In anticipation of the upcoming Windows 11 launch, Microsoft is introducing an almost complete top to bottom refresh of their Surface device lineup. Some devices are getting some minor tweaks, while other devices are completely new. As tends to be the case, all of them feature quirks which are distinctively Surface.

Surface Refresh 2021
Component Surface Laptop Studio Surface Pro 8 Surface Pro X
CPU Core i5-11300H
Core i7-11370H
Consumer:
Core i5-1135G7
Core i7-1185G7
Commercial
Core i3-1154G4
Core i5-1145G7
Core i7-1185G7
Microsoft SQ 1
Microsoft SQ 2
GPU Core i5 - Intel Iris Xe
Core i7 - NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti
Commerical: RTX A2000 Option
Core i5/i7: Intel Iris Xe
Core i3: Intel UHD
SQ1: Adreno 685
SQ2: Adreno 690
Display 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow display
2400 x 1600
201 PPI
Up to 120 Hz Refresh
Dolby Vision
13-inch PixelSense Flow display
2880 x 1920
267 PPI
Up to 120 Hz Refresh
13-inch PixelSense Flow display
2880 x 1920
267 PPI
RAM 16 / 32 GB LPDDR4x 8 / 16 / 32 GB LPDDR4x 8 / 16 GB LPDDR4x
Storage 256 GB to 2 TB SSD Wi-Fi: 256 / 512 GB / 1TB
LTE: 128 / 256 GB
128 / 256 / 512 GB SSD
Networking Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.1
Wi-fi 6
Bluetooth 5.1>br />Optional LTE
Wi-Fi 5
Bluetooth 5
LTE Option
I/O 2 x Thunderbolt 4
1 x Surface Connect
Headset jack
2 x Thunderbolt 4
1 x Surface Connect
Headset jack
2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
1 x Surface Connect
1 x nano SIM
Battery Up to 19 hours
65 W Adapter (i5)
102 W Adapter (i7)
Up to 16 hours
60 W Adapter
Up to 15 hours
Camera 1080p front camera
Windows Hellow IR
5.0 MP 1080p Front
Windows Hello IR
10.0 MP 4K Rear
5.0 MP 1080p Front
Windows Hello IR
10.0 MP 4K Rear
Dimensions (inches) 12.7 x 9.0 x 0.7 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.25
Weight i5: 3.83 lbs / 1.74 kg
i7: 4.00 lbs / 1.81 kg
1.96 lbs / 891 grams 1.7 lbs / 774 grams
Starting Price (USD) $1,599.99 $1,099.99 $899.99

 

Surface Laptop Studio

The one new design in the lineup is the Surface Laptop Studio which brings some exciting changes to Surface. The most obvious design element is the new Dynamic Woven Hinge, which lets the display ease forward. This is not a new concept but does add some versatility to the design which is one of the elements Surface is most known for. Compared to the Surface Book design, which featured a detachable display, the new Surface Laptop Studio will be much easier to transition from one mode to another.

The new 14.4-inch PixelSense display also gets some new branding thanks to the inclusion of a 120 Hz refresh rate, which Microsoft is branding as Flow touch. The increased refresh rate is a welcome addition to the lineup, and is also included on some of the other Surface devices being announced today. The increased smoothness is always welcome for GUI tasks, but will also be a nice addition when using the inking experience with the new Surface Slim Pen 2, which can be stored under the keyboard on the Surface Studio Laptop. Interestingly, and perhaps to keep costs down, the 14.4-inch display offers a resolution of 2400x1600, in the now standard Surface 3:2 aspect ratio. This translates to just 201 pixels-per-inch, well short of the 267 PPI found on the Surface Pro and 260 PPI on the Surface Book. It is very much in-line with the Surface Laptop.

Microsoft has been offering one of the best trackpad experiences on the PC for several years now, and the Surface Laptop Studio adds a new Precision Haptic touchpad to the mix. There is little doubt what lineup they are trying to compete against, and hopefully the experience works as well as the Mac’s haptic design.

The new Surface Laptop Studio packs in a lot of performance too. Microsoft has opted for the new Tiger Lake H35 series processors, with Core i5-11300H and Core i7-11370H offerings. The Core i5 model utilizes the Intel Xe GPU, while the Core i7 models will feature NVIDIA Ampere GPUs. Consumer models will be outfitted with the GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, while commercial customers can choose the RTX A2000.

Memory options are 16 or 32 GB of LPDDR4x, and for storage, Microsoft is offering 256 GB to 2 TB SSD options, and like most of the Surface devices now, the SSD is user replaceable and no longer the soldered in BGA drive.

Although somewhat late to the party, the Surface Laptop Studio also features two Thunderbolt 4 ports, as well as the traditional magnetic Surface Connect expansion/charging port. Microsoft has been very slow to adopt changing expansion port choices, so it is nice to see the new model offering the latest right out of the gate.

The Surface Laptop Studio looks like a great addition to the Surface lineup. Prices start at $1600 and go up from there, with it being available for pre-order today. What this probably means is that the Surface Book will be removed from the lineup as this new design offers a very similar alternative, but without the somewhat complicated and error-prone detachable display.

Surface Pro 8

The most iconic design from Microsoft is certainly the Surface Pro, and that design really came into its own with the launch of the Surface Pro 3. For 2021, Microsoft is calling the Surface Pro 8 “the most significant leap forward since Pro 3” and has improved the design to bring it into a more modern era, without removing the aspects that make it such an iconic look.

