The fundamentals do not change, but this new tablet offers a revised design and an 11th-generation Intel processor. A successful iteration..if you buy into the concept and have a well-filled wallet.
After the Surface Go 3 a few weeks ago, it’s the Surface Pro 8’s turn to go through the 01net lab. It is a much more important product for Microsoft, the spearhead of the range and direct heir to the product inaugurated in 2012. For this 2021/2022 version, the Panos Panay teams have pulled out all the stops to improve the big Microsoft tablet.
It starts with a slight but conspicuous design overhaul. The Surface Pro 8 substantially retains the dimensions of the previous model, but offers a more comfortable screen, which goes from 12.3 to 13 inches, with a definition of 2880 x 1920 pixels, and a ratio of 3:2.
Microsoft has largely trimmed the edges to achieve this, which gives the tablet a much more modern look. One regret: the machine has gained a little weight in passing, dropping to 890 grams, compared to 775 or 790 g (depending on the processor) for the Surface Pro 7. Nothing too bad, however, and this meagre difference is absolutely not felt in a bag.
Another important new feature: connectivity is changing. The USB-A port disappears in favour of two USB-C, Thunderbolt 4 compatible. Good news because Microsoft has long shunned this technology, probably to favour its proprietary Surface Connect interface (still present, especially for charging the tablet). However, we can find a classic USB port on the charger of the device. Note that it is also possible to charge the Surface Pro 8 from a USB-C port.
Beyond these notable changes, Surface Pro remains Surface Pro, a PC crafted with care, with impeccable finishes. The only fly in the ointment might be its keyboard, the plastic of which always seems a little “cheap” compared to the finer materials of the device itself. We will come back to it.
A larger screen, which suffers from average brightness
Was this switch to a new screen beneficial? According to the measurements of our lab, there is good… and not so good. First, what goes well: the colorimetry. We measured a Delta E 2000 of 2.59. A great performance, which will ensure excellent color fidelity and second hand laptop price in bd.
On the other hand, the panel suffers from relatively low brightness, with a calculated average of 401 cd / m2. It’s actually not very annoying indoors, but it could cause you some problems if you have to use the device a lot outdoors, in direct sunlight.
As for the contrast, which we measured at 1153:1, it is far from exceptional, and well below the average of computers in the same category that we have tested recently.
Finally, and this is new in the Surface range, the panel is capable of a refresh rate of 120 Hz, even if, by default, it remains blocked at 60 Hz in order to maintain autonomy (not famous, see below) of the device.
Switching to 120 Hz brings additional comfort that is clearly visible: Windows animations, like moving the cursor, are much more fluid and pleasing to the eye. But we just regret having to choose! We would have liked a more elegant solution, like ProMotion – which equips the most recent MacBook Pros – and which intelligently varies the refresh rate of the screen according to your needs.
Surface has always been a separate product in the PC universe. Originally launched to compete with the iPad, it is still sold as a tablet by Microsoft. In other words, its Type Cover keyboard is only an accessory, which must be purchased in addition to have a real PC experience.
But does the Surface Pro have any point without it? For some applications, perhaps, but the vast majority of users add this keyboard and possibly a stylus, which has also been modernized for this generation. It is therefore with these accessories that we judge the product, not the tablet alone
We are going once again to immediately put a bad point to Microsoft on this subject. Surface accessories are way too expensive! The new “Signature” keyboard, which includes a clever location for storing and recharging the stylus, costs 180 euros, which will therefore have to be added to the price of already expensive equipment.
The Pro 8 ships with new 11th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 chips (as tested), which are 10%-15% faster than previous models in benchmarks and matched the performance of the Surface Laptop 4.
A cooling system upgrade keeps the machine silent for most of the time, requiring the fans a lot less frequently than previous versions, which was a very welcome change.
Microsoft has finally adopted Thunderbolt connectivity too, kitting out the Pro 8 with two USB/Thunderbolt 4 ports, which is a big, modern upgrade for connecting to displays, high-speed drives and docks, as well as charging. However, the useful microSD card slot and USB-A socket of previous models have been removed.
Battery life remains very similar to previous models with only about seven hours of work between charges, which is less than half the 16 hours of the market-leading MacBook Air and 2nd hand laptop price bd.
If you also want to buy the new Slim Pen stylus, you will also have to spend 129 euros. That is around 300 additional euros in total (even if Microsoft is making a small discount on its site at the moment). This is all the more problematic since loyal customers are at their expense: old keyboards are not compatible with the Surface Pro 8, which has a different connector.
That being said, Microsoft has done an excellent job from the point of view of general ergonomics, even if Surface, by its very design, retains a defect which may be prohibitive for some and which must once again be remembered: this n It’s not a very comfortable computer to use on your lap. The foot is then difficult to adjust, and the assembly lacks stability. Notice to those who, like us, often work in this position…
The fact remains that from the strict point of view of comfort of use, Surface Pro 8 is a great success. Yes, as we said above, the keyboard looks a little cheap , despite its alcantara coating. The plastic of the keys does not help, and its extreme thinness gives the impression that it can be damaged over time. On the other hand, it is a real pleasure to write with. The keys have an ideal stroke, they fall perfectly under the fingers, and offer a satisfactory sound. An almost perfect keyboard, which has as its only defect (apart from its price!) a trackpad that is a bit too narrow and with an unsatisfactory click.
