Were it not for the Surface Duo and Surface Neo, this would be the main talking point from Microsoft's Surface launch. It's a new start for Microsoft's 2-in-1 Surface lineup and features a custom ARM-based SQ1 processor developed with Qualcomm.
Previous ARM-based laptops we've tried have had super battery life but the reliance on emulation for traditional desktop apps and the lack of big name apps in the Windows Store have meant they only offer a limited experience. It will be interesting if the Pro X is better at handling this. It's unclear whether the Pro X will be restricted to Windows 10 in S Mode out of the box, but we'd have thought it will be.
So what's the Pro X like? We got up close with it at Microsoft's launch event to find out.
Design, New Pen and Type Cover
- Dimensions: 287mm x 208mm x 7.3mm
- Weight: 774g
- Ports: 2x USB-C, 1x nano SIM, 1x Surface Connect, Surface Keyboard connector
The Surface Pro X - only available in black - boasts a lovely slim design that's like a Surface Pro on a diet. The thin bezels are very iPad Pro like as are the rounded edges. The device is light but not to the extent it feels cheap – it has a solidity to the build quality.
It can only fit in two USB-C ports due to its slim frame and there's no headphone jack either which is a little disappointing but that's the way things are going. Bizarrely, though, the Surface Connect port remains, presumably for connection to the Surface Dock.
The keyboard's divot to store and hide the all-new Surface Slim Pen is pretty clever and allows the tablet to be used in laptop mode without needed to stick the pen on the side.
Typing on the keyboard is on par with the Type Cover of the other Surface Pros, so a little more travel would be appreciated. Otherwise, though, it's pretty good for a keyboard cover and a little better to type on than an iPad Pro.
The Surface Slim Pen is also a neat stylus, and feels like it will suit people who sketch on tablets better than the thicker Surface Pen.
Problem is, the Surface Pro X starts at $999 for the base tablet, then it's $144.99 for the Slim Pen for the Surface Pro X Type Cover $139.99. You can get them bundled together come 5 November for $269.99. But that means the true starting price for a Surface Pro X with all the near-essential extras is over $1,100, which is quite a bit of cash.
Display and specs
- 13-inch PixelSense display, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2,880 x 1,920 (267ppi)
- Custom SQ1 processor with Adreno 685 graphics
- Rear 11MP camera, 5MP front
- 8GB or 16GB of memory
- 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB removable SSD
- Qualcomm X24 4G LTE modem
Once again, the PixelSense display is very impressive in terms of colours and contrast, but it's very reflective; a decent brightness should mean it can still be used outside, however.
Obviously in our limited time with the device, there was no way to properly tell the performance of the custom Microsoft SQ1 chip, but everything felt smooth and responsive. Qualcomm has proved that Windows 10 can work well on ARM-based chips, as shown with the Snapdragon 8cx so we'd hope it's the same the story for the Surface Pro X. And 16GB of RAM is no bad thing in any Windows PC, let alone an ultraportable Surface device.
13-hours of battery life has been championed, but we'd be surprised if it quite delivers that in real-world use; fast charging is on offer though and as with Surface Laptop 3, this promises to charge the battery to 80 per cent within an hour.
A nano SIM slot additionally means there's LTE connectivity for always-on access. As with other Snapdragon-based Windows devices, that's great for people on the go who don't have easy Wi-Fi access. Expect a 5G version next year. Also a removable SSD is a neat addition but probably only something for power users to care about.
If Microsoft can get developers to bring forth more tablet-friendly Windows apps, then the Surface Pro X really would make a decent stand-alone tablet thanks to its slim design, though to get the most out of it you really need to buy the keyboard as well.
Overall, if the performance promised (3 x that of a Surface Pro 6) is actually delivered, then the Surface Pro X could be a pretty impressive evolution of the Surface Pro and renders the Surface Pro 7 a little redundant. If Microsoft needed a 'hero' device to showcase its Surface range then the Surface Pro X is it.
It's just a shame that its launch was a little overshadowed by Surface Duo and Surface Neo.
Photos: Roland Moore-Colyer
Additional words: Dan Grabham