Review: Microsoft Surface Pro 8 


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Microsoft’s Surface Pro lineup and the word “revamp” have rarely shared a sentence. These laptop-tablet hybrids have largely been kept alive with new processors and minor hardware upgrades over the years. The new Surface Pro 8 isn’t quite the revamp you might have hoped for, but it’s somewhere between a minor and a major refresh.

The 2-in-1 isn’t all that different from its predecessor, but its upgrades make it a worthy consideration for anyone looking for a new machine. There’s a larger touchscreen display with a 120-Hz screen refresh rate, better performance, and it comes preloaded with Windows 11. The company also nixed the Core i3 processor model, so the base Surface Pro 8 comes with a Core i5 and starts at $1,100. It might seem like a big jump from the Surface Pro 7’s $749 price, but it’s technically just $200 more when comparing the same configuration (though that’s still pricey).

This is a machine that feels like it’s hit its peak in terms of innovation. I’ve really enjoyed using it over the past week. Well, mostly. Just like the new Surface Go 3, you’ll need to keep the charger close at hand.

Microsoft Surface Duo 8

The most visible change on the Surface Pro 8 is the larger touchscreen display, going from 12.3 inches to 13. Even with dozens of tabs and windows open, the screen feels roomy. 

It’s sharper too, with a slightly higher 2,880 x 1,920-pixel resolution, and a built-in Ambient Color Sensor automatically matches the screen’s color temperature to the light around you, not unlike True Tone on Apple’s MacBooks. The screen also gets brighter than ever before. All of this makes staring at the Pro 8 a little easier on the eyes, whatever environment you’re in.

Just like the newest iPhones, the screen has a 120-Hz refresh rate, which doubles the number of frames you see per second. You can read more about the tech here, but it essentially makes everything from scrolling through Twitter on Chrome to jotting down notes with the Slim Pen 2 feel incredibly smooth. Unfortunately, it really impacts battery life—more on this later—which is probably why it’s set to 60 Hz by default. You’ll have to dig through the settings menu to toggle it on.

Right above the screen is a 1080p webcam (with Windows Hello face authentication to sign in) that’s pretty good even in low light. I look crisp and clear on my Zoom calls, to the point of some insecurity. And unlike on iPads or older Dell laptops, the webcam isn’t in an awkward spot, which means you have one less thing to worry about. 

Unsurprisingly, connectivity options are slim. The Pro 7 had the benefit of one USB-A and one USB-C port on the right side of the display, but now you only get two USB-C (both Thunderbolt 4). Depending on the accessories you plug in, that’s either good or bad. What’s worse is that Microsoft axed the MicroSD card slot, though this might not be too much of an issue since it’s easy to upgrade the solid state storage drive whenever it fills up. Thankfully, the headphone jack remains.

As for the chassis, gone is magnesium in favor of recycled aluminum. The back cover of the graphite model I tested hides fingerprints well, even with my grubby fingers constantly readjusting the built-in kickstand. However, this change of material does make the whole thing noticeably heavier at 1.96 pounds (up from 1.74 pounds on the Pro 7). It’s heftier than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and that’s without including the weight of the Type Cover keyboard.

Microsoft Surface Duo 8

Add the keyboard and the Pro 8 sits at a little more than 2½ pounds. Sure, it’s lighter than a MacBook Air, but I prefer the weight distribution of a laptop. I didn’t really like walking around my apartment with the Surface Pro 8 in my hands, so it often stayed put on my desk.

Thankfully, the excellent kickstand means you won’t need to prop it up yourself most of the time. It stays perfectly upright on my bed when I stream TV shows and movies. It also helps that Windows 11 has been optimized for touch, making the device easier to use in its tablet form. You can move the floating virtual keyboard around the display and alter its size, use three and four-finger gestures to minimize and switch between apps, and there are larger touch targets to resize windows. Microsoft also got rid of the distinct “tablet mode,” which makes it a lot easier to swap back and forth between using it as a laptop (with the Type Cover) and a tablet. 

The Type Cover keyboard is a must-have though, even if it’s $130 extra. It connects magnetically to the bottom edge of the Pro 8, and you don’t need to worry about recharging it. Its clicky keys are super pleasant to type on, though the built-in touchpad is small and a little too sensitive for my taste (even after adjusting the sensitivity to low). I recommend pairing it with a Bluetooth mouse if it bothers you.

If you grab the new Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus, you’ll need to upgrade to the Signature Keyboard ($180) for an elegant storage solution. (Microsoft also sells both in a bundle for $280.) I like using the Pen! It’s responsive and offers up tactile feedback. It stores and charges wirelessly within the Signature Keyboard. I’d have preferred if the stylus could stick to the Surface Pro 8 instead, like how the Apple Pencil magnetically sticks to the side of the iPad Pro. It’s just more sensible when you want to draw at the park but don’t need to bring the keyboard. 

Unlike the Apple Pencil, you have the option to adjust the intensity of the haptic feedback on the Slim Pen 2. When using Sketchable to draw, I could feel the difference when switching tools, like a pencil versus a paintbrush. It’s nifty! 

Microsoft Surface Duo 8

The Surface Pro 8 now starts with an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, and if you need more power, you can bump it up to a Core i7. Just like on the Core i5 model of its predecessor, you get 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage, with options to upgrade both if you need it. 

I tested the i7 with 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage ($1,600), and I never felt like the 2-in-1 couldn’t handle my day-to-day tasks, which includes word processing, web browsing, Slack messaging, listening to podcasts on Spotify, and manually writing notes on Microsoft Whiteboard. But frankly, unless you know you’ll be using a particularly demanding application, you’ll be better off sticking with the base Core i5 model and saving the extra cash. 

This is not the machine to buy if you’re looking to do a ton of gaming (even with that 120-Hz refresh rate), but the Surface Pro 8 handled relatively lightweight titles such as Minecraft Dungeons, Sims 4, and Bloodroots just fine. I can’t say the same for Psychonauts 2, which kept crashing during the prologue and made the machine run super hot (though this was likely a bug and not a performance-related issue). 

The worst part of this laptop is its battery life. I never got anywhere close to the 16 hours Microsoft claims. It’s worth noting that the main battery-drain culprits are not native apps—Chrome, Slack, and Zoom. But these are some of the most popular apps around, and I only managed to squeeze around 6.5 hours on a single charge with a 60-Hz refresh rate. At 120 Hz, I hit about 4.5 hours at most. Oof. 

Other reviewers haven’t noted battery life anywhere near as poor as mine, so there’s a chance there’s an issue with my unit, but Microsoft didn’t seem to think so and never offered to replace it. So, your mileage might vary!

The Surface Pro 8 is powerful, has a wonderful screen, and it’s versatile. Unlike a MacBook, you can separate it from the keyboard and watch movies in bed instead of splurging on a separate tablet. And while iPads have come a long way in replacing your laptop, the desktop experience Windows offers makes it a more efficient tool for most office tasks. 

It’s just a shame that many of the new features—whether it’s the 120-Hz refresh rate or overall max screen brightness—suck up so much power that you’ll always be hunting for the nearest outlet.