The Surface Pro 9 has a few advantages. When paired with a matching Signature Keyboard case, the 13-inch tablet feels more like a true laptop experience than an iPad or Android device with a similar form factor. And when paired with Microsoft’s Slim Pen 2, it delivers a smooth drawing and note-taking experience. These benefits come with a few quirks, though: its very large 3:2 form factor makes it an unwieldy player, and its unique capabilities don’t work well with some apps, so you don’t get the best Windows experience possible. It’s a little different, and that’s fine – except when it’s not.
It’s no different than Surface Pros past. In fact, aside from a new configuration with an ARM-based chip and mobile 5G support, there are very few significant differences between the Pro 9 and its predecessors. Models with Intel chips – which you’ll want if you plan to play on them – offer upgrades to 12th Gen Intel Core U-Series processors and LPDDR5 RAM, but nothing that won’t make Microsoft’s tablet lineup more appealing. than before. (Unless you like plugging in your headphones, in which case, I’m so sorry.)
Microsoft Surface Pro 9 – Pictures
Microsoft Surface Pro 9 – Design and Features
Admittedly, the Surface Pro 9 looks very slick. Measuring 11.31 x 8.19 x 0.31 inches (WDH), the 3:2 anodized aluminum slate is tall, yet slim. It weighs 1.93 pounds or 2.57 pounds with the keyboard and stylus attached, so it’s easy to carry around.
However, its size and dimensions are ultimately suitable for tabletop use. That’s arguably too much screen to fit close to your face like you would with a tablet or phone. Not to mention that, even with the touchscreen, we’re using Windows 11 here, so neither the operating systems nor the software are optimized for the “mobile” workflow like iOS and Android are. Again, this isn’t new to the Surface Pro range: it’s always implicitly evolved into a productivity “laptop replacement” more so than the conventional mobile-style tablet. Considering the $1,000 to $2,600 price range, you might say it’s implied, but flexibility is one of the biggest advantages of a tablet.
Much of the Surface Pro 9’s design remains unchanged after last year’s more substantial redesign Surface Pro 8. It has a 2880 x 1920p, 10-point multi-touch display that outputs smooth 120Hz and supports Dolby Vision HDR. The screen features relatively large bezels, which make room for a Windows Hello-compatible 1080p front-facing camera and a dual-microphone array for video calling and recording. (On the back, you’ll find a more powerful 10MP camera that can take 4K photos and video.) The bezels are thicker on both sides – the “top” and “bottom” loaded with webcam in landscape mode – reinforcing the idea that you should set it up as a laptop by default. (The large and highly effective built-in kickstand says the same thing.)
In keeping with the Surface Pro 9’s minimalist aesthetic, you’ll only find a few connection options around its edges: all your conventional devices (peripherals, hard drives, external displays) are routed through two Thunderbolt 4 ports. a proprietary charging port and a custom two-point connection for Surface Type Cover. That’s more I/O than you usually get from a tablet, but you might find it insufficient if you start using the Surface Pro 9 as a laptop replacement. It’s worth noting that Microsoft ditched the 3.5mm headphone jack this year, which could be a problem for gamers and audiophiles wanting to use wired headphones.
Let’s talk about peripherals for a second. Although sold separately, the Surface Signature Keyboard and the Slim Pen 2 are effectively mandatory to effectively use the Surface Pro 9. They both work well. As in the past, drawing, note-taking and other touch-based applications are among Surface Pro’s strengths. Surface Slim Pen 2 feels comfortable in the hand and offers tactile feedback to make pen feel natural.
The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard Cover isn’t my favorite keyboard: it offers just enough travel to keep you from feeling like you’re snapping your fingers on your desk, but the keys are as thin and flat as they come. look. Likewise, the trackpad is very small and harder to use effectively than the larger versions you’ll find on most laptops. That said, it’s extremely convenient to have a keyboard that instantly connects and disconnects, while also acting as a cover and stylus case.
