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The five contenders are the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable, the HP Elite Folio, the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+, and the new Surface Pro 8. We’re still testing a sixth tablet, the Surface Go 3. Historically, we’ve seen Microsoft push hard with generation after generation of new Windows tablets. Third-party manufacturers haven’t been as consistent, but they’ve offered their own improvements, including webcam covers, superior keyboards, and powerful, sophisticated support utilities.
Our individual reviews delve deeply into each tablet’s strengths and weaknesses. In this article, however, we’ll provide a top-down comparison of the five we’ve tested, focusing on the areas that should be of particular interest to a Windows tablet buyer. We’ve also compared all five tablets using our standard benchmark suite, and present our results alongside some traditional laptops.
Best Windows Tablet for COnsumers: Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Surface Pro 8
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Best Windows tablet for business: Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable
Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable
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Best Prices Today:Affordability
The tablets we were sent for review by the four manufacturers varied by price and configuration, but the lowest-priced base option is the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+—though adding a pen and keyboard elevates the price above the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1. At the time of our latest update to this article, the two cheapest Surface Pro 7+ options were also sold out, making the standalone Surface Pro 8 the more affordable option.
Once kitted out with a keyboard and optional pen, each tablet is roughly similar in price, though your preferred configuration can alter that price significantly. Only the HP Elite Folio actually includes both accessories as part of the purchase price, however. Lenovo charges extra for a pen ($51.98 on Amazon) with 4,096 levels of pressure, and Microsoft suggests you buy its Surface Pro Signature Type Cover ($139 on Amazon) and Surface Pen ($89 on Amazon) for optimum functionality.
The Surface Pro 8 is designed for use with the $129.99 Surface Slim Pen 2 and a $179.99 Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, which accommodates the rechargeable Slim Pen 2 in a special keyboard cubby. This also means that you won’t be able to use older Surface detachable keyboards (say, from a Surface Pro 4) with the Surface Pro 8. Any detached Bluetooth keyboard, of course, will work just fine.
Dell informed us that while the company provided us with a pen and a tablet for our review, the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable Travel Keyboard costs an additional $199.99, and its Latitude 7320 Detachable Active Pen also sells separately, for $69.99.
Dell’s Latitude 7320 Detachable is one of two Windows tablets PCWorld recommends.
Mentioned in this article
HP Elite Folio
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We’ve included the base pricing of our review units below as of press time, excluding the cost of any peripherals, with the price of our review unit in parentheses. Note that Lenovo offers substantial “discounts” for buying direct on its site.
Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable: $1,559 on up ($2,189 as tested)
HP Elite Folio: $1,895 on up ($1,889 as tested)
Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1: $1,819 on up; $1,091.40 after discounts ($2,219.00 as tested; $1,331.40 after discount)
Microsoft Surface Pro 7+: $900 on up; ($1,650 as tested)
Microsoft Surface Pro 8: $1,099 on up; ($1,600 as tested)
We consider the lowest-priced model of the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable, with 4GB of memory, too skimpy for everyday use. But if you don’t mind a Core i3, the minimum $899.99 configuration of the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ is certainly feasible.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7+ offers a variety of prices and configurations to serve most budgets. It’s one of the best Windows tablets too.Weight, portability, and overall design
We prefer the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ and Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable here, as they offer the best combination of features. Technically, only three are “traditional” tablets: We’d categorize the HP Elite Folio as a 2-in-1, but the separate tablet and keyboard are wrapped together inside of a faux-leather sheath that connects both the tablet and keyboard as a single unit. Instead of physically separating, the Folio’s tablet can “pull forward” or swivel back like a traditional tablet. The others use integrated kickstands that allow the tablets to recline.
Mentioned in this article
Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1
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In all, the Folio is stronger and more stable than other tablets, but its design adds weight and removes some of the flexibility, too. On the Dell and Lenovo tablets, the connection between the keyboard and tablet is especially weak, so consider this if you like working with a tablet on your lap.
HP’s Elite Folio plays with the notion of a “traditional” tablet, with a non-detachable keyboard.
If your concern is which Windows tablet is the lightest, the answer is both the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1 and Microsoft Surface Pro 7+, which both weigh in at 2.4 pounds. We’ve included the weights below from our scale:
Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable: 1.70lb, 2.50lb with keyboard
HP Elite Folio: 2.95lb
Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1: 1.65lb, 2.40lb with keyboard
Microsoft Surface Pro 7+: 1.75lb, 2.40lb with keyboard
From a peripherals perspective, only the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable and Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1 offer Thunderbolt-equipped ports. Both of the others offer more generic USB-C connections. While all of the tablets offer Windows Hello biometric depth cameras, both the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable and the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable offer a fingerprint reader as well, for an additional login option.
Mentioned In tHis Articled
Microsoft Surface Pro 7+
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Best Prices Today:Display size and brightness
There are noticeable differences in the displays. Both the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable and HP Elite Folio offer larger 13.3-inch displays, while the other Surface Pro 7+ and Lenovo tablet include smaller 12.3-inch displays. The Surface Pro 8 splits the difference with a 13-inch screen. Which tablet offers the brightest display? That distinction goes to the HP Folio, with a blazing 1,000-nit option that’s ideal for outdoor work, or the Dell Latitude, with its 500-nit display. (We consider 250 nits the minimum for indoor work.) The tablet with the highest-resolution display is the Microsoft Surface Pro 8, at 2,880 x 1,920, though the others include 1920×1280 displays that look just fine.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1 provides a solid mix of Thunderbolt ports and biometric login options, making it a good professional tablet.Keyboard and typing experience
Personally, I preferred both the Dell Latitude and Microsoft’s keyboards over the others. The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard designed for the Surface Pro 8 feels the same under your fingers, but grips the tablet tightly. The rechargeable pen is especially useful.Webcam and audio experience
While we’re not going to show you representative images from all of the webcams here, one tablet stands out: the Surface Pro 7+. Both the Surface Pro 7+ and the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1 offer 1080p resolution on their user-facing cameras, but the color and white balance on the Surface Pro 7+ is head and shoulders above the others. The Surface Pro 8 is further optimized for color exposure as well, but overcorrects for skin tone.
The webcam on the Surface Pro 7+ offers superior color balance and resolution over the others.
The Surface Pro 7+ does not offer a physical webcam shutter, however, or even a button on the keyboard to turn it off. Both the HP Elite Folio and Lenovo ThinkPad Detachable offer physical webcam shutters.
