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Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Review : The King’s New Clothes | Tech Reviews

Microsoft Surface Pro 8: The King’s New Clothes | Tech Reviews

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Microsoft’s Surface Pro series is considered the gold standard of Windows convertibles, but various tech reviews reveal it has lacked real innovations in recent years. With the Surface Pro 8, that changes fundamentally. We tell you why.

Pros & Cons

  • Form factor
  • Improved, fast touch display
  • Cameras
  • Performance
  • Outstanding speakers
  • SSD interchangeable
  • Battery life
  • Relatively slow PCIe SSD
  • Type Cover & Surface Pen II not included
Finally. The Surface Pro 8 not only has the look of the ARM model Surface Pro X , but also all sorts of features that fans of the series have been asking for for years. In addition to a new 120Hz display, you now get Thunderbolt 4, Intel’s latest Tiger Lake processors with an improved graphics unit and even an easily upgradeable SSD.

But the most exciting innovation is actually the form factor: With narrow display bezels and a directly stowable Surface Pen, the Surface Pro 8 finally doesn’t look like a tablet from 2019 anymore. Nevertheless, the basic principle has remained the same. So you still get a full Windows PC with the portability of a tablet. Unfortunately, the essential accessories Type Cover and Surface Pen II are still not part of the scope of delivery.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Type Cover closed

Only they transform the “tablet” Surface Pro 8 into a fully-fledged 2-in-1 convertible that can also be used for drawing in graphics applications. For the keyboard and the pen you have to shell out a whopping 280 euros at the moment. After a while, however, bundles of the Surface Pro with the input devices are often sold.

Technical details

Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Display 13 inch IPS, 2880 x 1920 pixels, 3:2 format, 10-point multi-touch, Corning Gorilla Glass
CPU Intel Core™ i5-1135G7 CPU
Intel Core™ i7-1185G7 CPU
Graphics Intel Iris™ Xe Plus Graphics 950
Storage 128GB | 256 GB | 512 GB | 1 TB PCIe-NVMe-SSD
Ports, Connectivity
& Cameras
Surface connector, 2x USB-C 4.0 (Thunderbolt 4), WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
5MP front camera (1080p video) with Windows Hello detection, 10MP camera (rear) with 4K30FPS video function
OS Windows 11 Home
Battery 50.2 Wh
Dimensions 28.70 cm width x 20.80 cm height x 0.90 cm depth
Weight 0.889 kg (without Type-Cover)
Housing Anodized aluminum, volume rocker,
2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos ®
Two far-field studio microphones
Colours Platinum (Silver) | Graphite (Black)
Price* from €1,179 (Core™ i5 | 128GB)
from € 1,679 (Core™ i7 | 256GB as tested)
+ Surface Type Cover & Surface Pen II
 Black ( €276.99 ) or Platinum ( €279.99 ) * at the time of research


Design, processing: form factor new and better.

As THE Windows convertible, the Surface Pro series has had increasing competition over the last few years, but it was still able to rest a bit on its position as a benchmark device – after all, Microsoft saw no reason for design changes for a long time. This is now over , because visually the new Surface Pro 8 is reminiscent of the ARM device Surface Pro X. We had already wished for this look from the previous generation, but even in 2021 narrow display edges and a larger screen simply look much more modern.

On the other hand, not much has changed in terms of the outstanding workmanship and quality of the materials. Furthermore, the Surface Pro looks as if a euphoric Steve Ballmer had milled it out of a piece of aluminum. The kickstand also hangs on a continuous hinge and gives the impression of being able to withstand a hurricane.

So the tablet stands stable on the table, but can also be easily placed on your legs. Thanks to the low weight of less than 900 grams, it doesn’t get annoying even after a long time.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 back side with Type Cover

Our test model comes in chic “platinum”, which can best be described as silver. Alternatively, the Surface Pro 8 is also available in matt black, aka “Graphite”. Personally, I would have opted for the latter, but the silver version also looks good with its magnesium alloy and is also quite insensitive to fingerprints.

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Input devices & cameras: Simply the best.

