Surface Pro 9 Review: Microsoft Flips to 5G

By | 27/10/2022

Tom’due south Hardware Verdict

The Microsoft Surface Pro with 5G lets you become your piece of work done just almost anywhere, with long battery life and a vivid display. But the SQ3 Arm fleck ways y’all lose some features, similar faster USB ports, to Intel. And x years in, including a keyboard even so adds lot to the toll.

Pros

  • +

    Stiff webcam and audio

  • +

    Blazon cover keyboard is still height-notch

  • +

    Vivid 120 Hz display

  • +

    Long bombardment life

Cons

  • No headphone jack

  • Intel model gets faster USB ports

  • Keyboard adds a lot to the starting price

  • SQ3 has some (but style fewer!) app compatibility bug


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Over the last ten years, the Microsoft Surface Pro lineup has come to define the detachable two-in-one category. Recently, Microsoft has flirted with Qualcomm’due south Arm chips in a split model from the mainline Intel versions. Just with the Surface Pro nine, that’s changing. For the first time, Microsoft is putting Intel’s fries and Arm processors as options in the same device.

The Microsoft Surface Pro nine with 5G ($1,299.99 to start, $i,899.99 equally tested), the model with the Microsoft SQ3 processor, has the aforementioned dimensions, a 120 Hz display and the same keyboard (assuming you buy i) as the Intel model. Microsoft is planting a stake: Arm, the company is saying with its flagship tablet, is ready for primetime for Windows 11 on its flagship device.

If y’all want a 5G Surface, the SQ3 model is the only way to go. For some, that may be enough to arrive the

best ultrabook

. But at that place are tradeoffs. The SQ3 isn’t equally powerful, nevertheless has some compatibility problems (though significantly fewer than there used to be) with some Windows apps, and offers slower USB speeds.

But at its core, the Surface Pro 9 using SQ3 largely feels like any other Surface. Is Arm truly set for the spotlight?

Design of the Microsoft Surface Pro 9

The Surface Pro 9 is post-obit a formula. It’s a thin tablet that tin can connect to a keyboard to become a full Windows 11 PC.

We reviewed the Pro 9 (with a Microsoft SQ3, more than on that after) in the platinum colour — the only one that Microsoft offers with Arm chips. It very much resembles the

Surface Pro Ten

, even more so than the

Pro 8

, with a thin

chassis

and rounded corners. The only marking on the organization, besides some antennae lines, is a reflective Windows logo on the kickstand, which extends almost flat.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Prototype credit:
Tom’s Hardware
)

You all the same get a tall, three:2, 13-inch display with sparse bezels on the sides, though there remains a little room for slimming on the tiptop and bottom. Only that pinnacle does business firm a

1080p

webcam and infrared sensors, so the space is being put to practiced employ.

On the top of the device, there are power and volume buttons (the latter brand great sense when used every bit a tablet, just less so when in laptop mode).

To use the Surface as a laptop, you’ll need to add a keyboard. I suppose yous could use a Bluetooth keyboard or a USB-C keyboard you lot already own, only the best way to go portable  is with Microsoft’south own Type covers. In our review kit, that meant a $279.99 Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 bundle, though there are cheaper Signature Keyboards without the stylus included ($179.99), or just a standard keyboard without room to charge a pen ($139.99, originally designed for the Surface Pro X. Either way, budget that into your buy toll.

The fundamental board attaches to the lesser of the Pro 9 magnetically. Flip out the kickstand, and
voila: a laptop – sort of. Nosotros’ve had ten years of the Microsoft Surface and this device still isn’t great on the lap, but it works but fine on a desk-bound.