We simply let our ears be the judge of which tablets offer the best audio. Here, we found that only the Lenovo’s speakers disappointed us. All of the other tablets performed well, with the usual caveat: Don’t expect that much in the way of bass from a flat tablet. You can always use headphones, though.Battery life
Windows on Arm laptops have a reputation for long battery life, and the HP Elite Folio absolutely lives up to the stereotype. The Elite Folio delivers 932 minutes (15.5 hours) of battery life, which is 54 percent more than either the Surface Pro 7+ or the Dell Latitude Detachable. The Surface Pro 8 slips a bit under those two, tying the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1.
Tablets and laptops with Qualcomm Snapdragon chips inside them tend to have long battery life, and the HP Elite Folio certainly does…just not as long as some older Snapdragon-powered devices.
Mark Hachman / IDGSystem utilities
You may not care about what sort of applications are bundled with these tablets, but we do. All of them were refreshingly free of the “bloatware” cheaper PCs come saddled with. Two of them shipped with their own vendor-developed system utilities. These apps supplement or replace operating system tools, in that they can be used to update firmware, drivers, or other utilities without Windows getting in the way. Neither the Elite Folio nor the Surface Pro tablets do anything noteworthy here.
Lenovo’s Vantage software and Dell’s suite of Dell utilities are both superb, providing a central repository for warranty information, a hardware and software dashboard, manuals and more. While the Vantage suite is probably a bit more comprehensive, Dell’s utilities are more straightforward.Overall performance
Aside from the HP Elite Folio, all of the tablets listed in our roundup include an 11th-gen Intel “Tiger Lake” Core chip inside and perform similarly.
The Elite Folio uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G, an Arm chip that doesn’t quite allow you to run all of your preferred applications, even with emulation. (We’ll let the Elite Folio review explain further.) That limits which benchmarks we can run to test the performance of these tablets, and which laptops and thin-and-light PCs we can compare them to.
What we’ve done is use three representative benchmarks: PCMark 8 Creative, PCMark 10 Apps, and Cinebench R20. All three apps ran on all four tablets, giving us a comprehensive view of their performance. PCMark 8 Creative tests everything from general office work to light gaming and video/image editing. (PCMark 10 provides a more up-to-date, comprehensive test suite, but it won’t run on the Elite Folio.) PCMark Apps is a test of pure Office performance in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the Edge browser. Cinebench is a synthesized CPU test, but it tells us how well a more generic CPU-intensive application will perform.
In the graphs below, we’ve highlighted the four key tablets, alongside some older tablets and a couple of laptops. For a deeper dive into other benchmarks, our Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable review and Surface Pro 8 review includes results of all four tablets, save for the specialized Elite Folio results.
Lenovo captures the top spot in our list of tablets and thin-and-light PCs in the older PCMark 8 Creative test.
Mark Hachman / IDG
In the PCMark 10 Apps test, however, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 tablet easily tops them all.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Here, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 turns in an excellent performance in the Cinebench R20 benchmark.
Mark Hachman / IDG
It’s true that the Arm processor forces some of our benchmark applications to run via emulation, which slows them down. But the performance gap is still profound.
Which Windows tablet should you buy? As you’ve seen, we crowned the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable and the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 with our Editors’ Choice award for different reasons. The Surface Pro 8 offers cheaper configuration options, a solid keyboard, a high-resolution screen, and the best webcam. It’s best for consumers. The business-focused Dell’s Latitude 7320 Detachable offers more viewable screen area, a great keyboard, Thunderbolt ports, and a decidedly useful suite of utility apps. Of the two, battery life favored Dell’s tablet.
The best Windows Tablet for consumers
Surface Pro 8
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Your choice will likely be determined by the nuances. Yes, Microsoft’s tablet is far superior for lap work…but your tablet may be most often used on a desk. Do Dell’s robust system utilities matter? Perhaps you’ve already purchased one of our best 1080p webcams, and so Microsoft’s superior integrated webcam won’t influence your decision. Either way, we declare both the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable and the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 as the best Windows tablets of 2023.
Correction (10/15/2024): Through a miscommunication, Dell informed us that while the company provided us with a pen and a tablet for our review, the Dell Latitude 7320’s detachable keyboard costs an additional $199.99 and its Latitude 7320 Detachable Active Pen also sells separately, for $69.99. Since this is primarily a business-focused tablet, we have not adjusted our rating. Update (10/14/2024): We have updated this roundup to add the Microsoft Surface Pro 8.
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As soon as we hit the power button on our computers to boot them up, a huge number of files and operations come into the picture and make the computer operational. But if something goes wrong, the system could throw up an error. One of these errors is Fatal Error C0000022. This is usually triggered while Applying Updates. This means that this occurs due to an error encountered with Windows Update. So, we will be looking out for relevant fixes for the same. Let us now dive into it.Fix Fatal Error C0000022
We will be undertaking the following fixes for Fatal Error C0000022 for all the computers,
Perform a Full Shut Down.
Use System Restore.
Run Automatic Startup Repair.
Use DISM to uninstall specific Windows Updates.
Get the required Updates manually.
Open the command prompt (admin), type the following command and hit Enter:shutdown /s /f /t 0
This will make your Windows 10/8 computer shut down ‘fully’. The correct syntax thus for a full shutdown of Windows 10/8 should be: shutdown /s /f /t 0 and for Hybrid shutdown should be: shutdown /s /hybrid /t 0.
Now power on your computer and see if the problem has gone away.2] Use System Restore
If you are in Advanced Startup Options, you can select System Restore directly and proceed with the steps.
If you just booted into Safe Mode, type chúng tôi in Start search box and hit Enter. Select the tab labeled as System Protection and then choose the System Restore button.
It will now open a new window where you will need to choose your desired System Restore Point. After selecting your desired System Restore Point, follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process.
Now Reboot your computer and check if this method was able to resolve your issue.3] Run Automatic Startup Repair
Run Automatic Repair on your computer and see if that helps. For this, you have to enter Windows Recovery Environment. If your system is displaying the Fatal error message on boot, you cannot use Windows 11/10 Settings to enter Windows Recovery Environment. In such a case, follow the instructions provided below:
Press and hold the power button to force shut down your computer.
Turn on your computer. When you see the manufacturer’s logo or WidoWindows logo, immediately press and hold the power button until your PC turns off.
Repeat the above steps again and again until Windows enters repair mode. Now, you are in Windows Recovery Environment.
Automatic Startup Repair will scan system files, registry settings, configuration settings, and more and try to fix the problem on its own, automatically.
Read: Windows 10 will not boot up or start.4] Use DISM to uninstall specific Windows Updates DISM.exe /online /get-packages
It will populate a list of Windows Updates installed on your computer using DISM on the Command Prompt command line.
Look for the update that you want to uninstall. It will look something like, package_for_KB976932~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~~188.8.131.52. And then copy it.
