Microsoft's new Surface Pro 8 tablet can actually go toe-to-toe with most ultraportables. It features a 13-inch PixelSense screen, a significant upgrade from the previous 12.3-inch display. Even better, it's one of the first non-gaming notebooks we've seen that supports a 120Hz refresh rate, which makes scrolling through web pages and jotting down notes a lot smoother. And of course, it's built with Windows 11 in mind.
Together with some of Intel's latest 11th-gen processors, as well as long-awaited support for Thunderbolt 4, the Surface Pro 8 could tempt over potential buyers who were turned off by the limitations of previous models. As much as I've liked earlier Surface Pros, the last model made it clear that Microsoft seriously needed to change things up.
Personally, I'm just glad to see those chunky Surface bezels fade away. Over the last decade, Dell, ASUS and most other PC makers have focused on shaving down borders to cram in larger displays. Microsoft proved it could do that with the Surface Pro X, but that refined design has been absent from the standard Surface line until now. The new 13-inch edge-to-edge Pixelsense touchscreen is 11 percent larger, 12.5 percent brighter and sports a 10.8 percent higher resolution, according to Microsoft. There are still some noticeable bezels along the top and front of the Surface Pro 8, but at least they're not unsightly (and they could be useful for holding it in portrait mode).
The Surface Pro 8 is also a major step forward under the hood: It can be equipped with up to a quad-core Intel Core i7-1185G7, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. The LTE model caps out at 512GB of storage, but you've also got the option of plugging in a 128GB or 256GB removable SSD at the bottom of the case. That's certainly a better option than the microSD card slot previous models had.
Microsoft claims the Surface Pro 8 is more than twice as fast as the Pro 7, something you can attribute both to that new Intel CPU and the improved Intel Xe graphics on the i5 and i7 models. You can expect 74 percent faster sustained graphics performance, as well as 40 percent better sustained CPU performance. Of course, we'll have to run our own benchmarks to confirm those figures.
Thankfully, the Surface Pro 8 finally supports Thunderbolt 4 on its two USB-C ports. That means you'll be able to connect fast external hard drives, several 4K external monitors or even an external GPU. As for other updates, the rear camera is now 10MP instead of 8MP, and it also supports 4K video. The front-facing camera is still 5MP with 1080p video, but it should offer better low-light performance. As for battery life, Microsoft says the Pro 8 should last up to 16 hours, a leap ahead of the estimated 10.5 on the Pro 7. You'll also be able to charge it up to 80 percent in over an hour.
While it's not a huge step up, I'll be interested to see how well the new Surface Slim Pen 2 works on the Pro 8's 120Hz screen. Microsoft's tablets have always offered some of the best digital inking around, but a faster screen should make jotting down notes feel even more like putting pen to paper. The Slim Pen 2 also features a haptic motor for realistic feedback, and it can be seamlessly tucked (and charged) in the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard.
And no, Microsoft still isn't bundling any of its keyboard covers with the Surface Pro 8. The new tablet is also slightly heavier than the Pro 7, clocking in at 1.96 pounds instead of 1.7. That may seem like a marginal difference, but it's something you'll feel in your wrist if you're actually using it as a tablet.
With a larger and more responsive screen, as well as more power, the Surface Pro 8 could be a serious competitor with ultraportables like Dell's XPS 13. We've also seen other PC makers attempt to make hybrid devices like the Surface, but none of them have surpassed Microsoft's hardware. Perhaps now, with even better hardware and a shiny new OS, Microsoft can finally convince more people to take a chance on the Surface Pro.
The Surface Pro 8 will start at $1,100 and is available to pre-order today. It'll be on sale with the rest of the Surface lineup on Windows 11's launch date, October 5th.
Follow all of the news from Microsoft's fall Surface event right here.