Microsoft Surface Pro 8
RRP $ 1,600.00
"The Surface Pro 8 is by far the best Windows 2-in-1 you can buy."
Gorgeous 120 Hz screen
Has two powerful Thunderbolt 4 ports
SSD is easily accessible
The Surface Slim Pen 2 is exceptional
There is still a lack of mobile apps
For the past 6 years, every version of the Surface Pro has looked almost identical. And while Microsoft is taking its time with its product changes, an update is long overdue, especially for the Surface Pro.
That's exactly what the Surface Pro 8 is – and it couldn't have come at a better time. Pre-installed with the brand new Windows 11, the Surface Pro 8 feels like a device that can rival the iPad Pro. The price hike aside, the Surface Pro 8 is a near-perfect 2-in-1 that is finally a product category that is starting to realize its potential.
If you haven't set up the Surface Pro 8 next to the previous year's model, you may not see the difference at first. It shares the same iconic stand, overall shape, and connects to the Type Cover keyboard in the same way.
However, the Surface Pro 8 is slightly larger and heavier than the Surface Pro 7. It's 0.04 inches thicker by 0.37 inches and 0.22 pounds heavier. This is never good when it comes to a tablet that is meant to be held with one hand.
But there are two legitimate reasons for the larger dimensions. First, the Surface Pro 8 is made from recycled aluminum instead of magnesium. According to Microsoft, this is a more sustainable method and gives the device a higher quality finish. The Surface Pro has always been a rigid device, but I'm sure switching to aluminum will help in that regard too.
The second reason for the bigger size? Well, it has a significantly larger screen. The Surface Pro 8 now has a 13-inch screen, compared to 12.3 inches on the previous model. By trimming the edges of the screen, Microsoft is pushing so much extra screen space into the device without adding too much to the overall dimensions.
Compared to the iPad Pro, however, the additional size makes the Surface Pro 8 more difficult to use as a tablet. I'm not saying it's a chore to use the Surface Pro 8 as a tablet – far from it. But the 1.5-pound iPad Pro feels more portable in comparison and doesn't put as much strain on your wrist when you hold it with one hand.
The Type Cover, which is still available separately, has also been updated. The biggest change is that the new Surface Slim Pen 2 fits perfectly into the slot above the keyboard. It charges up here and can even be hidden if you lift the keyboard. It's nice to have a permanent place for the pen so as not to (hopefully) lose so much.
Many of these changes were first made in the original Surface Pro X, which launched back in 2018. Inch iPad Pro.
Microsoft doesn't have the best history with ports, but the Surface Pro 8 makes amends. The Surface Pro 8 finally has Thunderbolt 4, which is a first for the Surface Pro line. Thunderbolt 4 means the fastest transfers, the best docking experience, and the ability to connect to powerful external devices. Thunderbolt 4 can also charge and power the device.
The Surface Pro 8 includes two of these ports, along with the Surface Dock magnetic port and a headphone jack.
Unfortunately, all of these ports are on the same side, so you don't have a power port at all on the left. Like all newer Surface Pros, the Surface Pro 8 offers quick access to storage. There is a small panel under the stand that can be accessed via a SIM card eject pin. Accessing your storage doesn't get much easier.
Surface Slim Pen 2 and Type Cover
The original Surface Pen was round and heavy to simulate the feeling of using a real pen. But the Surface Slim Pen, first introduced with the Surface Pro X, is a fantastic alternative. The flat design sits comfortably in the hand and the lighter feel makes it less intimidating. The fact that it has a storage space is the icing on the cake.
But the Surface Slim Pen 2 brings an important update to the mix: haptic feedback. You have to feel something like this yourself to understand it, but the smallest haptic feedback is built into the pen to simulate the feeling of writing on paper. Slide the pen lightly over the glass and you won't notice. But if you press a little harder, you will feel the sensation of artificial friction.
It's extremely subtle, but it adds a bit of realism to writing and illustrating. What's more, it's a brilliant idea that gets carried out well.
The new Type Cover looks and feels exactly like the previous model, except with a charging slot for the Surface Slim Pen 2. The keyboard and touchpad remain unchanged, which is good. The full-size keyboard is comfortable and tactile, and features the standard Surface keyboard layout.
The touchpad, on the other hand, feels precise and smooth. I always wish it was a little bigger, but considering it's a keyboard topper, it's surprisingly good.