Now, enter this command and hit Enter to uninstall the particular update,DISM.exe /online /remove-package /packagename:[NAME OF THE UPDATE TO BE UNINSTALLED]
Reboot your computer for the change to take effect.5] Get the required Updates manually
If it’s not a Feature Update and only a Cumulative Update, you can manually download and install the Windows Update. To find which update has failed to follow the steps:
Check which particular update has failed. Updates that have failed to install will display Failed under the Status column.
Next, go to Microsoft Download Center, and search for that update using the KB number.
Once you find it, download, and install it manually.
You could use Microsoft Update Catalog, a service from Microsoft that provides a listing of software updates that can be distributed over a corporate network. Using the Microsoft Update Catalog can prove to be a one-stop location for finding Microsoft software updates, drivers, and hotfixes.
If it is a Feature update, you can always rely on the following methods to get your computer updated,What is the cause of Fatal error?
Fatal errors are unexpected errors that can cause your system to crash due to which you lose unsaved data. Both hardware and software issues can trigger Fatal errors. If you have installed a program recently after which your system displayed the Fatal error, that program might be triggering the error. In some cases, overheating and insufficient system resources can also trigger a Fatal error.How to repair PC by cmd?
You can repair your system by repairing the corrupted system image files. System File Checker and Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) are the command-line tools that help users repair corrupted system image files. Windows startup issues can also occur when the Boot Configuration Data is corrupted. In such a case, rebuilding BCD via the Command Prompt can help. If something bad has happened to your PC, you have to run Startup Repair via the Windows Recovery Environment.
All the best!
If you definitely want a lightweight, versatile 2-in-1 device for writing reports, creating presentations, consuming media, and general computer duties, then the Pixel Slate is perfectly capable of this. But once you start to factor in the additional cost of moving up from the base-unit, then adding the keyboard and stylus, the picture becomes murky. At around £900 or more, it doesn’t seem a sensible way to spend that much money. The Surface Pro 6 has a similar conundrum, in that once you factor in the keyboard and Pen, you’re up in the territory where price tags come with commas. At least with the Surface Pro 6 you’re getting a device that can run almost any software at all and be used as a half-decent gaming PC. In all honesty, we’d encourage potential buyers to take a look at the Pixelbook and Surface Laptop 2 before making a decision. Or, if a tablet is really what you want, then the much cheaper 9.7in iPad just can’t be beat right now.
Google held a hardware launch recently where it announced the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL,Price and availability
The Pixel Slate has no confirmed release date at the time of writing, but Google has said that it will appear before the end of the year.
There’s a range of models, starting at £549/US$599 for the base tablet with an Intel Celeron processor 4GB RAM and 32GB of storage, and going up to £1,549/$1,599 for an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Adding the (necessary) keyboard will cost £189/US$199, and the stylus – the Pixelbook Pen – comes in at £79/US$99.
Microsoft’s latest iteration of the Surface Pro is available from 16 October and offers a number of configurations. These start at £879/US$899 for the 8th Gen Intel Core i5 with 128GB of storage and 8GB Ram, and goes up to £2,149/US$2,299 if you want an Intel Core i7, 1TB of storage, and 16GB of RAM.
To get the most from the Surface Pro 6 you’ll also need a keyboard cover (starts at £129.99/US$129.99) and the Surface Pen (£99/US$99).
You can pre-order the Surface Pro 6 from Microsoft.
If you don’t mind a smaller device, then the recently announced Surface Go is another option. This mini-tablet has a 10in display and costs £379/US$399 for the base model or £509/US$549 for the more powerful version.
Again, you’ll need to factor in the price of a Keyboard cover which amounts to £99/US$129, and if you want the Surface Pen that’ll be another £99/US$99.
You can order the Surface Go from Microsoft today, but first you might want to read our full Surface Go review.Design and build
The Pixel Slate features a 12.3in ‘Molecular’ display, which is comprised of 6 million pixels (3000×2000) and delivers 293ppi for crisp, detailed images.
The metal body is larger than a standard tablet (290mm x 202mm x 7mm), due to the screen size. But, by clever placement of the internals, the balance is well measured and makes the device feel lighter than its 721g.
Twin front-facing speakers adorn the side bezels, while the power button on the top edge also works as a fingerprint sensor. The only other feature on the front panel is an 8Mp f/1.9 camera that features a wide field of view so that video calls with multiple people doesn’t require everyone’s cheeks to be touching.
A Midnight Blue livery covers the back, where you’ll also find another 8Mp camera, this time with an f/1.8 aperture.
Two USB-C ports (one on either flank) are the connections of offer, both with capabilities for Charging, 4K Display output, and fast data transfer. One glaring omission is a headphone jack. Google no doubt has some complicated reason for this, but in all honesty it’s just plain stupid. This is a tablet and as such has room for the simple and useful addition of a 3.5mm port.
The Surface Pro 6 is very similar in design to its predecessor the Surface Pro. Thankfully Microsoft has restored some logic to its naming conventions, hence the reappearance of a number to denote which Surface you’re holding.
The main difference is a switch from the solitary magnesium colouring of the older model, to the option of a cool looking matte black on the Pro 6. Otherwise, it’s the same 292 mm x 201 mm x 8.5 mm dimensions, 12.3in PixelSense display, and strange lack of any USB-C port at all.
Why this remains the case in 2023 is anybody’s guess, but you’ll once more have to do with a single USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect, microSDXC card reader, and 3.5mm headphone jack.
We’re still big fans of the built-in kickstand, which remains a ridiculously elegant way to position the Surface Pro 6 at the right angle for typing, watching videos, or resting on your lap.
Camera-wise, there’s a 5Mp front-facing 1080p unit, which also supports Windows Hello facial recognition, and an 8Mp,1080p shooter on the back. These are accompanied by 1.6W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium.Features and specs
To get anything like the full potential out of either of these devices requires buying both the external keyboard and dedicated stylus. While the Surface Pro 6 can act happily as a tablet (insofar as Windows 10 is a tablet OS), it’s too heavy to hold for gaming or idly browsing the web, and the amount of optimised apps pales in comparison to the riches of something like an iPad.
It’s a similar story with the Pixel Slate. Yes, you can use it as a tablet, but given the choice between that and the iPad, even the most ardent Google fan would have to admit that the Apple route would be the one to take.
Adding the keyboards does change this equation quite significantly. If you’re a fan of Chromebooks, but want a premium device that can also double as a tablet, then the Pixel Slate is a compelling option. Chrome OS has developed quite substantially in recent years, and the lightweight hardware of the Pixel Slate is a perfect way to experience the productivity and leisure capabilities.
