Microsoft Surface Pro 8 for business: a true love letter

Over the past few years here at ZDNet, I’ve written a lot on my iPad Pro. It’s my work machine for typing, sorting inbox, and bouncing between Slack and Discord.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

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But even though the iPad has been a staple in my workflow for the past decade, I’m getting tired of using overwhelmed hardware with software that still doesn’t live up to its potential. Hopefully, the iPadOS 16 announcement next month will add, at the very least, true external display support and better accessory support.

Over the past few months, I’ve tried several devices, mostly Windows laptops, in an attempt to find something to replace my iPad Pro. Surface Laptop Studio is fast, powerful, and fun to use, but it lacks 4G technology and is bulky compared to the iPad Pro. I’ve used the iPad Pro intermittently since its release and the form factor is great, but the lack of full support for Microsoft’s slow transition to ARM by third-party apps results in slow performance.

I then tested a Surface Pro 8 4G. In fact, this model is more specifically called the Surface Pro 8 for business.

A renewed surface … in a sense

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Jason Cipriani / ZDNet

When Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 8 in September 2021, the company showed off a completely new design for the Surface Pro line. In fact, it’s not a new design, but the same overall design as the Surface Pro X. Placing the Pro X alongside to the Pro 8, the only noticeable difference I can immediately see is that the Pro 8 is thicker than the Pro X. Otherwise, they are identical.

The Pro 8’s PixelSense display has a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, responds to touch, and can be used with a Surface Pen.

The built-in kickstand allows you to change the viewing angle of the Pro 8’s screen, even by placing it almost flat on a table – an ideal location for drawing or writing with the Surface Pen.

On the right side of the Pro 8’s case is a Surface Connect port and two Thunderbolt 4 ports for connecting external displays, hard drives, or using any USB-C accessory. Just above the Pro 8’s only two ports is the power button. The left side of the case features a 3.5mm headphone jack and volume up / down buttons.

Above the screen, you’ll find a 5-megapixel camera and all the necessary facial recognition hardware to use Windows Hello to unlock Pro 8 or access apps.

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Jason Cipriani / ZDNet

When you open the kickstand, you will find a small door in the lower left corner of the Pro 8 case. You will need to use a SIM card tool or paper clip to press into the small hole to eject the cover. Under the lid is the Pro 8’s SSD storage – which you can swap and replace yourself – as well as the SIM card slot.

There’s no need to use a physical SIM card thanks to the Pro 8’s eSIM support, but as I often switch from Pro X to iPad Pro, I already had a dedicated SIM card.

The box contains the Pro 8 and a charger that uses the Surface Connect port. If you don’t feel like carrying the included charger with you, you can use one of the USB-C / Thunderbolt 4 ports to charge your tablet.

What you won’t find in the box is a stylus or keyboard. Instead, you will need to purchase them separately. If you’re a longtime Surface user, I have bad news for you: previous Surface keyboards won’t work on the Pro 8.

You have three different options for equipping your new tablet with a keyboard, turning it into a 2-in-1. You can choose the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard (€ 177), the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with fingerprint reader (a little more expensive) or the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard combined with the Slim Pen 2 (€ 230).

I already had the combo kit, so that’s what I used during my tests.

Whichever keyboard you choose, they all have a Surface Slim Pen 2 slot above the keyboard. Once folded, the stylus rests on the bottom bezel of the Pro 8. The stylus charges wirelessly, so it’s always ready for use.

Overall, I love the design of the Pro 8. In fact, I found myself using it as a tablet more than the iPad Pro, simply because the kickstand is integrated into the case. There is no other cover or case I have to deal with. Is fantastic.

But can it replace an iPad Pro?

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Jason Cipriani / ZDNet

Inside the Surface Pro 8 I tested is an 11th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD. The computer was running Windows 11 Pro right out of the box.

One of the first things I did after setting up the Pro 8 was to enable the 120Hz refresh rate, instead of the standard 60Hz. Overall, I’m not sure if that’s entirely necessary on the Pro 8. Yes, that’s useful, but it comes at the expense of battery life.