At that place is a notable omission on the Surface Pro 9: a three.five mm headphone jack. Microsoft has gone the road of Dell, which removed the port on the
XPS 13
and
XPS 13 Plus, every bit has Apple tree in most all of Apple tree’s iPads. To be off-white, Microsoft didn’t take this port on the Arm-based Surface Pro Ten, merely it’s a first for the Arabic-numeraled line. I’one thousand still of the opinion that it’s nice to have a wired headphone backup, especially when a device isn’t waterproof and there’south not much reason for its removal. Losing the port doesn’t experience terribly “Pro.” Dell includes a USB-C to 3.five mm dongle in its boxes, which is kind of a band-aid, but information technology’s better than goose egg. Microsoft should follow suit.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Image credit:
Tom’s Hardware
)

On the left side of the Surface Pro 9 are the two USB Blazon-C ports, only that’s it for expandability other than the proprietary Surface Connect port on the correct side of the device. (The Intel versions have Thunderbolt 4 and
USB 4, so the Arm version is missing out here.) The latter port is used for the charging cablevision, though if you accept a
Surface Dock

(opens in new tab)

(or whatever USB-C dock), that could add together more than expandability.

The nano SIM card slot tin be found under a door backside the kickstand. Whatever SIM ejector tool will popular the door off, exposing both the nano SIM slot and the SSD (encounter upgradeability, below). In fact, an ejector tool is included with the Surface Pro 9 — it’due south tucked into a card with all of the instruction manuals and warranty information.

Microsoft’due south tablet form factor makes the Surface Pro nine considerably smaller than clamshell competitors that also run Windows 11. Without the type cover, it’south 11.3 x eight.2 10 0.37 inches and just 1.95 pounds.  That’s comparable to the 12.ix-inch iPad Pro, which is 11.04 x eight.46 x 0.25 inches and lighter at i.51 pounds.

The

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s

, another Windows on Arm machine, is 11.76 x eight.13 x 0.53 inches and 2.35 pounds. The latest

Dell XPS thirteen

is 11.63 x seven.86 x 0.55 inches and two.59 pounds.  Apple tree’s Arm-based laptop, the

MacBook Air with M2

, is 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches and two.vii pounds.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Specifications

CPU Microsoft SQ3
Graphics Qualcomm Adreno 8cx Gen 3 (integrated)
Retentiveness 16GB LPDDR4x-2092
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Display 13-inch PixelSense Flow, 2880 x 1920, 3:2, 120 Hz touch on screen
Networking Qualcomm WCN685x Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth five.ane, LTE, 5G
Ports 2x USB iii.2 Type-C, Surface Connect, Nano SIM
Photographic camera 1080p webcam, IR, 10-megapixel rear camera
Battery 47.7 WHr
Power Adapter 39 W
Operating System Windows 11 Pro on Arm
Other Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with Slim Pen 2 ($279.99)
Dimensions (WxDxH) 11.three ten viii.2 10 0.37 inches (287 x 209 10 9.3 mm)
Weight 1.95 pounds (0.88 kg) without keyboard
Cost (as configured) $ane,899 + $279.00 Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 combo

Windows 11 on Arm: Prime number Time, Ready or Not

By putting the Microsoft SQ3 (based heavily on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen iii, though nosotros’re not exactly sure how identical they are) in the mainline Surface Pro line, just like Intel models, Microsoft is suggesting that Windows on Arm is ready for prime time.

In many ways, Windows 11 on Arm is far improve now than information technology was even just a couple years ago. With x64 emulation in Windows 11, plenty applications that were designed for x86 systems work, where they didn’t on the Surface Pro 10 and Windows 10.

Microsoft has been pushing for developers to create native Arm apps with various tools (announcing its own

$599 dev kit recently

), only Arm native software is yet trickling in. Native apps include Border, Microsoft Teams, Firefox, Photoshop, VLC, 7-Zip, Netflix, Handbrake and Zoom.

There are still some

applications that don’t piece of work


(opens in new tab)
, like certain anti-virus applications, games and apps using anti-crook drivers of OpenGL versions higher than 3.3. And, if you’re using peripherals that need drivers that aren’t congenital into Windows 11, you’ll need to see if there are Arm64 drivers for them.

Nearly people who try Windows on Arm for light workloads and without specialized software should be able to use this device without event. But for those looking for a truthful Pro experience, the Intel version is still more of a sure thing in terms of app compatibility.

Productivity Performance on the Microsoft Surface Pro 9

We tested the Surface Pro 9 with a Microsoft SQ3 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The SQ3, we know, is based off the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, simply information technology’s unclear simply how much is dissimilar with Microsoft’s silicon.

