In addition to new devices such as the Surface Duo smartphone with two screens and the foldable, tablet-like Surface Neo, Microsoft updated its hardware product range with the Surface Pro 7 in October 2019. The latest generation of this now- The legendary Windows 10 tablet looked like a solid upgrade.
However, it wasn't the only Surface Pro that Microsoft announced last year. Enter Surface Pro X, an ARM-based 2-in-1 device that uses a CPU that comes from Microsoft's partnership with Qualcomm. It's supposed to be three times more powerful per watt than the older Surface Pro 6. Those are certainly some exciting things, but is it enough to steal buyers from the Surface Pro 7?
Both 2-in-1 models look like surface professionals. This is a good thing because Microsoft maintains a unique look with the Surface Pro line and still keeps it modern.
The Surface Pro 7 is essentially unchanged on the outside, with the same 12.3-inch PixelSense display, an aspect ratio of 3: 2 and a resolution of 2,736 x 1,824 for sharp 267 pixels per inch (PPI). The Surface Pro X now has a slightly larger 13-inch PixelSense display. It offers a resolution of 2,880 x 1,920 and an aspect ratio of 3: 2 of a total of 267 PPI. You rightly notice that they have the same pixel density.
Despite the larger screen, the Surface Pro X with 7.3 mm (wafer) is a bit thinner than Pro 7 with 8.5 mm (0.33 inch). Both 2-in-1 models are roughly the same weight at 1.7 pounds (there is a difference of 1 gram). Given the small thickness of the Surface Pro X, we suspect that it feels like a smaller device.
The Surface Pro X offers some design tricks that make it a more attractive device than the Surface Pro 7. First, the Surface Pro X has an access cover under the stand that allows the solid-state drive (SSD) to stand out to be exchanged for a new one. However, Microsoft warns that the hard drive is "not user-removable" and "can only be removed by (an) experienced technician according to the instructions provided by Microsoft." In any case, it seems possible to update the SSD in a Pro X, and this is still a premiere for the Surface series and possibly a premiere for tablets.
While the Surface Pro 7 uses the same type cover and pens as previous models, the Surface Pro X has a new type cover with a slot into which a new slim pen fits for wireless charging.
Microsoft has improved connectivity in the Surface Pro 7 and added a USB-C port (no Thunderbolt 3) that connects to a USB-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a MicroSDXC card slot and the same Surface Connect Connection like on the previous Surface fits Pro models. In comparison, the Surface Pro X has two USB-C ports for the Surface Connect port, the Surface keyboard port and the NanoSIM slot for wireless LTE connectivity. However, the USB-A port offered on the Pro 7 model is missing.
Finally, both models can be purchased in matte black, while the Surface Pro 7 is the only model that's offered in platinum.
All in all, the Surface Pro X is slimmer and has a slightly larger display with some nice design elements.
Here these 2-in-1 models are most different.
The Surface Pro 7 uses 10th generation Intel Ice Lake CPUs with options for the Core i3-1005G1, i5-1035G4 and i7-1065G7 processors. It also has up to 16 GB of RAM and up to 1 TB of SSD. That gives the Surface Pro 7 laptop-like performance.
The Surface Pro X, on the other hand, uses a custom Microsoft SQ1 ARM-based processor based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx chip. It runs with up to 7 watts of power – significantly higher than similar chips that are normally operated with 2 watts. The SQ1 has a CPU and a GPU, which are integrated on the same chip, and offers up to 2 Teraflops graphics performance and 9 Teraflops total performance. This chip also contains an integrated A.I. Engine.
Outside of the custom processor, the Pro X offers up to 16 GB RAM and up to 512 GB SSD. Between the two models, the Pro X does not offer configurations with 4 GB RAM and 1 TB storage. That means you have a wider choice of RAM and memory when you configure Pro 7.
The comparison of Intel chips with Microsoft's custom processor is currently controversial. The main differences between the two result from the underlying processor design. Intel's x86-based chips typically aim for high performance first, then battery, although Intel is trying to fill this gap with each new generation. ARM-based Snapdragon chips mostly swap performance for better battery life. The recent collaboration between Qualcomm and Microsoft is trying to change this, but you will still encounter compatibility issues.
Most developers release 32-bit and 64-bit versions of their apps. The 32-bit versions can be run on a Windows 10 PC with an ARM-based chip. However, 64-bit apps can only be run if they are ported to ARM64. In other words, many apps that you run on an Intel-based PC – including the Pro 7 – can't do this properly on an ARM-based PC like the Pro X. They're not quite as limited as the original Surface and Windows RT, but there are still restrictions.
In our review of the Surface Pro 7, we saw a 20% improvement in multi-core performance over the previous generation. In particular, Handbrake converted 4K video 24% faster than the previously tested Pro 6 model. If you're thinking about gaming on this 2-in-1 PC, stick with the Core i7 configuration and Iris Plus graphics at the G7 level. Unfortunately, the SSD was slower than expected and moved at half the speed of the SSDs installed in the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.
Ultimately, the only way to compare Surface Pro 7 and Pro X is to use benchmark tools that are suitable for both x86 (Intel) and ARM (Snapdragon) chips. Geekbench 5 is one of those tools with which the Surface Pro 7 Core i5 configuration outperformed the Surface Pro X in multi-core tests: 4412 versus 2813. The Core 7 of the Pro 7 achieved a higher value in single-core tests of 1218 than the lower Pro X of 735.
The Surface Pro 7 was far ahead of the Surface Pro X in other benchmarks such as the BrowserBench speedometer and JetStream 2.
Both laptops are thin and light and hardly fit in a backpack. The Surface Pro X is much thinner, but the weight is about the same. These are two of the most portable 2-in-1 PCs.
Riley Young / Digital Trends
Microsoft has lowered its estimate for the Surface Pro 7 from the 13.5 hours promised with the Surface Pro 6 to only 10.5 hours of mixed use in terms of the fast CPUs it contains.
Compared to the previously tested Surface Pro 6, the newer Pro 7 model died an hour and 20 minutes earlier than its predecessor when surfing the Internet lightly. While the specifications list up to 10.5 hours of mixed use, we have found that the upper limit is lower at 8.5 hours.
Meanwhile, Microsoft can work normally on the Surface Pro X for up to 13 hours, but the actual numbers seem to be nine hours. That's a bit more than the Pro 7, but not a significant increase given the battery-efficient chip inside. Why? Because Microsoft and Qualcomm optimized this custom chip for more performance than the typical Snapdragon chip for phones and tablets.
Which one is better?
If you want performance and compatibility, buy the Surface Pro 7. If you want a highly portable device and mainly deal with streaming Netflix, buy the Surface Pro X.
But let's dive deeper into our conclusion.
The Surface Pro 7 costs from $ 749 only for the tablet and rises from there. High-end configurations are likely to cost well over $ 2,000, and you should allow a few hundred dollars for a type cover and a surface pen.
The Surface Pro X starts at $ 999 for the tablet only and is available from there. Again, you should calculate a few hundred dollars for a type cover and a slim pen.
Both laptops are premium devices if they are well configured.
We suspect that most users will use the Surface Pro 7 for performance. But the Surface Pro X certainly offers an interesting alternative with a slightly better battery life.