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Microsoft updates the Surface Pro X with a new processor option

And some small new features.
Cherlynn Low, @cherlynnlow
October 1, 2020
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October is here, which means it’s time again for Microsoft to release new hardware. While the Surface Duo may have been the talk of the town last month with its intriguing new form factor, today’s announcements are almost boring in comparison. The company just unveiled the new Surface Laptop Go and updates to the Surface Pro X in addition to some accessories to go along with the new devices. The Pro X, in particular, features a new processor and some additional color options.

The Surface Pro X, which is Microsoft’s ARM-based PC, was announced last year. It’s a lovely piece of hardware, but in our review we still found it hard to love the buggy software and app compatibility limits. Microsoft’s updates today might address some of those issues.

The most significant of these is a new processor, which as before was created in collaboration with Qualcomm. According to the company, the new SQ2 processor is “the fastest processor in its class,” though the big caveat is that this class is limited to existing ARM-based PCs that are largely powered by Qualcomm. Microsoft hasn’t shared many details about this chipset and in the past only described the older SQ1 chip as sharing DNA with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors. But it’s likely that the SQ2 is a customized version of the recently announced Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, which itself isn’t actually speedier than the original 8cx. 

Gallery: Surface Pro X press images | 80 Photos

In addition to configurations with the new SQ2 processor, the Surface Pro X is also available today in a new silvery Platinum finish. There are also three new colors for the matching signature keyboard: Platinum, Poppy Red and that same pretty Ice Blue from the Laptop Go. Very little else about the new Surface Pro X is new -- Microsoft is promising longer battery life of up to 15 hours across both configurations (up from 13 hours), and continues to call this the thinnest Surface yet. 

That sleek profile might explain why there isn’t a 5G version available, by the way. The Pro X will only work on 4G and support gigabit LTE networks for connectivity, and that’s going to still offer decent speeds even as 5G rolls out more widely in the next two years. 

The biggest issue for Windows on ARM isn’t 5G connectivity -- it’s app compatibility. Not only is software still buggy on many of these devices, you also can’t expect to install every app you might want or need on these machines. 

Surface Pro X press photo
Microsoft

Microsoft did announce a new App Assure program last month to tackle this challenge, assigning its own engineers to work with developers to get their apps working on Windows on Snapdragon. We don’t know how successful that program will be yet, but it’s at least an encouraging start. Yesterday, too, the company said it will expand its emulator support to include 64-bit x64 apps as well. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to use any mobile app you can find on the Windows store, as well as most 32-bit .exe files from the internet thanks to Microsoft’s software emulator. 

The updated Surface Pro X also features some less-obvious tweaks. Microsoft said it made optimized versions of Edge and Teams for Windows on ARM, so they’ll perform faster while using less battery. The eye-contact feature from last year is graduating from its experimental status and will now help make sure you look like you’re actually looking at your colleague on your video calls. Microsoft also spent a lot of time in its announcement video showing off the Surface Pen, which has its own little slot in the Signature Keyboard cover like it did before.

You can order the Surface Pro X from the same starting price of $999 as before, though I’d expect configurations with the new processor will cost more. We’ll have to put an updated model through a full review to know if the SQ2 and Microsoft’s software tweaks will make it a better buy than the original, so stay tuned.

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