Depending on which configuration you go for, there’s plenty of power on offer, and even the Celeron models should zip along at a decent clip thanks to the lightweight nature of the operating system. However, we didn’t see this in practice when we got our hands on a Slate at the launch.
Again, you can configure the Surface Pro 6 to be a light-use device or production powerhouse depending on which CPU and RAM option you take. But, whereas Chrome OS doesn’t need much in the way of storage and RAM, we’d certainly recommend opting for somewhere a little up the chain if you want the Pro 6 to be future-proofed for a few years.
Here’s a breakdown of the technical specs for both devices;
Pixel SlateSurface Pro 6Operating SystemChromeOSWindows 10 HomeDisplay12.3in Molecular display 3000 x 2000 (293 ppi)12.3in PixelSense 2736 x 1824 (267ppi)Memory4GB/8GB/16GB8GB or 16GBProcessor8th Gen Intel Core m3, i5 or i7 processor, or Intel CeleronIntel Core i5 / i7 8th GenStorage32GB up to 256GB128GB up to 1TBPorts2 x USB-C, connector for Pixel Slate keyboard1 x USB 3, headphone, mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect, microSD card reader, connector for Type Cover keyboardDimensions291mm x 202mm x 7mm292mm x 201mm x 8.5mmWeight721g770g (784g for Core i7)ColoursMidnight blueBlack, PlatinumBattery lifeUp to 10 hoursUp to 13.5 hoursPriceFrom £549/$599From £879/$899Software
This is where the rubber will really hit the road for most people. While either device is passable as a tablet, their main use will almost certainly be for getting things done. In that respect you have a clear choice between the full Windows 10 experience that comes with the Surface Pro 6, replete with the wide range of apps that run on the device itself, or the cloud-focussed ChromeOS on the Pixel Slate.
Now, it should be noted that many production apps, such as Google Docs, Sheets, and others, will run offline on Chromebooks, and thus the Pixel Slate. You can also download games, movies, TV shows, and music to enjoy when you’re not connected, but this is where the smaller storage options could cause problems.
Google has also given newer ChomeOS machines, the Pixel Slate included, the ability to run Android apps. This does add a fair amount of content, but these do tend to run in boxes on the screen rather than as optimised full-screen apps. In time we hope this will change, but at the moment it’s not quite there.
Google Assistant is a useful tool though, with its best-in-class voice recognition interface allowing users to launch apps, start emails and messages, or generally control the device without touching it.
The Surface Pro 6 is a fully-fledged PC, and as such will run anything you’d normally expect on a desktop Windows 10 machine. The Pixel Slate is a fancy Chromebook, albeit with an OS that’s been optimised for touch.Specs Google Pixel Slate: Specs
Google Chrome OS
Midnight Blue colour
Power button with fingerprint sensor
Storage: 32GB / 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
12.3in Molecular Display
3000×2000 pixels, 293ppi
Pixelbook Pen Input
8th generation Intel Core i5 / Core m3 / Celeron Processor
4GB / 8GB / 16GB RAM
Two 8MP Full HD cameras, front- and rear-facing
Microphone, Stereo speakers
2x USB-C ports
Pixel Slate Keyboard port
Titan security chip
48Whr battery, up to 10 hours
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 breaks a number of tablet display performance records, including consuming a surprisingly meager amount of power for its size, display expert Ray Soneira says.
The SP4 also improves considerably over the Surface Pro 3, which also had a well-regarded display, in almost every way, Soniera concluded in a report released on Tuesday. It also has the most accurate on-screen colors of any tablet display that he has ever measured, he wrote:
“[T]he Surface Pro 4 has one of the very best and most accurate displays available on any mobile platform and OS. It joins near the top of a small set of tablets that have excellent top tier displays – ideal for professionals that need a very accurate high performance display for their work, and for consumers that want and appreciate a really nice and beautiful display.”
Why this matters: Your eye can usually tell you what makes for a pleasing display, even if you might not be able to put your finger on what, if anything, is lacking. The fact that the SP4’s display is quite color-accurate should reassure graphics professionals looking for a tablet to take on the road. As we noted in our Surface Pro 4 review, however, we would have still liked the SP4’s battery life to have improved over the previous generation, especially given the display’s lower power consumption.Surprisingly low power
Interestingly, the Surface Pro 4’s 12.3-inch display requires just 4.8 watts to drive 267 pixels per inch across 69.8 square inches of screen area. That’s 57.8 percent of the power needed to drive the 8.3 watts used by the Apple iPad Air 2, which uses a slightly lower-resolution 264 ppi display at a much smaller 45.2 square inches. (In fairness, Soneira has yet to test an iPad Pro.)
According to Soneira’s tests, the Surface Pro 3 also rated as “one of the very best and most accurate displays available on any mobile platform and OS.” But the SP4 improves upon it in just about every metric: maximum brightness, contrast ratio, absolute color accuracy, viewing angle performance, and even lower screen reflectance, which results in much better performance in ambient light.
Here’s what Soneira found: the SP4’s screen brightness is 436 nits, very good for a large tablet but lower than most smartphones and smaller tablets. But the black luminance is just 0.31 nits (the ideal would be zero, or “true” black). In all, the true contrast ratio is 1406, Soneira found.
Soneira’s sRGB / Rec.709 reference colors plot for the Surface Pro 4.
Where Apple’s tablets do better than the Surface Pro 4 is their performance in ambient light, due to an anti-reflective coating Apple applied. The measured screen reflectance for the SP4 was 5.6 percent, while the iPad Air 2 has a a 2.5 percent reflectance. Under bright light, the contrast rating for the SP4 is 78 (28 percent better than the SP3) but still less than the 166 contrast ratio the iPad Air 2 notches.
Soneira also noted that, like all LCDs, you’ll notice a fairly sharp drop off in display performance the further off you view the display from a “true” viewing angle in line with your eyes.
As far as color accuracy is concerned, the SP4’s display has an average color error of a mere 1.9 JNCD, with the blue color just slightly over saturated. (Any Display Color Error less than 3 JNCD on a display is not visually noticeable and appears perfectly accurate to the eye, Soneira wrote.)
Performance is surprisingly competitive
Vivid, bright screen
Cellular connectivity for on-the-go work
Fantastic battery life
New Windows Studio Effects generally work wellCons
eSIM connectivity had issues
Audio isn’t as rich as earlier tablets
Inking isn’t quite as good
No headphone jack
Arm processor has some compatibility issues with gamesOur Verdict
If you’re in the market for an always-connected Windows tablet for office work, we’d recommend you take a look at the Surface Pro 9 (5G).Best Prices Today: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (5G)
We recommend that you consider buying the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (5G) Windows tablet, with an Arm chip—not an Intel or AMD chip—inside. That’s a first for us, and we hope it’s not the last.
