Review of Surface Pro 9: Microsoft’s Best Tablet Yet!

Review of Surface Pro 9 Microsoft's Best Tablet Yet!

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REVIEW: Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9, in essence, bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor, the Surface Pro 8. The recent enhancements and additions are minimal, resulting in a tablet that doesn’t offer much more than its predecessor.

However, this isn’t to say that the Surface Pro 9 is subpar. Quite the contrary, it remains one of the top Windows tablets available. Its touch display is vibrant and responsive, the detachable Surface Pro Signature keyboard continues to set the standard, and its design is sleek and user-friendly.

Yet, the lack of significant changes is notable. Aside from the removal of the headphone jack, there haven’t been any notable improvements. The battery life remains unchanged, and while the performance capabilities have seen slight enhancements, they aren’t groundbreaking.

Review of Surface Pro 9: Microsoft's Best Tablet Yet!
It remains one of the top Windows tablets available on the market.

While incremental updates are common in consumer technology, with Apple’s iPhone and iPad lineups serving as prime examples, these updates typically come with more substantial improvements. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 9 falls short in this regard. It’s challenging to believe that this is the best Microsoft has to offer just a year after the Surface Pro 8.

After my experience, I began questioning the purpose of the Surface Pro 9, especially considering the identical experience it offers compared to the Surface Pro 8.

  • Vibrant and responsive display
  • Functional design
  • Surface Pro Signature Keyboard remains excellent
  • Lacks innovation
  • Absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Mediocre battery life

The Surface Pro 9 is available in various configurations:

  • 12th Gen Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD: $1849
  • 12th Gen Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD: $2029
  • 12th Gen Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD: $2569
  • 12th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD: $2929
  • 12th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $3469
  • 12th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD: $4009
  • 12th Gen Intel Core i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD: $4729
  • Microsoft SQ 3, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD: $2939

For comparison, a 12.9-inch, 1TB Apple iPad Pro is priced at $3699, while the HP Spectre x360 Laptop 14, equipped with an Intel i7 CPU, 13.5-inch screen, 16GB RAM, and 1TB internal storage, costs $4325.

Overall, in the realm of Windows-based 2-in-1s and tablets, the Surface Pro 9 offers competitive pricing. However, it comes at a premium compared to the better-performing, similarly spaced Apple iPad Pro.

Review of Surface Pro 9: Microsoft's Best Tablet Yet!
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 closely resembles its predecessor, the Surface Pro 8, in almost every aspect.

The Surface Pro 9 doesn’t bring about significant changes. It closely resembles its predecessor, the Surface Pro 8. In fact, placing them side by side, the differences are minimal, except for the absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack in the Pro 9.

While this lack of novelty isn’t necessarily negative, it leaves little to be enthusiastic about.

The introduction of a new 5G model, powered by Microsoft’s SQ 3 chip (which we didn’t test), effectively replaces the Surface Pro X range. Additionally, the headphone jack has been removed, and the CPU sees a slight improvement – the Pro 9 now features 12th-gen Intel processors compared to the Pro 8’s 11th-gen range.

That’s essentially the extent of the changes.

As mentioned earlier, apart from the absence of the headphone jack, the Pro 9 shares an almost identical design with the Pro 8. Personally, I didn’t find this problematic. I admired the functionality, sturdiness, and aesthetics of the Pro 8’s design in my review, stating, “The design is functional, sturdy, and good-looking. It does have some minor inconveniences regarding its ports, but overall, I loved its design.” The same sentiment applies here.

Similar to its predecessor, the Pro 9 is a robust, functional device, featuring the same kickstand at the back, facilitating easy independent propping up in landscape or portrait orientations.

Its dimensions remain roughly the same at 287mm x 209mm x 9.3mm, with only a one-millimeter increase in width, and it’s slightly lighter, weighing 879g compared to the Pro 8’s 891g.

The range now introduces two new colors, Sapphire and Forest, alongside the familiar Graphite and Platinum options. These new additions inject some vibrancy into the previously subdued color palette, which is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, the port layout gripes from the Pro 8 persist. The Pro 9 sports two USB-C (Thunderbolt 4) ports, a Surface Connect Charger port, and a keyboard connector port. Both USB-C ports are situated on the same side of the device, complicating setups involving multiple monitors. As I noted in my Pro 8 review, having one port on each side would have been more user-friendly.

The removal of the headphone jack is a decision I’m not particularly fond of. Personally, I advocate for more options, and the ability to use both wireless and wired headphones is something I value. However, given the direction of portable devices, the phase-out of wired headphones is to be expected.

The Pro 9 boasts mostly the same 13-inch PixelSense display with a resolution of 2880 x 1920 and a 120Hz refresh rate as the Pro 8. It remains an exceptional display, offering responsive touch functionality, a smooth experience, and vivid, sharp visuals.

Notable differences include support for Auto Color Management and Dolby Vision IQ, and the 120Hz refresh rate is now variable, allowing the screen to dynamically switch between 60 and 120Hz to conserve battery.

Auto Color Management serves two purposes: ensuring consistent colors across Windows apps on different displays and assisting apps in rendering colors more accurately. While this might not be immediately noticeable, it can greatly benefit creatives striving for color accuracy.

