During its recent Surface event, Microsoft launched the largest upgrade of its flagship Intel-powered Surface Pro lineup in years: the Surface Pro 8. The new 2-in-1 machine boasts a 120Hz display, Thunderbolt 4 support, and new processors, but all of those improvements come at a cost — literally. Whereas the Surface Pro 7 starts at $549.99, the Surface Pro 8 starts at $1,099.99, meaning it’s nearly double the price. And that’s also before you factor in the cost of Microsoft’s new stylus and detachable keyboard, two add-ons that are more like necessities if you intend to use the 2-in-1 as advertised.
With all that said, is it worth upgrading or picking up the Pro 8 over the last-gen model when it launches on October 5th? To help make your decision a little easier, we’ve put together the comparison below based on specs and our initial impressions of the Surface Pro 8.
What’s improved on the Surface Pro 8?
- Two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports
- You can double the refresh rate from 60Hz to 120Hz
- 11th-gen Intel quad-core Core CPUs, starting with i5 instead of i3
- 10MP rear-facing camera, with 1080p and 4K video
- Larger, 13-inch display with higher 2880 x 1920 resolution (up from 12.3-inch)
- Double the RAM on the base model (8GB)
- Microsoft says the battery should last up to 16 hours
- New sensor that adjusts the display temperature based on ambient lighting
- LTE support for enterprise users
- Preloaded with Windows 11
The Surface Pro 8 is more than just an incremental update. Microsoft’s newest slate features a modernized look with slimmer bezels, making it the Surface Pro’s largest visual redesign in years. Like the Surface Pro X, the Surface Pro 8 features a 13-inch display as opposed to the 12.3-inch found on the Pro 7. In his recent hands-on take, my colleague Dieter Bohn also remarked that the Pro 8 feels slightly nicer to hold, given the corners are softer. And if color matters to you, the touchscreen machine is also now available in graphite instead of black, which is a colorway still available for the Pro 7.
Spec-wise, the display on the Pro 8 is significantly better compared to its predecessor, given there’s now an option to ramp up the refresh rate from 60Hz to 120Hz, which could improve scrolling and make using the stylus easier. Gaming could certainly be more enjoyable on the Pro 8, too, especially given the device comes preloaded with the Xbox app and a one-month trial of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. In addition, the latest Pro supports Dolby Vision and is the first Surface device to come with an ambient color sensor, which automatically adjusts the display’s color temperature and brightness based on the surrounding lighting conditions. The new Pro 8 also boasts a 3:2 display and 2880 x 1920 pixels as opposed to 2736 x 1824, although, technically, both share the same 267 pixels per inch. Regardless, the expanded size still offers you a little more space for, say, multitasking.
The Pro 8 also appears to be superior to the Pro 7 when it comes to performance and battery life. The new 2-in-1 is available with either a quad-core, 11th-gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor, and with up to 32GB of RAM. The Pro 8 also comes with a removable SSD in one of four configurations: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB, something you could previously only find on the Pro 7 Plus. It’s important to note, however, that Microsoft says the SSD should be repaired or replaced by a trained Microsoft-authorized technician — they’re “not user removable.”
The Pro 7, meanwhile, comes with a dual-core, 10th-gen Intel Core i3 or a quad-core, 10th-gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7, and with up to 16GB of RAM. It’s available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities. Overall, Microsoft says the Surface Pro 8 shows a 40 percent improvement over the Pro 7 when it comes to sustained CPU performance; it’s also 74 percent faster on the graphics side, according to Microsoft.
Battery life on the Pro 8 is, at least on paper, greater as well, with Microsoft claiming it can last up to 16 hours on a single charge. The tech giant also says it can charge from 0 to 80 percent in a little over an hour. The Pro 7 was supposed to last up to 10.5 hours on a charge in comparison, though, in our review, we noted it lasted 7-8 hours or less when working with graphically intensive apps and pages. We don’t expect Microsoft’s battery claims regarding the Pro 8 to hold up in real-world usage, though, especially with a 120Hz display.
The Pro 8 additionally stands out in some ways when it comes to connectivity, depending on your needs. Instead of a USB-A port and the integrated microSD card slot featured on the Pro 7, Microsoft went with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, allowing the tablet to support either two 4K displays with a 60Hz refresh rate or a single 8K monitor at 30Hz. The Core i3 and Core i7 models can also be configured with LTE, though the feature is only available to enterprise customers.
