I want to do a review focusing on what makes the Surface Pro 7 (et al.,) special. Why do people swear by it, not at it, and buy it in droves despite a hefty premium price? And make no mistake, the Surface series is the most successful and iconic Windows-based, portable device ever made.
7 has a long heritage since 2012
Pro 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
RT, 2 and 3 (and now X – an ARM processor version)
Laptop 1, 2, 3
Book 1 and 2
Studio 1 and 2
Hub 1, 2, and 3
Why do we love hybrid tablets?
Aussie research analysts Telsyte found 1.44 million tablets were shipped in 2019, and a total of 3.9M Australians are now using a 2-in-1 (tablet with detachable keyboard) where Windows dominates with 65% market. Surface has most of the Windows market.
The figures show an almost complete move to laptops and hybrid tablets over desktop PCs and Macs.
So, what makes Surface 7 so special?
To answer that, let’s start in October 2012 when Microsoft gave birth to the original Surface. It had a 10-inch, 3:2 format, touch screen, mag-alloy body and ran Windows RT. Very few people realised it ran on an ARM processor.
Still, it was the first Windows Surface ‘tablet’. RT stood for ‘Real Time’, not ‘ReTreat’ as many anti-Windows wops called it. It was Microsoft’s bold move to test the waters of the low-cost end of the mostly non-existent Windows tablet market.
I know many owners who were still using it five years later, precisely as Microsoft wanted – as a vehicle for Office productivity and content consumption. I (well, my family) had an RT that finally died due to battery issues in 2017 – very well made. It was not the misstep that the wops called it but provided proof-of-concept for the Surface Pro 1 running Windows 8.1 in February 2013.
Surface Pro 1 – 10”, i5-3317U, 4/64 – ahead of its time for 2013!
I was at the launch and was fascinated at the tablet that ‘could replace a laptop’. Of course, you needed to buy (and still do) the keyboard (Type Cover), mouse (the screen was touch) and Stylus (Pen) separately, and we journalists had a field day on the inordinate cost of those. Nothing has changed.
But back in 2013, there were no mainstream Windows tablets with USB-A and mini-DisplayPort that could work in a 2-in-1 (tablet or desktop) mode. I will never forget running a Surface and Surface dock with two external monitors, a printer, various USB devices and acting as a network server to several other Surface Pros at the huge conferences we ran at that time. Amazing.
was still going strong until its battery died last year. We replaced it with a
10” Surface Go (great handbag/travel size, yes with full-fat Windows and just
as much connectivity as the larger 12’’ Surface Pros).
Today I use a Surface Pro 4 (circa October 2015) as my daily drive at my Central Coast home/office; my wife uses a Surface Pro 5 (circa June 2017) as hers. We both use the excellent Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro dock (the only other dock with the Surface Ribbon connector approved for Surface Pro). Both have never missed a beat, and we expect them to last for at least another five years. In a tri-monitor set-up, the Surface Pro is hard to beat for productivity.
BTW – I bought each of the kidaults a Surface Pro Book (circa October 2015) as their daily drive.
The Book (now in 13.3 and 15″) has a separate NVIDIA GeForce GTZ 965M GPU, larger screen 13.5” clipboard screen and dual batteries. They need the extra power, battery and GPU for study, games and entertainment and again I expect a great life out of them.
So why did I choose Surface Pro as a daily drive?
3.2 format touch screen is vastly
better for displaying Office documents – productivity
An excellent ‘reference’ quality display
that is easy on the eye with accurate sRGB colours, brightness and sharpness
A build quality and mag-alloy
chassis that cannot be beaten – mandatory if you travel
Great cooling so no throttling
Offers a tablet for travel and a desktop
for the office as well as some LTE options
Regularly updated (as well as
A stylus (when I need it) for
PowerPoint and Skype
Can lay back to 160° to a studio
Meets my productivity needs for
I can still use the original TypeCovers,
stylus and docks
Windows Hello is a natural way to
number one reason is convenience – use it anywhere with that excellent kickstand.
What I am
not so enamoured with
Until now, one USB-A and mini-DisplayPort means you need to invest in the Surface Dock ($299) or Kensington Dock ($499), BUT the new Surface Pro 7 has a USB-C port at the expense of the mini-DisplayPort – it should have had Thunderbolt 3 with the 10th gen Intel processor.
And Windows ‘privacy’ needs a lot of work – use ShutUp10 – what Windows should have had in the first place
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – the best Surface Pro ever designed by Microsoft?