The display of the Surface Pro 8 is not only bigger, but also faster. The 13-inch panel now comes with a refresh rate of 120 Hz, even though it ships at 60 Hz. But trust me, once you're into the 120hz screen you won't want to go back. While the Surface Pro 8 isn't a gaming device, the faster screen is a quality of life improvement across the board. Animations are smoother, scrolling feels smoother and it even reduces the latency when drawing with the Surface Pen. All new animations in Windows 11 look buttery smooth. It's what the device needs to be competitive with the iPad Pro, but I hope more Windows devices follow suit.
The screen also has a slightly higher resolution of 2880 x 1920. However, it's still 3: 2 and still 267 pixels per inch. The Surface Pro devices have always had sharp screens, and this one is no different.
With a maximum of 409 cd / m², the screen of the Surface Pro 8 is brighter than the previous model. In the new “Vivid” color mode, the device offers better color saturation with 99% sRGB and 79% AdobeRGB. That's not quite as good as the Surface Laptop Studio, but it's fine for the type of device the Surface Pro 8 is intended for.
Across the board, the display feels like the main improvement on the Surface Pro 8 – and since it's a tablet, that's a big deal.
Windows 11 and software
The Surface Pro always had a big hitch: Windows 10. The lack of optimization for touch made the Surface Pro (and all Windows tablets) difficult.
Windows 11 goes a long way towards solving this problem. For the first time, the Surface Pro 8 feels like a usable tablet on its own. While almost everyone should still buy the corresponding Type Cover, I can only use it as a tablet and enjoy the experience. The small, gesture-based keyboard is great for one-finger typing, while grabbing and dragging windows is much easier.
It's still not an operating system designed primarily for the touch, like iPadOS, but Windows 11 has gone a long way in enhancing the tablet experience.
The only missing feature is Android apps which still haven't popped up. That leaves a void in the app ecosystem for mobile apps in which the iPad Pro excels. Even then, the inclusion of Android apps cannot magically fix the app situation for Windows tablets. Until then, the iPad Pro will always be the better tablet, even if the Surface Pro 8 has made significant strides.
Cameras and speakers
The Surface Pro has always had a great video conferencing experience thanks to its great webcam and speakers. Tablets tend to have much better webcams than laptops, and that stays here. The 5 megapixel front camera produces sharp images and smooth videos. Microsoft says it has made some tuning tweaks to keep your face in focus.
But overall, the camera does a fantastic job of smoothing out skin tones and not blurring the background. Your coworkers will thank you for switching from a laptop camera to the Surface Pro 8. Seriously, it's already happened to me.
Though you'll likely never use it, the Surface Pro 8 also includes a 10-megapixel camera on the back that can record 4K video. But again please not.
The Surface Pro 8 combines these cameras with a fantastic set of speakers. Again, tablets tend to excel in audio when compared to laptops, and the Surface Pro 8 continues to demonstrate that trend. It's the same two-watt speakers as in previous models, but now they're physically bigger. I couldn't make a head-to-head comparison, but I can say that watching videos and listening to music on Surface Pro 8 is actually fun. I can't say that about almost every laptop that isn't a MacBook Pro.
Microsoft also highlighted its "volume-dependent EQ" function, which ensures that the sound still has plenty of bass even at lower volumes. The audio has a clarity and fullness that I want laptops to have. But hey, that's just another benefit of a 2-in-1.
Despite the name, the Surface Pro 8 is not a real “Pro” device. It doesn't have a separate GPU and the Intel quad-core processor is standard. My configuration came with a Core i7-1185G7, the same chip you use in all sorts of 13-inch laptops and tablets. Still, Microsoft has managed to make some significant changes that will result in improved performance.
The Surface Pro 8 has a new thermal, a system that Microsoft calls "active cooling". With carbon composite heat spreaders and fans, the Surface Pro 8 remains a fairly quiet yet powerful 2-in-1. The fanless configurations are gone, however, which means that all versions of the Surface Pro 8 have the same cooling system.
The result? Well, the multi-core performance and integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics performance were both highlights, with the Surface Pro 8 taking the lead among other convertible 2-in-1 and 13-inch laptops.
