The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 could be the best Windows tablet of this year – at least on paper. It offers a new design, a larger 120Hz screen, new Intel processors, as well as a new stylus. But with a starting price of 1099 US Dollars, the entry-level version got much more expensive. So, is it a tablet you should get? That’s what you’ll learn in this Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review.
Design & Built Quality
Even though the dimensions of the body didn’t change much, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 did get a new design and resembles the Surface Pro X now. We get a larger 13-inch screen with much slimmer screen bezels. The body is made of anodized aluminum, is 9.3mm thin and weighs 891g without accessories.
On the top, there’s a little plastic bar for the antennas. Around the tablet, there are vents for active cooling which are hidden in a very elegant way. On the back, there’s a built-in kickstand as usual which you can fold open at a very wide angle.
The MicroSD card slot has been removed which is a bit of a bummer. But on a positive note, the Surface Pro 8 has a removable SSD now which you can exchange using a simple SIM-Eject tool. Very nice.
We get a standard 3.5mm audio port on the left side, and on the right side, there’s the Surface Connect port to charge the tablet, as well as two USB C 4.0 and Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Cameras & Facial Recognition
Above the screen, we get a 5-megapixel webcam with an Infrared Sensor which you can use to unlock the device using Windows Hello facial recognition. That works very well.
The front-facing camera takes really good photos, especially for a Windows device, and the 1080p video looks sharp. On the back sits a 10-megapixel main camera which is quite good as well and can record 4k video.
The screen has increased in size from 12.3 inches to 13 inches resulting in slimmer screen bezels. Microsoft calls it a PixelSense Flow Display and it continues to have an aspect ratio of 3:2 which is perfect for an office tablet. With 2880 x 1920 pixels, the resolution is very high so that everything looks sharp.
I like this display a lot. It’s fully laminated, of course, contrast and saturation are great and I enjoyed watching YouTube and Netflix with it. It’s also bright enough to use outside, when working in a café, for instance.
This is the first Surface tablet to support a refresh rate of 120Hz just like the flagship tablets from Samsung and Apple do. It means that animations look much smoother than before. By default, it’s set to 60Hz though and the 120Hz option is quite hidden in the settings. I guess that many will never turn it on unless they know about it.
Speakers: Excellent Sound
On the left and right sides of the screen, we get a speaker each. Even though they look quite small, the sound quality is fantastic. Especially for a Windows tablet. The iPad Pro continues to have a noticeably better sound. But I certainly did enjoy watching movies with the Surface.
Hardware & Performance
You can get the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 or Intel Core i7-1185G7 chipset which both have an Intel Iris X graphics unit. Yes, there’s no Core i3 option anymore. You can select 8GB, 16GB or 32GB of RAM and a 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD.
Benchmarks like Geekbench 5 and CineBench show, that the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a very fast Windows tablet. It’s more powerful than the Surface Pro 7 and faster than the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable in Geekbench. However, in Cinebench the Lenovo is a bit faster. In all tests the Apple iPad Pro with the M1 chipset continues to be much more powerful.
By the way, unlike last year, even the Core i5 version of the Surface Pro 8 is actively cooled now. That means that especially under heavy load, you will hear those fans. They don’t get too loud but are noticeable especially if you’re used to silent devices. And when using demanding apps or playing games, the metal body can get quite hot.
The Surface Pro 8 is capable of handling demanding apps with ease, though, as the benchmarks suggest. Adobe Photoshop runs smoothly even when using large photos, for instance, and you can use it to edit videos too. This is the fastest Windows tablet you can buy right now but the performance also depends on the version you’re getting.
I bought the 8GB RAM version and if you’re into heavy multitasking which includes large files in Photoshop and especially for video editing with more demanding apps like Premiere Pro, it makes sense to get at least 16GB or even better 32GB of RAM.
In my Adobe Premiere Rush render test, which is much less demanding, the Surface Pro 8 needed 5.5 minutes to render a 9-minute 4K video. That’s a lot faster than the Surface Pro 7 and as fast as the iPad Air. The iPad Pro continues to be faster.
