The ninth edition of Microsoft’s tablet is a refinement more than anything—complete with 5G connectivity.
Read more about the Microsoft Surface Pro right here!
You can read our news coverage for an overview of the announcements, but we were also able to go hands-on with the Surface Pro 9 at a press event in New York. There’s a lot to unpack about the various configurations, including features exclusive to some models, such as 5G connectivity. Read on for details and impressions below, and hop over to our separate hands-on for the Surface Studio 2+.
Surface Pro 9 Overview: Intel, Arm, and More
At the top level, the headline for the Surface Pro 9 announcement is that Microsoft is offering both Intel- and Arm-based versions of this device for the first time. Previously, the Surface Pro X was the Arm solution in the family (which brings its own positives and negatives), but it seems to have been subsumed into the mainline Pro model as a configuration option.
There are core component differences, of course—we’ll get into the specs shortly—but Arm systems also change some of the features. The Arm model will be available with 5G wireless, most crucially, and Arm systems generally offer longer battery life (but diminished Windows performance). Microsoft also demonstrated some sweet camera and video-call tricks made possible by the Arm model’s neural processing unit, or NPU, which can be offloaded with intensive tasks without straining the main CPU.
Apart from the camera features, none of this is really evident from a hands-on session. But the context comes from us having tested many Arm-based Windows systems in the past, and it is needed before running through the Surface Pro 9’s design and feature set.
Design Duplicate: The Same Slick Surface Pro
This year’s Surface Pro design is unchanged, focusing on the introduction of Arm, the jump to 12th Gen Intel (“Alder Lake”) Core processors, and some new features. Let’s dive into each of these aspects in more detail.
Most of the changes to the Surface Pro 9 are component- and feature-based. On the surface (forgive the incidental pun), things mostly remain the same—the dimensions exactly match those of the Surface Pro 8. It measures 0.37 by 11.3 by 8.2 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.94 pounds, with a small asterisk to say the 5G-enabled model (more on that in a moment) is imperceptibly heavier.
While not the most exciting development (who doesn’t look forward to some design tweaks?), this is still acceptable to me. My review of the Surface Pro 8 praises its slim, slick design, marrying the previous Surface Pro design with that of the now-dead Surface Pro X series. The thin bezels, the relatively roomy 13-inch display, and the useful kickstand are back, in a device that’s just as portable as before. Making the device thinner for the sake of it doesn’t add much (and doing so can diminish the performance ceiling), and the Surface Pro doesn’t need to be any lighter.
In summary, with keeping the same base design, the Surface Pro 9 impresses just like the Surface Pro 8 did before it. The tablet has the same anodized aluminum chassis, quality build, and flexible kickstand that we appreciated in the previous edition.
However, Microsoft has decided to follow Apple and end its relationship with the traditional audio jack, starting with the Surface Pro 9. This perfectly fine wired audio solution is yet again cut in the name of thinness.
Still, the Surface Pro’s real-life usability remains high, and remains the benchmark for detachable 2-in-1s, even if it doesn’t perfectly replicate the laptop experience. The “PixelSense” display is again sharp and smooth, with its 2,880-by-1,920-pixel resolution and 120Hz refresh rate.
Usability, Keyboards, and Extras
With touch technology and the ability to recline nearly flat, this screen (combined with the Surface Pen, sold separately) makes for a portably sized canvas for digital artists and anyone else who stands to gain from sketching or drawing right onto their device. The Surface Pro 9, having released after the launch of Windows 11 (unlike its predecessor), comes with the operating system pre-loaded.
This is all supported by high-end features, like a 1080p webcam with Windows Hello support, a user-accessible SSD, and (in the Intel version) Thunderbolt 4 support. The Arm version will feature USB-C, too, but lack Intel’s more capable Thunderbolt technology.