The Pro 9 also supports HDR, and Dolby Vision IQ optimizes this feature. Similar to dynamic HDR, Dolby Vision IQ autonomously adjusts brightness, contrast, and color by sending metadata to the HDR signal to enhance the on-screen image. While subtle, this enhancement significantly improves the viewing experience for movies and TV shows on the Pro 9.

Additionally, the display features adaptive brightness and contrast, adjusting according to ambient lighting conditions.

Overall, it’s a commendable screen.

Review of Surface Pro 9: Microsoft's Best Tablet Yet!
The Surface Pro 9 truly shines when paired with the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and the Surface Slim Pen 2.

The Surface Pro 9 truly shines when paired with the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and the Surface Slim Pen 2. Purchasing the Surface Pro 9 without at least the keyboard seems pointless. While the touchscreen suffices for basic interactions, extended typing sessions necessitate the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard.

This keyboard remains exceptional and is still my preferred detachable keyboard. It’s lightweight, well-spaced, and provides a satisfying typing experience. The touchpad, though small, is functional and responsive enough to easily navigate to the screen’s top corners with a single swipe. It connects magnetically, boasts a robust build and its adjustable angle adds to its appeal.

Though I’m not a “creative” and didn’t extensively utilize the Slim Pen 2, it felt responsive and smooth during my testing. While my usage was limited to short writing tasks or coloring, it offers a tactile feel, and I appreciated its dual functionality with the eraser feature on its back for seamless transitions between tasks.

I encountered no issues with the PixelSense touchscreen; it’s precise and responsive whether using fingers or the Slim Pen 2, allowing for precise input commands without the risk of pressing the wrong button.

While both the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and the Surface Slim Pen 2 are pricey additions, they’re comparatively more affordable than Apple’s equivalents – the $279 Apple Pencil and the $709 Magic Keyboard. The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard costs $300, the Slim Pen 2 costs $200, and a bundle of both is available for $480.

These accessories complement each other well, with a magnetized slot in the Signature Keyboard for securely storing and charging the Slim Pen 2.

The Pro 9 features a 1080p selfie camera, which ranks among the better options available. It’s suitable for video conferencing, and Zoom calls, and facilitates Windows Hello facial recognition. However, advanced features such as auto-framing, portrait blur, and auto eye contact are exclusive to the Surface Pro 9 5G model powered by the SQ3 chip, which is somewhat frustrating.

Our review unit was equipped with a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD, placing it on the lower end of the performance spectrum.

To assess the CPU’s capabilities, we conducted GeekBench 6 tests. The Pro 9 achieved a single-core score of 1101 and a multi-core score of 4765. While these results aren’t stellar, it’s worth noting that this CPU variant is the weaker option available for the Surface Pro 9.

For comparison, we ran the same tests on an HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 with a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU and 16GB RAM, resulting in a single-core score of 1546 and a multi-core score of 7055. The Apple iPad Pro (2022) achieved a single-core score of 1895 and a multi-core score of 8484.

If you anticipate performing resource-intensive tasks with the Surface Pro 9, opting for the Intel Core i7 model is advisable. However, don’t expect to handle complex video editing or high-fidelity gaming with the Pro 9.

Surprisingly, Microsoft’s assertions regarding the battery life of the Surface Pro 9 fall short of those of the Surface Pro 8. It was claimed that the previous model could endure for 16 hours, whereas the Pro 9 is purported to last 15.5 hours on a single charge.

In my testing, neither of these claims proved accurate, and it’s noteworthy to observe Microsoft acknowledging that the newer model has inferior battery performance.

During standard usage of the Surface Pro 9, such as browsing the internet, engaging in social media activities, or writing, with adaptive brightness and contrast and the variable refresh rate enabled, I managed to attain approximately 7.5 hours of usage before requiring a recharge. This falls significantly short of the 16 hours achieved by the HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 Laptop 14 but is somewhat closer to the 10-hour battery life of the Apple iPad Pro.

The Surface Pro 9 charges via the Surface Connect charger and can reach around 50% battery capacity after a 30-minute charge. While it’s also possible to charge it via the USB-C ports, the process is notably slower.

If you’re in search of a functional, responsive, and elegant Windows-based tablet, the Surface Pro 9 presents itself as a solid choice. However, there are insufficient enhancements to deem it a necessary upgrade over its precursor, the Surface Pro 8.

The Pro 9 scarcely introduces anything significant to justify purchasing the newer device. It retains the same appearance, tactile feel, and only marginally improved performance. Compounding matters, it offers reduced battery life and no longer includes a 3.5mm headphone jack.

If you already possess a Surface Pro 8, there’s little incentive to upgrade to the newer Surface Pro 9, and even though Microsoft may discontinue sales of the Pro 8, acquiring one, if feasible, would yield a nearly identical experience at a lower cost.

While it remains a commendable tablet, this year’s Surface Pro 9 represents a disappointing iteration. It lacks any noteworthy improvements, and overall, the alterations introduced by Microsoft have a negative rather than a positive impact on the product’s quality.

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