My biggest issue with both devices, really, is the fact that you have to pay extra for them. Really, given its unwieldy size and reliance on Windows 11, I’d feel very limited if I tried to use a Surface Pro 9 without a keyboard, trackpad (or mouse), and stylus. They should be included in the base price of the device, and after nine iterations, it’s a little unpleasant that Microsoft is still forfeiting users another $279.99 for the privilege of using the machine as intended.
Microsoft Surface Pro 9 – Specs and Performance
For Intel-based models like the one I use, realistically the biggest update is the standard jump to the new 12th Gen Intel Core U processors. The base model includes a Core i5-1235U. Our review unit has the more powerful i7-1255U. For reference, Intel’s U-series chips are designed to maximize power efficiency – and by extension battery life – often at the expense of raw computing power. On the graphics side, both models rely on Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics, so you shouldn’t expect high performance from most games.
They also feature faster and improved LPDDR5 RAM, although the speed depends on whether you stick with the base 8GB or upgrade to 16GB or 32GB. The Surface Pro 9 builds on an internal SSD for storage, in options ranging from 128 GB to 1 TB.
The biggest innovation, however, is an entirely new setup powered by entirely different chips. In addition to the Intel models, Microsoft now offers a “Surface Pro with 5G,” which features a Microsoft-designed ARM-based SQ3 processor instead of an Intel processor. According to Microsoft, the 5G configuration is less powerful, but gives you better battery life and access to mobile broadband. I haven’t had time to work with this build, but reviews from other outlets have indicated that the ARM-based model may have more performance issues than Intel models.
My review unit – an i7 model with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage – generally feels very fast in general use – web browsing, processing and pen use. The back of the tablet will heat up after prolonged use, but you won’t feel it in the keyboard because all the hardware is in the tablet.
Unsurprisingly, given that it’s a convertible hybrid device with integrated graphics, the Surface Pro 9 features less than stellar benchmarks. In Geekbench 5, the Surface Pro produced 1590 single-core and 7350 multi-core compute scores. For reference, that’s slightly below average tests on 11th Gen Intel desktop chips. It received a score of 3,911 in PCMark 10’s overall compute test, well below most gaming laptops.
Unsurprisingly, it also performed particularly poorly in 3DMark’s graphics benchmarks. The Surface Pro 9 scored a 1,460 in Time Spy, a 3,950 in Fire Strike, and a 12,679 in Night Raid. Not only are these scores insufficient compared to the best gaming laptopsbut are actually lower than what we got from the Surface Pro 8 when we compared it last year.
A positive for the Pro 9, however, is the battery life. Although its 47.7 Wh battery is smaller than the Surface Pro 8, it lasts longer, draining around 15.5 hours on a single charge. That lined up with my own experience: I usually got around a day and a half from the Surface Pro 9 before needing to charge it again, although it obviously ate through the battery faster when playing games.
Microsoft Surface Pro 9 – Games
As you’d expect, given the specs and benchmarks, the Surface Pro 9 isn’t much of a gaming machine. Even with the most powerful processor available, it’ll struggle to play new AAA games on everything. which exceeds the low settings. Monitor 2, for example, ran at a smooth 60fps on low settings, but broke down the moment I tried using higher settings. He can handle Mortal Kombat 11 at 1080p at 60fps on Low, though even that might not look quite right for competitive gamers. Some games work quite well, however: Destiny (2016) hovered between 30-45fps with a bit of stutter at Ultra settings, and ran a smooth 45-60fps when you lowered it to high settings.
It’s also worth noting that Early Access games and pre-release betas may experience additional issues on the Surface due to its unique interface. i tried to play marvel snap in its first week and found it nearly unplayable due to issues with the touchscreen. These issues have since been resolved – the game controls perfectly now – but I haven’t experienced such issues on any of the other devices I’ve been using to play Snap, including my Windows desktop, Macbook Air, an iPhone 14 and M1 iPad Air.
Given all the issues here, I think it’s important to point out that the Surface Pro 9 really isn’t a gaming machine, and its performance reflects that. It is primarily designed for portability and a few specific uses, such as note taking. Really, it’s a perfect example of the type of device that pairs well with game streaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming and Nvidia GeForce Now, as it has a big, crisp display that can make a game look great, but lacks the GPU performance to bring to life.
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