While the Surface Type Cover and Surface Pen II are officially optional extras, they are included with the purchase of a Surface Pro. Because only with them you can elicit all the functions of the Microsoft “tablet”. The new keyboard now has a slight bulge on one side, in which the Surface Pen can also be hidden. In addition, it is also loaded in this one – nice.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Whiteboard Surface Pen II FB

Sounds trivial, but fits the positive overall picture: The pen is taken out of its charging bay by slightly pulling down the type cover. Everything slides into position magnetically and sits perfectly. Writing with the pen is also really fun and the slightly wider fit ensures that even larger hands can use it comfortably.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Surface Pen II Ladebay Blog

With a click on the end facing you, you can open the Microsoft Whiteboard and edit all sorts of notes, projects and more by hand. You can also use this page – in compatible applications – to erase. Thanks to the fine, pressure-sensitive tip, artistic work is also possible – as long as your own talent allows it. In addition, the Surface Pen II now has a vibration motor that gives you more sensory feedback when writing and drawing. A small but subtle difference that further improves operation.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Surface Closed MS Logo

In terms of material, little has changed for the type cover either, because Microsoft is once again using Alcantara, a kind of artificial suede. This feels good as usual and is dirt-resistant in the long run. The typing feel has been slightly revised and now looks much crisper. The keys have a slightly higher drop and sit firmly in the case. Long texts are also very easy to write on the detachable keyboard. Of course, such a narrow keyboard sometimes bends when typing harder, but the general typing feel is just right here and doesn’t have to hide from high-quality ultrabooks.

The touchpad could be a bit bigger for my taste, but it reacts very precisely and also has a velvety glass feel.

One thing Microsoft did well on previous generations was the webcam. Many Windows laptops have the cheapest 720p cameras that turn every Zoom meeting into a pixelated mess. The Surface Pro 8, on the other hand, has a 5MP camera installed at the front, the images of which can literally be seen. In addition, the front cam has improved a bit compared to the Surface Pro 7 . In good and bad light conditions, it provides a solid picture with a decent dynamic range.

The front camera takes better pictures than the entire (Windows) competition, even in poor light.
The 10MP main camera also snaps usable photos.
Although they don’t come close to the iPad Pro, they are still at a good level.

There is also a 10-megapixel camera on the back, which is even good for taking snapshots. Even 4K recordings with 30 frames per second are possible with it. The photos and videos are of decent quality, but don’t come close to current smartphones – but it’s still a nice feature that opens up some exciting possibilities. Books and other documents can be photographed and then notes can be taken with the Surface Pen.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Surface Kamera IG

By the way, you can also use the front camera to register quickly. A Windows Hello recognition scans your face via infrared and only takes a fraction of a second to show you the desktop after folding away the type cover.

Connections: USB-C and FINALLY Thunderbolt 4

In contrast to the Surface Pro 7 , you have to do without USB type A, but something has made it into the Pro 8 that the Surface community has been waiting for for a long time: Thunderbolt 4 finally ensures extremely fast transfer rates and future security. Because you can also attach an eGPU to the Surface Pro 8 via one of the two USB-C 4.0 ports. This allows you to turn the small tablet into a real gaming machine. For most people, however, the much more common use will be to connect very fast SSDs. Multiple screens can also be supplied with a high-resolution image via the USB-C ports, up to two 4K60 monitors.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 USB C Thunderbolt 4 FB

Of course, (fast) loading is also possible via the interface. The supplied power adapter, on the other hand, works via the Surface Connector on the underside. You can also use this to connect a large number of docking stations .

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 side Thunderbolt 4 IG

A combination jack connection provides a wired connection to your system, a microphone or headphones. You can find out more about this under Sound. Due to the versatility of the USB-C connections, one can hardly criticize the rationalization of USB-A, because the options for expansion are now so much greater.

Touch display in 3:2 format: sharper, brighter, faster

The Surface Pro’s screen is probably the most obvious design change: it’s 0.5″ larger and now has a refresh rate of 120Hz. In order to gain battery life, however, Microsoft has set it to 60Hz as standard. A small excursion into the display settings changes that and ensures extremely smooth scrolling.

Surface Pro 8 refresh rate 120Hz refresh rate

In addition, the resolution of the Pro 8 increases to an impressive 2880×1920 pixels. Content is extremely sharp and individual pixels can only be seen with a magnifying glass.

Subjectively, the screen makes a damn good impression. If you haven’t had a device with a 3:2 format in front of you before, you won’t want to do without the gained workspace up and down after a short time. You usually only have black bars in videos, but websites, Excel documents and other applications are displayed better.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Whiteboard IG

The colors look harmonious and well-saturated, the viewing angles are extremely wide due to the IPS technology, and the white point and contrast also seem to be right. Of course, we also wanted objective values, so we let our Spyder X Elite loose on the convertible.

