Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Review

Posted on November 1, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 55 Comments

With its larger 13-inch display, Thunderbolt 4 ports, and Intel Evo innards, the Surface Pro 8 is exactly what fans of this product line have always wanted. It’s also the most powerful and useful tablet PC I’ve ever used.

Design

Though Surface Pro dates back to 2012, it wasn’t until Surface Pro 3 in 2014 that Microsoft introduced its first hit computer product. Surface Pro 3 featured several features that have come to define Surface ever since—including its unique 3:2 aspect ratio display, multi-angle kickstand, Surface Connect port, natural magnesium coloring, and full-sized Type Cover—and it mostly lived up to Microsoft’s claims of a tablet that could replace your laptop.

But in some ways, Surface Pro 3 was also too successful: Microsoft stubbornly stuck with this form factor and design for the next several years and product iterations, as if worried it would anger fans by making substantive changes. And it ignored technological innovations like the Thunderbolt ports that Apple and its PC maker competitors long ago embraced. Over time, even Microsoft’s most ardent supporters worried that Surface was falling behind.

With Surface Pro 8, that all changes. Well, not literally: Surface Pro 8 is still a tablet PC with the same basic form factor as its predecessors, and it still provides a 3:2 display panel, a terrific kickstand, and a Surface Connector port. But there are many changes to the Surface Pro formula here, all of which seem designed to answer critics and delight fans.

The display, described below, is now 13-inches, just about the same size as a typical Ultrabook display, and a huge improvement over the cramped 12.3-inch display used by its predecessors. The (not really) optional Type Cover has transformed into a slightly stiffer Signature Keyboard that now provides a handy charging well for the also-optional Surface Slim Pen 2; these, too, are described below. And the body is now made of anodized aluminum, which allows Microsoft to ship Surface Pro 8 in more colorful variations, though the initial offerings, Graphite (black) and Platinum (gray) are admittedly more than a bit on the conservative side.

But despite the larger display, Surface Pro 8 isn’t much bigger or thicker than its predecessors—in fact, it’s a bit less wide—and it’s only slightly heavier. Surface Pro 7, for example, is 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33-inches, while Surface Pro 8 lands at 11.3 in x 8.2 in x 0.37-inches, and the weight has risen from 1.74 pounds to a still delightful 1.96 pounds. Along with this, the basic look is unchanged, though the volume buttons and power buttons have moved from the top of the PC to the left and right sides, respectively.

If there’s one downside to this design, it’s that Surface Pro 8 remains “unlappable” for those people—like me—whose upper legs are not long enough to use the PC on their laps as they would any modern laptop or Ultrabook. As before, however, I think Surface Pro 8’s versatility outweighs this negative, and I will point out that if you’re looking for a more traditional laptop form factor, Microsoft offers a product imaginatively named Surface Laptop that fills that role.

For those who do need the versatility, Surface Pro 8 delivers and then some. It can be used like a traditional laptop, as before, and its Signature Keyboard can be used flat on a desk or angled and held in place with magnets. The kickstand rotates back so far you can use it almost flat and write on it with Surface Slim Pen 2 as if it were a Wacom tablet. You can also detach the Signature Keyboard and use it like a real tablet with multitouch or a smartpen. Or you can leave the Surface Keyboard attached and fold it back under the rear of the PC, which I find a bit awkward.

Aside from the obvious, this form factor has some other interesting use cases, too. If you find yourself on a cramped coach airplane seat, as I did for my flight to Paris, Surface Pro 8 works just fine as a consumption tablet for reading or watching videos, and you can use the kickstand or not as space allows. My seat didn’t have power outlets, either, but I was able to charge my phone using one of Surface Pro 8’s Thunderbolt/USB-C ports. And on the flight home, I had a bigger seat and used Surface Pro 8, like a laptop, on the tray with its back propped up by the seatback, no kickstand required. This worked well too.

Display

Microsoft has long countered Apple’s Retina displays with its own PixelSense displays, and Surface Pro 8 includes the latest iteration, called PixelSense Flow. This panel is a full 13-inches, a huge improvement over previous mainstream Surface Pro models, and close to the 13.3-inch panel size most commonly used by Ultrabooks.

Despite this larger size, the Surface Pro 8’s PixelSense Flow display maintains the same 267 pixels per inch (PPI) found in its predecessors, providing the same visual quality and upping the resolution to 2880 x 1920. Yes, it still offers a 3:2 aspect ratio, too, which is perfect for a device that can be used as a PC and a tablet: when you hold Surface Pro 8 in portrait mode, it looks right and not stretched and thin as a 16:9 or 16:10 display would.

