Since 2014’s Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has been riding the current Surface Pro design, which finally nailed the iconic design with a 3:2 display. Microsoft has always made small upgrades throughout time, such as fanless i5 processors, angled typing, enhanced cameras, better thermals, a larger display, and improved Surface Pen. However, as firms went towards reduced bezels and Intel’s Thunderbolt 3, the design became stale in 2018.
While the Surface Pro 7+ improved things with Intel’s 11th generation processor and a longer battery, it was exclusively geared at business users. We believed at the time that Microsoft intended to make big changes to Surface Pro without alienating enterprise users who relied on stability. That assumption was true, as the Surface Pro 8 is a whole new device with new ports, replacements, and the inability to use pricey peripherals like the Kensington SD7000 dock.
Fortunately for Surface Pro lovers, the new Surface Pro 8 is practically faultless. Sure, battery life should be improved, but with the redesigned design, larger 120Hz display, new Slim Pen 2 with storage, lower bezels, and so much more, it’s the most exciting update to the most iconic Surface yet.
Surface Pro 8 is a suitable tribute to one of the most important PCs of the contemporary period, as it will be 10 years old next June.
PRICE, AVAILABILITY, AND SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE SURFACE PRO 8
The Surface Pro 8 is currently available in nine different countries. Microsoft, Best Buy, Amazon, and other third-party stores are selling it in the United States and other markets. Among the nine first markets are:
- United States
- United Kingdom
Some markets may not see the Surface Pro 8 until early 2022, while others may see it in late 2021, due to an ongoing global chip and processor shortage that has a significant impact on Microsoft. These are some of the markets:
- New Zealand
- The Czech Republic
The Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage costs $1,099 to begin with. Due to Microsoft’s decision to remove Core i3 variants with 4GB of RAM from the consumer market, this is a higher price than the Surface Pro 7. (there are commercial models with Core i3 and 8GB of RAM). The move is expected to give the Surface Pro X some breathing room, as it now starts at $899 for Wi-Fi only and is a great alternative to the Core i3.
The Surface Pro Keyboard ($140) without the Slim Pen 2 or the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with Slim Pen 2 ($280) are not included in the above cost. Poppy Red, Ice Blue, Platinum, and black are the four colors available for the keyboards.
Before we dive into the details, here’s a quick rundown of what’s new and different about the Surface Pro 7:
- The rounded chassis “complements Windows 11‘s fluid UI style.”
- Thinner bezels increase the amount of display real estate by 11%.
- Anodized aluminum chassis that has been recycled (versus magnesium)
- A new ambient color sensor adjusts display colors dynamically based on room lighting.
- Pen latency is “nearly unnoticeable” on a 120Hz display.
- The speed and precision of the infrared camera have been greatly enhanced.
- Windows Hello can dynamically adjust to changes in your look thanks to Microsoft’s AI (glasses and facial hair)
- For superior low-light performance, the 5MP full HD RGB camera boasts bigger 1.4-micron pixels.
- There are additional tuning adjustments in the camera to keep your face in focus.
- Dolby Vision (HDR) and Dolby Atmos are two Dolby technologies (surround sound)
- The 11th Gen Intel processor on the Surface Pro 8 has a TDP of up to 23 watts.
- For the first time, LTE is available in Core i3 and Core i7 variants (commercial markets)
- The battery capacity has increased to 50.4 WHr from 43.2 WHr.
- New carbon composite thermal dissipation system is employed.
- In comparison to the Surface Pro 7, the Surface Pro 8 has a 46 percent higher compute speed and a 75 percent quicker graphics processing speed.
