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Surface Pro 8 vs. Surface Pro 7: Microsoft's latest 2-in-1 is bigger, better than before

Microsoft's Surface Pro 8 houses a larger display, new processor and more. But depending on your needs, the older model may still be best for you.

Microsoft announced its latest premier two-in-one, the Surface Pro 8, at its Sept. 22 event and it's now available to buy starting at $1,100. The Surface Pro hadn't received a full update since October 2019, when the Pro 7 was introduced. That seems like eons ago -- and even then it didn't change much from the Surface Pro 6

Earlier this year, Microsoft did introduce the Surface Pro 7 Plus for Business. However, it has the same design as the Pro 7 but with 11th-gen Intel processors and Windows 10 Pro. There's also the 13-inch Surface Pro X that uses a custom Arm-based chipset from Microsoft instead of an Intel processor. With Windows 11 now available, though, this is a good time to update it inside and out, and that's what we got. 

While the Surface Pro 7 is no longer in the lineup, you'll still be able to buy one -- likely at a discount -- until retailers sell through their stock. Microsoft is keeping the Surface Pro 7 Plus around and will have a consumer version of it with Windows 11 Home for those who want a "classic Surface Pro." 

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A larger, faster display

The Surface Pro 8 is essentially a mashup of the Pro 7 Plus and Pro X; it's the same-ish body of the 13-inch Pro X with the processors of the Pro 7 Plus. The Pro 8 is thicker and heavier than the Pro X but not by much. Since the Pro 7 and Pro 7 Plus are built around a 12.3-inch display, the 13-inch Pro 8 is larger than that model, too. 

Although the Surface Pro 8 display is the same size and resolution as the Pro X, the Surface Pro 8's screen has a refresh rate that goes up to 120Hz, which should make writing and drawing on the display a smoother experience (and gaming, too). When the extra speed isn't needed, it can drop to 60Hz to save battery life. 

Specs


Surface Pro 8 Surface Pro 7 Plus (2021) Surface Pro 7 (2019) iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2021)
Price Starts at $1,100, £999, AU$1,649 Starts at $900, £909, AU$1,349 Starts at $650, £639, AU$1,149 Starts at $999, £199, AU$1,649
Optional keyboard $180, £160, AU$260 $129, £125, AU$200 $129, £125, AU$200 $329, £329, AU$549
Optional stylus $130, £120, AU$190 $99, £60, AU$140 $99, £60, AU$140 $119, £119, AU$199
Display 13-inch PixelSense display (120Hz), 2,880x1,920 (267 ppi) 12.3-inch PixelSense display, 2,736x1,824 resolution (267 ppi) 12.3-inch PixelSense display, 2,736x1,824 resolution (267 ppi) 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR True Tone with ProMotion display, 2,732x2,048 resolution (264 ppi)
Processor 11th-gen Intel Core i5, i7 11th-gen Intel Core i3, i5, i7 10th-gen Intel Core i3, i5, i7 M1
RAM 8GB / 16GB / 32GB 8GB / 16GB / 32GB 4GB / 8GB / 16GB 8GB / 16GB
Storage 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
SIM card support for cellular model None Nano-SIM, eSIM None Nano-SIM; eSIM; 5G support (sub-6 GHz and mmWave)
Wireless 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth 5.1 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C (2; USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4), Surface Connect, Surface Type Cover port, 3.5mm headphone jack USB-C, Surface Connect, Surface Type Cover port, MicroSDXC, USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack USB-C, Surface Connect, Surface Type Cover port, MicroSDXC, USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack USB-C with Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 support
Cameras Front: 5-megapixel with support for Windows Hello, rear: 10-megapixel Front: 5-megapixel with support for Windows Hello, rear: 8-megapixel Front: 5-megapixel with support for Windows Hello, rear: 8-megapixel Front: 12-megapixel TrueDepth; 1080p video, rear: 12-megapixel f/1.8 wide, 10-megapixel f/2.4 ultrawide
OS Windows 11 Home Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro Windows 10 Home iPadOS
Dimensions (HWD) 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches 11 x 8.5 x 0.25 inches
Weight 2 lb., 0.9 kg 1.7 lb., 0.77 kg 1.7 lb., 0.77 kg 1.5 lb., 0.68 kg
Battery life Up to 16 hours Up to 15 hours Up to 10.5 hours Up to 10 hours

Buh-bye, USB-A; hello, Thunderbolt 4

With the move to 11th-gen Intel processors, Microsoft added not one, but two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports. This makes it easier than ever to connect external displays directly to the Surface Pro, as well as giving you high-speed data transfers and more expansion options with a dock or hub. And even though Microsoft still uses its proprietary Surface Connector for the power adapter, you can charge the Pro 8 via the USB-C ports. 

Of course, with the addition of the USB-C ports, something had to go: There is no more good ol' USB-A port on the Surface Pro 8. Microsoft also did away with the microSD card slot for expanding storage. The two-in-one does offer a removable SSD option, though it is a short M.2 2230 drive. Still, it's an option down the road if you need more physical storage.

Read more: Here's what the Surface Duo 2 needs to succeed. Plus, check out how the specs stack up between the Surface Duo 2 and Surface Duo, and some cool camera tricks the Surface Duo can do.

microsoft-surface-pro-8-03

The new Slim Pen 2 magnetically stores and charges at the top of the keyboard cover.

Richard Peterson/CNET

New keyboard, new pen; neither are included

As you might expect, the increased screen size of the Surface Pro 8 means the keyboard cover from the Pro 7 won't fit. If you're upgrading to the Pro 8, you'll need a new keyboard cover, too. Microsoft did develop a new one for the Pro 8 that has a spot at the top to hold and charge the new Surface Slim Pen 2

Like past Surface Pro models, the keyboard cover isn't included with the Surface Pro 8. Neither is the pen. They are not cheap. The keyboard alone is $180, the pen is $130 and bundled together they're $280. At least the kickstand is built into the body of the Pro 8 so you don't have to buy a separate cover for that function.

A lot more time to work, create and play

While the 11th-gen Intel Core processors will certainly boost performance over the Surface Pro 7's 10th-gen chips, it'll also give you much better battery life. True, it helps that the Surface Pro 8 also has a larger battery pack. But, according to Microsoft's numbers, the Pro 7 Plus, using the same size battery as the regular Pro 7, gets up to 15 hours of battery life compared to the Pro 7's 10.5 hours. The Pro 8 will run for up to 16 hours. 

Richard Peterson/CNET

The Surface Pro 8 has a larger, faster display, new processors to improve performance and extend battery life, Thunderbolt 4 for greater versatility and a new keyboard and pen. It is, however, still pricey, and the keyboard, which is pretty much a must-have, isn't included. Neither is its active pen. 

Read our Surface Pro 8 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Just because there's a newer model doesn't mean the predecessor isn't worth considering. Microsoft immediately dropped the prices on its remaining Surface Pro 7 models. A larger display is nice, but if you're primarily using it as a tablet, the smaller Pro 7 is a better option. Battery life and performance might not be as good as the Pro 8 but you'll be saving money. And if you want the smaller size with the benefits of Intel's 11th-gen processors, it looks like you'll be able to get that with the Surface Pro 7 Plus minus the extra cost for the commercial version.

Read our Surface Pro 7 review.