user-friendly as any other 13-inch laptop and converts as easily as any regular computer when sitting at a desk. Professionals who work in a large number of documents and windows may not find the 13-inch screen adequate. The keyboard and kickstand are able to keep up. This is also true for clamshell laptops with this screen size.
Other Pro 8 upgrades focus on internal components, primarily the processor. However, we will say right off the bat: Silicon isn't a big leap forward. Let's first look at the basic model. You can get the Pro 8 for $1,099.99. This includes a Core i5 CPU, 8GB main system memory and a 128GB SSD. The Platinum model comes in this color. However, the lowest Graphite configuration (mysteriously), starts at $100 and has twice the storage. There are a handful of superior SKUs available in both colors, and the two top models can also be purchased in Platinum.
On its launch, the Surface Pro 7 used an Intel Core i5-1035G4 processor. The chip in Pro 8 base models brings us to a Core i5-1135G7. This is a slight increase from the Pro 7. However, the mid-gen upgrade to the Surface Pro 7+ Business brought us the same Intel Core i5-1035G4 CPU. The jump can be justified if you have an older Surface Pro. Pro 7 owners need to think carefully about whether they will require this. Pro 7+ owners won’t experience a CPU boost.
As for the particular configuration we were sent for review, it's more potent than any of the base models. Our $1,599.99 unit (again, not factoring in the $279.99 keyboard-and-pen bundle that came along with it) includes a Core i7-1185G7 processor with Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD. The bumped-up CPU and RAM make this more suited to actual professional workloads versus everyday, general use, but we'll run the rule over the performance below.
It is important to note that the SSD can be removed via the rear panel under the kickstand.
All you need to do is pop the panel with a SIM-card tool or paperclip, and unscrew the drive. However, the SSD makes use of the less-common (though still standardized) 30mm-long M.2 form factor. (The included drive is Microsoft-branded and doesn't give away much info on its label.) This means any DIY capacity upgrades down the road will see replacements trickier to source than your typical M.2 SSD (most of which come in the 80mm-long Type-2280 form factor). And they will likely be expensive at the storage capacities you actually want, due to the densities required to get high capacities on a short SSD's PCB.
The next level in our configuration ladder after the $1,599.99 sample is the $1,899.99 model with the same CPU, 8GB more memory and a SSD of 512GB. Ouch!
It's important to look at all costs with this in mind. The Pro 7 base model Pro 7 was $749, but the starting price of $1,099.99 is significantly higher. This difference makes the Pro 8 a slightly different beast, and pushes out the budget range for even the lowestavailable model. This changes the purpose of the base model. It becomes more expensive than a tablet option, but it is a serious purchase.
Pricing only goes up from here. Because of its unique SSD type, the storage becomes quite expensive to increase above 256GB. The Pro 7 has a higher price tag due to its unique and high-end design. However, the Pro 7's spec-per dollar and entry price are lower than the Pro 7.
Finally, accessories. The price for each accessory is mentioned, but the overall cost can quickly rise if you need everything. Microsoft does not sell the pen and keyboard separately. This is why it makes sense to buy the bundle for $279.99. Add that amount to the Pro 8 base model for the full kit and you will be looking at $1,379.98. This is a very high price for the most expensive model (a Core I5 with 256GB storage) and it comes to a shocking $1,879.98 if you include the kit in our review configuration. Although the Pro 8 is a great device, it is definitely more expensive than a regular laptop due to the loadout.
Our laptop and Windows tablet test suites were recently updated, so the Pro 8's comparison system is not as extensive as it was a year ago. Many of the older tablets and laptops are no longer available from PC Labs so they could not be tested again. We were able to pull together some Windows tablet models, including the ThinkPad X12, and a few non-detachable 2-in-1s as well as a key clamshell (the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 which is similar to the Pro 8 but at a higher price). The Surface Laptop Studio (high end) is also included in this mix. Surface Go 3 (lower-end!) The Pro 8 was introduced with the Surface Go 3 (low-end!) This is a brief summary of the specifications of our test lot .....
PCMark 10, the main benchmark, simulates a range of content-creation and productivity workflows in real life to assess overall performance on office-centric tasks like word processing, spreadsheeting and web browsing. PCMark 10's Full System Drive is also used to evaluate the storage's load and throughput. Learn more about our testing laptops.
To rate the suitability of a computer for processing-intensive tasks, three benchmarks examine its CPU. They use all cores and threads. Maxon's Cinebench R23 renders complex scenes using Cinema 4D, and Primate Labs Geekbench Pro simulates popular applications such as PDF rendering, speech recognition, machine learning, and more. We use HandBrake, an open-source video converter to transform a 12 minute video clip from 4K resolution to 1080p (better is slower).