As with previous generation Pros, Surface Pro 8 supports 10-point multitouch and various generations of the Surface Pen smartpen family, but this panel earned its new name courtesy of some impressive upgrades.

First up is Adaptive Color, which works like Apple’s vaunted True Tone technology and assesses the temperature of the real-world lighting and adjusts the onscreen colors so that they always appear true to life. The easiest way to see this shift is to observe onscreen whites in different places and toggle the option in Display settings. It’s an often subtle but welcome addition.

In addition to supporting HDR, Surface Pro 8 also supports Dolby Vision, which is a proprietary advance over HDR with support for 12-bit color (68.7 billion colors), instead of just 10-bit (1.07 billion colors). I’m no expert when it comes to this kind of thing, but I assume that while human eyes can’t differentiate between billions of colors, more colors will result in less banding in photos and videos. Regardless, most popular video services—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and so on—support both, so Surface Pro 8 is a great choice for enjoying video content on the go.

This new display also works even better with the new Surface Slim Pen 2, but I discuss that smartpen and its unique capabilities below.

Finally, the PixelSense Flow display is Microsoft’s first to support higher refresh rates. (Alongside Surface Laptop Studio.) Currently, the refresh rate can be configured to 60 Hz, typical for most PC displays to this date, or 120 Hz. Unfortunately, making this configuration is both manual and tedious: you need to open the Windows 11 Settings app and navigate to System > Display > Advanced display > Choose a refresh rate to make the change. It’s set to 60 Hz by default for battery life reasons, and I think that makes the most sense: I switched it to 120 Hz and never noticed the promised smooth scrolling and other motion. Your mileage may vary: I feel like this is a capability some really notice and some don’t.

I can’t yet provide you with a definitive battery life difference between 60 Hz and 120 Hz, but I’m going to keep working on that. In the meantime, know that this distinction will one day be made moot when Microsoft implements variable refresh rate capabilities similar to those that we see today on flagship smartphones. Via a software update expected by mid-2022, Surface Pro 8’s display will automatically shift between 10 Hz and 120 Hz in 1 Hz increments on the fly as needed, effectively giving customers the best of both worlds: smooth motion and improved battery life.

Internal components

As an Intel Evo-based PC, Surface Pro 8 provides exactly the level of performance that productivity workers, artists, and note-takers expect. It can be configured with a quad-core 11th-generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 or i7-1185G7 processor, both backed by Intel Iris Xe graphics with no discrete graphics option. You can also choose between 8 GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB of LPDDR4x RAM, and 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1TB of PCIe-based SSD storage, which can be user-replaced.

(Note that some RAM and storage configurations are specific to each processor choice. The Core i5 models can be configured with 8 or 16 GB of RAM and 128 GB or 256 GB of storage, for example, while Core i7 models get 16 or 32 GB of RAM and 512 GB or 1 TB of storage.)

Microsoft no longer offers a low-ball Core i3 configuration, which I think is the right choice as it cheapened the brand. And the Core i5 configuration is no longer fanless and thus silent, so there’s venting around the outside edges of both models. But this, too, was the right choice. Unlike its predecessors, Surface Pro 8 is never performance-throttled, so you always get the full power of the processor you chose. And in my weeks of testing, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the fan: this is one of the quietest PCs I’ve ever used. It doesn’t get hot either.

Connectivity

In keeping with its Intel Evo innards, Surface Pro 8 gets a nice connectivity upgrade to Intel- (and not Marvell-) based Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. There’s no cellular data connectivity option yet, but it’s on the way. Oddly, Microsoft says that it will offer only 4G/LTE, and not 5G, because that’s what its business customers asked for. I find that hard to believe.

Ports and expansion

Surface Pro 8 is the first Microsoft tablet PC to embrace Thunderbolt of any kind, and I feel like we should observe a moment of silence to ponder why it took so long. But at least it’s here now: On the right side of Surface Pro 8, you will find two Thunderbolt 4/USB 4.0/USB-C ports, plus the USB 3.x-based ubiquitous Surface Connect port.

On the left, you’ll find a 3.5-mm headphone jack, placed unfortunately high on the device. It should be closer to the bottom.

And on the bottom is a newly redesigned Surface Type Cover port for connecting to a Signature Keyboard. This is the first change to this port since Surface Pro 3, but it was required for Signature Keyboard’s unique new capabilities, among them power passthrough for Surface Slim Pen 2 charging.

From an expansion perspective, Microsoft still sells its proprietary Surface Dock, which connects via Surface Connect and is essentially a USB dock with support for one 4K display. But thanks to the Thunderbolt 4 capabilities, Surface Pro users can for the first time enjoy two external 4K displays directly or via a Thunderbolt 4 dock. They can also take advantage of other exciting Thunderbolt peripherals like external GPUs. So this is a big step up from previous versions.

