At Microsoft’s Surface Event there were a slew of new products on show. One question that came up in the office is if the Surface Pro 8 has made the older 7 completely obsolete? I don’t usually like to dump on older technology, but I think the leap with the hardware bumps on the new Pro 8 have permanently left the Pro 7 in the dust, unless you can find it really cheap.
The Surface Pro 8 leaked beforehand and all the specs lined up with what the Thai retailer, Shopee, had accidentally put up too early. There’s an 11th generation CPU from Intel inside, with a choice of RAM between 8GB and 32GB, but none of this really matters when it comes to the new stuff.
3:2 Monitors are the Future
I think the Surface screens are fantastic. 3:2 aspect ratios make working and productivity a joy as you have tonnes of vertical real estate, rather than 16:9, which is mainly for entertainment. The only real one on the market that seems to be sold separately is the new Huawei MateView (above), which even clocks in at around £700 – not too shabby for a unique screen.
Because Windows is more a vertical operating system than we often realize, stretching and snapping windows or getting that little bit extra interface in various programs is a boon to those who’ve experienced it.
With the Pro 8, you’re getting that same great aspect ratio but with the addition of a 120Hz refresh rate, allowing for more smooth scrolling when reading or more importantly, when drawing with the fancy new pen.
Recently I bought an iPad Air, with the Pencil and a keyboard. I love it. It totally converted me to the idea of a tablet that can be docked and undocked for whatever I need it for. The new Surface Slim Pen 2 does something that I didn’t think was possible, but it made me jealous of those getting a new stylus.
It sends little feedback when you begin drawing or writing, so you feel like you actually have a pen in your hand which is way better than the Apple Pencil’s lump of plastic – which is fine! – but there’s a definite disconnect between it and a real pencil. While the Surface Pro 7 does support it, it does seem better suited for the new products with their higher refresh rate screens.
Thunderbolt 4, USB 4.0 and ditching the Surface Dock
The thing with the Pro 7 now is that it’s not only going to be one behind the latest, but it simply just doesn’t make sense to buy one new over the Pro 8. Thunderbolt 4 comes with the Pro 8, a vital component for those who’re serious about content creation, as having this built-in immediately gives you USB 4.0, for those who’re going to be attaching drives to their Surface, this gives you a whopping 40Gbps of transfer speeds on both Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4.0. That’s a massive step up from the measly USB 3.0 ports on the Pro 7.
While you’ll need a dongle or something to expand your port use on the Pro 8 – there are no USB-A ports – the Thunderbolt 4 ports can support up to two 4K monitors at once, meaning you won’t just be limited to the Surface Dock, a hideously bulky appliance that you’d need to carry with you for making the Surface usable in its early iterations.
Performance and Touch on the Surface Pro 8
I wouldn’t expect to do anything too hardcore on the Surface Pro 8, mostly due to the lack of dedicated graphics card, but the built-in Intel Xe graphics have impressed on higher-end models of the new Intel chips, but having experienced it via the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro on the i5, I’d still lean towards going for an i7 in any case.
But here lies the issue I have with the Surface Pro 8 (and still with the Pro 7), which is that even though the Pro 8 is very impressive, there’s still a hard limit in that it still isn’t a complete package. It’s literally just the tablet and a very expensive keyboard sold separately. Of course, Apple does the same thing, but Apple’s software is also dedicated to the iPad with very little actual need for the additional components.
Microsoft might have spent years since Windows 8, trying to figure out how to get Windows to work well with touch, but I still rarely buy into it. I want a keyboard and mouse. In fact, it’s a requirement for me to interact with the operating system. Some people have figured it out or love it, but for me, no. It’s a no-go.
This is where I look to the Surface Laptop Studio, the other white meat that Microsoft announced at the show.
While it appears to be a direct replacement for the last Laptop and Book models of the Surface line, I’m thoroughly convinced this is the replacement for the Studio 2.
Nearly everything got an update except the Studio 2 and Surface Pro X (Windows on ARM sucked so much that the Duo became an Android device), which was weird.
The Surface Studio 2 is in fact still being sold at full price, even though it comes with wildly out-of-date specs. A GTX 1070 for 3 grand? Get real.
Once decked out a little bit, the Surface Laptop Studio gets a cool RTX 3050ti (making it very appealing for those into gaming and video editing), but it’s also a real ‘all-in-one’, coming with the same features as the Pro 8. It’s portable, has a keyboard, can slope back down into a tablet, and yes, while it’s far more expensive than the Pro 8 when you begin calculating everything together for a solidly equipped Laptop Studio, you wind up in the same ballpark as a Pro 8 with the keyboard, pen and bumped up specs.
Price Comparison - Surface Pro 8 vs Laptop Studio
When priced out, two similar models with an i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD comes in at 1899.99 for the Surface Pro 8 and $2099.99 for the Surface Laptop Studio.
Bearing in mind, one comes with a 3050ti and a keyboard, you’re still looking at an additional $279.99 for the Keyboard and Pen combo for the Surface Pro 8, leaving you with a meager $50 difference between having a solid laptop for the next few years (with the pen) vs a tablet that is absolutely going to get left behind come the next couple iterations.
So what’s the best between the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Pro 7 now that all the information has dropped?
It’s the Surface Laptop Studio. I want one.