Microsoft’s Surface line has come a long way. Nothing demonstrates that more than the new design shown off in the Surface Pro 8. A pleasing design, stylish to boot, offering incredible productivity, but there’s a downside. This is very expensive, and – without spending up on accessories – you get a device that doesn’t do too much.
Far from being just a software company, Microsoft is heavily in the hardware game now. Many would argue – including me – that Microsoft makes some of the best gear around for those who want power and style on the go. Microsoft has experimented with various forms of Surface design, and while some have innovated more quickly (e.g. the Surface Go featuring USB C far earlier than others), some stayed more the same, and the Surface Pro line never really innovated in the same way.
This year, though, there’s a big difference. There are the expected new internals, of course. There’s also also a new slim design, inclusion of dual USB-C and Windows 11 out of the box make for an all-round pleasing experience. Heavy bezels? Gone. USB-A? Gone. 12.3-inch display? That’s gone too – those slimline bezels get you a full 13-inch display. There’s a range of different finishes and colours, but we’re reviewing a slate aluminium model.
While connectivity has definitely improved – USB-C is far more useful to us than USB-A – you don’t get much else. For instance, there is built in Ethernet, USB-A, HDMI .. or anything else. You do get a headphone jack, which I suspect few would ever use, and that’s about it besides the standard Surface Dock connector.
There’s not much else you get with a Surface Pro 8; you get the tablet, a charger, and a box.
If you want a keyboard – you know, probably the thing you’d need most to make a computer work – that costs extra. Pen? Extra. Mouse? Extra. Re-using your old Surface accessories? Mostly, you can’t.
Instead, you shell out for a $259 Surface Pro Signature Keyboard. You could instead spend a whopping $429.95 if you want one with a slim-line pen included as well. This, on top of a $2,399 price tag for the model reviewed, is a big ask. Yes, Microsoft gave us a keyboard and slim-line pen to try with the review model. For consumers, you’ll be paying if you want that .. and let’s be honest, without the keyboard cover, the Surface Pro 8 is basically a glorified tablet, and not much use as a $2,399 tablet.
How’s it go?
Featuring the latest 11th generation Intel Core i7 processor, this Surface Pro 8 goes perfectly well. You can opt for 8GB or 16GB RAM, and storage between 128GB and 1TB. Our review unit has 16GB RAM and 256GB storage in the form of an SSD. In a new twist for Surface, that SSD is user replaceable / upgradeable if you wish. This is a premium device – hence the premium price tag – and you get what you pay for.
If you’re looking at GPU intensive tasks – crypto mining, heavy gaming, etc – you might be left a little disappointed. For everyone else, the 11th gen Intel is a plenty capable processor, faster than any Surface Pro coming before it. Yes, there are faster competitors from other brands, but you won’t be left wanting with any day to day or work-based tasks.
The new Surface Pen (a slim-line one) isn’t that dissimilar to previous pens, except it offers a very subtle haptic feedback. This mimics the tactile feel of writing with a pen or pencil on paper. Once you get used to it, it makes writing or drawing on the otherwise gloss Surface screen a little more natural.
On the Surface Slim Pen, you should know it’s $189.95 if you want to go buy one by itself, and you’ll probably want the $49.95 charger, too. As you can see with Surface, the costs can add up.
Battery-wise, Microsoft makes a claim of around 16 hours for real-life usage, and that’s probably not unrealistic. Other reviewers have observed that video playback can easily exceed 10 hours (and that’s pretty good for a slim convertible such as this), but others can easily double it (albeit, with much larger batteries and designs).
Good news is charging is easy; you can use the included Surface dock-connector charger, or any USB-C laptop charger will do the job. This makes it easy to leave one at home, one in your bag and one at work just in case.
Should you buy one?
Look, that’s a tough one. Microsoft’s Surface line is not your workplace workhorse; if that’s what you need, you can get a cheaper more powerful machine that’s designed to stand up to the horrors of demanding work. Rather, Microsoft has positioned Surface as a bit of a class-leader, a demonstration of what a laptop/portable/tablet/etc could be, not necessarily what it should or must.
Because of this, Microsoft’s Surface line comes at a price premium, and you’re in for a big whack to fully kit yourself out. As reviewed, you’d be looking at:
- Surface Pro 8 with 16GB / 256GB storage – $2,399
- Keyboard and Surface Slim Pen – $429.95
- Slim Pen Charger – $49.95
- Ocean Plastic Mouse – $34.95
All up, you’re spending $2,913.85 to get this setup.
If you do, though, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful machine that easily fits in a slim bag and lasts all day even if you do leave your charger at home. It’s brilliant.. but equal parts annoying that, without spending an extra $599 or so, you don’t get anything beyond the actual Surface itself. Spending extra for a keyboard seems odd… it’d be like buying a car, and paying extra for seats.
If you already have a recent Surface, the Surface Pro 8 might not be worth the price for an upgrade. Equally, if you work in demanding environments (e.g. construction sites) this might not be the workhorse you need.
If you’re a commuter working in an office, though, this is perfectly designed for you, and may well be the worthwhile investment you’re looking for.