Read reviews of the Surface Pro 9 with a large grain of salt, because there are two significantly different products hiding under the same brand name. The Surface Pro 9 is built on an Intel 12th-gen Core chip (Alder Lake), while the Surface Pro 9 (5G) uses a separate SQ3 chip co-developed by Qualcomm to Microsoft’s specifications. We’re reviewing the Surface Pro 9 (5G) here.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) is essentially the Surface Pro X, now renamed and brought under the Surface Pro 9 brand umbrella. Inside it is the SQ3, an Arm chip that’s technically incompatible with the X86 architecture of Intel’s Core and AMD’s Ryzen processors, but can run most Windows apps both via a special Arm-optimized version of Windows 11 plus a special code interpreter.
What it boils down to is this: The Surface Pro 9 (5G) should offer somewhat more battery life and somewhat less performance than the Core version of the tablet, based on our tests. But it’s not that much less, and that’s the surprise. Nevertheless, there are still application compatibility issues if you wander too far from its mission: handling day-to-day Office tasks and browsing via Microsoft Edge.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) is also the only SP9 to include a 5G radio inside, meaning that you’ll enjoy always-on connectivity once you leave the range of the nearest Wi-Fi router. We’re also told that Microsoft does not plan to sell a 5G version of the Surface Pro 9 with a Core chip inside, either — if you want an always-connected Surface Pro 9, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is it.
A special Liberty Floral keyboard is available in limited quantities to celebrate the Surface line’s 10th anniversary.
Unlike the Surface Pro 9, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) does not include a pair of Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, which usually requires an Intel processor. Instead, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) includes standard USB-C ports rated at the vanilla 10Gbps spec instead. This matters in two ways: first, you won’t be able to use a Thunderbolt dock to expand this tablet’s I/O capabilities. You also won’t be able to use a powered Thunderbolt dock to charge the tablet either, and will have to depend on the 39W charger to charge the tablet through the Surface Connect port.
This is not an enormous issue; you can use Microsoft’s Surface Dock 2, the upcoming Microsoft Audio Dock, or an inexpensive USB-C dongle to provide some I/O expansion capabilities, and the in-box charger works just fine. But it’s another difference between the two.
Otherwise, aside from shaving a sliver off of the chassis weight, the Surface Pro 9 is essentially the same as the Surface Pro 8: the same design, with a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard (sold separately) which can tuck the optional Surface Slim Pen 2 (usually bundled with the Signature Keyboard) into its recharging cubby. Two new color options are available: Sapphire and Forest, with a special Liberty floral blue Surface Pro 9 color option in limited quantities to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Surface tablet.
Microsoft has continued to offer two sub-versions of the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 9 (5G), which vary by operating system. Our review unit of the Surface Pro 9 (5G), supplied by Microsoft, uses Windows 11 Home. An optional Surface Pro 9 (5G) for Business ships with both Windows 11 Pro. Business customers also enjoy better support options.Surface Pro 9 (5G) features and specs
Display: 13-inch PixelSense Flow (2880×1920, 267 PPI) up to 120Hz with dynamic refresh rate
Processor: Surface Pro 9 (consumer): 12th-gen Core i5-1235U, Core i7-1255U; Surface Pro 9 for Business: Core i5-1245U, Core i7-1265U; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: Microsoft 3.00GHz SQ3
Graphics: Surface Pro 9: Iris Xe (Core i5, i7); Surface Pro 9 with 5G: SQ3 Adreno 8cx Gen 3
Memory: Surface Pro 9: 8/16/32GB LPDDR5 RAM; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: 8/16GB LPDDR4X RAM
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB removable SSD; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: 128GB/256GB/512GB removable SSD
Ports: Surface Pro 9 (5G): 2 USB-C 10Gbps; Surface Pro 9: 2 USB-C (USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4). Both SP9 models include 1 Surface Connect port, 1 Surface Keyboard Port
Security: Camera (Windows Hello)
Camera: Surface Pro 9: 5Mpixel/1080p (user-facing), 10MP/1080p and 4K video (rear-facing); Surface Pro 9 with 5G: same, but with Windows Studio Effects
Battery: Design capacity: 46.5Wh; Full capacity, 49.2Wh
Wireless: Both: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: see below
Operating system: Consumer, both Surface Pro 9 versions: Windows 11 Home; Business, Surface Pro 9: Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: Windows 11 Pro
Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches
Weight: Surface Pro 9: 1.94 pounds; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: 1.95 pounds (mmWave); 1.94 pounds (Sub6)
Color: Platinum, Graphite, Sapphire, Forest, Liberty (limited supplies)
Price: Surface Pro 9 (consumer): $999 to $2,599.99, depending on configuration; Surface Pro 9 with 5G (consumer): $1,299.99 to $1,899.99; Surface Pro 9 for Business: $1,099.99 to $2,699.99; Surface Pro 9 with 5G for Business: $1,399.99 to $1,899.99 ($1,599.99 as tested)
Optional accessories: Surface Slim Pen 2: $97 on sale at Amazon; Surface Pro Signature Keyboard: on sale at Amazon for $149.99
Yes, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is all about the hardware. But it’s also a showcase for the latest features of Windows 11, and you’ll see the updated Microsoft Edge browser (complete with a luxurious look at its features, including the new icon sidebar on the right side) when you first open it.
Mark Hachman / IDGMicrosoft Surface Pro 9 (5G): Out of the box
Microsoft sent us a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard in what appears to be the Sapphire color, along with the Surface Slim Pen 2.
Microsoft’s setup process doesn’t seem to differ too much from what Windows 11 now asks of you. You’ll still need a Microsoft account to proceed, though that opens the door for automatic installation of Microsoft 365 (Office 365) as well as migrating apps and settings from any other previous installations. Expect to see the Surface app pop up randomly early on, asking you to set up your Surface Slim Pen 2, including questions about what hand you ink with as well as a general overview of how the pen works. Inking is far more fundamental to the Surface Pro experience than, say, the Surface Laptop 5.
The power button and volume rocker have wandered about the top and sides of the Surface Pro over the last few generations. The Surface Pro 9 (5G) returns to the design of the Surface Pro 7+, with the power and volume rocker on top, next to one another.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G), like its 5G-less cousin, is a Windows tablet, with the SP9’s traditional kickstand that allows it to recline just 15 degrees or so off of the horizontal. The Surface Pro 9 experience is part consumption, as the lightweight tablet and kickstand allows it to be propped up in all sorts of non-traditional locations; part creation, via inking on the tablet; and part productivity, with the magnetically attached Signature keyboard allowing it to emulate a traditional clamshell notebook. It does all of these pretty well.
