It took Microsoft three tries to get the Surface Pro right. The 2nd and 3rd generation models both aggressively improved on the first model’s small screen and mediocre battery life, arriving at something laptop enough to fill a laptop, but tablet enough to be unique. to be.
And then things just kind of…stalled. Some of the ports have changed over the years — the late 2019 Surface Pro 7 finally got USB-C — but the basic design and accessory compatibility has been exactly the same in every mainline Surface Pro between 2014 and now.
The interoperability of accessories across five generations is commendable and useful in some cases, especially if you run multiple generations of Surface Pro tablets in a business and need the ability to swap parts quickly. But some elements of the Surface Pro 3 design have shown their age over generations — Thunderbolt and/or USB-C ports accomplish almost everything the proprietary Surface Connect port tries to do, as do other laptops, tablets, and convertibles. had made their screen bezels smaller for a few years to increase the screen size.
Which brings us to the Surface Pro 8. The template here remains the same as it has been since Microsoft first got the Surface right: a decent-sized screen, the guts of an adequate Ultrabook, and a kickstand and detachable keyboard cover with sturdy pen rest. But Microsoft has finally refined the device in important ways, including some that we’ve first seen on other Surface devices. If you have an older Surface and want to upgrade or if you want to buy a Surface to replace the laptop you have now, this is the place to start.
A refreshed design
Microsoft has modeled the Surface Pro 8 after the design of the ARM-based Surface Pro X – the two tablets can even share keyboard covers. The Pro 8 is 0.1 inches (or 2 millimeters) thicker than the Pro X to make room for the extra cooling hardware an Intel processor needs. But you have to have the two devices side by side to really see the difference.
|Specifications at a glance: Microsoft Surface Pro 8|
|Screen||13-inch 2880×1920 120Hz IPS touchscreen (default 60Hz)|
|operating system||Windows 11 Home|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-1135G7||Intel Core i7-1185G7|
|RAM||8GB LPDDR4x (soldered)||32GB LPDDR4x (soldered)||16GB LPDDR4x (soldered)|
|Storage||128GB NVMe SSD||1TB NVMe SSD||256GB NVMe SSD|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe graphics|
|Networking||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt 4, headphones, Surface Connect port|
|Mate||11.3 × 8.2 × 0.37 inches (287 × 209 × 9.3 mm)|
|Weight||1.96 lbs (891 g), 2.58 lbs (1.17 kg) with Type Cover|
|Price (list price)||$1,100||$2,600||$1,600|
|Other benefits||IR camera, silver or black finish|
Compared to the Surface Pro 7 and the previous Surface design, the Pro 8 is nearly identical in dimensions, but it swaps out the 12.3-inch, 2736×1824 display for a 13-inch, 2880×1920 panel with the same 267 PPI pixel density and the characteristic 3:2 aspect ratio of the Surface series. The bezels around the screen are slimmer to allow for the larger screen without increasing the size — the same design trick we’ve seen in just about every phone, tablet, and laptop in recent years.
The Pro 8’s bezels are similar to the iPad Pro’s on the left and right sides of the screen, but they’re also thicker at the top and bottom (assume I’m always talking about the Pro 8 in landscape mode). unless I say otherwise). This supposedly leaves room for the webcam and IR Windows Hello camera above the screen, while also allowing room for the keyboard to rest against the screen without blocking the screen.
Also new to the Pro 8 is a 120Hz refresh rate, but out of the box the tablet still uses the more typical 60Hz refresh rate. That’s probably a decision made to conserve the tablet’s battery life, which is okay, but not great compared to laptops of comparable performance. Microsoft also supports an Apple-esque adaptive color tone feature called Adaptive Color, which, like Apple’s True Tone, adjusts the color temperature of the surface according to the ambient light where you are.
The only bad thing I can say about the display is that, unlike Apple’s iPad Pros or MacBook Pros, the Surface Pro 8 still doesn’t support the DCI-P3 color gamut. The display covers 99.4 percent of the sRGB color gamut and has a respectable contrast ratio of 1211:1 and maximum brightness of 433 nits, but DCI-P3 coverage averages 82.9 percent, according to our i1 Display Studio colorimeter .
New ports and accessories
The Surface Pro 7 finally added a USB-C port in 2019, which didn’t completely replace the proprietary Surface Connect port, but at least allowed the tablet to be used with USB-C chargers and monitors that support USB power. to support. The Surface Pro 8 replaces the USB-C port and the old Surface’s USB-A port with a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports, offering faster data transfer speeds for Thunderbolt accessories and enabling external GPU support while maintaining USB-C compatibility. things are preserved. The Surface Connect port remains on, with the same capabilities as before.
The loss of the USB-A port can still be a bit frustrating for those with a plethora of legacy accessories. On the other hand, I think it’s worth hooking up a few monitors to the Surface without relying on an expensive dock or some sort of DisplayPort daisy chain. In any case, the MacBook line, Dell’s XPS 13 and 15, and other laptops have already set the precedent with full USB-C. Losing the microSD card reader is more annoying – you’ll have to rely on an external dongle or, if you’re using a camera, your camera’s USB port to get data from SD cards.
The Pro 8 uses the same keyboard cover as the Surface Pro X – it’s pretty much the same as the old Type Cover, but with room for the Surface Slim Pen or Slim Pen 2 inside. The trackpad is certainly smaller than in laptops like the XPS 13 9310, but it’s as big as it needs to be, and it still feels accurate. The backlit chiclet keyboard also looks and feels great. But as with all of Microsoft’s Type Covers, there’s some keyboard flex that you don’t get on a regular laptop with a sturdier base (Lenovo’s ThinkPad X12 Detachable still has the most stable-feeling keyboard cover I’ve used with a Surface-like pc).
The Surface’s Slim Pen 2 is only a slight improvement over the first-generation Slim Pen. It moves the button from the narrow edge of the pen to the wider, flatter edge. And when used with newer Surface devices, including the Pro 8, Laptop Studio and Laptop 4, it has a handy haptic feedback feature that makes it vibrate subtly, like a real pencil or pen would if you drag it across paper.
I’m not an artist, but for an artist’s take on these devices, I always check Brad Colbow’s YouTube channel. He has years of videos on Surface Pro, iPad, and other pencil-compatible devices, and I trust what he has to say about the usefulness of any tablet to people who draw and ink a lot with their tablets. Colbow’s problem with the Surface series – and one that the Pro 8 and the new pen don’t solve – is its use of the Microsoft Pen protocol.
Compared to the iPads and tablets with Wacom digitizers, Colbow says MPP pens are great at palm rejecting, making them good writing aids. But they tend to draw some shaky lines, making them harder to use for fine line work. I can certainly recreate this wavy line effect on the Surface Pro 8 with the new pen if I’m not drawing fast, although you won’t notice it if you’re writing or doing work with faster strokes. If you already use a Surface and you think the Pen’s performance is fine, the Pro 8 will continue to work fine for you. But the newer devices don’t address complaints people have had about previous versions.