What’s missing? Previous Surface Pros included a microSD card slot under the kickstand, but that’s nowhere to be found on Pro 8. Instead, you can find the removable SSD bay there, which can be opened with a SIM tool.

I’m mostly OK with the port selection. Yes, I wish there was one USB-C port on each side, but let’s accept this miracle for what it is. I suppose one could make a case for a USB-A port, but I feel like USB-C is the right choice for such a modern PC.

Audio and video

Surface Pro 8 provides a surprisingly capable and well-rounded audio-video experience.

There are two webcams, a rarity these days, and both are impressive. On the front, you’ll find a 5 MP webcam with Windows Hello facial recognition and 1080p/Full HD video capabilities, and on the back there’s an even better 10.0 MP autofocus camera with 1080p/Full HD and 4k video capabilities. I’ve been looking for a PC with a better webcam than the muddy 720p units that are so typical even on premium PCs, and this is it: you can see the quality in Windows Weekly episode 748, which I filmed recently over 50 Mbps Wi-Fi in a hotel while on vacation in Paris.

There is one problem with the webcam, however: it’s never going to provide a flattering view of your face because it’s not possible to orient Surface Pro 8, and thus the webcam, to be pointing straight ahead. For all the wonders of the kickstand and its wide range of motion, Surface Pro 8 has to be at least slightly tilted backward, otherwise it would topple over to the front. By contrast, any laptop display can be positioned so that the webcam view is level or even pointed down a bit.

The result is an unpleasantly jowly upward view of the bottom of your chin. To counter this, I positioned the Surface Pro 8 on top of a folded-up bath towel when I recorded Windows Weekly on the road, and that actually worked OK. But I can’t imagine using it normally on a desk for a lot of conference calls. It’s too bad Microsoft can’t figure out a way to rotate the webcam inside of the PC’s body. (As you may recall, the first-generation Surface PCs had a fixed kickstand and angled webcams.)

Speaking of conference calls, Surface Pro also provides dual far-field studio microphones. Here, too, the results are surprisingly solid, and the resulting audio quality is excellent and on-par with many dedicated microphones.

But my favorite part of the AV may be the speakers: Surface Pro 8 ships with 2-watt stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos capabilities, and they shouldn’t sound as good as they do, given the thinness of this PC’s chassis. But sound good they do, and when combined with the Dolby Vision-capable display and the right content, Surface Pro 8 makes for a terrific and immersive movie-watching experience.

Keyboard, touchpad, and pen

Surface Pro doesn’t ship with a keyboard, mouse/touchpad, or smartpen in any configuration, so you’ll need to acquire the peripherals you want separately. I’ve seen some reviewers ding Surface Pro for this so-called limitation over the years, but that’s ridiculous: these items are available separately by because it lets customers choose the Type Covers (now Signature Keyboard) color they prefer and only spend extra on a pen if they need or want one. In other words, this was a deliberate choice on Microsoft’s part and remains, I think, the right one.

Because a keyboard and touchpad are pretty much required for all users, I will assume here that you will purchase a Signature Keyboard, which includes both, with your Surface Pro 8. And because Signature Keyboard includes a charging dock for the new Surface Slim Pen 2, and Microsoft included one with the review set, I’ll further assume that if you do get a smartpen, you’ll get Slim Pen 2. (Surface Pro 8 is not compatible with previous Surface Type Covers, but it does support previous Surface Pens, including the OG Slim Pen.)

I remain an unabashed fan of Type Cover and now the Signature Keyboard. It’s the type of thing that looks like it would be too bouncy to be efficient or useful, but it instead provides an excellent typing experience across its full-sized backlit keyboard, with perfect key throw action and a smooth, high-quality feel that stands unique in the PC industry. That Microsoft somehow manages to stand toe-to-toe with HP when it comes to keyboard quality is saying something. And that’s especially true when you consider what I do for a living. The day that I wrote this, I typed over 5000 words on Surface Pro 8 and the Signature Keyboard, and the performance was excellent.

Signature Keyboard’s touchpad, likewise, is fantastic. Most would find it a bit on the small size, given how large some PC touchpads are these days. But the touchpad is a hair bigger than its predecessor’s, and it has the same smooth and glassy feel. I love it.

As with its Type Cover predecessors, the Signature Keyboard can be used at two angles: flat and angled slightly, with the back of the keyboard held to the bottom of Surface Pro 8 with magnets. I very much prefer the angled configuration, though it hides the Surface Slim Pen 2 charging and storage well.