The most significant modifications are the addition of Thunderbolt 4 (two connections on the right side), the Surface Slim Pen 2 with storage, and a bigger display thanks to smaller bezels. However, in comparison to the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 7+, Microsoft redid practically everything on the Surface Pro 8, making it feel like an altogether new tablet.
|Category||Surface Pro 8|
|OS||Windows 11 Home|
Windows 11 Pro (commercial)
Windows 10 Pro (commercial)
|Processor||Consumer: Intel Core i5-1135G7, Core i7-1185G7|
Commercial: Intel Core i3-1115G4, Core i5-1145G7, Core i7-1185G7
|RAM||8GB, 16GB, 32GB|
|Graphics||Intel UHD (i3)|
Intel Iris Xe (i5, i7)
|Storage||128GB, 256GB SSD (Wi-Fi, LTE)|
512GB, 1TB SSD (Wi-Fi)
3:2 aspect ratio
Up to 120Hz (60Hz default)
|Ports||Two Thunderbolt 4|
|Audio||Dual 2W stereo speakers|
Dual far-field studio mics
Snapdragon X20 LTE
Front-facing 5MP (1080p)
Rear-facing 10MP (1080p, 4K)
|Keyboard||Surface Pro Signature keyboard|
|Pen||Surface Slim Pen 2|
Up to 16 hours
|Dimensions||11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches|
(287mm x 208.3mm x 9.4mm)
|Weight||1.96 pounds (891g)|
Users can manually upgrade storage to 1TB now that the SSD is accessible (maybe even 2TB). This year, you can obtain up to 32GB of RAM for the first time.
How to Upgrade the SSD on a Surface Pro 8 (and which one to get)
The $1,600 variant with Core i7, 256GB of storage, 16GB of RAM, and a Platinum Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with Slim Pen 2 is used in this review, bringing the total price to $1,880 before taxes.
Surface Pro 8 comes preloaded with Windows 11, with Windows 11 Home for consumer editions and Windows 11 Pro or Windows 10 Pro for business variants. For an additional $99.00, users can upgrade to Windows 11 Pro.
DESIGN AND FEATURES OF SURFACE PRO 8
When you put the Surface Pro 8 next to the Surface Pro X (Microsoft’s ARM model) and look at them side by side, you can’t tell the difference. However, the difference may be seen in the side profiles: Surface Pro 8 is the result of adding additional vents and pushing the rear out a few millimeters to cool those 11th Gen Intel chips. That’s a good thing, because the Surface Pro X is the most beautifully designed Surface Pro to date.
Surface Pro 8 weighs 0.26 pounds (118g) heavier than Surface Pro X and is nearly 2mm thicker than Pro X (and 1mm thicker than Pro 7/7+) due to these changes. When carrying the two, I believe it is nearly hard to notice the weight difference. The overall size of the Pro 8 is definitely larger, although I can’t say I mind.
With a new Graphite hue, Microsoft changed out magnesium for aluminum in the chassis this year. What’s the end result? Microsoft has finally nailed the color black. Unlike earlier black Surface Pros, which were fingerprint magnets, this one’s casing is practically immune to even the most greasy hands. It’s the little things like this that I value.
The chassis is also a little more rounded than prior Surfaces, which had a more angular edge. The slightly slanted and contoured edge is soft and pleasant to grasp, and it compliments the look and feel of Windows 11. (with rounded corners).
When it comes to ports, Microsoft keeps things simple. On the right-hand side, beneath the power button, are two Type-C ports. Both support Intel’s Thunderbolt 4, allowing you to use an external GPU (eGPU), Thunderbolt 4 docks, and super-fast external Thunderbolt drives with this PC. The functionality is long overdue, and it finally elevates the Surface Pro 8 to the status of a true modern PC. It will appeal to content developers.
The Surface Connect, which comes with a 65-watt charger, sits beneath those Type-C connectors. Surface Connect, with its magnetic attachment, is a fan favorite, and while you can charge via Type-C, Surface Connect offers some quick charging, including going from 0% to 80% in an hour.
A headphone jack and volume rocker are located on the left side of the device. The lack of a headphone jack isn’t a major flaw, but it is something the Surface Pro X lacks.