Microsoft gives the Surface Pro 8 two color profiles: “Vivid” and “sRGB”. As the name suggests, the latter is adjusted to the sRGB color space, which is used in many online applications and games. Vivid, on the other hand, covers another color space and thus represents the maximum potential of the IPS panel.

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Microsoft has also adjusted the maximum brightness of the touchscreen. An average of 502.3 nits is on a good level and is also enough for a trip to the park. In the blazing sun – for whatever reason you should work in it all the time – you will be able to admire your own reflection on the shiny surface of the panel.

Overall, the screen of the Surface Pro 8 is a real generation upgrade and finally state-of-the-art in terms of refresh rate, colors and brightness.

Software: Clean Windows 11 with minor startup problems

On the software side, the Surface appears clean as usual, but with minor snags. Like its predecessors, it contains hardly any useless bloatware, but offers you a pure Windows operating system. But since it is the brand new Windows 11, not everything is running smoothly.

The screenshot creator “Snipping Tool” and other software did not initially work because of a Windows bug. Apparently a certificate had expired, which some Windows programs probably needed. Only signing up for the Windows Insider Program and updating to the latest beta version of Windows 11 fixed the problem. With the new Windows version, however, Microsoft is really anxious to quickly repair all teething problems. If you read this test one to two months after publication, a lot of things should already be ironed out.

Surface Pro Windows Insider Preview

Visually, the new Windows is much more reminiscent of Apple’s MacOS. The taskbar has now moved to the middle and shows you the currently open programs with a small dot on the icon. This takes a little getting used to, but it’s not a bad thing in itself and simply looks more modern. As an old Windows fan, the only thing that bothered me at first was that the context menu is now only displayed in a simplified way by default. If you click on “Show more options” you will only be offered the full version.

Surface Pro 8 context menu right mouse button

I understand that some users are overwhelmed by the many options in the context menu, but can’t you just ask them their preference during Windows setup? For me and other Windows users, the now two-step process complicates some work steps. Luckily you can restore the older context menu with a bit of tinkering in the options. Despite the criticism, Windows 11 is a step in the right direction for Microsoft. Stylish, modern – and probably faster, as the first comparisons show .

Performance – Strong in applications and even suitable for limited gaming

Tablets and performance is something that almost all of the Surface Pro’s competitors have to compromise on. Too much heat (and thus energy) must not be produced in a small space. However, the Surface Pro 8 again comes with powerful Intel processors including an integrated graphics unit, which are otherwise more likely to be found in high-end ultrabooks. And the performance is correspondingly right.

Surface Pro 8 Overview HWInfo

With the Intel Core i7-1185G7 tested here, you can calculate your way through Adobe Photoshop in no time at all and you won’t have any problems working on several RAW files at the same time. In other words, the Intel Core i5 should be sufficient for most users for everyday tasks.

Especially since it has an identical graphics unit to the Core i7. The latter iGPU has made a very big leap compared to the previous generation and is roughly on par with an Nvidia MX350. With the “inconspicuous” Surface Tablet, you can even play complex games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider smoothly in the lowest settings.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 SotTR Benchmark

All in all, the Surface Pro 8 still has a big performance leap. On the other hand, there were hardly any improvements in the built-in Samsung SSD: With read rates of around 2.2 GB/s, it places itself in the middle of the tested models. However, the writing speed is at the lower end of the scale. This isn’t wild, because unless you’re constantly moving huge amounts of files, you’ll hardly notice the difference to a faster model. In addition, the SSD can also be replaced at a later date.

Emissions – Silent sovereignty

Microsoft has opted for the motto “calm before temperature” for the fan profile of the Surface Pro 8. The built-in fan is therefore only rarely audible, even in the “Best performance” profile. This makes the Surface Pro 8 perfect for the train ride, the library or simply for concentrated work. You don’t notice the heat produced in laptop or table mode, as it is dissipated to the side and top. All in all, a very successful solution.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 air vents emissions

When idle, the temperature is just 35 degrees, which even many larger laptops can’t beat. The processor is designed for 28W-35W in this normal mode, but allows brief excursions into a power limit (II) of up to 57W.

In some cases, the CPU temperatures skyrocket up to 99 degrees under extreme load. From here the fan comes into play more noticeably and tames the Tiger Lake chip – together with a lower clock – to about 80 degrees within a few seconds. Since the CPU can easily withstand temperatures of up to 105 degrees, you don’t have to worry too much about something breaking. The cooling system of the Surface Pro 8 always remains sovereign.

