Surface Pro 8 Review
In previous generations of the Surface line, the popular opinion seemed to be that people liked the design of the Surface Pro X, but wanted the beefier processor of the Intel version such as the Surface Pro 7. Well, thankfully, the Surface Pro 8 features the best of both worlds: the slim, sleek design of the “X” with the power of an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor.
The Surface Pro 8 features an aluminum exterior available in a new graphite color of which I’m a big fan. The kickstand is still located on the back and works great when using the Surface Pro 8 on a desk, but it’s less ideal for using on your lap since you need to keep your legs in the proper position to support the stand.
The power of the Intel Core i7 processor in the particular model I’m reviewing is definitely noticeable. Applications and web pages open in a flash and even ad-heavy websites don’t seem to bog down Edge or Chrome. The 16GB of RAM included in this model handles multiple browser tabs and applications with ease. Microsoft Word only takes about 1 second to load! The built-in 256GB SSD should be sufficient for most people, but note that it only had about 190GB of space available out of the box.
The display on the Surface Pro 8 is simply gorgeous. It has a 2880 x 1920 resolution with vivid colors and even features a 120Hz refresh rate, which can be reduced to 60Hz to prolong battery life. So while the display is not quite 4K, movies and videos still look great on this screen.
You’ll likely want to get the keyboard for the unit, so figure on adding a couple extra hundred dollars to the cost of the unit. The Surface Pro Keyboard with Slim Pen 2 is comfortable to type on, although it feels somewhat delicate due to its thinness, so if you need to write an angry email, don’t take it out on this keyboard. The built-in trackpad is responsive and works well for pointing, scrolling, and tapping. The keyboard also includes a space to store the Slim Pen 2 in the section that normally faces up against the tablet, so you can be sure the pen doesn’t fall out. The Slim Pen 2 works well for doodling or marking up a PDF, and there is an adjustable tactile engine for the pen that can make it “feel” like you’re writing on paper (although, I had to adjust the tactile feedback to the max of 100 to really notice it).
Even the webcam and microphone perform much better than your typical Windows laptop, which is important in this day and age of the hybrid work environment. Webcam images look sharp (and support Windows Hello for fast logins) and the microphones pick up my voice well while doing a decent job of filtering out background sounds.
The Surface Pro 8 includes Windows 11 out of the box… sort of. It seems there is an early release version installed on the tablet as the initial setup process requires a long download and installation to finalize Windows 11. Therefore, be aware that you’ll need a good internet connection to initially set up the device.
I like the fact that Windows 11 appears to be more a cosmetic change than a complete overhaul of the operating system like Windows XP was. I haven’t noticed any major issues with any of my applications or drivers. While I primarily use macOS as my daily driver, having the icons centered in the taskbar helps me feel more at home on Windows. The windows have rounded corners and translucency is used throughout the operating system, not like Windows Vista, but more subtly.
I like having widgets and was somewhat sad when Vista’s “gadgets” were discontinued, but widgets are back in Windows 11 with a dedicated spot on the taskbar that is separate from the Start menu. However, the selection of widgets seems to be limited to those made by Microsoft at this time. Also, I wish the widget could “live” on the desktop instead of inside a dedicated taskbar icon. I could see a common use case where, when you’re closing all of your windows at the end of the day, it would be nice to see the traffic widget on your desktop so you know what your evening commute will be like.
While Microsoft states you can get up to 16 hours of battery life, that might be a bit of a stretch. After about an hour of general web browsing and document editing, the battery dropped about 10%, so I would say you’re more likely to get 8-10 hours before you need to charge. This is still impressive and likely enough to get you through most of your workday, although meetings and video calls will presumably drain the battery faster.
I was happy to find the inclusion of two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the side of the unit, allowing me to connect the tablet to my Belkin USB-C hub to use my keyboard, mouse, and ultra-widescreen monitor while charging the Surface Pro 8, all with just one cord. Windows 11 seems to handle docking and undocking with ease and doesn’t completely make a mess of all of my open windows.
The Surface Pro 8 tablet features fast performance and a beautiful 13” display in a thin and sleek design. Two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports give you flexibility for docking with an external monitor and charging. Battery life should get you through most of your day. While the keyboard is comfortable to type on, be sure to factor in the extra cost as it is sold separately.
- Beautiful display
- Fast performance
- Good battery life
- Lots of updates to install out of the box