The Surface Pro 8 is an office tablet. However, if you want to play some games during your lunch break, you can do that of course. It behaves just as every standard Windows PC does so you can install all PC games. The performance is not on the same level as a gaming laptop. But I played a bit of Fortnite and it runs quite well with low graphics settings. I was able to select medium graphics too and it does run. But then it stutters too much and I don’t think anybody will enjoy it.
Microsoft Signature Keyboard & Slim Pen 2
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 works with the same Surface Pro Signature Keyboard that’s also compatible with the Surface Pro X. You have to buy it separately and you can get it as a bundle together with the new Slim Pen 2. Let’s check out the keyboard first.
Microsoft’s Signature Keyboard is almost identical to the Type Cover from previous generations. I think it’s the best tablet keyboard you can buy right now. Even though it’s a slim cover, it does not bend much and is very solid. You attach it using a magnetic connector and then you can even use it at an angle thanks to magnets.
I was able to type super fast and comfortably with this keyboard. The keys are well-spaced, have good travel, and just feel well made. It has a background light built-in and underneath sits a touchpad that’s smaller than on almost every laptop but large for a tablet.
Slim Pen 2: The Stylus
It’s important to point out that the Surface Pro 8 does work with the Slim Pen 1 and previous Surface Pens. So, if you have one already, you don’t have to get the Slim Pen 2.
The Slim Pen 2 is made of plastic and that’s why it’s not as premium feeling as the Surface Pens. Instead of a completely round design, it’s a bit flat now. You can’t replace a battery anymore. Instead, the pen is charged inside the keyboard cover. That’s a nice design and you don’t lose the pen easily anymore.
For the first time, the Slim Pen 2 has a vibration motor built into it. It’s activated when writing and it simulates a little bit of resistance. Not much, just very little and it makes it feel like you’re writing on real paper. It’s very subtle but does a good job.
Because of this 120Hz screen, it looks like the pen is reacting much more instantly than before. With 60Hz tablets, writing always lags behind the pen a bit. But now, the stylus reacts much faster. It’s super fast now, much better than other Windows tablets, and on a similar level as flagship devices from Apple and Samsung. That’s fantastic.
So, this is a great tablet if you like to write down handwritten notes in Microsoft OneNote, for example. You can use it in other apps like Adobe Photoshop, of course, and here it is well supported too.
Software: Windows 11
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is the first tablet to directly ship with Windows 11. But since you can install Windows 11 on almost every Windows tablet anyways, that’s not really a unique feature. And it’s standard Windows 11, nothing that’s specific for the Surface Pro.
Windows is the main reason why you might want to get the Surface Pro 8. If you don’t need Windows for your work or because you just love the operating system, there’s no need to get it. This tablet is basically a standard Windows PC and you can use all the apps and accessories that you use with a standard Windows device.
In my standard battery test, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 got a runtime of 5.5 hours. That’s with 120Hz turned on and looping an HD YouTube video at maximum screen brightness. When switching to 60Hz, the battery lasted 6.5 hours. So, 120Hz certainly does use more energy.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Review: Final Verdict
So, is the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 a good tablet? Yes, of course, it is. It is the best Windows tablet you can buy right now. We get a new and fantastic design with a great kickstand and a removable SSD. The display is bigger now and supports 120Hz and the performance is noticeably better compared to last year. I also love the accessories. The keyboard cover and Slim Pen 2 are as good as I expect from an expensive premium tablet.
The biggest and only real downside of the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is its price. A starting price of 1099 Dollars without any accessories and with 128GB storage only is very high. Its battery life could be longer too.
Let’s check out some alternatives.
An interesting alternative running Windows is the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable. It does have fast 11th gen Intel processors as well, a premium-feeling design, as well as a great keyboard, and a good pen. Sadly, the display has a FullHD resolution only. Make sure you compare prices here.
If you don’t need Windows, you should check out the 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro. This is a very expensive tablet with pricey accessories as well. But it does have a more unique XDR display, better speakers, more apps that are optimized for tablets and touchscreens, and the performance of its M1 chipset is better too.
- Premium design
- Great 120Hz display
- Fast processors
- Removable SSD
- Facial recognition
- Great Slim Pen 2
- Excellent keyboard
- Very pricey
- Short battery life
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