Microsoft is combining its Surface Pro X and Surface Pro lines into a single product this year, the Surface Pro 9. After 10 years of the Surface 2-in-1 concept, you’ll now be able to pick between an SQ3 Arm-powered processor with 5G support and Intel’s 12th Gen Core processors. And for the first time, you’ll also be able to pick colors that extend across the entire Surface Pro 9 exterior, not just the Type Cover.
The choice between processors might actually be difficult this year simply because, for the first time, the Surface Pro 9 with SQ3 is the only model with built-in 5G support. Microsoft won’t be offering 5G on its Intel Surface Pro 9 line, so you’ll have to go Arm if you want the mobile connectivity option. That’s been a tradeoff in the past based on app compatibility and performance, but both have come a long way since the initial Surface Pro X.
During my brief time with the Surface Pro 9 with 5G, it was difficult to spot it was running on an Arm chip. I’ve been using a Surface Pro X with the SQ2, which already had solid performance gains over the original, and I’d expect to see even more with the latest SQ3 chip. Microsoft works with Qualcomm to customize its latest chips for Surface, and the company must be confident in its Windows on Arm work to merge the Surface Pro X line into the main Surface Pro one this year.
New to the Surface Pro 9 is the addition of colors across the entire exterior. You’ll only be able to get color options on the Intel versions of the Surface Pro 9, including a new blue sapphire option and forest green. I have a soft spot for the green option, as the color really pops on the Surface Pro 9.
Microsoft has even worked with the Liberty London design house to create a limited edition Surface Pro keyboard that has been laser-etched with a blue floral pattern based on Windows 11’s Bloom wallpaper. Who knows, maybe we’ll see custom Surface etching for everyone in the future.
Inside, Microsoft is using the regular 13-inch PixelSense Flow Display (2880 x 1920) on both Intel and SQ3 models with 120Hz refresh rate support. You’ll only get Dolby Vision IQ support on the Intel model, but both are 3:2 and have a 1200:1 contrast ratio.
The actual dimensions of the Surface Pro 9 are identical for both Intel and SQ3 options, and the only difference is in weight. The mmWave Surface Pro 9 weighs 883 grams, while the Intel version is 879 grams thanks to the extra cooling.
Both models start with 8GB of RAM as base that can go all the way up to 32GB on the Intel side and 16GB on the SQ3 model. Both start with 128GB of storage that can be configured up to 1TB on Intel and 512GB on SQ3.
Another bonus for the Surface Pro 9 with SQ3 is the addition of a neural processing unit (NPU). We’ve seen Microsoft experiment with automatic eye contact with the Surface Pro X in the past, but this year, the NPU powers more than ever before. In addition to redirecting eye contact, there are enhanced camera and audio features like automatic framing, portrait background blur, and even a new Voice Focus feature that impressively removes background sound.
I got to test the new Voice Focus feature at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington. Even with pub noise blasting into the room, Voice Focus perfectly removed the background audio. We’ve seen similar software like this from Nvidia, Discord, and many more, but Microsoft’s work runs directly on this NPU chip, so it doesn’t take any resources away from the CPU or GPU on the Surface Pro 9.
These new features are also available in any Windows app, so they’re not locked to Teams, and you’re free to use them in Zoom, Discord, or any other audio and video apps. It’s clearly early days for this NPU work, but it will likely shape what Microsoft does with Surface over the next decade.
Microsoft plans to start shipping the Surface Pro 9 on October 25th, with prices starting at $999.99 for the Intel model and $1,299.99 for the SQ3 version.