Battery – Enduring

In our battery test, we set the Surface Pro 8 to around 48% brightness, which equates to roughly 100 nits. This is easily sufficient for most purposes, such as image editing or surfing the Internet. “Recommended” was used as the energy status.

Surface Pro power management

With this setting, the Pro 8 managed between eight and ten hours without having to visit a socket – a good value that makes it an extremely reliable companion. With intensive programs, the battery level melts faster, of course. In about 50 minutes, however, it is 60% full again.

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Upgrading is finally easier – but still not that easy

You don’t necessarily expect upgrade options with a tablet. But Microsoft has also listened to the fans here and installed a maintenance flap for a 2230 SSD in the Pro 8. “2230?” Many will now ask themselves. Yep, the Surface Pro 8 relies on a fairly uncommon SSD format, which unfortunately isn’t that easy to get on the open market. To remove the cover you need a needle or a SIM card key from a smartphone. Simply press this into the small recess and the SSD of the Surface will appear.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 SSD Upgrade FB

As expected, the rest of the Pro 8 is glued and should only be pried open by absolute professionals.

“Invisible” speakers the new Ultrabook reference?

The very rich Windows sound surprised me as soon as I set it up. So first turn on the reference track and see what the Surface Pro 8 – which doesn’t have any speakers on the outside – can do. And really: The speakers are close to the Ultrabook reference. Placed on a table, you even get a bass foundation, no frequency range is out of line and overdrives uncomfortably. After closer inspection, the loudspeakers reveal themselves. Their openings are almost imperceptibly in the upper frame of the Surface Pro 8. Their sound doesn’t need to hide.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Back Side Blog

The mids are solid, have sufficient volume for voices and stand out well from the rest of the soundscape. All in all, despite the narrow form factor, you get a differentiated stereo image. This is noticeable in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, for example, when crickets start chirping in the jungle next to the Surface’s outer sides. Although the speakers of the 13-inch MacBook Pro are half a class above those of the Surface Pro 8, it also weighs significantly more. For the form factor offered here, the sound is simply really strong – and also clearly beats large Windows laptops.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Headphone Out Speaker

The 3.5mm jack connection was also a positive surprise, since it was able to bring even power-hungry headphones to an acceptable volume. Although the Hifiman magnetostats sounded a bit thin in the low-frequency range, the result is still better than most of the competitors.

All in all, Microsoft manages to uphold the ideal of the series with the Surface Pro 8 and once again bring a reference product for Windows fans onto the market. This is the optimal solution for anyone looking for the best Windows device in tablet form factor.

Phase: Surface Pro 8

The Surface Pro 8 is aimed at people who don’t want to compromise. So it’s sort of Microsoft’s answer to Apple devices. That means you get the best impression, the highest quality materials, lots of performance and desktop power in a tablet form factor. The big competitor with the apple has no answer to the latter. The iPad Pro is only available with a slimmed down iPadOS, while the Surface Pro offers a full Windows 11.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Endbild

Microsoft has also done its homework in other respects and fulfilled many of the wishes of Surface fans. You finally get a modern display with a high refresh rate and additional color space coverage, which you can already use in the delivery state for professional work in the sRGB color space. The Surface Pen II is now also integrated in the type cover and no longer flies through the backpack.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Surface Pen II Ladebay

At just 0.9cm thick, the Pro 8 is still the most portable way to carry a really high-performance Windows PC around. If you are also looking for a tablet and a writing instrument for creative work, the Surface Pro 8 is the right choice. But the switch can also be worthwhile for Ultrabook fans. The good display, the best integrated cameras of a Windows laptop and the excellent speakers literally make most of the competition look old.

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Unfortunately, getting started with the full user experience of the Surface Pro is still not cheap. The price of the tested version – including the Surface Type Cover and Surface Pen II – is currently* €1958.99. For this money, the Surface really does compete with the absolute top ultrabooks, such as the Razer Book 13 or the Dell XPS 13 . Although some of them are slightly faster, they do not offer the versatile input and usage options of the Surface Pro.

If you want to enter the Surface world a little cheaper, then the model with Core i5 is a good alternative. It performs just under 10% less than the top model, but with future-proof 16 GB RAM it is also €200 cheaper. And do explore more tech reviews here.

A full time tech enthusiast with a passion for writing. Religiously follow everything new happening in the tech world and share my two cents with my audience here.

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