The first Microsoft Surface device wasn't a runaway success, in fact, Microsoft had to take a billion-dollar write-down on unsold products, but it did introduce us to the idea of it the detachable laptop and tablet hybrid for the first time.
It took a few further attempts for Microsoft to finally make a version of the Surface Pro that was worth buying, but with each iteration, they have slowly improved on every aspect of the surface Pro until we have got to where we are today - The Surface Pro 9.
After Microsoft showed how it was done, every Windows computer manufacturer now has a Surface Pro imitator, with a huge variety of the best 2-in-1 laptops available. You could argue even Apple is getting in on the action by maneuvering its iPad Pro to be more and more aimed at a hybrid productivity device rather than a dedicated tablet.
There are a couple of different Surface Pro 9 models. The one we are looking at today is based on Intel's processors. Microsoft also makes a Surface Pro 9 with 5G that is built on an ARM-based processor developed between Microsoft and Qualcomm, called the Microsoft SQ3, which we will cover in a separate review.
With so much fresh competition in the detachable and 2-in-1 space, have Microsoft managed to stay ahead of the game that they started, and is the Surface Pro 9 the best detachable hybrid you can currently buy?
Processor: 12th gen Intel iCore i5 or i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM: 8GB, 16 GB, 32 GB (LPDDR5)
SSD: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Screen: 13-inch pixel sense flow display, adaptive color, 10-point multitouch, Dolby Vision IQ
Resolution: 2880 x 1920, 267 PPI, 120hz dynamic refresh rate
Battery: up to 15.5 hours
Cameras: front facing 1080p full HD, rear camera 10MP 4K video
Sound: 2w stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, dual far-field studio microphones
Connections: 2x USB-C with thunderbolt 4, Surface Connection port, Type Cover port
Network: Wi-Fi 6E 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.1
Size: 287 x 209 x 9.3 mm
Weight: 879g, without Type Cover or Surface Slim Pen
The Surface Pro 9 has a 13-inch Pixel Sense touch screen that is compatible with Surface Pens including the latest Surface Slim Pen 2. The screen has a pixel resolution of 2,880x1,920 with a density of 267PPI, support for Dolby Vision IQ, and supports a dynamic refresh rate of 120 Hz for smoother movement when scrolling and in graphical content. There is also adaptive color management, which will adapt the colors on the screen based on the ambient light of the room to decrease eye strain in dim environments. The screen also has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for added scratch protection.
One of the best things about the Surface range is its screen aspect ratio of 3:2, which makes it perfect for viewing documents on word processing software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. 3:2 is also the default ratio for photos from many digital cameras which makes it perfect for editing.
The Surface Pro 9 comes with a 12th-generation Intel core i5 or i7 processor, and Intel's Iris Xe graphics. The Intel Surface is also configurable with 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB of RAM and hard drive sizes from 256GB up to 1 TB.
Whilst the Surface Pro 9 is offered in optional configurations starting with an i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, and this might be tempting as it is the cheapest option. If you plan to use this device heavily, especially for photo and video editing, it will struggle. An Intel i7 and 16 GB of RAM are the minimum recommendations for this machine for a good editing experience.
Microsoft rate the battery of the Surface Pro 9 for up to 15.5 hours of typical device usage, which includes internet browsing and watching videos saved on your hard drive, but don't expect to reach that if you include streaming or any photo or video editing.
The Surface Pro 9 has a Windows Hello face authentication camera on the front which can log you into your computer with just your face, it is capable of 1080p full HD video for high-quality video calls and is paired with dual far-field studio microphones and two stereo speakers which are tuned with Dolby atmos. The Surface Pro 9 also has a rear-facing 10-megapixel autofocus camera which is capable of up to 4K video.
For connectivity, the Surface Pro 9 has the latest Wi-Fi 6E speeds enabling it to connect to the fastest possible Wi-Fi, although this does require a 6E compatible Wi-Fi router. The surface Pro 9 also has the latest in Bluetooth technology with Bluetooth 5.1.
Build & Handling
Microsoft hasn't changed the design of the Surface Pro much in the last few years, although, if it ain't broke don't fix it, with the Surface Pro devices being some of the nicest looking and best-designed devices around. The latest iteration has slightly more rounded sides but otherwise follows the same design pattern as the previous surface devices.
The main feature of the design is still its kickstand and hinge on the back of the device. This is something that Microsoft nailed quite early with the Surface and has not been replicated by any other manufacturer anywhere near as well. The hinge is strong and stable and allows you to position the tablet anywhere from almost upright for typing to flat on the table for a slightly raised drawing position.
The port selection on the Surface Pro 9 is still very disappointing. There are only two USB-C ports, although they do support Thunderbolt 4. They are both located on one side and there is a proprietary surface charger connector on the other, this charger connection can't be used for anything else (unless you use a Surface Dock). As a device that would be perfect for content creators on the go, two ports just really aren't enough, it would be fantastic to see Microsoft retire the Surface Connect port in exchange for another USB-C, and add an SD card slot to the Surface Pro line.
