Price (RRP): $from 1699 plus keyboard and pen
Microsoft describes the Surface Pro X as Xtraordinary. Yes, there are many Xcellent things about it, but you need to know that it runs Windows on an ARM processor. That Xtracts a toll that current Windows users need to know before they buy.
Surface Pro X is Microsoft’s vision of the future – small, light, great battery life, LTE, connectivity and a 13-inch screen in a small body. Samsung Galaxy Book 2, Lenovo and others have similar Windows on ARM (WOA) devices. Not to want to take away from Surface Pro X but it may pay to read the Samsung review after this.
Surface Pro X is an important device for Microsoft and Windows. First, it offers a viable Windows alternative to iPad iOS and iPad Pro. Ironically people expect more functionality from a Windows device and less from an iPad. Well, you can do almost everything on this device that you can’t do on an Android or iOS tablet.
And perhaps an alternative to ChromeOS. While price-wise it is not in the same ballpark, it is proof of concept that it can better ChromeOS devices.
Windows on ARM – the facts
It looks like Windows; it smells like Windows, and it feels like Windows.
It is a 32-bit ‘emulation’ of Windows called WOW64 running on a 64-bit ARM chip. In this case, the chip is a Microsoft/Qualcomm designed SQ1 based on the 7nm Qualcomm 8cx SoC. Microsoft claims two teraflops of GPU power, 9TOPS of AI power and an eight-Kryo-core 3GHz ARM.
Don’t put a lot of store in those figures – they are synthetic benchmarks. But it is impressive that all this comes from a low power 7W/15W TDP. The chip is not so much bang for buck as bang for battery life. And a smartphone SoC enables more efficient, fan-less cooling in a slimmer chassis.
What it will run
Surface Pro X will run much of what you want. Microsoft Office/Outlook 365 – pass. Most 32-bit x86 programs from Windows Store – pass.
Technically it runs 32-bit x86 (under emulation), and native ARM32, and ARM64 UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps from the Microsoft Store. On the whole, apps that do don’t seem to suffer from lag.
To repeat – Office 365, content (video) consumption and basic apps on a device that will give up to 13 hours ‘typical device usage’ battery life.
But it won’t run
- Most Anti-virus (apart from Windows Defender)
- VPNs (sorry no TAPI drivers yet)
- 64-bit x86 programs
- Monolithic programs like CAD or those requiring heavy vector graphics
- Database/statistical programs that need a co-processor
- Games using Open CL 1.2 or later
- A large number of USB devices that need WOA drivers
There is a compatibility troubleshooter but frankly, we find software runs, or it does not. But it can only get better as WOA is here to stay.
Rule Number One – horses for courses
The Surface Pro X is really a 13-inch ‘phone’ using advanced smartphone tech and running a version of Windows – as long as you go into the deal with eyes wide open, we have done our job.
Microsoft Surface Pro X
- 8/128 or 256GB $1699/2149
- 16/256 or 512GB $2449/2899
- Keyboard only $219.95
- Pen only $234.95
- Keyboard and Pen bundle $429.95
- Surface Dock $299.95
A Surface Pro on a diet. Rounded edges, thinner bezels and chassis. Familiar kickstand to 160°. 287 x 208 x 7.3mm x 774g and only in matte black aluminium finish.