Surface Slim Pen 2 is Microsoft’s most impressive smartpen yet, with zero force inking, 4096 levels of sensitivity/pressure, tilt support, and a nice combination eraser/button on its top end. But it also provides a sharper pen tip than its predecessor, and it’s even better when paired with Surface Pro 8 (or Surface Laptop Studio) because it can then take advantage of unique hardware in both devices—a tiny haptic engine in the pen and GPU Ink Acceleration and that 120 Hz display in Pro 8—to provide the best-yet handwriting and drawing experience on a tablet.

And, yes, it’s truly magical: I had to turn up the intensity of Surface Slim Pen 2’s tactile signals in Windows 11 Settings to get the full effect, but when writing or drawing in a compatible app, like Microsoft Whiteboard, it feels like using a real pen on real paper, with subtle feedback that emulates the movement of the pen over the rough surface of the paper. And I was wrong in my initial impression of the Slim Pen 2’s carpenter’s pencil-like shape: it is very comfortable to hold and use, even in my large hand. I also love how it can be securely stored in the Signature Keyboard, and that it charges while there. It’s the perfect combination of features.

Portability

The slim and lightweight Surface Pro 8 is a delight to carry and travel with. It weighs just 1.96 pounds by itself, or 2.6 pounds with the Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2. And after a rough start, its battery life has recovered nicely: I was seeing just over 6 hours per charge before my recent trip in mixed usage, but since flying with Surface Pro 8 and sticking to my normal productivity app regimen, the battery life has averaged over 9 hours, and that’s with the 120 Hz display refresh rate enabled. Microsoft claims 16 hours with the display set to 60 Hz, so that’s pretty impressive.

As with previous Surface Pro generations, Surface Pro 8 ships with a 65-watt power supply with a Surface Connector instead of USB-C, and its power brick has a 5-watt USB-A port for device charging, but not connectivity. I’m not normally a fan of proprietary power connectors, but its use here is inarguably for the best, as it leaves both Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports free. But if you already have a USB-C charger, that will work fine, of course: in fact, I used a 65-watt HP charger for my trip to Paris so I could share it with other devices.

Software

Surface Pro 8 ships with Windows 11 Home and is notable, to me, for being the first PC I’ve reviewed that ships with Microsoft’s latest desktop OS. But business customers who purchase Surface Pro 8 will get Windows 11 Pro, or they can choose Windows 10 Pro instead.

Surface Pro 8 is also notable for not shipping with any crapware or superfluous software at all, beyond the junk that ships with Windows 11. There are two Surface-branded utilities, the Microsoft 365 desktop apps (which is common to most Windows PCs these days), and that’s about it. This is exactly how clean a new Windows PC should be.

Pricing and configurations

Surface Pro 8 is available in two model families based on quad-core 11th-generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 and i7-1185G7 processors, respectively, both of which come with Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. A base Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD is $1099, though you will pay up to $279 extra for a Signature Keyboard with Slim Pen 2 for a total of $1378. Other Core i5 configurations include 8 GB/256 GB for $1199, and either 16 GB/256 GB or 8 GB/512 GB for $1399.

The base Core i7 configuration offers 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage for $1599, or about $1878 with the keyboard/pen combo. Other Core i7 configurations include 16 GB/512 GB for $1899, 16 GB/1 TB for $2199, and 32 GB/1 TB for $2599.

The review configuration, with its Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, 256 GB of SSD storage, Signature Keyboard, and Slim Pen 2 would cost $1878. If I were spending my own money, I’d opt for the Core i5/16/256 GB configuration ($1399) and a Signature Keyboard ($179) but no pen for a total of about $1578.

These are steep prices, for sure. But Surface Pro 8 is a premium PC and I give Microsoft credit for removing the lackluster Core i3 configurations that made previous Surface Pros seem less expensive. When you compare the starting price of Surface Pro 8 to the base Core i5 configuration of Surface Pro 7 a year ago, you may be surprised to discover that the more capable Pro 8 is actually less expensive year-over-year.

Recommendations and conclusions

Surface Pro 8 is just about perfect, and while few traditional productivity workers would choose a tablet form factor over a more typical Ultrabook configuration, there’s something magical about the versatility of this design. Aside from the lappability issue, Surface Pro 8 works well as a normal portable computer, but it can also adapt for more casual postures, like reading or enjoying videos as a tablet when you want to lean back. And if you need a smartpen for notetaking, drawing, or whatever, forget about it: Surface Pro 8 is the apex predator of that market. There’s nothing quite like it.