Well, duh. I am continually amused when Apple CEO Tim Cook invariably stands up
and says, “This is the best iPhone, iPad, MacBook, watch, pod, … that Apple has
ever made”. In fact, there are over 1 billion references to this well-worn
cliché on the web. Well – you could not expect Cook to tell it like it is, “We
have managed to reduce cost, increase prices, and recycle all our old tech, so
our ARPU (Average Revenue Per EWE – sheep) allows us to make even more money.”
I have scoured the web, and Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella does not appear to make such self-serving and well-crafted statements. In fact, I learnt that he has been voted the best boss in the US, having turned around flailing and failing Microsoft since 2014. BTW: Tim Cook does not get a look in on the top 10 list (OK, he is at #12).
In the 2019 US Top 100 companies’ reputation list Microsoft is at #31, Samsung #52, Intel #58, Dell #66, HP #67, IBM #98, with Apple nowhere to be found.
And in the FAANG (TrustRadius 2019 reputation ratings), we see Facebook at (5%) trust, Amazon (25%), Apple (27%), Netflix (?) and Google (29%). All have all taken a massive nosedive in the past year, with 43% saying they don’t trust any with privacy or ethics.
this is the best Surface ever made – Microsoft would not be stupid enough to
make a worse one!
According to JB Hi-Fi and Sydney Microsoft Store staff, the simple answer to why people are buying Surface is
First time buyers – reputation over
price is everything. Once they are interested, they stop looking at anything
For repeat buyers – Microsoft has done
a consistently excellent job, more so that the companies that have multiple
niche market sub-brands that confuse the market. They are Surface devotees.
Microsoft state that Surface Pro 7 is a significant update
in speed from Surface Pro 6 (8th Gen Intel Core) – up to 2.3x times
What we like is that for the right user, the i3 offers a lower
entry price point for not much downside.
Passmark (CPU – higher is better) – and sorry these figures
do not support Microsoft’s claim of 2.3x faster than the Surface Pro 6.
Graphics – PASS (i3) EXCEED (i5/i7)
Intel UHD (on i3) and Iris Plus (on i5/i7). Note that the
Iris Plus drivers for Windows are not complete yet and we expect that the
Compute Score will reach over 10,000.
Geekbench 5.0 OpenCL (higher is better)
RAM – PASS
A pet hate is RAM soldered to the motherboard – it is not
The new Surface Pro 7 has faster LPDDR4x in 4GB (for i3
only), 8 and 16GB (Pro 6 was LPDDR3).
Five years ago, 4GB was excessive – today it’s the minimum
you need for reasonable Windows performance. So, my advice is if the i3
processor is all you need that 4GB is fine. Otherwise buy the i5, 8GB/128GB i5
and use the micro-SDXC slot to add 200/400GB (or more) for around $50/90.
SSD – PASS
128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of storage.
The 256GB (tested) is PCIe NVMe 3.0 x 4 lanes. It is an
HFB1M8MO331C0MR 256 – an M.2 2230 made by Toshiba/Kioxia. But M.2 2230 from SK
Hynix is also used. We understand that this may be upgradeable but cannot
confirm – it was soldered in on the Surface 6.
Crystal Disk Mark (Higher is better)
Surface Pro 7
256GB M.2 2230
Surface Pro 6 (soldered)
Surface Pro 5 (soldered)
Surface Laptop 3
Used similar M.2 2230
What this means is a slightly faster boot over the Surface
Ports – USB-C but what generation? PASS
We have tested and yes it is USB-C Gen 3.1 Gen 2 or 10Gbps and PD 3.0. You can read more about our USB standards for Dummies here.
We will try to clear this up but take any reference to dual
[email protected] support as suspect. If anything, it may be that it is Gen 2 but
supports the DP1.4 standard and cables and monitor support are scarce.
The USB-A port is 3.0 Gen 1 (5Gbps) and supports 5V/2A (not
It also has a Surface Connector that is for power (65W) and
data (5Gbps), a Type Cover pogo pin port, and it still has a 3.5mm combo audio.
We can’t find any difference between the Surface 6 Pen – it has
4096 pressure levels, tilt sensing, .1mm precision and extremely low latency
for the pen on paper feel.
Now I own pens for all my Surfaces (is that Surfi?), and while they are excellent at what they do (draw, annotation etc.), I guess that as an occasional user Windows Ink app works for me. There are 35 other apps (many free or freemium) that I will be sure to try out if the artistic urge ever bites.