Puget Systems' PugetBench For Photoshop is our last productivity test. It uses Adobe Creative Cloud Version 22 to evaluate a computer's ability to create content and multi-media applications. This extension automates various tasks in Photoshop, including opening, rotating and resizing images, saving them, applying filters, gradient fills and masking.
Clamshells will have greater thermal room (and therefore sustain performance), and will be preferred over clamshell designs. The chassis will allow for more ventilation in high-demand workloads. We were surprised by how well the Pro 8 performed in real-world PCMark 10 tests and Photoshop tests. It was not far behind Surface Laptop Studio's "Tiger Lake H35”-series CPU. It also seemed to flag less on long-run CPU grinds, such as Cinebench, Geekbench Pro and HandBrake. However, the Core i7-1185G7 performed admirably. It is worth noting, however that the Core i7-1185G7 has the same core/thread counts as the Surface Laptop Studio H-series Surface Laptop Studio. This explains the difference in daylight on many of our tests.
Also, we'd like to point out the smooth operation of these stress tests. The Pro 8 was audible even after 10 minutes of running the CPU-intensive Cinebench again and again. However, they were still quieter than the average Pro 8 despite their slimmer design. The Pro 8's active cooling is on, however, it was quiet during testing. This has not always been the case for Surface Pro devices. It's not totally silent under load—there is heat that must be dispersed—but it's still commendable.
Two DirectX 12 simulations are used to test the graphics of Windows PCs. Night Raid is a more modest option for those with integrated graphics, while Time Spy, which requires more effort, can be used for gamers with discrete GPUs.
Two tests were also performed using the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5. This test focuses on both low-level tasks like texturing as well as high-level image rendering. To accommodate various display resolutions, the Aztec Ruins 1440p and Car Chase 1080p tests were rendered offscreen. They exercise graphics, compute shaders with OpenGL programming and hardware tessellation, respectively. More frames per second (fps) is better.
This is less surprising as most of these players rely on the basic Intel Iris Xe Graphics technology on their various CPUs. Some of this variation is revealed by the supporting CPUs as well as the thermals. The predictable exceptions of Surface Go 3 with its lower-end Intel UHD Graphics, and Surface Laptop Studio which has a dedicated GeForce GTX 3050 Ti are the Surface Laptop Studio. The Xe system is not designed for serious gaming (read our 2021 examination of integrated graphics on laptops), but it performs well enough.
The battery life of laptops is tested by playing locally saved 720p video files (the Blender movie Tears of SteelOpens in new window)). Display brightness was set at 50%, and the audio volume at 100%. Before testing, we make sure that the battery has been fully charged.
We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure the screen's color coverage—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).
Consider the fact that the panel is brighter than 1080p and has a tightly constructed chassis. It must house the core electronics as well as the battery. This is a huge amount of potential demand and drain. The Pro 8 was able to complete our video playback test in less than 11 hours. That's pretty impressive. It didn't surprise us that it topped most of the test fields, even pivoting 2-in-1s and conventional clamshells. Remember that those models are able to bunk the battery in the lower half of their batteries, while the Pro 8 cannot.
Our impressions were detailed earlier. The screen passed our tests. A panel powerful enough for creative professionals, the peak brightness of this screen was higher than the rest of the field not called "Surface". Full coverage of sRGB and creditable coverage in the DCI–P3 space and Adobe RGB spaces made it stand out.
This device can be used anywhere. The brightness is especially useful in situations when you don't have much control over ambient lighting. The Pro 8's high peak brightness can be used to power you through these situations, although it comes at a price in terms of battery life.
Surface Pro 8 isn't going to change the Pro line at its core but it will bring the best update in many years to the product. It is both more visually pleasing and offers the practical, concrete advantage of having a bigger display. The Core i7 configuration's performance overall is excellent, particularly when considering the thermal issues that can be encountered in large-sized builds.
That said, both the starting price and the configuration-uptick options are up there, so the Pro 8 doesn't offer the absolute most bang for your buck versus a more traditional laptop with nearly the same specs. Some premium clamshell models with close-size screens, like the classic Dell XPS 13 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9, price out similarly. (The big price boosters, in their cases, are the options for higher-than-1080p touch screens.)
But you can also find well-outfitted models with better specs for around the same price. We priced out another Intel Evo contender: the $1,799 MSI Summit Flip E13, for example, with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD...but with a 1,920 by 1,200 touch screen. That Surface screen has lots of appeal, especially at the Pro 8's lower price points.
The key is how important you are to tablet functionality and pen integration. The tablet's superb build quality and ease of use are worth the premium. Adding more storage can be costly. This tablet is the perfect choice for those who love to sketch and take notes by hand. Its slim bezel design and clever new pen add to its appeal. The Surface Pro family is reimagined as an envy-worthy object thanks to its best-in class design and strong performance. Surface Pro is still the most popular Windows tablet, but it has more value than luxury.