But that was true of previous Surface Pro generations too. What I really appreciate with this upgrade is how Microsoft listened to its customers and addressed all the niggling criticisms. The screen is both bigger and better than before. The battery life is excellent. It has two Thunderbolt 4/USB 4.0/USB-C ports. Customers can choose from a terrific new set of Signature Keyboard choices. And then there’s Surface Slim Pen 2, the best-ever digital smartpen, which offers the most realistic writing and drawing experience yet. It’s the complete package.

The only meaningful criticism here is that Surface Pro 8 is a bit expensive, and potential customers have a lot of excellent premium PC choices in the $1500 range. But I suspect that those who want or need this versatility have already made up their minds.

Surface Pro 8 is highly recommended. This is the best PC that Microsoft has ever made, and the very best tablet PC you can buy.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Terrific 13-inch display with 3:2 aspect ratio and high refresh rate
  • Thunderbolt 4/USB-C for the win
  • Your choice of keyboard colors and smartpens
  • Superior keyboard and touchpad experience
  • Surface Slim Pen 2 provides the most realistic writing and drawing experience yet
  • Excellent performance for office productivity and artistic tasks
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Not lappable for many
  • A bit expensive
  • No microSD card slot

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Comments (55)

55 responses to “Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Review”

  1. dougkinzinger

    Having dealt with their "ilk" in previous Surface generations, you had me at "Intel- (and not Marvell-) based Wi-Fi"!

    • bluvg

      Soooo true. Marvell was a blight on the previous gens, got tired of fighting it. Broadcom (both NICs and Wi-Fi) is another that has caused much frustration.

  2. simard57

    "There is one problem with the webcam, however: it’s never going to provide a flattering view of your face because it’s not possible to orient Surface Pro 8, and thus the webcam"


    I wonder if they could do some Keystone magic on the webcam image as it is captured. Similar to how Office Lens corrects for images shot at an angle or how a projector can be corrected to project videos on a screen without being angled. would that address the problem above OR is it not feasible?

    • MikeCerm

      Sure, they could, but battery life would take a hit, and really, nobody cares what video calls look like anyway. People spend most of the time looking at themselves in the little window, and nobody ever looks at the camera, so the eyelines are always weird.

  3. buzzardj

    Could someone confirm that the new Signature keyboards only work with the Pro 8? I got the impression from the Microsoft store's accessories listings that the newest keyboard work with both the Pro 8 and the Pro X.


    I have a spare keyboard and pen for my Pro X off eBay and would love to skip buying another keyboard/pen if I decide to get a Pro 8.


    Thanks and thank you Paul for the review! As others have noted, there are other reviews out but yours is the one voice I trust before spending thousands on a new tablet I very much don't really need.

  4. james.h.robinson

    Mr. Thurrott, another excellent review.

  5. payton

    I placed an order a few days ago. My only real beef on the specs is that the configuration I want is only available in Platinum when I would have preferred Graphite. Quite the small nit, however. My only other beef is delays in the delivery time. At least a month after the order as this config sold out almost immediately.

  6. crunchyfrog

    Paul, what is the Surface Pro 8 sitting on? I don't know why it's driving me crazy trying to ID it but it is. Looks like a solar panel but really can't be. Was this a table of some kind? It looks curved though. Please fill us in.

    • williamz

      I think these pics were taken on top of one of those solar-powered public trash bins/compactors you find in many cities in Europe... to reduce the time between these bins needing to be emptied, they are actually self-powered trash compactors. Very cool... and a great platform for pics of a tech device.

  7. rfog

    You don't say if the screen is as reflective as previous one. I returned a new Surface Pro 7 because screen reflexes: even inside home, no direct light, it was almost not usable due reflexes and I returned it.

  8. skippu

    Fantastic review - and awesome pictures. Where those from the Pixel 6?

    And did you place the Surface on top of a garbage can?

  9. Yannick

    > When you compare the starting price of Surface Pro 8 to the base Core i5 configuration of Surface Pro 7 a year ago, you may be surprised to discover that the more capable Pro 8 is actually less expensive year-over-year.


    Wait what? No its not. The Core i5/8GB/128GB Surface Pro 7 was sold for $899 while that same configuration for the Surface Pro 8 is $1099.

    • solomonrex

      I thought that was the case, too. I regularly checked those sales and this new Surface is a big bump up - understandably in this pandemic economy, but still a change.

  10. paradyne

    With regards to multiple or high res monitors, I have tested my Pro 8 with a Dell U4021QW 5120x2160 60Hz display and it works (Pro X couldn't do that). Soon I hope to try with a couple of daisy-chained 4k thunderbolt displays (LG 32UL950's) because that will be neat on the desktop with just a single USB-C that also charges the tablet.

  11. shark47

    I am so tempted to get one right now to replace my Pro 5.