The first big change is the display, which now comes in at an even 13-inches across, compared to 12.3-inches on the previous models, and mimicking the Surface Pro X. The Surface team did most of that by shrinking the display bezels further, as overall dimensions are very similar to the outgoing model. The new display features a 267 PPI 2880x1920 resolution, and offers up to 120 Hz refresh, much like the Surface Laptop Studio. The 11% larger display is also 12.5% brighter than the Surface Pro 7, and still features the individually calibrated display that all Surface devices offer. Microsoft is still shying away from wider-than sRGB color gamuts which is still likely the right decision until the software side comes around if it ever does.

Based on the Intel Evo platform, Surface Pro 8 ships with Intel’s 11th gen processors with the Core i5-1135G7 and Core i7-1185G7 in the consumer models. Commercial customers can choose a Core i3-1115G4, Core i5-1145G7, or Core i7-1185G7, and the latter two optionally have LTE as well. The Surface Pro 8 starts with 8 GB of LPDDR4x, which is really the bare minimum with Microsoft Teams, and 16 and 32 GB options. Storage options are 128 GB to 1 TB, depending on the configuration.

Like the Surface Laptop Studio, the Surface Pro 8 also finally adds Thunderbolt 4 ports, with not one but two of the Type-C connectors, in addition to the traditional magnetic Surface Connect offering.

Love it or hate it, video conferencing is a big part of the modern workforce, and the Surface Pro 8 features a 5.0 MP front camera for full HD video, as well as offering Windows Hello biometric sign-in. On the back is a 10.0 MP camera which supports up to 4K video. There are dual far-field microphones, as well as 2-Watt stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support.

Finally, Microsoft has updated the detachable keyboard to include storage for the Surface Slim Pen. There are, of course, new type-covers for this model since the exterior dimensions have changed slightly.

Surface Pro has always been a great device from Microsoft, although the company has erred on the side of caution when updating it. The Surface Pro 8 looks to be a very nice re-think of the classic design, improving it in all the area where it needed some tweaks, without losing the essence of Surface Pro.

Surface Pro X

The Arm powered Surface Pro X does not get much of a refresh this year, although there will now be a new Wi-Fi only version starting at $900. It is still powered by the same Microsoft SQ1 or SQ2 processors. Surface Pro X will begin shipping with Windows 11 which offers both x86 and x64 application emulation.

Surface Go, Surface Duo 2, Accessories, and Summary
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  • domboy - Thursday, September 23, 2021 - link

    It's interesting to see the pricing of the Pro 8 vs the Pro X. Seems they're kind of positioning the Pro X to be the cheaper option. I don't know that I believe the "up to 16 hours" battery life claim for the Pro 8 though, the Pro 7 reportedly only got 4.5hr real-world vs the 11 hours claimed, so I won't be surprised if the Pro X continues to be the better option for longer battery life.

    While it is unfortunate that there is no SoC update for the Pro X, but I am glad that going forward the lack of x64 emulation will no longer be a issue.
    Reply
  • SaolDan - Thursday, September 23, 2021 - link

    I use my pro 6 all day. Big PDF drawings, controls software, wire shark and others while sending sACN over WiFi. Also there's the pro 7 plus with a bigger battery. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, September 23, 2021 - link

    OMFG, Surface devices finally got Thunderbolt. Guess finally enough people complained about being locked into their shitty propriety docks. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, September 23, 2021 - link

    Another example of shitty - AT is still running the same no-edit-button forum software from their launch in 1997. Reply
  • abufrejoval - Thursday, September 23, 2021 - link

    I am not really going to read this article, ...on principle.

    Apple started the i* journey with the iPod. That was fine, it was an appliance, pretty much like a microwave.

    There was zero overlap to Personal Computers aka PCs, which are very different because a) the true sovereign of a PC is the owner, b) the (general) purpose is defined by the owner.

    The problem is that Apple tried to carry over their (DRM music player) appliance approach to Personal Computing.

    Well it wasn't my problem, because I abandoned Apple after Jobs won over Wozniak post Apple ][.

    The problem is this viral effect of the iNiverse over Personal Computing.

    In my book, Microsoft is a company that sold Basic.

    Ok, they also sell a Disk Operating System. The have graduated to selling a GUI, too.

    Ah, and yes, they started selling Lotus 1-2-3 and Wordperfect or WordStar lookalikes, too.

    But in the non-appliance, Personal Computing space, hardware, OS and applications need to be strictly separate and distinct.

    Anyone overstepping these natural boundaries needs to be broken up and regulated.

    M$: Please get out of hardware! And clouds! And mixing apps with an OS! And spin off gaming!

    Because you are bent on reducing consumer choice, and nobody in his right mind should like or allow that.
    Reply
  • GeoffreyA - Saturday, September 25, 2021 - link

    10/10! Reply
  • PVG - Thursday, September 23, 2021 - link

    No Cezanne? No deal... Reply
  • r3loaded - Friday, September 24, 2021 - link

    No Ryzen, no happy. Reply
  • Linustechtips12 - Friday, September 24, 2021 - link

    unpopular opinion but haveing the surface device a year old is actually a good thing for them as it means most f the bugs in a new platform are out and fixed AND that is probably why they haven't just gone full AMD as it does still have a little teething issue best comparison is getting its wisdom teeth pulled out whereas intel is in the state of just needs new dentures Reply
  • Powervano - Friday, September 24, 2021 - link

    It is always a bit poor timing for Surface Pro and Book/Laptop Studio now in terms of Intel always being late for their release cycle. Surface Laptop's are often luckier in terms of new HW. Once they get refreshed with new hardware in spring 2022, they will obviously have new 12th gen Intel CPUs and new AMD ones as well. I would have loved for MS to change cadence of the whole Surface line to always have updated CPUs as soon as possible.
    Both Surface Pro and Laptop Studio will be a much harder buy when there is competition with way better/newer hardware.
    Reply

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