Mark Hachman / IDG
In general, the Surface Pro tablets do best on a flat surface, versus a typical clamshell laptop which can perch on your lap. Otherwise, you’ll have to hold the 13-inch SP9 tablet up, grasping it by the rather large bezels on the sides. The display matches the Surface Pro 8, which increased the display size slightly, with better resolution than rival tablets from Dell and others. You might think by now that Microsoft would use some sort of AI intelligence to sense which fingers are merely holding the tablet, and which are interacting with it. That’s not the case, and everything looks a bit antiquated as a result.
A pair of USB-C (not Thunderbolt) ports are on the left side of the Surface Pro 9 (5G). But where’s the headphone jack?
Mark Hachman / IDG
When comparing it to other tablets like the Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab series, the Surface Pro 9 is hard-pressed to hold its own. But in the Windows space, versus traditional laptops, the SP9 stands out, with a display resolution that pushes past 1440p and with excellent pixel density. The PixelSense Flow screen continues to be simply beautiful, with a dynamic 120Hz option for improved smoothness and inking.
According to our colorimeter, the Surface Pro 9 (5g) puts out an extremely bright 443 nits of screen luminance and covers much of the sRGB color gamut as well. That’s about ten more nits than the Surface Pro 8 pushed out, and should allow you to work in the shade, if not daylight. That’s ideal for an on-the-go, connected tablet.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) emphasizes creativity, with a wide color gamut.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Microsoft’s 5G tablet foregoes Dolby Vision IQ, a visual display improvement that the new Surface Laptop 5 includes but this device does not.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) puts out enough light that you can work in moderate daylight. This was taken about 3PM, on a sunny day.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Unlike the Surface Laptop 5 (or virtually any other product that uses an Intel or AMD X86 processor) the Windows’ performance settings have no effect. With an X86 chip, you can get significantly increased performance for free; with the Surface Pro 9 (5G) the settings are there, but are just for show.
We understand that while Microsoft would have liked to add in Thunderbolt, that just didn’t happen. We have a 4K test display that includes a USB-C input, and it powered that display without any problems at all. (Naturally, it can only run its internal display at 120Hz, however.) Microsoft phased out the microSD card slot in earlier Surface Pro models, but you can “replace” that with a separate USB-C dongle.How is the Surface Pro 9 (5G) to type on?
Microsoft’s Surface Pro Signature Keyboards haven’t changed that much in the last few years, save for the addition of the charging cubby for the Slim Pen 2. Yes, the magnetic connector holding the keyboard to the tablet does secure the tablet well enough to use it on your lap, but you’ll probably prefer to use it on a desk or tabletop in most cases. While you’ll probably prefer the stability of typing on a clamshell laptop, the inclined Signature Keyboard is absolutely usable for everyday use.
The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard hides the Slim Pen 2, tucked underneath the fold.
Mark Hachman / IDGWhat happened to the Surface Pro 9’s headphone jack?
The Surface Pro 9 (5G)’s speakers provide a soft but balanced soundscape with noticeably less volume than prior generations. Put against the Surface Pro 8, there’s simply little point of comparison: previous Surface tablets have punched above their weight in terms of audio quality, and the Surface Pro 9 (5G) seems to be trading on that legacy with less to back it up. Yes, the specs say that there’s still the same 2W speakers inside it, but I find that hard to believe.
In fact, the Surface Pro 8 has a toggle switch within the Windows 11 Settings menu to toggle on audio enhancements. The Surface Pro 9 (5G) lacks that feature, and frankly sounds almost identical to the SP8 with that switch toggled off. Using headphones, though, thankfully rectifies those flaws, and my Google Pixel earbuds sounded terrific.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) still ships with a rear camera, if that’s your thing.
Mark Hachman / IDG
It’s worth noting, though that those are Pixel USB-C wired earbuds. Why? Because the Surface Pro 9 (5G) has joined the ranks of those devices that have killed off the headphone jack alongside the Surface Pro X — still a black mark in my book. I don’t want to have to charge Bluetooth earbuds to use my tablet. If you feel differently, that’s fine.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G)’s webcam, however, is one of the device’s highlights. First, the Surface Pro family has always used a 1080p webcam, and they’re usually among the best of any laptop or tablet, anywhere. Though the webcam image shot with the camera is a bit soft, the image quality, color, and lighting is quite good. I typically capture these webcam images in the morning, but this was captured in the afternoon, with side light. It’s still very well done.
Specifically, Windows Studio Effects offer three features: background effects (specifically blurring), Eye Contact, and automatic framing. While other applications offer background blurring, the key is that Windows offers this as a general control, so it isn’t dependent on the app itself. (It’s a little unclear whether an app’s effects will be able to override this or not.) Microsoft offers two blurs: a “portrait” blur that vaguely blurs the background, and a deeper “standard” blur” that makes the background largely unrecognizable. These are all previewable within Settings, by the way.
Interestingly, both models of the Surface Pro 9 ship with a webcam with a 4-degree tilt, which we have to assume contributes to its capability for automatic framing.
This Windows blur is a necessity for a crowded home office, full of various test equipment and so on.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Eye Contact is a feature that, like FaceTime for Apple’s iOS, attempts to use AI to fix your gaze on the camera, no matter if you’re actually looking at something else. Again, this is a Windows control, so it should be active in Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, and other apps. But it’s not previewable, so you’ll have to trust (ha!) that you’ll look as if you’re actually paying attention. (It didn’t work with a phone movie I recorded of my face, with my eyes darting this way and that.) That’s a bit risky during those group meetings or staff calls, so play it safe until you can test it out with a friend.
Automatic framing does work, however. In a perfect world, automatic framing would work as a sort of face tracking, tracking your face as you move around. And it does! — within some limits. The webcam does a nice job of identifying your face and zooming in to it. If you’re seated at your desk during a call, it’s unlikely that this will make a difference. But if you stand up or slide your chair back, automatic framing should step in. We captured automatic framing in action to create this GIF, below.
Note that you’ll need Windows 11’s 2023 Update, and the October experiences update, and a device with a Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 or equivalent (SQ3) to make this work.
Mark Hachman / IDGHow is the Surface Pro 9 (5G) for inking?
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) continues to support the tablet well, even maximally reclined, for inking. Microsoft has also finally nailed the pen’s design, too: though you’ll need to buy a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, the way that the flat Surface Slim Pen 2 conceals itself within it and charges when not in use is just about perfect. (Make sure not to buy the Slim Pen 2 separately without the keyboard, as the standalone Pen 2 doesn’t come with a charger.)
