From the moment it had been unveiled, it had been clear the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (starts at $749; $1,358.99 as tested) had not been the brand new entry in the top Pro line some were longing for. THE TOP Pro X is giving us the first glimpse of the device’s future, as the Surface Pro 7 is just one more refinement of the flagship 2-in-1. But sometimes stable is most beneficial. This year’s version finally adds a USB Type-C port, and it brings Intel’s hottest processor family to the party. Otherwise, the look remains the same, even though it’s beginning to show its age next to its flashy new counterpart, the top Pro 7 continues to be difficult to fault. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is well known convertible laptop, however the Surface Pro 7 represents the very best of detachable Windows tablets, and earns our Editors’ Choice for the class. The next time, we just hope it looks similar to the Pro X, which includes design in spades but isn’t quite ready for the limelight yet with regards to function.
Mostly the Same Surface
After years of tweaks and alterations over the first few models, the top Pro’s design has stayed pretty much the same during the last four iterations. You could set the top Pro 7 alongside the prior versions and, apart from color variations (our Surface Pro 6 model this past year was the first ever to can be found in all black), not have the ability to tell them apart instantly. The inclusion of the USB-C port finally gives that one away, but they’re otherwise near-interchangeable.
Mostly, that’s a positive thing. The magnesium-alloy design feels top quality, and it’s a comparatively compact and sleek device. It measures 0.33 by 11.5 by 7.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.7 pounds-a very lightweight machine regardless of how you slice it. For comparison, the XPS 13 2-in-1 will come in at 0.51 by 11.7 by 8.2 inches and 2.9 pounds, and shows itself as a notebook first. Alone, the Pro 7’s platinum-colored professional look hasn’t aged badly, despite the fact that I did grow keen on the black paint job from this past year. The bezels remain pretty thick, an undeniable fact that’s becoming more clear as nearly every slim notebook computer opts for razor-thin ones.
THE TOP Pro 7 hasn’t gotten any worse looking, but the challenge is now the context, and it’s really a concern, at least partly, created by Microsoft itself. With the top Pro X revealed right alongside its numbered stablemate, the new-look design is making the top Pro 7 design look stale in comparison. It boasts the slimmer, rounder edges and thinner bezels that you may expect out of a top-tier Surface Pro device in 2019. When both are next to one another, the Pro X looks decidedly newer. It’s a stunning system, inducing that feeling of tech envy which has slowly gone missing in the key line.
Of course, it isn’t a matter of simply applying that design to the top Pro 7, or Microsoft could have done so. The Pro X can be an ARM-based device as the Pro 7 uses an Intel chip, and the latter is a far more fully featured, traditional Windows PC. The Pro X’s elements need less physical space and cooling leeway to use, allowing the thin design. If you want something nearer to a tablet experience, the Pro X is a lovely option, nonetheless it lacks the broad functionality of the most common Windows laptop. You don’t need to worry about which programs you can run or how they’ll focus on a Surface Pro 7. Are they compiled for ARM? Are they 64-bit or 32-bit? None of this.
One day-perhaps in several years-Microsoft should be able to give a numbered Surface Pro device that appears like the Pro X, but gets the Intel processor or at least the broad program compatibility that Surface Pro users have already been used to. The Pro X, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be ready for prime time yet, and of both, we’d recommend the Pro 7. You can examine out our separate overview of the Pro X for additional information.
So, ABOUT THIS Keyboard…
As for using the top Pro as both a notebook computer and a tablet, the same advantages and disadvantages remain given the unchanged design. I will not assume many people are as familiar as I am with the top line, though, so here is a rundown.
The built-in rear kickstand, which includes been the main topic of mimicry since its debut, is executed exactly like on the prior model. A completely adjustable hinge lets you recline the screen through 165 levels of range, including practically flat, which is often helpful with all the stylus for sketching or note-taking. The initial Surface models featured a hinge with a restricted number of set adjustment points, which means this “free range” system continues to be very much preferable.
