The latest Surface Pro 9 is 12g lighter than last year’s model, but otherwise pretty much the same as previous models, with Microsoft’s excellent kickstand on the back to support the tablet at different angles.
The 13-inch display is slightly brighter than last year’s, balancing battery life and dynamically switching between 60Hz or 120Hz refresh rates for smooth scrolling. The keyboard and Slim Pen 2 stylus are the same as last year with few drawbacks, except that they are not included in the box and cost an additional £260 as a bundle.
The one negative is that the headphone socket is gone and the only options are a USB-C dongle (not included) or Bluetooth. Using the various Bluetooth headphones released in the past two years with the Surface generally works well, but the call quality is worse than with a wired headset.
However, their size and dimensions are, after all, tailored for use on a tabletop. The screen size is too large to be used close to the face like a tablet or mobile phone. And even though it has a touchscreen, it uses Windows 11, not to mention that neither the operating system nor the software is optimised for ‘mobile’ workflows like iOS or Android. Again, this is nothing new for the Surface Pro series, which has implicitly been oriented as a productivity ‘laptop alternative’ rather than a traditional mobile-style tablet. $1000 to $2600. Given the price point, one might argue that this is implicit, but flexibility is one of the core benefits of tablets.
The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard cover is not my favourite keyboard. The keys feel as thin and flat as they look, although there is enough travel to prevent your fingers from feeling like they are slamming into the desk. The trackpad is also very small, making it difficult to use effectively compared to the larger ones on many laptops. Nevertheless, the keyboard, which can be instantly detached and can be used as a cover or stylus holster, is very useful.
The main trade-off for choosing a more powerful Intel processor is, of course, battery life. The longevity of the Intel models was not bad, especially for this generation of Intel chips: at 60 Hz and medium brightness, we saw an average of 7 hours 35 minutes of continuous use, consistently over 7 hours 30 minutes; from the SQ3 model, almost five hours longer at the same workload. However, this is with 5G switched off, and with 5G it is less than seven hours, and 5G should be a major attraction of the SQ3 model. (The Intel model was also quicker to charge with the included 65W Surface Connector, reaching 60% in just over 51 minutes.) It can also be charged via USB-C.)