Microsoft's Surface Pro 9 has just arrived and whether you are looking to upgrade from an earlier model Surface Pro or are considering a switch to Microsoft's 2-in-1 for the first time you way be wondering how different it is from last year's Surface Pro 8.
As is always the case following the release of a new generation we would expect to see deals on the previous model for those that would rather save some money than have the latest and greatest.
So here's a close look at the Surface Pro 9 vs. Surface Pro 8 to help you decide which one is right for you.
Surface Pro 9 vs. Surface Pro 8: Similarities
This won't be a typical face-off where we go through each round looking at how the two systems fare against each other. That's because the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 8 are incredibly similar. This shouldn't come as a shock after the Surface Pro 8 got the first significant design change that the Surface Pro has had in years and it doesn't mean there are no differences but for the most part they all center around what's inside the laptops.
Before we go through those differences, let's talk about the similarities between these detachable 2-in-1s. First, the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 8 use the same accessories: the Type Cover keyboard and Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus. Regretabbly these still aren't included with the purchase of either unit, so remember to set aside about $130 for each one or if you want both you can typically find them in a bundle for around $250.
The designs of these tablets are identical; right down to the exact measurements at 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches and 1.94 pounds. That means you have the same anodized aluminum body with a full-friction multi-position hinge to 165 degrees. We loved the move to the slightly larger 13--inch 3:2 display last year, so it's good to see Microsoft stick with it. The only notable change is the addition of some new color options for the Surface Pro 9 that I'll address in a later section.
Surface Pro 9 vs. Surface Pro 8: Value
We're still waiting on confirmation of the price for the Surface Pro 9, but even assuming that it matches the $1,099 starting price for the Surface Pro 8 it will almost certainly lose this battle. Having been on the market for more than a year, the Surface Pro 8 is regularly on sale for hundreds less. At the time of this writing, you can find a base model for under $900. That means that even all in with the Type Cover and Slim Pen 2 you should come out right around the cost of the Surface Pro 9 alone. If you want more than just the base model you can save even more. For example, a Surface Pro 8 with 16GB of RAM and the i7 processor is currently $460 off at Amazon as part of the Amazon October Prime Day sales.
It's worth noting that the Surface Pro 9 does boast one option that the Surface Pro 8 lacks and that's a 5G variant with the Microsoft SQ 3 SoC inside. Again we still need to confirm the pricing, but if you absolutely need built-in 5G connectivity there's no comparison to be made there as the Pro 8 only offers an LTE option.
Winner: Surface Pro 8
Surface Pro 9 vs. Surface Pro 8: Design
Assuming you don't opt for one of the new colors these two tablets look identical. Again there is no surprise here, Microsoft isn't known for regular design shakeups to its laptops and last year was a doozy and we loved the changes that were made, so no need for a refresh (particularly when it could break compatibility with the accessories).
Speaking of those new colors you now have: Platinum, Graphite, Sapphire, and Forest. That's compared to just Platinum and Graphite on the Pro 8.
That's it. Those are the only exterior differences between the Surface Pro 9 and Pro 8. They're both slim, lightweight magnesium tablets with a flexible kickstand and a connection for the optional Type Cover keyboard attachment.
Winner: Surface Pro 9 (Strictly for the extra colors)
Surface Pro 9 vs. Surface Pro 8: Display
There isn't much to say here. The Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 8 both have 13-inch, 2880 x 1920-pixel touchscreen displays with a 120Hz refresh rate. We'll need to get the Pro 9 in our labs for a true test of how similar they are, but Microsoft isn't touting any significant upgrades.
That's a good thing because the screens are bright, vivid and detailed. They're as good for watching movies and TV shows as they are for crunching numbers, so you'll be happy using these slates for business and leisure alike.
Surface Pro 9 vs. Surface Pro 8: Performance
The biggest difference between the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 8 is the engine powering these tablets. The Surface Pro 9 uses upgraded Intel 12th Gen Core CPUs. This includes an Intel Core i5-1235U or i7-1255U on the consumer models or i5-1245U or i7-1265U for enterprise users. In addition, the Pro 9 has the aforementioned Microsoft SQ 3 SoC variant with 5G support.
Based on what we've seen from the Intel processors this year we expect that to have a more significant impact on battery life than performance. We'll address that next, but considering the Surface Pro 8 was already more than capable of handling anything we threw at it the performance shouldn't be a concern on either model.
The Microsoft SQ3 model will need further scrutiny, as we've seen a dramatic improvement from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8CX Gen 3 that this SoC is based on versus previous generations, so that might be the wildcard that tips this hand in favor of the Pro 9.
One other feature we'll be paying careful attention to in our testing is the SSD performance. This was the weakest link for the Pro 8, so hopefully Microsoft stepped up its game there.
With integrated Iris Xe graphics, the Pro 9 and Pro 8 are fine for basic 3D modeling or running older games, but you'll need to take to cloud gaming if you want more than that.
Winner: Surface Pro 9
Surface Pro 9 vs. Surface Pro 8: Battery life
The Surface Pro 8 delivered 9 hours and 7 minutes on a charge in our battery life test last year. It's not a bad result, but it doesn't hold up to some of the recent competition like the ThinkPad X12 (11:06) or Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (10:52).
Microsoft claims up to 15.5 hours from the Intel Pro 9 models and an incredible 19 hours from the Microsoft SQ3-powered 5G model. Now we're reasonably sure they'll come up short of those marks in our battery test, but we would expect both to come out ahead of the Pro 8.
Winner: Surface Pro 9 (Pending battery testing)
Surface Pro 9 vs. Surface Pro 8: Which is best?
As you would expect the Surface Pro 9 is the better of these two tablets, but that doesn't mean it instantly wins this face-off. Price should be a major factor in deciding between these two slates. As it stands, the Surface Pro 8 is up to $250 cheaper than a Surface Pro 9 with comparable specs. Again that covers the cost of the Type Cover and Slim Pen 2 if you want both or leaves you with a little over $100 in your pocket if you just want the Type Cover.
Yes, the Surface Pro 9 brings faster performance, but you probably won't notice much of a speed boost in your day-to-day workflow. Battery life is going to be one of the biggest questions that we want answered in our testing, as an extra two hours or more would certainly tip the scales for the Pro 9.
Stay tuned for our full review of the Surface Pro 9 soon and we'll be updating this face-off with the results of our testing to give you a more definitive answer on which comes out on top.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.