I still haven’t reached the battery life estimate of 14 hours, even using the Pro 8 on Wi-Fi only. However, the Pro 8’s battery lasted as long as my iPad Pro’s, which usually equates to a working day of 8 hours, give or take an hour.

One thing that surprised me after using the Pro X and the iPad Pro and upgrading to the Pro 8 is the fact that the Pro 8 still has a fan. The Pro 8 is much thicker than the Pro X to make room for a cooling system. The fan is not loud, but it spins a lot, especially when I have the Pro 8 connected to an external display.

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Jason Cipriani / ZDNet

By the way, I connected the Pro 8 to a monitor for most of my tests. With the addition of Thunderbolt 4 support, I was able to use all the Thunderbolt 4 ports that I had on hand.

The ability to connect a tablet to an external display and make it work as it should is a huge boost in my productivity. I was able to open apps like Slack messaging and iCloud on the Pro 8’s screen, while typing in iA Writer on the large external display with multiple Edge tabs open.

When I work on my iPad Pro connected to a display, everything on the iPad screen is mirrored to the big screen. There are some apps that use Apple’s rudimentary API for external displays, but that’s not great.

Also, I have to resort to many workarounds to perform certain tasks on the iPad. For example, to post content on ZDNet, I often have to remotely log into my MacBook Pro and use Chrome to add images to an article, otherwise the content management system crashes. To be fair, this is a Safari problem that also exists on the Mac. However, I can use the real version of Chrome on a Mac and not a version of the WebKit renderer that Apple forces developers to use on iPhones and iPads.

I’m aware that the Pro 8 runs a full OS in Windows 11, while the iPad Pro runs a mobile-centric OS in iPadOS, but the devices are relatively the same size and target the same type of user. Prices are also close enough to warrant comparison.

The total cost of the Surface Pro 8 with 4G, as well as the Signature Keyboard Cover with Slim Pen, is around 2000 euros. The iPad Pro with 5G, 16 GB of memory, 1 TB of storage, Appeal’s Magic Keyboard with trackpad and an Apple Pencil costs more than 2500 euros.

There is still a lot that the iPad Pro does better

I admit, I’ve written what looks like a love letter to the Surface Pro 8 so far, but that’s because it truly deserves it. It’s a great 2-in-1 device that I really enjoyed using, but there are some areas where the iPad Pro is simply a better device.

I prefer to use Apple’s Mail app with my personal iCloud + domain rather than Thunderbird or the iCloud website to access my email. I also really enjoy writing on the iPad because there are far fewer distractions with just one app open and visible. I need to experiment more with using full screen Windows apps and Focus Assist to recreate a similar experience on Windows. It’s also a better tablet thanks to an interface designed for touch.

Another thing I like about my iPad Pro is that its performance is reliable and consistent. When I was using the Pro 8 with multiple apps open, there was sometimes a slight delay or pause before an app appeared after it was minimized. This problem was not specific to a single application; I have often come across Thunderbird, Discord and Slack.

In conclusion

After a few weeks of my iPad Pro sitting on a shelf, I started using it as my primary device again. But I’m already missing some features and things I could do on the Surface Pro 8 that I can’t do on the iPad Pro, like hooking up a webcam to live stream an event on 4G (which I recently did for my family members who don’t. were able to attend a funeral).

So, iPad or Surface Pro 8? For me, it will depend on what iPadOS 16 brings to the iPad or not. But for everyone else, if you’re torn between the Surface Pro 8 and the iPad Pro, I’ll say this: you can’t go wrong with either device. They are both great in their own right.

In the end, though, you get a full-fledged PC with the Surface Pro 8 and, currently, 80% of a PC with an iPad Pro.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 – Best Prices:

  • Rakuten

    979.89

  • Fnac market

    1007.00

  • Cdiscount market

    1036.97

  • Amazon market

    1110.94

  • Amazon

    1133.98

  • Baker

    1179.00

  • Shopping street

    1179.00

  • Darty

    1179.99

  • Fnac

    1179.99

  • LDLC

    1199.95

Source: “ZDNet.com”

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