Other Surface Pro 7 features (over Surface Pro 6)
Better dual far-field mics – they now work
across the room, but I never call Cortana or Alexa
Magnetometer added (that is a digital compass to
Comms – EXCEED
Wi-Fi AX 2 x 2 MIMO (Was Wi-Fi AC)
BT 5.0 (was BT 4.2)
USB-C 3.1 Gen 2
It gets 1.2Gbps at 2 meters from our reference NETGEAR AX12
Battery – 47.850Wh
MS estimates that it will have 10.5 hours ‘typical device
usage’ against the Surface Pro 6 of 13.5 hours local video playback
(not a fair comparison)
Tests (in the short time we had for a review these are at best
8.5 hours of battery life in light usage
(Office, Wi-Fi, browsing)
3.5 hours 100% load
6 hours 1080p video loop, 50% screen and aeroplane
The 60W power supply with a USB-A (5V/1A 5W) supports Fast
Charge (0-80% in just over one hour). We found that it took just over two hours
to fill. The battery settings (power versus battery life) were accurate, and we
could have eked a little more time out.
5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p full HD
8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p
full HD video
Windows Hello facial recognition uses the infrared camera
next to the webcam. It seems a lot faster – flip down the Type Cover, and it is
Keyboard – PASS
The new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover has 1.3mm of key
travel and 50g actuation – a little less than the Surface Pro 5/6 (which also
fits). It is one of the better portable
keyboards although there is a little flex (keyboard bounce) for my liking
I use a Brydge for Surface Pro at $199.99 (Review here) that provides 1.5mm travel and 65g actuation although it adds a few grams.
Sound – PASS but lagging
Same as Surface Pro 6 and 5 – 2x 1.6W stereo ‘Omnisonic’ speakers with Dolby Audio
Dolby Audio Premium is in the
Realtek Audio Console and defaults to 16-bit/48000Hz. The only issue is that
this is quieter than the Surface 6 – about 72dB versus 84dB. Sound signature
wise the Surface Pro 7 is mid-centric, and the Pro 6 is Bright Vocal (courtesy
of Dolby Audio Premium).
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – none
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – none
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – gently building to
Low-mid: 200-400Hz – flat
Mid: 400-1000Hz – flat
High-mid: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat
Treble:4-6kHz – declining from 5kHz
High Treble: 6-10kHz – declining
Dog whistle: 10-20kHz – drop off the cliff at 10kHz
This is mid-centric for clear voice/Skype (bass recessed,
mid boosted, treble recessed). Now that is not too bad – not for movies or music.
But the lack of an EQ in the Microsoft Store to at least try
to get more bass or treble is puzzling.
Fortunately, BT 5.0 SBC codec provides reasonably volume to
BT speakers and our reference Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones.
With many other Ultrabook’s offering 80dB and full EQ
control its time Microsoft paid attention to this.
Build – EXCEED in most respects
Unibody magnesium-alloy design with hidden
Colours: Platinum, Matte Black
RAM soldered to the motherboard – FAIL
Kickstand with a full-friction hinge to 160°
You cannot fault the precision build and quality materials, although
our friends at iFixit may believe otherwise.
GadgetGuy’s take – Surface Pro 7 has evolved – still best in class, but what is next?
Surface Pro 7 is evolution, not revolution. I love Surface Pro, but I now feel sorry for it compared to the next generation Intel Project Athena 2-in-ones, x360 5-in-ones, and laptops.
Samsung is pitting its Galaxy Book2, challenging the Surface Pro X (ARM) and Athena based Galaxy Book Ion and Flex.
So, in many ways, I see the current Surface Pro 7 as the end of the line. Perhaps not in shape or basic design cues, but it needs to catch up with current technology.
need to ask the fundamental reason Microsoft makes Surface. Microsoft
execs have repeatedly said that it isn’t in the business of selling hardware simply
for its own sake. It invests in making its own hardware in the name of
expanding the Windows ecosystem by creating new device categories. It then
encourages its Windows partners to do better.
The Surface started the Windows tablet category. It has that
first to market advantage that if it is careful, it will be able to build on.
And yes, I
am a Surface devotee.
Windows Surface Pro 7
Value for money
Ease of Use
Best full-fat Windows tablet hybrid
USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 data and charge
Very loyal user base
Not sure how much more evolution we will stand before we demand revolution
Expensive options to make it a desktop replacement