  12. bbold

    I keep hearing other reviews on YT say the battery life on the Pro 8 is a terrible setback, yet you didn't seem to have that complaint. Great review, Paul! Thx.. Still rocking the SP 7 base model here for basic web stuff; they still need to address the camera not turning off sometimes after face login. it has happened with a few of the base model Pro's at this point over the years and MS haven't addressed it. Seems to be a little bit better under Windows 11, tho.

  13. cnc123

    Bad news, but your camera missed focus, and we're going to need you to go back and retake those pictures. No Photoshop. We need them on location, so get right on that!

  14. brocprice

    Awesome review – how cool is that, SP8 with the Arc De Triomphe in the background, the review, motivates me to be premium user, I feel you should be with your family on vacation. (Maybe if I was premium subscriber, you could) Great post Pauly (damn Laporte) 

    Love your work, and yes I am a happy user of the SP8, I have been a fan of Microsoft for many years after when I was a teen bought some stock and it paid me very well. 

    Thurrott fanboy.


  15. safarilarry

    The pen, I would like to see a good pen review. I have SP4 and SP8 (I5, 256 SSD, 16 GB RAM). Everything from the SP4 works on the SP8; that's the pen, Surface Dock, Bluetooth keyboard, and Bluetooth Mouse. I don't have or need the type cover. Minor issue, the pen doesn't magnetically attach to the left, only on the right which is not available with the Dock plugged in.


    The bigger issue for me is the old pen. It is a little different on the SP8 than the SP4. The pen on SP4 has a nice "paper" feel but the SP8 screen seems to have a harder surface and is "slicker" when using the pen. It is usable on the SP8 but not as good as SP4. Now I wonder if I need the new pen for the SP8. If I do, then I'll need the charger because I don't need the type cover which now charges the pen on SP8. More $$$.


    I've used the pen extensively over the past 5 years on the SP4 for teaching math and writing out math solutions. I mirror the SP4 on the projector screen so students see me writing. Or share screen on Zoom when teaching online.


    SP8 is otherwise nice, love the larger screen. But I'm considering returning it because of the pen issue. The SP4 still works well and the old pen works better on it.


    I'm new to this forum, lots of good info, comments, and great review by Paul.

  16. brettscoast

    Excellent write-up Paul. This device has lots of appeal and the form factor seems excellent. Great combo of hardware and software, marriage made in heaven.

  17. jaunty

    Outstanding review.


  18. ecumenical

    Nice review, I look forward to upgrading to this or the 9 when my SP6 gets a little too old. A couple small points:


    • Surface Dock 2 already supported dual 4K displays, so this isn't correct: "From an expansion perspective, Microsoft still sells its proprietary Surface Dock, which connects via Surface Connect and is essentially a USB dock with support for one 4K display. But thanks to the Thunderbolt 4 capabilities, Surface Pro users can for the first time enjoy two external 4K displays directly or via a Thunderbolt 4 dock."


    • On the subject of the dock and Surface Connect, I personally prefer this type of solution where charging is both magnetic and also doesn't block a dedicated data/display port. And of course all my old chargers work. So personally I'm very happy they've kept Surface Connect around. (Also of note - Apple just added magsafe back to their laptop lineup. It's a good idea.)


    • The line about the Core i5 throttling doesn't really match my experience. I've actually set my SP6 up to transcode media for hours and it will just sit at about 2.4 GHz indefinitely without fluctuating, all 4 cores at 100% utilization. I guess technically it's throttling - that's not the maximum clock of the CPU - but it's damn impressive for a passively cooled tablet.


    But, if the fan is as quiet as you say then I guess no complaints!

    • bluvg

      I was going to say the same about the dock and dual displays. Even the SP3 dock supported dual displays, though I'm not sure what the resolution cap was. Both might max out at 30 Hz, though.

      • ecumenical

        According to MS website, the dock supports dual 4K @ 60Hz. Not sure which Surface device do or don't support that though, you might need a dGPU on older devices or something.

      • tboggs13

        Yes, Surface Dock 1 supported Dual 4K @ 30hz (which isn't really supporting dual 4K in my opinion), Surface Dock 2 supports Dual 4K @ 60hz.

  19. Alex Taylor

    Great review thanks.

    In discussing the form factor, Paul (for obvious reasons of rotating a lot of different brands) has clearly never used a Surface Pro docked as a desktop. Here the ability to fold the keyboard away under or behind makes the keyboard take up zero desk space, creating a very clean 2 or 3 screen workspace.

    In this way it's the tablet that can replace your desktop even more than the tablet that can replace your laptop.