The kickstand is merely half the battle in turning the Pro 7 right into a laptop. It is the Surface Type Cover-the detachable keyboard also at the mercy of many copycats over the years-that makes the magic happen. Since it always has, the keyboard easily attaches to underneath of the top Pro magnetically, making transformation a breeze.
Also since it always has been, the sort Cover comes separately. It hardly appears worth it to keep beating this drum, as Microsoft plainly doesn’t plan to are the keyboard with the tablet, but I wish it could. The Surface Pro has already been on the pricey side, but adding another expensive peripheral to access full functionality is a bitter price pill. Microsoft sent us the fancier Signature Type Cover for $159.99, however the standard model is $129.99.
The keyboard can be an integral area of the experience-Microsoft rarely shows or advertises both apart, and it’s really the keyboard that completes the 2-in-1 concept. Without it, the top Pro is actually simply a nice, and expensive, tablet. In addition, it is a superb keyboard because of its kind. Despite its thinness, the sort Cover offers a surprisingly comfortable typing experience, with good key travel. Additionally, there is backlighting, adjustable through several degrees of brightness. The keyboard is just a little flimsy if you press down an excessive amount of, particularly if you are not using it on a desk (more on that in an instant), but it’s still a lot more than serviceable, and among the finest among all detachables.
Also you can angle the keyboard for a far more comfortable typing angle by folding the most notable of the keyboard against the screen, where more magnets hold it set up. This innovation was introduced to the top line several iterations ago, a tiny addition which makes a noticeable usability difference. The touchpad can be excellent, and it tracks very smoothly. I genuinely enjoy typing upon this keyboard, at least on a good surface, regardless if the price appears somewhat steep. The combined price continues to be significantly less than many laptops, though, so there’s only up to now you may take this complaint.
Using the keyboard on your own lap remains just a little troublesome. While it will be neat you could transform this device right into a notebook computer clamshell at all, the flexy nature of the keyboard and the width of the Pro 7 make it tiring to use in your lap for long. This “lapability” is definitely a large issue for a few, enough to create them pick a traditional notebook computer over the top Pro. Since it isn’t very wide, and the kickstand is a lot less stable on your own legs compared to the flat bottom surface of a notebook would be, you will need to keep your legs close together but still during use. It certainly makes you quite aware you are not by using a normal laptop, so it is much better applied to a desk or tabletop. There’s still something satisfying about the top Pro experience, regardless if you’d probably pick a laptop computer keyboard if indeed they were put face to face.
Ports & Configurations: Hurray for C
The ports are another facet that may remind you this is not a normal laptop, as there simply aren’t most of them. As stated earlier, one big improvement may be the inclusion of USB Type-C. This port is situated on the proper side, right above the only other port, a typical USB 3.1 Type-A port.
It felt just like the USB-C port was “missing” out of this device for at least the last two iterations, so it is nice to view it added. It generally does not support Thunderbolt 3, however, so users seeking to transfer a huge amount of files quickly and frequently will have to put up with standard USB speeds. The actual fact that you will get just two ports could be an issue alone for users who lean heavily on peripherals, but a Bluetooth mouse could release the port for a drive or other attachments.
Finally, we come to Microsoft’s configuration options. Our $1,358.99 model features an Intel Core i5-1035G4 processor, 8GB of memory, a 256GB SSD, and the $159.99 Signature Type Cover. Other configurations generally just scale the same pieces up or down in capacity, apart from the CPU. The $749 starting model (without the keyboard) provides an Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD. That scales completely up to the very best model, with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of memory, and a 1TB SSD. Between your two, you will get various combinations of a Core i5 or Core i7 chip, 8GB or 16GB of memory, and 256GB or 512GB of storage. The Pro 7 can be purchased in black, but only three of the SKUs offer it as a choice (including ours).
Testing Ice Lake: A Quicker Surface Pro
For performance testing, I compared the Pro 7 to various Windows tablets and 2-in-1 laptops. There’s a respectable amount of variety in this batch of competitors, like the internal components, to help you utilize the table below as a cheat sheet…
As you can plainly see, a swath of processors is represented, and the top Pro 7 is 1 of 2 devices by using a Core i5 CPU. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet may be the other, looked after matches the top Pro 7’s 8GB of memory. The Dell Latitude 7200 2-in-1 may be the other tablet, nonetheless it bumps up its elements to a Core i7 and 16GB of memory. Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and the HP Spectre x360 13 are full-fledged laptops that may convert into tablets, and really should deliver more power compared to the tablet-first machines.