One of the few things we haven’t tested was how long the Slim Pen 2 lasts; Microsoft says that the pen’s internal rechargeable battery can last up to 15 hours, which should be just fine before it has to be returned to its cubby to recharge. We haven’t had any complaints, nor do the users we interact with online.
The Slim Pen 2, inside the charging cubby.
The Slim Pen 2’s flat shape is a bit awkward to use, though the redesigned Pen 2 has a sharper nib, allowing for more precision. It also applies 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. I really can’t tell how accurate this all is, though we tested the inking capabilities by inking a series of straight lines. below, with a straight edge. The pen-tablet interaction on most tablets introduces jitter (wobble) under certain situations, especially when inking slowly on a diagonal. The Surface Pro 8 offered an exceptional inking experience, though I don’t think the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is as good, as there seems to be more jitter when inking slowly and diagonally, which is where it creeps in. There’s no noticeable ink offset, though, as the ink “flows” directly underneath the nib.
Again, Microsoft seems to have oversold the haptic feedback. When inking on the tablet your fingers should receive a bit of resistance, like inking on paper, I really couldn’t feel it.
It appears that the ink jitter in the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is more pronounced than what we found in our Surface Pro 8 review.
Mark Hachman / IDGCellular performance
One of the selling points of the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is its ability to connect on the go. Microsoft provides two options: either you can insert a physical SIM card into the back of the tablet, via a pop-out door that also houses the replaceable SSD, or you can sign up with one of two built-in eSIM providers and use that instead. If you choose the latter (as I did), you don’t need a physical SIM card at all. That’s certainly the more convenient option.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s the most effective. I signed up for a 1Gbyte, 7-day eSIM plan with GigSky, one of the built-in providers, for $9.99. Neither GigSky nor Ubigi, the other provider, offer 5G connectivity—unfortunate considering this SP9 includes “5G” in its name. There’s also no obvious provision to save your GigSky password via the browser, and I hadn’t installed a password manager.
Across my test sites, I received decent connectivity, but not quite up to snuff to a Samsung Galaxy S22 5G phone. In two locations with middling to poor signal quality, the eSIM not only failed to connect but asked me to activate the eSIM again, after I’d paid for and actually used the eSIM at another location in town.
We’re told that these “stripes” are antenna bands that are used to improve reception, though it wasn’t that great on our tests.
Mark Hachman / IDG
I received a maximum of 268Mbits down and 1.69Mbits up within sight of the cellular tower, and progressively worse results elsewhere — 132 Mbits and 76Mbits. That’s not that shabby, and more than enough to work or stream a movie, as I did. Otherwise, without a 5G offering, and with middling bandwidth, I’d be tempted to look into what my provider would offer to wirelessly tether my phone, or what it would cost for a secondary physical SIM.
Pop this SIM cubby open with a SiM tool and you can insert a physical SIM card inside.
Mark Hachman / IDGHow good is the Surface Pro 9 (5G) performance?
The short answer? Not that bad, surprisingly.
Normally, we’d use a standard suite of benchmarks to evaluate the Surface Pro 9 (5G). But the fact that there’s an Arm chip inside complicates matters. While the SQ3 Arm chip runs most applications, it doesn’t run all of them, and it’s this unexpected “What? Really?” response that can still turn off potential buyers.
For most common applications, though the Surface Pro 9 (5G) should run most everything you’d throw at it: Office apps, Microsoft Edge and competing browsers, even the nitty-gritty apps like the Windows Command Line app. (Earlier versions didn’t always do this.) Just don’t expect to play games; the tablet “will not install some games and CAD software, and some third-party drivers or antivirus software,” according to Microsoft—games with OpenGL 1.2 or above or with anti-cheat software, essentially.
Streaming our test 4K60 test YouTube stream looked gorgeous on the tablet’s screen, thanks to the great color fidelity. But YouTube only delivered a 1440×810 stream, though it didn’t drop a single frame. The Netflix and Hulu apps worked as expected. You can download and run Google Chrome, if you’d like.
We’d normally provide links to comparative tablets, but there really aren’t any right now. We can recommend reading our review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1, which uses the 8cx Gen 3 and should be roughly comparable to the Surface Pro 9 (5G) and its SQ3 chip. We don’t have the Surface Pro 9 with a Core chip inside of it to compare to.
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Normally, we’d test our suite of benchmarks that measures general day-to-day app performance, with CPU tests, and so on. But some of those applications still won’t work on Arm.
One of our test applications that has run previously, PCMark 8’s Creative workload, simply refused to run after numerous attempts. It’s one of the frustrations of this platform.
But there has been a surprising amount of improvement in the Snapdragon infrastructure. Again, it’s unclear whether or not that our limited test suite is just topping out in terms of theoretical performance, but we were surprised at how well Snapdragon caught up and even exceeded a Core chip.
Though we have a limited set of comparative laptops, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is keeping up with Microsoft’s latest.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Here’s a more compelling benchmark. If you think of the Surface Pro 9 (5G) as primarily an office machine, running Microsoft 365 (Office) apps and browsing the web — well, that’s what the PCMark 10 Apps test measures. And the Surface Pro 9 (5G) holds its own.
In PCMark 10 Apps, there’s only a 14 percent gap in performance between the Surface Pro 8 and its Core chip to the Surface Pro 9 (5G) and its Arm processor.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Finally, we used 3DMark’s Night Raid, a cross-platform 3D GPU test, to evaluate how the Adreno 3D core inside the SQ3 fares. Here, it doesn’t quite hold up to the Iris Xe cores used within the Intel Core chips. There’s a significant gap, but it’s not extraordinarily huge, either.
Because of some benchmark database snafus, we weren’t able to directly compare the Lenovo ThinkPad x13s Gen 1 (a clamshell that uses the comparable Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor from Qualcomm) except for this test. The scores are almost exactly equal.
The Adreno graphics core from Microsoft and Qualcomm can’t really keep up with the Iris Xe integrated GPUs of Core chips, but that’s not really the point of the Surface Pro 9 (5G)
Mark Hachman / IDG
Battery life is certainly a key metric, too, and we use a video rundown test to measure how long the tablet will last when you use it in class, in meetings, and on the couch. We believe that our tests more directly correspond to real-world usage, as our test conditions use a much brighter screen than Microsoft itself does. This is where Arm processors typically shine, as the Surface Pro 9 (5G) does here with about 15.75 hours of real-world battery life.
We turn the Wi-Fi and cellular radios off for this test, which will affect your battery life, as will the work you perform on it. But this is still a great result.