A superb 5MP full HD camera sits in the top bezel, which is admittedly thicker than the rest, putting everything else to shame (save for Surface Laptop Studio, which is similar). Microsoft employs artificial intelligence to improve illumination and follow your face, ensuring that the focus doesn’t blur as you take a sip of your coffee. Surface Pro 8 is an excellent pick if you spend a lot of time on video conferences.
Windows Hello, which allows you to log into Windows 11 using your face, has a pair of microphones and infrared sensors (biometric security). It moves at a breakneck speed. An adaptive color sensor is also new this year. More about that in the review’s display section below.
On the back, a 10MP camera (up from 8MP) matches that of the Surface Pro X. It can now record in 4K resolution. It’s an excellent camera for taking screenshots of a whiteboard for use in OneNote or other important tasks.
I’m at a loss for words to convey how much better the dual 2W speakers are with Dolby Atmos (up from 1.6W) (spatial audio). Surface Pro 8 now has a resonance, resulting in a substantially fuller sound profile than previous Surface Pros, thanks to the slightly thicker chassis and more powerful speakers. It sounds just as good, if not better, than the Surface Laptop Studio’s quad speakers. These are excellent speakers for viewing movies, playing video games, or participating in Microsoft Teams calls.
The Surface Pro Signature Keyboards are compatible with the Surface Pro X and have the same design. The new Windows 11 logo, on the other hand, is a pleasant touch.
This year’s platinum hue is a darker gray that looks fantastic. It’s also said to be significantly more stiff. The tray for the Surface Slim Pen or Surface Slim Pen 2 is the major deal. When not in use, the pen now tucks away and even recharges itself. It’s a brilliant idea that elevates this Surface Pro above prior models by ensuring you don’t lose your pen in transit.
The touchpad is smooth and uses Microsoft Precision drivers, however it clicks rather loudly, which might be unpleasant in a quiet environment. On the Surface Laptop Studio, Microsoft handles this with a non-moving haptic trackpad where you may control the “click” volume. In the future, I’d want to see that technology applied here.
I’ve always like typing on Surface Pro keyboards, and this is no exception. It’s also really fun because of the angle, the way the keys respond, and the illumination.
It’s also worth noticing that Microsoft has finally included some small magnets in the keyboard, ensuring that it remains closed and does not bounce around. This was done on the Surface Pro X, and it’s a good inclusion here as well.
My only minor criticism of the Surface Pro 8 is that the kickstand is slightly more difficult to open due to the polished edges making the notch harder to distinguish. It’s a slight difference, but the Pro 7‘s kickstand is easier to open.
SURFACE PRO 8: INKING AND DISPLAY
The display is the highlight of the Surface Pro, and it has undergone a number of important improvements with Surface Pro 8, all of which are for the better.
Moving to a larger 13-inch display is not only more comfortable for my aged eyes, but it also thins out the bezels. Although an increase in screen size of 11% may not seem like much, it makes a big impact in usage, with the Surface Pro 8 being even more immersive.
Plus, it’s just more appealing.
Sure, those bezels are all different sizes (which isn’t an issue with the Surface Laptop Studio), but that doesn’t bother me. As a result, the display is larger and more prominent.
Despite the huge size, the pixels per inch (PPI) is still 267 thanks to the higher resolution of 2880×1920 (versus 2736×1824). The display aspect ratio remains at 3:2, which is a Surface trademark that roughly resembles A9 paper size.
And that’s a nice exhibition. I tested 100 percent sRGB, 81 percent AdobeRGB, and 83 percent DCI-P3 with a colorimeter, which is a significant improvement. The Surface Pro 7/7+, on the other hand, was just 98 percent sRGB, 73 percent AdobeRGB, and 72 percent DCI-P3.
Brightness peaks at 441 nits (just shy of the promised 450) and drops to an extremely low 1.9 nits, making this a perfect PC for use in a pitch-black room.