The Pro also boasts better cameras than its successor. The new model’s rear camera is a 10MP shooter as opposed to an 8MP, and the rear camera on the Pro 8 can also capture 4K video. The Pro 8’s new face-tracking tech could also improve video calls by keeping you in focus while you walk around and talk. Microsoft says the Windows Hello camera has been upgraded, too, and it pairs with Microsoft Studio mics for audio.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft also improved the Pro 8’s optional accessories. The new Surface Slim Pen 2 ($129.99) features a sharper tip that allows for better precision and a built-in haptic motor, which helps the stylus better emulate the feeling of writing on paper and makes for a smoother inking experience. You can also charge the pen inductively when you’re not using it via the built-in slot on the detachable Surface Pro Signature Keyboard ($179). The new keyboard is also stiffer thanks to a carbon-fiber core, but not heavier or thicker, which gives it less bounce when typing.
What’s the same on both models?
- Both share a similar, flat-edged appearance
- Each has a 5MP front-facing camera for Windows Hello facial recognition that can capture video in up to 1080p
- Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth support
- Each is compatible with both generations of the Surface Slim Pen
- Each features a built-in kickstand
- Both are compatible with an optional keyboard and stylus
- Both have a 3.5mm headphone jack
The Surface Pro 7 is Microsoft’s last-gen Windows tablet, one that features Intel’s 10th-gen processors, a microSD card for expandable storage, and 12.3-inch display.
Besides a larger display and the new Thunderbolt 4 ports, the Surface Pro 8 is otherwise very similar physically to its predecessor. It has a rounded, flat-edged appearance, with a built-in kickstand on the back and physical buttons for volume and power. You can also use both generations of the Surface Slim Pen with either model, but note you won’t be able to enjoy the new haptic functionality afforded by the Surface Slim Pen 2 on the Pro 7. Although slightly heavier at 1.96 pounds, the Pro 8 is still light and measures less than half an inch thick, much like the Pro 7. Both also come in the platinum (read: silver) and a darker colorway.
The front-facing camera and various wireless connectivity are also similar across devices, in addition to select ports. While the Pro 8 has a better rear camera, the 5MP front-facing camera is just like the Pro 7’s and can capture video in up to 1080p. Both models also offer dual far-field studio mics, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth support, and each comes equipped with a 3.5mm headphone jack in addition to the usual Surface Connect port.
Finally, both offer support for Windows 11. While the latest model ships with Windows 11, Pro 7 users will be able to download the latest OS update for free when it releases on October 5th. This means both devices will be able to take advantage of features like the new Start menu, widgets, and the operating system’s deeper integration with Microsoft Teams. A new OS update will also bring Android apps to Windows 11 next year.
Why you might want to buy the Pro 8
With a larger display, improved performance, potentially more battery life, and higher-res cameras, Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 8 looks to be a notable step up from the Surface 7 in several key ways. The Pro 8’s support for Thunderbolt also means you can connect the device to multiple monitors, enjoy faster transfer speeds, and, theoretically, use the device with an external GPU. That, along with the display’s 120Hz refresh rate, is helpful if you intend to use the tablet primarily for gaming or as a creative tool. And while the starting price is higher, you’re getting double the RAM and an i5 CPU to start, instead of an i3. If you want closer-to-comparable specs in the older Pro 7, you’re starting at $799.99 instead of $549.99.
If you’re an enterprise customer, the Pro 8 may also be worth considering, as you’ll be able to benefit from LTE support alongside the other aforementioned perks. The LTE model isn’t available yet, however, and Microsoft says it won’t arrive until next year.
Keep in mind that this is all based on Microsoft’s provided hardware specs and our early hands-on impressions with the Pro 8. We won’t know for certain how Microsoft’s latest 2-in-1 performs until we can spend some additional time with it, so if you’re considering the Pro 8, we suggest waiting for our full review.
Why you may want to stick with the Pro 7
If you’re on a tight budget and need a Windows tablet for casual use or everyday tasks, it may be better to stick with the Surface Pro 7. The 2-in-1 also comes with a built-in microSD card slot for transferring data and a USB-A port — a nice perk if you continue to work with older peripherals. The Pro 8 doesn’t have either.
Given the significant improvements in its internals and display, the Pro 8 is naturally more expensive and starts at $1,099 (without accessories). Again, you’ll also have to pay an extra $179 for the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and $129 for the new Surface Slim Pen 2, though, if you want both accessories, they’re available as a package deal for $280.
In contrast, the Pro 7 is currently on sale starting at $549.99, while the Pro 7’s detachable Surface Pro Type Cover keyboard — something the Pro 8 no longer offers, by the way — and Surface Pen start at $129.99 and $67.99, respectively. Note, as well, that keyboard covers compatible with Surface Pro 7 don’t work with the Pro 8, so you can’t buy yourself a cheaper Pro 7 one.
When you do the math, there’s still a difference of about $600 between the two, assuming you’re buying the base model of each with its accompanying keyboard and stylus. The added expense is substantial, especially if you don’t care for Thunderbolt 4, a 120Hz display, and the other, more premium features that define the Pro 8.