    As noted by another commentor, the other unsung beauty of detachable keyboard is ease of spill replacement (not that I have ever) or upgrade (which I have).



    Also I'm not very technical, but I can never reconcile Paul's contention that the Surface Connect/Dock is purely USB :when I'm running 2x displayport monitors off it, device manager shows no intervening usb connections and needs no drivers (as opposed to say a portable displaylink monitor).


    Lastly I'm disappointed by the lack of SD card support.

    Storage configurations don't seem to be growing: the typical phone now has 4-8 times the storage of 10 years ago, but the mid-spot I5 Surface Pro still only has 256GB?

    At least with all prior models you could trivially expand - the replaceable SSD is better than nothing, but the storage steps are expensive and manual replacement is difficult.


    Having personally bullied Microsoft in Thunderbolt, could Paul please now hassle them into upping storage sizes?

    Thanks in advance!


    • MikeCerm

      Phones (well, the iPhone, at least) started with 4GB, so they had a lot more room to grow. The average person uses their phone 10x more than they did 10 years ago, and storage needs have grown along with it. PC laptop usage is pretty flat over the last 10 years, maybe slightly down considering how much people use smartphones, and storage requirements really have not changed at all. 128 GB is fine for most people. If you need expandable storage, you can always plug in a USB-C flash drive, or get the i7 model with 1TB. Or just upgrade the drive yourself; if you're the kind of person who needs a ton of storage, I'm sure you can figure out how.

  20. cseafous

    Love this post! I have been waiting for your review for some time and I am glad to hear it has your approval. At 6'6", I don't have any issues with lapability but I do fold the keyboard underneath when watching movies (or I remove it altogether). I have the i5 version of the Pro 5, so I was concerned about having to get a model with a fan. I have looked at several reviews but yours is the first I've read that specifically addresses the fan. Glad to hear it is a non-issue.

  21. red.radar

    In regards to cellular connectivity. I have a feeling that the request of "4G LTE" was a specification point in a survey and from other corporate issued RFQs to which the Microsoft Product line manager took literally and failed to drill down deeper.


    The statement of "thats what our business customers asked for" feels like a total cop out.



    • VMax

      If it was a straight choice between the two options (rather than "4G" vs "4G+5G") then 4G is far and away the winner - very few people need the speeds 5G can offer, whereas a far larger group who want a laptop (etc) with cellular connectivity probably want the excellent worldwide coverage you get with 4G. That's certainly what I'd choose. Even if it was 4G vs 4G+5G, the extra cost doesn't bring any tangible benefit to most people in common business scenarios, so I can see businesses preferring 4G-only rather than paying extra for 5G.

      • red.radar

        I used to think this until I got a device with 5G. And it completely makes sense for business users.


        Nothing worse then being on a teams call and getting R2D2 packet loss because the mobile user is in a congested Cellular area and the "4G LTE" node can't keep up with the Number of users.


        Also since a surface device is usually kept on average longer than a cellphone 5G will make the device more sustainable.


        • VMax

          4G is very unlikely to be turned off before the device is retired, though I'm sure you're right that ever-increasing speed demands will make it more of a bottleneck over time. On congestion, I see your point, but I still think that the limitations of 5G coverage currently outweigh the benefits, including density. Slower, congested coverage is preferable to no coverage, and if you're buying now, it's no good anticipating future network footprints that don't presently exist.


          FWIW I've been entirely happy with my 4G-equipped machine and don't believe I've ever had any noticeable benefit from my 5G device, which often falls back to 4G. I agree that will eventually change,

    • bitmasher

      I think the real reason for LTE vs 5g is most likely something mundane. In the category of something like 5G chips are expensive and / or in short supply.


      I finally gave in to the need to upgrade my Surface Pro 5 LTE (well officially its something like Surface Pro 2017 LTE) with a non LTE Surface Pro 8. I hope that tethering off my iphone will do the trick. Who knows how long it may be before that option is available.

  22. johnlavey

    cup of coffee all over the signature keyboard this past Saturday. Fortunately, it was Saturday and I was able to purchase a replacement keyboard that was delivered on Sunday. The 'wet' keyboard wasn't destroyed, but keying is difficult now. Things happen.

    • johnlavey

      I bought it. I love it. The only problem was that I spilled a full

    • yoshi

      Ooof. Better the keyboard than the tablet itself though.

    • bluvg

      One of the seldom-stated benefits of a detachable keyboard. Another is the ability to sit on a couch, put the display wherever you want it, and--separately--use a wireless keyboard wherever that is most comfortable.

    • paradyne

      A great advantage of the detachable keyboard. But also a great advantage of the keyboard not coming with the device! Imagine it came bundled. Nobody would sell them separately. No choice of colours either because there are enough combinations of spec without that, they just would never do it.