The 120Hz screen refresh rate is also new. Surface Pro 8 is set to 60Hz by default, but users may change it to 120Hz by going to Settings > Display > Advanced Display > Choose a refresh rate (at the detriment of slightly worse battery life). Windows 11 feels faster since the animations and video are smoother.
In that vein, Windows 11 now supports Dynamic Refresh Rate, which allows displays to switch between 60Hz (idle) and 120Hz in real time (scrolling, inking). This should help to extend the battery life while also allowing for a faster display refresh. Regrettably, that capability has yet to be enabled, though Microsoft anticipates a firmware upgrade to do so soon.
The lack of delay with the Surface Slim Pen 2 is also due to the 120Hz. The faster refresh rate allows the ink to “flow” more freely, replicating real inking. Haptics, a sort of “force feedback,” is also supported by that pen. It’s only possible to use haptic inking if the app supports it, but many already do, including:
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Journal
- Microsoft Whiteboard
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Adobe Fresco
Under Settings, users may adjust the strength of the haptics as well as turn them off. It’s set to 50% by default, however I find that bumping it up to near 100% improves the experience. When imitating writing with a pencil on paper, the functionality simulates friction. Changing to a pen or marker causes it to alter once more. When using Adobe Fresco and the lasso tool, the pen produces a slight “kick” when you get close to the grab points.
Pen haptics is a nice feature, however it’s not exactly eye-catching because it’s modest. However, when combined with the new pen tip in the Surface Slim Pen 2, the whole experience is greatly improved. When you add in the 120Hz refresh rate for no latency and the flexibility to tuck it away in the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard (where it also charges), you have a really remarkable digital inking set.
Microsoft is also using Dolby Vision, a type of high-dynamic-range (HDR) that improves contrast with visual content, for the first time. You get deeper blacks, improved contrast, and richer colors when you pair it with movies graded for Dolby Vision.
There are no Dolby Vision options by default, however users can install the Dolby Access app from the Microsoft Store. With various settings, that program can tweak audio (Dolby Atmos) and video (Dolby Vision).
Similarly, an adjustable color sensor is now available. This sensor, which is located near the front-facing webcam, automatically adjusts the white balance to match the current ambient lighting, resulting in more consistency across various contexts. Apple has been doing this for quite some time (aka “True Tone”). Under warmer lighting conditions, the impact is that sharp whites become mellowed. Surprisingly, I appreciate True Tone here, despite my hatred for it on the iPhone. Users can, of course, turn it off under Settings > Display.
I’m happy to inform that Microsoft now allows users to eliminate Intel’s “adaptive contrast,” which has long been a source of frustration for Surface users. Adaptive contrast dims blacks and reduces contrast to save power, making it a useful option for those concerned about battery life. When switching from a mainly white to a predominantly black web page, however, the experience can cause startling brightness fluctuations.
You get the finest Surface Pro display experience ever when you mix 120Hz, Dolby Vision HDR, adaptive color, and superb color accuracy in a bigger 13-inch panel. It’s fantastic. Streaming the new The Matrix: Resurrections 4K trailer over Wi-Fi 6 is really enjoyable, with vivid, bright, contrasty colors. It’s a huge distinction.
My only issue with the Surface Pro 8 display is a long-standing one: Because there is no anti-reflective (AR) layer, it is overly glossy. In pen-enabled gadgets like the iPad Pro, HP, Dell, Lenovo, and especially Apple use augmented reality. While maintaining contrast and color fidelity, AR makes the device more comfortable to use in bright light or outdoors. It’s a perplexing omission, and Microsoft has been unable to give me with an explanation for its absence.
SURFACE PRO 8: BATTERY AND PERFORMANCE
Although the Surface Pro 7+ had Intel 11th Gen U-series processors when it arrived earlier this year, the Surface Pro 8 has significantly updated ones for the higher-end Core i7 range. The Surface Pro 8 replaces the 4.7GHz Core i7-1165G7 with a slightly faster 4.8GHz Core i7-1185G7.