In general day-to-day work, like sending emails, browsing the spider web, editing spreadsheets, the Surface Pro 9 was fine. But the SQ3 won’t evangelize the power that Intel versions of the Surface Pro 9 offer.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Paradigm credit:
Tom’s Hardware
)

On Geekbench 5, an overall performance test based heavily on the processor, the Surface Pro 9 notched a unmarried-core score of i,126 and a multi-core score of v,849. The single-core score is identical to the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, and the multi-cadre score deviation is then pocket-size as to be negligible. The Dell XPS xiii (Intel Core i5-1230U) did better (one,596/v,489) in its out-of-the box optimized fashion, and even better when pushed to ultra. Merely the meridian performer in the group was Apple’southward Arm-based laptop, the MacBook Air with M2, at 1,932 single-core and 8,919 multi-core scores.

Microsoft’s PC was the slowest on our file transfer exam. It copied 25GB of files at a charge per unit of 414.79 MBps, falling backside the next slowest, the ThinkPad X13s (550.95 MBps) and the balance of the pack.

The Surface Pro 9 completed our Handbrake video transcoding test in 12 minutes and 58 seconds, surprisingly chirapsia the ThinkPad X13s by a fair margin (perhaps at that place were updates to the  Arm native version of the app). This is also the one area where it also beats the Dell XPS 13 (16:53) in its optimized mode, though pushing the XPS 13 to ultra gets it down to a faster 12:12. The MacBook Air was the speediest at 7:52.

We ran our usual stress test on the Surface Pro 9: 20 runs of Cinebench R23. It’s a tough ane for even strong productivity notebooks, but considering it’south an x64 app, the Surface Pro 9 is emulating it. In a way, we’re measuring the performance of the emulation. The system started with a score of three,550.56 before billowy around the low three,000’s and loftier two,000’southward for the residue of the test. We couldn’t get CPU clock speeds or temperatures because our usual software for that, HWInfo, is also designed for x86, then just saw a virtual processor.

Display on the Microsoft Surface Pro ix

The 13-inch “PixelSense Catamenia” display on the Surface Pro 9 has a resolution of 2880 x 1920 and is in a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is taller for showing more of your work. Information technology also has a dynamic refresh charge per unit upwardly to 120 Hz, which the company advertises every bit existence specifically good for using a stylus.

I watched i of our exam videos,
Tears of Steel, on the Surface Pro 9, and the short film’s colorful scenes were vibrant. Holograms in a lab were bright blues, pinks and greens, while a encephalon sitting on a table was a meaty, paler hue. The screen is also plenty bright, which made a nighttime scene in which a sniper looks off of a bridge like shooting fish in a barrel to come across. Max brightness was more than I needed in near cases when simply using the device.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The Surface Pro 9’s panel covered 74% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and 104.4% of the sRGB space in our tests, effectively matching the Dell XPS thirteen and landing within a few points of the MacBook Air. The ThinkPad X13s fared better here at 82.9% DCI-P3 and 117% DCI-P3.

At 439.4 nits on our light meter, the Surface Pro 9 was superior to the ThinkPad’s 309 nits. It was dimmer than the MacBook Air (489 nits) and XPS 13 (460 nits), merely still very usable.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Stylus on the Microsoft Surface Pro 9

The Surface Pro nine, like its predecessors, ships without a keyboard or touchpad. If yous want those — or a stylus — yous’ll have to pony upward extra. For me, the keyboard is a must accept.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Image credit: Tom’due south Hardware)

With our review unit, Microsoft included the $279.99 Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 packet in a pretty “sapphire” blueish colorway. The keyboard is covered in the soft Alcantara fabric that has come to exist synonymous with the Surface lineup. Above the function and media keys, there’s a small alcove that fits the Surface Pen, which allows for easy storage and wireless charging.

You can type with the keyboard angle upward (and hiding away the stylus), or with the keyboard flat against the desk. I prefer the latter because while it’s less comfortable, information technology doesn’t bounciness as much. I hit 115 words per minute on monkeytype on the type cover, though my accurateness dipped to 97%.