Productivity & Storage Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites produced by the PC benchmark experts at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We put it to use to examine overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as for example word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better. PCMark 8, meanwhile, includes a Storage subtest that people use to determine the speed of the PC’s drive subsystem. This score can be a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
Off the bat, the Core i5 CPUs lag behind their Core i7 counterparts, however, not by a broad margin. It is the area where you will not be bothered by by using a Surface Pro 7 over a laptop; it could run everyday home and office tasks without noticeable delay or long load times. Its SSD supports that, as you can plainly see from the PCMark 8 result that it is no slower compared to the rest.
Media Processing & Creation Tests
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to use all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU instead of the GPU to render a complex image. The effect is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Cinebench is normally an excellent predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems because they transcode a typical 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower email address details are better.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early on 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a number of 10 complex filters and effects to a typical JPEG test image. We time each procedure and, towards the end, add up the full total execution time. Much like Handbrake, lower times are better here. The Photoshop test stresses CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, nonetheless it can also take good thing about most GPUs to increase the procedure of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards could see a boost.
These results were something of a mixed bag, but mostly just fine for the Pro 7. Its Handbrake result provides biggest cause for concern, since it is way behind others and jumped out at me when I first ran the tests. Multiple runs confirmed the effect, though, so now we realize that video encoding isn’t the Pro 7’s strong suit. On the other benchmarks, though, it hung admirably near the other systems (and before its older Core i5 competitor), regardless if it did lag behind. I don’t believe you will need me to let you know this tablet isn’t a media-creation machine first and foremost, however the fairly capable CPU are designed for some in a pinch.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which suit several types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suitable for laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and designed for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The email address details are proprietary scores.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time around from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through an in depth 3D scene and measures the way the system copes. In cases like this, it’s rendered in the business’s eponymous Unigine engine, supplying a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for another view on the machine’s graphical prowess.
Most of these machines use Intel integrated graphics, so none comes recommended for 3D work. You will note, though, that the Iris Plus graphics within Ice Lake chips (both Pro 7 and the XPS 13 here) certainly are a cut that beats all others. This is a lot more evident with the Dell XPS 13 and its own Core i7 Ice Lake chip than it really is for the Pro 7 and its own Core i5, but among integrated graphics, Ice Lake reaches an advantage. Each is well short of discrete GPUs, however, so look elsewhere if you are using 3D-accelerated programs for editing, animation, modeling, and other similar tasks, or if proper PC gaming is what you’re after.
Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the tablet, we create the device in power-save mode (instead of balanced or high-performance mode) and make additional battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the notebook computer in Airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video-a locally placed 720p file of the Blender Foundation short Tears of Steel-with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at completely before system conks out.
This is an essential test because of this category, so I’m pleased to report that the Pro 7 can last quite a long time off the charger. For something so lightweight and theoretically versatile, long battery life is crucial if it’s likely to be your travel companion. For plane or train rides, long work days from your desk, and even lounging in the home, a practically 12-hour battery shouldn’t perhaps you have reaching for your charger frequently. With an increase of varied or demanding tasks and heavier use, you’ll likely get somewhere from eight to 10 hours, nonetheless it passes the battery life test regardless.
A Solid Surface
THE TOP Pro 7 is another fine refinement of Microsoft’s flagship hardware product, regardless if our heads are getting to be turned by the Pro X. The look is needs to show its age compared, but it isn’t truly dated at this time, and I believe any user will be pleased. The addition of the USB-C port is welcome, and the switch to the Ice Lake class of CPUs adds some pep to the compact tablet’s step. This iteration of the top Pro is another case of evolution instead of revolution, and I am hoping we see an Intel chip in a device that appears like the Pro X soon.