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The Surface Pro 8 is the biggest change to the Surface Pro lineup in years, bringing some design improvements we’ve been begging for along with much improved performance as well. It’s still very much recognisable as part of Microsoft’s core line of Windows tablets, but it truly feels like a new generation – just in time for the launch of Windows 11.
The Surface Pro lineup kind of started to stagnate for the last couple iterations. Both the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Pro 7 were just spec updates of the Surface Pro 2017. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as four years ago, the Surface Pro was a pretty fresh device. But now it needs a pretty substantial redesign, especially in the face of the new iPad Pro, which Microsoft has pretty much left alone since its introduction.
The Surface Pro 8, luckily, brings some much-needed design improvements to the table. The easiest one to notice is the new graphite color, which simply looks incredible. While it seems like Microsoft has been focusing on lighter shades for its devices in recent years, the darker colors with this year’s lineup look incredible.
The chassis is also refined, with more rounded edges, that seem much more comfortable to hold for long periods of time, rather than the flat sides with sharper corners.
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Bezels are also smaller than ever, and this is that final thing that makes the Surface Pro 8 look like an all-new device, rather than a relic from the early 2010s. It makes the screen look so much bigger, and makes the device look more premium than ever – which is good, because it’s also more expensive than ever.
The smaller bezels do more than just look good, though: they allow for an 11 percent larger display. The Surface Pro 8 now has a 13-inch PixelSense display with a resolution of 2,880 x 1,920. That’s right in the middle of 1440p and 4K, but for a 13-inch display, it’s absolutely gorgeous. What makes this display even better is that along with the bigger size, it also has a 120Hz refresh rate. This is definitely not a gaming device, but take it from us – once you use a high-refresh display, even for everyday computing, you’re not going to want to go back.
The display is configured to 60Hz out of the box, mainly in the interest of boosting battery life, but you can enable it at any time by going into your display settings.
On The Surface Pro 8, the display hits 103 percent of the sRGB spectrum and has a peak brightness of 467 nits, which makes this one incredibly gorgeous display. Everything we’ve watched on this thing, whether it’s Bob’s Burgers in bed or the green text on the black background of our command prompt, has looked incredible.
This is doubly important for a device like the Surface Pro 8, as this lineup is especially popular with artists, who will need the colour accuracy to get their work done. It’s just kind of a bonus that consuming content looks great, too.
With a device that’s meant to be as portable as the Surface Pro 8, performance is always a difficult balance to strike. You want it to be fast, but you don’t want to push it so hard that battery life goes down the toilet and it becomes too hot to handle.
Microsoft has apparently put a lot of effort into re-engineering the internals of the Surface Pro 8, and it allowed the company to configure the processor with a higher TDP than past versions of the tablet – boosting it to 23W instead of the 15W of the Surface Pro 7’s processor.
That’s not going to be a night-and-day difference, but combine that with just how much faster Tiger Lake is, compared to the the low-power Ice Lake chips in the last laptop and Microsoft is claiming up to a 2x performance increase. That’s a pretty bold assumption, and unfortunately the Surface Pro 8 falls short of that mark.
That doesn’t mean that it’s not faster, in fact in Cinebench R15 – a test we’ve retired and replaced with Cinebench R23 – the Surface Pro 8 is nearly 50 percent faster than the Surface Pro 7, which is a pretty incredible generational increase. The difference isn’t as stark in GeekBench 4, but it’s still noticeably faster.
One of the biggest downfalls of the Surface Pro 7 was its battery life, lasting a paltry 3 hours and 12 minutes in the PCMark 8 battery test. We’ve since graduated to PCMark 10, but the Surface Pro 8 knocks that number out of the park with 8 hours and 15 minutes, making this a device you can totally use to work all day without needing a charger.
This is probably largely due to Microsoft’s decision to adhere to the Intel Evo program and to limit the refresh rate of the display to 60Hz by default. With how portable the Surface Pro 8 is, it’s nice to know it’s not going to run out of battery within a couple of hours, as the charger can add extra bulk.
The numbers are slightly less impressive with our video playback test, where the Surface Pro 8 lasts just 6 hours and 32 minutes, but that’s still a pretty nice little Netflix binge.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably realised that video conferencing is more important now than it has ever been, and having a laptop (or tablet) with a decent webcam is a godsend, as we all want to look good in our morning meetings. And luckily, the Surface Pro 8 has one of the best webcams we’ve ever used in a mobile computing device.
The Surface Pro 8 is the best new Surface in years, with an all-new design and faster internals than ever. However, the higher price is going to get in the way for some.
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