We also appreciate the general responsiveness of the device. The integrated facial recognition system is devilishly efficient, and it only takes a few moments after waking up, for example by unfolding the keyboard, to access the Windows 11 desktop. Convenient.
The Pro 8 runs the new Windows 11, which is the same as the Go 3 tablet, but is much snappier because of the faster chips. Windows 11 is a better fit for a tablet, with a more touch-friendly interface and significantly improved touchscreen keyboard.
Windows 11 is still a little rough around the edges but is improving rapidly. Those transitioning from Windows 10 will find it mostly works the same with a few design changes such as the central Start menu.
Microsoft has also made a small effort in terms of photo and video sensors. The integrated webcam always films in 1080p, and proved to be excellent in videoconferencing, including with unfavorable light conditions.But the Surface Pro 8 also has a new 10 Mpix sensor on the back, compared to eight previously. However, it will clearly not replace the camera of your smartphone: the focus is terribly slow, the shots it produces are not very detailed and offer sloppy colors… It can however be useful for quickly scanning a document, or record a video conference.
A great pen!
The new refined stylus (Slim Pen 2, optional, therefore) will not necessarily interest all users. But creative people or fans of handwriting should try it anyway, because we think it’s a real success. First, because Microsoft has finally found a rather elegant solution to the eternal problem of storage, with this space located in the Type Cover. It slips into it by magnetization, and recharges there wirelessly. No more risk of misplacing it!
The Pro 8 tablet is only half the equation. It supports Microsoft’s updated Signature detachable keyboard, which is stiffer and flexes less when you type than its predecessor. The keys and trackpad are still great.
The new Slim Pen 2 stylus has a small vibrating motor in it, which activates when you drag the it across the screen to provide the sensation of pen-on-paper. It won’t miraculously give you artistic talent, but it really adds to the experience of drawing or writing on glass. Some apps can make the pen feel like it is clicking, too, when you activate certain functions or menus.
The Slim Pen 2’s haptics only work in apps that support it, such as Microsoft’s Word, Journal, Whiteboard and PowerPoint, Adobe Fresco and a small handful of others so far.
Then because it is really effective, whether for writing, working on the whiteboard or drawing. We would certainly have preferred a perfectly round stylus, which would have been more comfortable in the long term. But Microsoft’s experience in handwriting quickly makes you forget this ergonomic default menu. The Slim Pen 2 responds perfectly to all requests. Better, it is precise, and even fun to use. Its tip retracts slightly on contact with the screen, which gives it a feeling of a real pencil, a sensation amplified by the small haptic motor which vibrates (very slightly!) on contact with the screen. And if you wrote something stupid, just flip it over to use the eraser function. It’s frankly stunning and even better than the Apple Pencil on the iPad, which is just as precise, but more rigid, and therefore less natural to use.
Performance and autonomy
First thing to know: the machine we had in our hands is a high-end model, built around an 11th generation Core i7 ( 1185G7 ), 16 GB of Ram and 256 GB of SSD.
A PC that still costs 1979 euros (without accessories!). The performance of less expensive models will therefore be lower than those we are talking about here. We do not recommend that you opt for a configuration that only has 8 GB of RAM. For a machine of this calibre, 16 GB seems to us to be a strict minimum.
As we can see in the graph above, which summarises the results of the various PC Mark benches , the Surface Pro 8 is doing quite well against eminent competitors also launched in 2021.
Particularly in the areas of creation content and 3D. In fact, it is a machine that will accompany you without any problem for most of the tasks that you will entrust to it, even creation, even a little bit of gaming. Thanks to the eleventh generation of Intel processors and especially the Iris Xe, which has really done ultraportable PCs good from this point of view. Very appreciable performance, especially since the PC never ventilates too much or heats up too much, despite its small size.
Unfortunately, the very average performance of the computer in terms of autonomy comes to spoil the party a little. The Surface Pro 8 indeed lasted 8:15 in our versatile autonomy test, which imitates the common uses of a computer.
The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft’s best tablet PC yet, finally adding some much-needed modern upgrades to an already winning formula.
The more rounded, sleeker design feels great. The larger, better screen with smaller bezels helps productivity. It has the latest Intel chips, runs much quieter and finally has Thunderbolt connectivity for docks, drives, displays and much more.
Battery life is just about good enough for a day of work, but miles behind market leaders. The 120Hz display will be a great feature once it is fully realised with an update. The removal of the microSD card slot is slightly disappointing, but the modular SSD is very welcome. The real starting cost of £1,160 with keyboard is slightly more than the equivalent standard laptop.
If you want a compact and adaptable Windows 11 machine that can turn from a solid laptop replacement to a creative tablet in an instant, the Surface Pro 8 is unrivalled.
Pros: great screen, good performance, Thunderbolt4/USB-4, excellent keyboard (essential additional purchase), excellent kickstand, Windows Hello, solid build, great stylus (optional purchase), removable SSD.
Cons: fairly expensive, keyboard should be included, no USB-A port, no microSD card slot, waiting for an update to enable the variable refresh rate of the screen.
Note- It’s not catastrophic, but below the average PC of the same kind and far, far from the sixteen hours promised by Microsoft. Unsurprisingly, the 6:45 hours noted during our video playback autonomy test fail to raise the bar.
We will console ourselves by thinking of recharging, which is rather fast, on the other hand, with 2h08 to go from 0 to 100% battery.