The inbuilt Intel Iris Xe graphics have also been increased in speed (1.35GHz vs. 1.3GHz). The i7-1185G7 is now Intel vPro compliant, featuring Intel Trusted Execution Technology and Total Memory Encryption, in keeping with Windows 11‘s emphasis on hardware and software security.
Direct comparisons with prior Surface Pros are difficult because we have a mix of Core i5 models, but the Surface Pro 8 offers some fantastic performance thanks to improved thermals and the Intel EVO platform.
In PCMark 10, which measures total system performance using a mix of CPU and GPU, the Surface Pro 8 with i7 equals the Surface Laptop 4 (13-inch) with the same Core i7 despite being more thermally constrained (smaller, tighter chassis). This is excellent news, as previous Surface Pros failed to compete with more traditional laptops.
Indeed, on Cinebench 23, a CPU-only benchmark, the Surface Pro 8 outperforms similar laptops with the identical Core i7-1185G7 processor, indicating that Microsoft did some crazy thermal work with the new design (it’s also much ahead of the Surface Book 3 with a 10th Gen i7). Similarly, on Geekbench 5, the Surface Pro 8 is in the same ballpark as the excellent Razer Book 13 and Dell XPS 13. (9310).
Although the Surface Pro 8 isn’t designed for gaming, Iris Xe is still a big upgrade over Intel UHD graphics from previous generations. In 2021, the Surface Pro 8 should perform similarly to any other Core i7 Ultrabook. The gap between a gaming rig and an ultra-portable PC is decreasing, thanks to the rise of PC cloud streaming via Xbox Game Pass. (Even better, eGPUs are now available.)
In Dying Light 2 at 2K and higher resolutions on an external display, I was able to easily attain 120+ frames-per-second utilizing an eGPU with an NVIDIA RTX 2080. Because most games these days are GPU-intensive, the graphics card you use in that GPU, rather than the Surface Pro 8‘s quad-core CPU, is the most important factor.
When it comes to the SSD, Microsoft continues to impress, though not as much as with the Surface Laptop Studio. The Surface Pro 8, which now features a removable SSD, achieved sequential read speeds of 2,400MB/s and sequential write speeds of 1,600MB/s. While not very impressive in comparison to other computers, it is a significant improvement over the Surface Pro 7‘s read speeds of 2,000MB/s and write speeds of only 752MB/s.
Because there are so many factors now, battery life is difficult to predict. We turned off battery-saving features like auto-brightness and adaptive contrast for this test, but kept performance at “recommended.” To mirror our previous Surface Pro 7/7+ battery tests, we set the display brightness to 40%.
Surface Pro 8 @ 120Hz managed a decent 9 hours and 3 minutes on PCMark 10 Modern Office, which includes light to medium productivity activity such as video chats, web surfing, and Office use. The battery life was enhanced to 10 hours and 45 minutes by lowering the refresh rate to 60Hz (the default setting). Surface Pro 8 has a slightly quicker processor and a larger display than Surface Pro 7+ (11 hours and 12 minutes). However, it is an improvement over the Surface Pro 7, which only lasted 9 hours and 52 minutes.
Of course, if you play games or use the GPU with the display brightness set to 80% (or higher) and the refresh rate set to 120Hz, you’ll save a lot of time. Auto-brightness and adjustable contrast are enabled by default to help enhance display brightness, which is one of the most extensive battery drawers.
The final line is that, in comparison to prior Surface Pros, the Surface Pro 8 is only slightly better. While the battery is larger (50.2WHr) than that of the Surface Pro 7 (43.2WHr), the larger screen and other improvements offset some of the Intel 11th Gen benefits. Even if the increases are little, it’s acceptable to declare that this Surface Pro has the best battery life of any Surface Pro.
Finally, even the Core i5 model is now actively cooled when it comes to heat and fan noise. However, when the fan is activated under strain, such as during Windows Update, compiling, rendering, or gaming, the fan remains silent, with just the whooshing of air being pushed through the chassis audible. It isn’t loud, and there isn’t a whine, but it is audible. However, when compared to most Ultrabooks, the Surface Pro 8 is extremely quiet. It is silent when used for light tasks such as online browsing, email, and so on.