Behind the kickstand, there is a small removable cover with a very clever magnetic hatch that hides the Surface Pro 9 hard drive. This hard drive is completely user replaceable so could make for quickly upgrading or swapping between different work or personal laptop setups, and is a really nice touch from Microsoft in a world where upgrading most hardware parts in consumer devices is nearly impossible.
The bezels on the left and right (in landscape) on the Surface Pro 9 are very small, while at the top of the bottom (again, landscape) they still remain larger, this is to house the webcam at the top and at the bottom for the surface keyboard to rest. This looks totally fine when the keyboard is attached, but when it's used as a tablet the screen symmetry is slightly off which spoils the overall design somewhat.
Speaking of the surface keyboard, which, for whatever reason is still an optional accessory, I am using the Alcantara fabric keyboard which just feels exceptionally nice to hold. The keyboard is incredibly slim but still manages to have a really good level of key travel on the full-size keyboard, the stability of the keyboard when typing won't suit heavy typers as it does still have a little flex and wobble, but it is a great keyboard for on the move. The trackpad is okay, if a little small, it also requires quite firm presses which aren't always easy when you are not using the device on a firm surface.
In the Surface Type Cover, there is a small notch for the latest variation of the Surface Slim Pen (again, an optional purchase). This is where the pen sits when not in use which also wirelessly charges the pen, which is an exceptionally clever design. Although this does mean that you cannot own the Surface Slim Pen without owning the Surface Type Cover, or buying another pen charging accessory.
You can see some benchmarks for the Surface Pro's Intel i7 processor and Iris Xe graphics below. This is a very slim and compact device so it is not expected to be a benchmark champion, however, it performs admirably against similar devices, beating the Dell XPS 13 detachable in multi-core and OpenCL graphics tasks. The Surface Pro 9 also manages to hold its own against the entry-level M2 processor in Apple's MacBook Air, showing Apple isn't as far ahead as it would have you believe.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Surface Pro 9 (Intel i7-1265U, Iris Xe)||MacBook Air (M2)||Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (Intel i7-1250U, Iris Xe)|
|GeekBench 5 Single-core CPU score||1,169||1,936||1,637|
|GeekBench 5 Multi-core CPU score||6,390||8,917||6,060|
|GeekBench 5 OpenCL score||18,015||27,558||14,100|
|Cinebench R23 Single-core CPU score||1,141||1,597||1,234|
|Cinebench R23 Multi-core CPU score||6,667||8,098||4,376|
In practice, the Surface Pro 9 flies through tasks such as web browsing, streaming, downloading and uploading files, and office tasks like word processing. When it comes to more intensive tasks like photo editing, the Surface Pro 9 handles Lightroom and Photoshop well.
It isn't the fastest device to do heavy photo editing work on, but at the same time it didn't struggle too much and I managed to edit and export a large batch of photos in Lightroom in good time, although large exports did slow down the Surface and prevent much else being done at the same time.
This won't be a suitable replacement for any computer doing large volumes of image editing, but it is the perfect companion for editing as you travel.
The Surface Pro 9 did struggle more with video editing but managed to do okay. There were a few slowdowns and freezes when trying to scrub quickly through videos on Adobe Premiere and when exporting the finished project, it rendered the rest of the computer unusable until it finished. This is very normal for computers that don't have dedicated graphics cards, and not surprising for this light and compact hybrid.
Microsoft's recent updates to Windows 11 have made a huge impact on how nice it is to use the Surface Pro 9. The latest version of the Microsoft operating system is much more attractive with updated textures, icons, and graphics. It has taken a long time, but I feel the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 finally has an operating system that befits its beautiful hardware.
The touch screen is fast and accurate, when writing with the optional Surface Slim Pen, the tracking and inking were some of the best I have used. Windows 11 is much better for touch than the previous version, however, it is still a desktop operating system first, and I found a lot of the icons and gestures for touch are still a little too small and fiddly, and I often went back to the trackpad.
The speakers in the Surface Pro 9 are very good, although don't expect anything too special as they are still tablet speakers. They offer a good range of sound with clear vocals in songs, the bass is lacking but overall this is a good system to watch videos on the go, but it won't be replacing your home cinema.
The Surface Pro 9 is still a device that is hard to pin into any category. If you're looking for a heavy-use laptop, or an uncomplicated tablet, this isn't for you. This is not the best device for either, but it currently is the device that does both of these things the best.
A very well-built and beautiful device with a kickstand and hinge that still reigns supreme in the 2-in-1 world. If you choose to buy the Surface Type Cover and Surface Slim Pen (which you really should) then this is a fantastic productivity device for on the move.
The surface Pro 9 is deceptively powerful from its compact form factor. Not struggling to get through any productivity tasks thrown at it and even managing to handle a good amount of photo and video editing with aplomb.