Mark Hachman / IDGShould you buy the Surface Pro 9 (5G)?
We didn’t extensively test the Microsoft’s tablet for compatibility with modern applications due to time constraints, and that’s traditionally been the weakest point of the Arm argument. You can see that we struggled to get some of our benchmark applications to work, and we’re not going to award an Editor’s Choice award based upon that.
But the thrust of Windows on Arm has always been the core applications, namely Microsoft 365/Office and web browsing, and how they run. All of those load and run as expected. Battery life, the other selling point, has been somewhat superseded by Intel’s Evo platform — by convincing laptop makers to build their clamshells a little thicker and with more battery, they easily extended their run time.
As a tablet, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) sits within a niche, without the ravenous competition of the clamshell notebook space. That gives it breathing room. But, excuses aside, it’s now within striking distance of mainstream Core products. We don’t have the Surface Pro 9 and its Intel Core processor to test, but the Surface Laptop 5 stands in. The tablet’s battery-life argument holds up, and yes, you can argue that you can trade off a bit of lower performance for improved connectivity.
So yes, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) did unexpectedly well. We’re impressed. Is it the best tablet in its class? We don’t know. But yes, we’d recommend that you consider the Surface Pro 9 (5G), and hope for continued competition from Microsoft and Qualcomm in the future.
The iMac is a tough all-in-one to beat and with Microsoft going in at even higher price doesn’t help. Whether it’s worth paying extra for the Surface Studio largely comes down to whether you’ll benefit from it’s flexible design, touchscreen, the Surface Pen and Dial.
In October Microsoft announced its first desktop PC in the form of the Surface Studio, an all-in-one PC aimed at creative professionals. Fast-forward to June and Apple has responded, finally updating its iMac line-up for 2023.Surface Studio vs iMac: Price
The Surface Studio comes in only one size, so we’re mainly going to be comparing it to the larger iMac, but it’s worth noting that the smaller iMac at 21.5in is a significantly cheaper option. To be fair, all iMacs are significantly cheaper than the Surface Studio.
We’ve outlined pricing for the various options below. (Note that the iMac Pro won’t be available until later in the year.
Microsoft’s all-in-one is not at all priced for the masses, whereas Apple’s iMac – at least in its basic incarnation – arguably is. It’s certainly more affordable for the average Joe, if still priced somewhat out of reach.
It’s almost difficult to believe we’re writing this, but Apple is the clear winner on value. Is it worth the extra cost for the Studio, though?Surface Studio vs iMac: Design and build
These devices are quite similar in many senses and yet very different in others.
While the iMac sits on a very small and thin stand with all the components behind the display, the Surface Studio is essentially the reverse. It has the core components in the base while the screen is ultra thin because it sits on its own.
The benefit to the Surface Studio’s design is that it’s far more adjustable. The hinge on the back of the screen and the one on the base provides a lot more viewing angles compared to the iMac which just has one hinge behind the display.
Two points of movement will be a big bonus for some, especially if you want to use the display with Microsoft’s Surface Pen stylus or Dial (or both at the same time). The screen can come down into ‘Studio Mode’ like having a digital drawing board.
These are both large computers and weigh a fairly hefty 9.5kg each but you can move them around still. Both come with a wireless mouse and keyboard but the Surface Studio also comes with the Surface Pen stylus.Surface Studio vs iMac: Specs and hardware Screen
Starting with the screen, Microsoft has gone even bigger than the already large iMac at 28in and the PixelSense display has an aspect ratio of 3:2 and a resolution of 4500×3000 resulting in a pixel density of 192ppi.
It’s also 10-point multi-touch enabled and supports the Surface Pen and Dial – the iMac is not touch sensitive. One interesting thing is that you can change the colour profie of the Surface Studio’s screen on-the-fly between Adobe sRGB, DCI-P3 and Vivid Color profiles.
For its 2023 iMac Apple has updated the entire range with new displays that it says are the best ever. They include 500 nits of brightness, 10-bit dithering and one billion colours.
As previously, though, the 27in iMac has a 5K Retina display with an IPS panel and a resolution of 5120×2880. That’s an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a pixel density of 217ppi. There are smaller iMacs at 21.5in that have either Full HD- or 4K resolutions.Processor and memory
While the Surface Studio is running sixth-generation Intel Skylake Core i5 and Core i7 processors, the iMac has now been upgraded to seventh-generation Kaby Lake. These chips have higher base and turbo frequencies for improved performance.
As standard the iMac comes with a Core i5 chip, though you can customise the spec for a Core i7 at extra cost.
All the iMac models come with 8GB of RAM (2x4GB) but you can configure up to 16- or 32GB if you’re happy to pay extra. The 27in model will go up to 64GB and this time the modules are not soldered on so you can upgrade it yourself – it will void any warranty, though.
On the Microsoft side of the fence you’ll get either 8-, 16- or 32GB of RAM depending on which model you buy.Storage
It’s a similar story when it comes to storage, as you’ll get 1TB for the first two models and 2TB for the top-end with Microsoft and Apple. The 27in iMacs get Fusion Drives as standard, but all 2023 iMacs benefit from 50 percent faster SSDs.Graphics cards
The 27in iMac 5K comes with a choice of AMD Radeon Pro 570, 575 or 580 graphics cards with up to 8GB of VRAM. Meanwhile the cheapest 21.5in iMac has Intel Iris Graphics 640, and the 4K 21.5in iMac gets a choice of AMD Radeon 555 or Radeon 560 with up to 4GB of VRAM.
Inside the Surface Studio is a Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M graphics card with 2GB of memory but the top-end model has a 4GB GTX 980M.
We’re looking forward to benchmarking the new iMacs to see just how much performance differs.Other specs
Beyond core specs, there will be hardware elements which affect your choice between devices so here’s what Apple and Microsoft offer in the way of ports, wireless and cameras.
The iMac comes with a FaceTime HD webcam, stereo speakers, dual mics, a headphone jack, SDXC card slot, 4x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB-C (that support Thunderbolt 3) and an Ethernet port. It’s got 11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2.
The Surface Studio has a 5Mp webcam which supports Windows Hello face sign-in, 2.1 stereo speakers with Dolby Audio, dual mics, a headphone jack, SDXC card slot, 4x USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. It also has Xbox Wireless for use with the console controllers.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Surface Studio comes with the Surface Pen and you’ll get a free Surface Dial if you pre-order. The device is a multi-functional tool which works on the Studio’s screen exclusively.
Of course, software is very different here with each firm providing its own operating system in macOS Sierra and Windows 10 Pro. We won’t go into a comparison of those here.
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