  23. yoshi

    I purchased a MacBook recently but I was so close to buying this instead. I'm still in my return period though, so, you never know. I've never had a Surface, but I absolutely loved the Pro 8 when messing around with it in-store.

    • yoshi

      Also, I'd love a device that takes place of a laptop and a tablet. With purchasing the MacBook, I now I have that and an iPad. It feels sort of ridiculous having 2 devices like that, when one exists that can do both.


      Yes, I'm using the comment section to convince myself to get this :)

      • wright_is

        It really depends what you want out of it. The Surface Pro make a good notebook, but has a poor selection of tablet-style applications that make good use of touch. It is also heavy and unwieldy, compared to a smaller iPad (mini or Air, for example).


        I've had Surface Pros and other Windows tablets and I always poo-pooed the iPad. But after years of using a Fire Tablet, I replaced them this year with iPads and the difference in the quality of the apps is exactly as Paul has often stated. The Surface is great for transportability, but if you really want/need consumption apps on the go, the iPad is a better solution.


        If you need custom written Windows software or heavy-duty tools that can also be used in tablet mode, the SP is better. After using the SP for a year or so, when I left a previous company, I had to buy a new laptop, because they had bought the SP from me, to allow me to use it at work. I ended up getting an HP Spectre X360, as I liked the tablet mode, but worked out that I spent 99% of my time using it with a keyboard in traditional laptop conditions - and I replaced that with y Ryzen desktop, because I worked out that 99% of that time was spent docked to a bigger display on my desk...


        I now have an iPad and the desktop and that is about the right combination for me.


        • yoshi

          Yeah, fair points. I picked up the Mac because it's been years since I've bought myself a new computer. The past year, I've been trying to do most of my stuff on the iPad. Which, surprisingly, wasn't too bad. But there have been times I've had to turn to my work laptop to get certain tasks done. Hence, why I finally bought a real computer. I guess maybe I should just appreciate each for what they are - and use them that way. Instead of the all-in-one dream.

          • ianbetteridge

            Yes, I think you sum it up nicely. I have an M1 12.9in iPad Pro and it’s absolutely my favourite device. But I live in an Office 365 world for work and for that the iPad isn’t quite there. The lack of proper extended monitor support for one thing, and the restriction on camera usage in apps which means if I switch from Teams during a call, it turns off the camera for another.

  24. MutualCore

    So essentially the most fully realized Surface product ever with no legitimate 'cons'.

  25. feek

    Would love to hear about how it works when gaming with an external GPU. That's been my dream since the Surface line launched

    • RobertJasiek

      Good question. The simple answer is: it depends on the GPU, what software you want to use the GPU for and whether you can pay the current astronomic GPU prices. Thunderbolt 4's theoretical 40 Gbps (bit, not byte) should allow more use cases than before but not all. The CPU's multi-thread performance might, or might not, be a limitation.

    • bwherman

      There's a guy on reddit who has been posting vids with various games on Surface both with and without an eGPU running. The posts are on the /SurfaceGaming subreddit.

    • bitmasher

      I agree, and would love more input on eGPU results. I suspect that there will be more action in this space next year as vendors gear up for demand from Surface Pro 8 users. I realize it may be limiting, but I would rather get an all in one unit that has a hub, video out, ethernet, and a dedicated eGPU. Less clutter and less wasteful than a hub plus an eGPU housing device plus duplicate use of fans on a video card.

  26. RobertJasiek

    The improvements, such as thunderbolt, are nice but insufficient.


    These reasons why I do not by Surface Pro remain the same: mirroring display, not user-replacable battery, unclear battery replacement price and duration of availability.


    I would have chosen i3 because those models could be silent (I am sensitive even to low fan noise) and the price €800 was acceptable. i3 is good enough for my usage. 11th instead of 12th generation CPUs is dubios.


    I would use either no keyboard or connect a wireless desktop keyboard so the mistake of tiny arrow keys would not affect me.


    The price increments and prices of accessories are outrageous.


    5:4 or 4:3 remain my preferred aspect ratios not only for desktop monitors and iPads but also for all tablets, detachables, convertibles and notebooks. Unlike the reviewer, I do not consider 3:2 optimal but just barely acceptable.


    Even much longer battery life would be much better.


    Preinstalled Microsoft 365 is ad- and crapware but easily deinstalled - unlike McAfee would be.


    For us non-US world citizens, the tablet's 1.96 pounds are 889 g.

  27. jamJAR

    Finally, something to replace my SP3. Not that it needs replacing, battery life still very good.

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