The Type Cover is nice and soft against the wrists, and I’m still a fan of Microsoft’due south key switches, which I’ve enjoyed for years. A type encompass will never be equally stable as a keyboard deck (encounter the Surface Laptop lineup, for instance), but the switches are the correct amount of clicky for me.

The touchpad is just big plenty for thee- and four-finger gestures, which all worked seamlessly during my fourth dimension with the Surface Pro 9, switching desktops, irresolute apps and minimizing work with the drag of a finger.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Paradigm credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The Slim Pen 2 hasn’t changed at all. Its big trick is that it uses a custom processor, the G6, to create very slight haptic feedback while you write or draw. I didn’t find it to be a game-irresolute feature when I first tried it, but I even so call back it’s kind of fun. I practice wish, however, that y’all could change the force of the haptics, as I really only notice them when I press downwardly for hard strokes. The pen also works well with the 120 Hz display, every bit you don’t get that split up second of lag between writing and seeing it on the screen. That makes a bigger difference to me than whatsoever haptics.

Sound on the Microsoft Surface Pro 9

Microsoft armed the Surface Pro with a pair of 2W speakers with back up for Dolby Atmos. For a sparse tablet, it really sounds pretty decent. Paramore’s “This is Why” had articulate vocals and guitars, and I could even make out the bass though, similar most laptops, it didn’t have much of a thump.

Music and videos on the Pro 9 get plenty loud if you lot’re sitting in front of it, though I have heard some other devices get louder. Withal, for most people, the audio here should be totally fine.

Upgradeability of the Microsoft Surface Pro nine

Despite the fact that Microsoft often says that SSD repairs should only be done by authorized service providers, information technology is easier to get to the SSD in the Pro nine than nearly whatever other laptop I’ve seen this twelvemonth (that beingness said, nothing else on the device is upgradeable).

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The SSD is under a door located backside the kickstand, and you can open up it with a SIM ejector tool. The SSD is held downwards with a single Torx screw. Microsoft uses m.2 2230 SSDs, which are shorter than what you lot find in well-nigh laptops, and tin can be more than expensive or harder to find replacements for.

The drive is an easy upgrade if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, perchance Microsoft is correct. But other components, like the bombardment and motherboard, are under the brandish. You’re probably all-time to let the professionals take care of that.

Battery Life on the Microsoft Surface Pro 9

The Surface Pro 9 with SQ3 should be able to concluding you lot a workday then some. On our battery test, which involves constant cyberspace connectivity, spider web browsing, video streaming and OpenGL tests with the brandish set to 150 nits, it endured for 11 hours and 50 minutes. We only had the fourth dimension to run this examination one time (we normally run it multiple), then we’ll have it dorsum on the bench once again to double check.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 battery chart

(Paradigm credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Despite hit almost 12 hours (which we consider to be long battery life, typically), competitors lasted even longer. The ThinkPad X13s, too a Windows on Arm PC, did the best of the competitors at 15:02, almost an hour ahead of the MacBook Air (14:06). The XPS xiii also did well at thirteen:11. Of those, still, the Surface Pro nine has a faster refresh rate brandish.

Heat on the Microsoft Surface Pro 9

To see how hot the Surface Pro 9 gets to the affect, we took sin temperature measurements while running our Cinebench R23 stress test, which is pretty heavy use for an Arm-based tablet. The hottest point was on the back of the talet, slightly to the right of the pinnacle half. That measured 39.2 degrees Celsius (102.56 degrees Fahrenheit).

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Image credit: Tom’due south Hardware)

Since the Surface Pro 9’s keyboard and touchpad aren’t continued to the rest of the chassis, they don’t change in temperature during use, which is nice for when the arrangement warms up.

Webcam on the Microsoft Surface Pro 9

The webcam on the Surface Pro 9 is ready to work from home. It’south a 1080p sensor, and it works well. (Resolution and quality don’t e’er go hand-in-mitt, but it’s keen when they practise!) In some sample photos taken in my apartment, I appeared sharp, with authentic colour and virtually no pixelation.

The 10MP rear webcam is more than likely to be used past professionals working in the field. I plant that I had to play around a scrap with shut-upward objects to get them in focus using the Windows camera app, only the colors were always adept.

