Last year's Surface Pro 8 was one of the biggest design upgrades for Microsoft's tablet PC, adding long-awaited features like Thunderbolt 4 and surprising upgrades like a 120Hz display. This year's Surface Pro 9, paradoxically, is both more of the same and a dramatic departure. It has the usual chip refresh — in this case, Intel's far superior 12th-gen CPUs — but there's also a new 5G-equipped model with a custom SQ 3 Arm chip.
If that sounds confusing to you, well, it is. We last saw the company's SQ chip in the 2020 Surface Pro X, a computer that we found both beautiful and frustrating, thanks to Windows' crummy software compatibility with Arm chips. To shift that problem over to a computer with the same name as its Intel sibling is a recipe for disaster. (We can just imagine the frustrated Best Buy shoppers who are dazzled with the idea of a 5G Surface, only to learn they can't run most of their traditional Windows apps.) The 5G Pro 9 is also broken down into millimeter-wave and Sub-6 variants, which will be sold in their respective markets.
It's understandable why Microsoft isn't keen to keep the Surface Pro X moniker going — the Pro 8 lifted many of its modern design cues, after all. But from what we've seen, Windows 11 doesn't solve the problems we initially had with the Pro X.
Beyond the chip updates, the Pro 9 looks mostly the same as its predecessor, with a 13" 120Hz PixelSense display, as well as relatively slim screen bezels. Microsoft claims the 1080p webcam has been improved, and there's also a 4-degree tilt to help keep you centered. You've also got a few bolder colors to choose from, including Sapphire, Forest and a new Liberty London Special Edition. (And yes, before you ask, you'll still have to pick up a Surface Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 separately if you actually want to be productive with the Pro 9.)
Adding to the confusion of having two chip platforms under the same product name, there are several major differences between them. For example, the Intel version can be equipped with up to 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a 1TB SSD, while the Arm variant is limited to 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM and a 512GB SSD at most. You'll also lose the two USB-C 4.0/Thunderbolt 4 ports on the Arm Pro 9 — instead, you'll get two USB-C 3.2 connections. (On the plus side, the 5G model should get up to 19 hours of battery life, 3.5 more hours than the Intel version.)
The Intel-based Surface Pro 9 starts at $999 for a Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and a paltry 128GB of storage, while the cheapest 5G model will run you $1,300 with the same specs. You'll be able to pre-order the Surface Pro 12 in select models starting today, with general availability beginning on October 25th.
Follow along with the rest of our news from Microsoft's 2022 Surface event.