This resulted in solid real-world performance in an application like Handbrake, where the Surface Pro 8 is again among the fastest of its size. Calling it the most powerful Windows tablet or 2-in-1 feels right.
|Underdog bench 5
(Single / multiple)
|Cinebench R23 (single / multiple)||Handbrake (seconds)||PCMark 10||3DMark time spy|
|Surface Pro 8(Core i7-1185G7)||1296/5041||1287/5431||185||4169||1828|
|ThinkPad X12 detachable (Core i5-1130G7)||1352/4796||1125/3663||188||4443||926|
|Dell Latitude 7320 detachable (Core i7-1180G7)||1532/5031||1246/3339||247||4410||1443|
|Dell XPS 13 (Core i7-1185G7)||1549/5431||1449/4267||204||3859||1589|
|MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (Core i7-1185G7)||1352/4891||1360/4392||203||4872||1751|
Don't expect to be able to enjoy 4K video editing on the Surface Pro 8, however. The lack of discrete graphics is a problem there. This is where the more powerful Surface Laptop Studio comes in. The performance of the M1 on the iPad Pro also shines here. The graphics performance blows the tiny integrated graphics of the Surface Pro 8 out of the water.
This applies to games as well as to the creation of content. While the Surface Pro 8's discrete graphics are more admirable for what they are, it isn't capable of playing many modern games at high enough frame rates.
Microsoft says the Surface Pro 8 can now last up to 16 hours on a single charge thanks to a larger battery. That is quite a claim. Our lightest battery life test, which repeated a local 1080p video clip until the system crashes, hit 10 hours and 48 minutes. There are many laptops and tablets that lasted longer in this review, despite being the same as the ThinkPad X12 Detachable and the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable.
I also tested the Surface Pro 8 browsing the web and going through a series of heavy websites until the battery ran out. The Surface Pro 8 lasted for 8.5 hours here. However, if your workflow involves multiple applications, tabs, and media streaming, you can expect the battery to drain by an hour or two, depending on your tasks. That means the Surface Pro 8 is unlikely to last the entire work day without charging.
It also doesn't have the incredible standby longevity that the iPad Pro does.
Still, the Surface Pro 8 is a couple of hours better than the previous configuration. It's an area I'd like to see improvements in, but it's not a big hook for me anymore.
Configurations and price
The Surface Pro 8 isn't just a major change in the design of the line – it changes the pricing scheme too. The Surface Pro 7 started at $ 750 for a basic Core i3 configuration. This wasn't the most powerful option, but it was a cheap way to get premium hardware.
The Core i3 model is gone, and the Core i5 model now starts at $ 1,100. That's $ 200 more expensive than the previous generation and is the equivalent of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, like the iPad Pro, this base model still only contains 128 GB of storage.
Microsoft tends to be among the most expensive manufacturers when it comes to adding storage and RAM. With the Surface Pro 8, Microsoft is priced exactly the same as the iPad Pro's storage options, charging $ 100 for an upgrade to 256 GB or $ 300 for an increase to 512 GB.
From then on, things get wildly expensive and unnecessary. I can't think of any reason why you'd buy the $ 2,600 model with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage – the Surface Pro 8 just isn't the type of device for this type of configuration. The $ 1,600 model I tested feels overpriced for the amount of storage you get, but the $ 1,200 or $ 1,400 configurations both seem like good options, depending on Your requirements.
And of course the Surface Pro 8 does not come with the Type Cover or the Surface Slim Pen 2. Adding these two accessories will cost you an additional $ 410.
The Surface Pro 8 is by far the best Surface Pro ever made. Its screen is bigger, faster and brighter, its performance is stronger than ever and even the battery life has improved. That alone will move Surface fans to upgrade.
But it's Windows 11 that really makes the Surface Pro 8 a compelling 2-in-1 device – in ways that have never been seen before. All of these changes taken together could eventually lead form factor skeptics to give it a try.
Are there alternatives?
The main competitor, the iPad Pro, is hard to beat. The Surface Pro 8 has the upper hand of running normal x86 Pro applications, but the iPad Pro is a much larger tablet app ecosystem.
The ThinkPad X12 Detachable uses a similar form factor for a cheaper price. If you really want to go cheap, the new Surface Go 3 is the real budget option.
How long it will take?
The Surface Pro 8 should last at least four or five years. Its build quality is exceptional while the features and components are all top notch. Since this is a Windows 11 product (and especially a Surface PC), it ensures that you will continue to receive timely updates in the future. The ability to simply swap out more memory is the icing on the cake.
Should you buy it?
Yes sir. It's the most sensible update to the Surface Pro in a long time, and it finally feels like a worthy opponent of the iPad Pro.