Temperatures are minimal as well, and are consistent with prior Surfaces. Although the back can become heated, it is never hot to the touch. On the upper back panel, I measured a peak of 108°F (42°C), which quickly cools down after the CPU and GPU calm down.
COMPETITION IN SURFACE PRO 8
There are a few worthy options depending on how you feel about the general design of the Surface Pro’s tablet + PC functionality.
The first is the Surface Pro X, which is where this new design came from. For consumers, the new $899 Wi-Fi-only Surface Pro 8 provides an alternative to the non-existent Core i3 Surface Pro 8. Because of the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2/Microsoft SQ2 ARM processor, it has lower performance, but it makes up for it with a few extra hours of battery life and 4G LTE. You won’t be able to use a haptic pen with it, but it will be slightly thinner and lighter.
Dell’s Latitude 7320 Detachable is aimed more for enterprises. It has a flimsier kickstand, but Thunderbolt 4, a 13-inch display (only full HD), 11th Gen Intel, and a 5MP full HD camera are all included. The battery, however, is smaller, with a capacity of 40WHr.
Lenovo also has the ThinkPad X12 Detachable, which is similar to the Surface Pro but is geared toward businesses. It features a lower-resolution full HD display and poor speakers, but it still has all of Lenovo’s magic, including the infamous “smile” keyboard design. There are also 4G alternatives.
HP now offers the Surface Pro-like Elite X2 G8, which features Intel 11th Gen processors and a 13-inch display with an optional 3,000×2,000 resolution. There are three Type-C ports, two of which are Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Surface Laptop 4 13-inch with Intel is a decent choice if you only want a typical clamshell laptop with similar performance. All of our top Ultrabook options are excellent alternatives.
SURFACE PRO 8: SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
Since the Surface Pro’s inception in 2012, I’ve been using it. It was a bumpy start because the concept was ahead of the hardware at the time, resulting in poor battery life and other odd tradeoffs. But Microsoft persisted, and it was between the Surface Pro 3 and the Surface Pro 4 that the concept eventually caught on with consumers.
After nearly a decade, I’d say that the Surface Pro 8 fulfills the original vision of what this tablet could be. Sure, with the collapse of Windows 8, the tablet angle has faded, but the practicality and simplicity of the Surface Pro’s design make it an essential option amid a sea of laptop PCs. It is not necessary for everyone to adore it, but many of us do.
However, what makes the Surface Pro 8 so amazing is that Microsoft just provided what fans had requested: Thunderbolt 4, 120Hz display, improved inking, improved performance, thinner bezels, and other features are included. These were all at the top of people’s wish lists for ways to improve the Surface Pro, and now they’ve arrived.
Yes, gaming is still difficult, but you can now use an eGPU with an NVIDIA RTX 3080 GPU for your desktop setup and game like a boss with just one PC. Xbox game cloud streaming is also becoming a reality.
There are a couple of minor niggles: The battery life is still poor, multi-core performance is sluggish, and the device has a fan. Apple has addressed some of these issues with its M1 CPU, yet even the 2021 iPad Pro 12.9 gets just six hours at maximum brightness and eight hours and 35 minutes at 50% brightness. That’s fine, but it’s not exactly leaps and bounds ahead of the superior Surface Pro 8.
What’s next for the Surface Pro? All that is required is the addition of augmented reality to the glass and the purchase of more powerful processors. A microSD slot would be fine, but its popularity is dwindling with each passing year. While LTE is convenient, it seems unusual that 5G will not be available in 2022. (my bet is Surface Pro X gets it first).
For the next three to five years, Microsoft is expected to rely on the new Surface Pro design. The good news is that they accomplished everything correctly. It’ll be alright if you fall into a cycle of minor processor enhancements and tweaks.
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