Microsoft pushes the SQ3’south NPU every bit existence able to aid push button camera effects, like groundwork blur and faking middle contact when yous’re looking at the screen with some AI help. These piece of work (though the heart contact can only be and then convincing when you’re non looking at the photographic camera, and can sometimes appear a bit odd), but in theory, they should be bachelor in every machine running the
Windows 11 22H2 update.

Software and Warranty on the Microsoft Surface Pro ix

Microsoft keeps the software low-cal on its own devices. The merely major application that came preinstalled was the Surface software, which provides easy access to warranty data and lets you modify the settings for the Slim Pen 2 (assuming y’all have one). It also has admission to Windows Studio furnishings for cameras in Windows 11, which is new to the latest

Windows 11 22H2 update

.

Windows xi still comes with some bloat in the showtime menu, including Spotify, Disney Plus, WhatsApp, TikTok, Kindle, Instagram and Amazon Prime Video.

Microsoft sells the Surface Pro 9 with a ane-year warranty.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Configurations

We tested the Surface Pro 9 in platinum with the Microsoft SQ3 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD and 5G back up, which totals $1,899.99. Microsoft also sent over a Signature Keyboard with Slim Pen 2 in Sapphire, an boosted $279.99, all for a total of $2,179.98.

Other keyboards outset at $139.99, for the i originally designed for the Surface Pro Ten. You can get a signature keyboard alone for $179.99, while the Slim Pen 2 is $129.99 when bought independently.

The 5G version of the Surface Pro 9 starts at $1,299.99, with an SQ3, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. Information technology only comes in platinum.

For the get-go time, Microsoft is selling Intel and Arm chips in the same chassis as the Intel-based models. The cheapest Intel version (none of which support 5G), is $999.99 with an Intel Cadre i5-1235U, 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD. Intel’s versions top out at a Core i7-1255U, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. Several of the Intel versions come up in other colors, including sapphire, wood and graphite.

The Intel versions have a few other changes: Those have Thunderbolt 4 and USB four.0, rather than

USB 3.2

on the SQ3 model. Additionally, it has Dolby Vision IQ support for the brandish.

With the differences in USB, Wi-Fi and a few other features, the Surface Pro nine feels a bit like two different products that share a proper name. Both run Windows, and when information technology comes to light workloads, you may not know the divergence. Just with the same name, they should take a bit more characteristic parity than this.

Bottom Line

The Surface Pro 9 continues Microsoft’due south tradition of premium hardware (for a premium price), regardless of CPU compages. By putting its Arm chip, the SQ3, in the aforementioned chassis (and nether the same name), Microsoft seems to think information technology’due south Arm’southward time to smooth on Windows.

By most measures, Windows on Arm is a huge leap forward from where it used to be. With x64 emulation, the bulk of apps virtually people will use will at to the lowest degree run, though Microsoft needs to get more developers to make Arm native software on Windows.

For virtually people who already want the latest Surface Pro, the question volition be between this and the Intel version. If mobile connectivity is of utmost importance to you, this is the one to go with. But for more performance and faster ports, Intel is probably the one for you (we haven’t gotten to test this one just yet). Hopefully the fact the two models are under the same name doesn’t confuse as well many customers trying to find the best pick for their needs.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (SQ3)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

For me, the Intel version is more of a sure bet, if only considering you can guarantee compatibility with any Windows-based app. If you’re not a ability user (or know the software you need works well on Arm), that may not apply.

Apple tree is still alee on Arm. Its M2 processor is faster than the SQ3. And perhaps more importantly, Mac developers accept made a larger attempt to move to native software (perhaps considering all future Macs will have Apple Silicon in them).

Perhaps moving the SQ3 to the Surface Pro 9 volition show the world that Microsoft is serious about Arm. Ultimately, the Surface Pro 9 with 5G is a lightweight, portable system with long battery life, which may exist what people primarily working on the go want. Just I think some people will exist surprised to encounter the two versions haven’t reached feature parity nether the now unified branding.

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom’s Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps upwardly with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown upwardly in Tom’southward Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Circuitous, amongst others. Follow him on Twitter: @FreedmanAE

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/microsoft-surface-pro-9-sq3-arm