Surface Pro 9 vs. Pro X: Is it worth the upgrade?

Microsoft has just announced the brand new Surface Pro 9, which incorporates both Intel and ARM versions of the Surface Pro for the first time. Gone is the Surface Pro X line, now folded into the Surface Pro 9 as the "Surface Pro 9 with 5G." So, considering the Surface Pro 9 is now a direct successor to the Surface Pro X, how do they compare, and is the older Surface Pro X still a good buy?

Let's first take a look at the specs and compare both the Intel and ARM versions of the Surface Pro 9 directly with the Surface Pro X. 

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Specs
Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Pro 9Surface Pro 9 with 5GSurface Pro X
OSWindows 11 HomeWindows 11 HomeWindows 11 Home
Processor12th Gen Intel, Intel EvoMicrosoft SQ3Microsoft SQ1
Row 2 - Cell 0 Core i5-1235U, Core i7-1255URow 2 - Cell 2 Microsoft SQ2
RAM8GB, 16GB, 32GB LPDDR58GB, 16GB LPDDR4x8GB, 16GB LPDDR4x
GraphicsIntel Iris XeMicrosoft SQ3 Adreno 8CX (Gen 3)Microsoft SQ1 Adreno 685
Row 5 - Cell 0 Row 5 - Cell 1 Row 5 - Cell 2 Microsoft SQ2 Adreno 690
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Row 7 - Cell 0 Removable SSDRemovable SSDRemovable SSD
Display13 inches, 2880x1920 (267 PPI), touch, 3:2 aspect ratio13 inches, 2880x1920 (267 PPI), touch, 3:2 aspect ratio13 inches, 2880x1920 (267 PPI), touch, 3:2 aspect ratio
Row 9 - Cell 0 Up to 120Hz (dynamic refresh rate), Dolby Vision Up to 120Hz (dynamic refresh rate)60Hz
PenSurface Slim Pen 2 (Sold separately)Surface Slim Pen 2 (Sold separately)Surface Slim Pen 2
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 4, Surface ConnectTwo USB-C 3.2, NanoSIM, Surface ConnectTwo USB-C 3.2, NanoSIM, Surface Connect
AudioDual 2W speakers, Dolby Atmos, dual far-field mics, Voice ClarityDual 2W speakers, Voice Clarity, Windows Studio Effects, dual far-field micsDual 2W speakers, Dolby Audio, dual far-field mics
WirelessWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, NanoSIM, eSIM, 5G, mmWave, Sub-6Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0
CameraFront-facing 1080p, IR camera, rear-facing 10MP (4K video)Front-facing 1080p (Windows Studio Effects), IR camera, rear-facing 10MP (4K video)Front-facing 5MP (1080p), rear-facing 10MP (4K video)
SecurityTPM 2.0, Windows Hello IR camera, Windows 11 Secured-core PCMicrosoft Pluton, Windows Hello IR camera, Windows 11 Secured-core PCTPM 2.0, Windows Hello IR camera
BatteryUp to 15.5 hoursUp to 19 hoursUp to 15 hours
Dimensions11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 inches
Row 18 - Cell 0 (287mm x 208.3mm x 9.4mm)(287mm x 208.3mm x 9.4mm)(287 mm x 208 mm x 7.3 mm)
Weight1.94 pounds (879g)mmWave: 1.95 pounds (883g)1.70 pounds (774g)
Row 20 - Cell 0 Row 20 - Cell 1 Sub-6: 1.94 pounds (878g)Row 20 - Cell 3
ColorPlatinum, Graphite, Sapphire, ForestPlatinumPlatinum, Graphite

The Pro 9 should start shipping on October 25; pre-orders are open now. The Intel model should start at about $999 while the ARM model should start at about $1,299. The Surface Pro X is already available and can be found for less than $800 these days.

Design and features

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Surface Pro 9 new colors

Surface Pro 9 (Image credit: Future)

The Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 9 feature very similar designs. They are the same shape and size, with the only key difference between them being that the Surface Pro X is thinner at 7.3mm, compared to the Surface Pro 9 at 9.4mm. That's quite the difference, and something you'll definitely notice when looking at and holding the device.

What's more, the Surface Pro X is also considerably lighter, coming in at just 1.7lbs compared to the Surface Pro 9's 1.95lbs. It's a small difference on paper, but one you will notice when comparing them side by side. Luckily, these are the only notable differences in design. Everything else is the same, meaning Microsoft's first-party Type Cover accessories will work across both Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 9 devices.

The new Surface Pro 9 with 5G has a more advanced NPU, which offers features such as system-wide camera and microphone effects such as portrait background blur, voice clarity and focus, eye correction, and automatic framing. Surface Pro X can only do eye correction.

Display

Surface Pro 8 (Image credit: Future)

The displays on both the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro X are both very similar and also quite different. They feature the same size and resolution at 13-inches 2880 x 1920, which offers a crisp 267 PPI for clear text and images. The differences come in refresh rate, which is a noticeable difference when compared side by side. 

The new Surface Pro 9 features a dynamic refresh rate of up to 120Hz, compared to the Surface Pro X which features a fixed refresh rate at 60Hz. This means that the Surface Pro 9 looks and feels smoother to use, most noticeably when scrolling webpages and inking. The Surface Pro 9's display is also more energy efficient thanks to its dynamic refresh rate that can scale down when needed.

The Surface Pro X's refresh rate is locked at 60Hz the whole time, regardless of what you're doing. On its own, this isn't a bad thing. Most PC displays are 60Hz, and if you've never experienced a 120Hz display panel before, you're not going to miss it. However, if you are familiar with 120Hz displays, you'll immediately notice how much slower and less smooth the Surface Pro X's display is.

Another difference between the Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 9 is with support for pen haptics. The Surface Pro 9 features full support for the Surface Slim Pen 2's haptic motor, but the Surface Pro X doesn't. You can still use the Surface Slim Pen 2's pen on the Surface Pro X, you just won't get any of the haptic feedback bumps when using it. 

Performance

Surface Pro 9 renders

Surface Pro 9 (Image credit: Microsoft)

Performance is going to be one of the bigger differences between the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro X, especially if you are comparing the Intel variant. Intel 12th-gen delivers over 50% more performance compared to the Surface Pro X's Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 ARM chip, but that extra power comes at the cost of power efficiency.

The Surface Pro 9 with 5G, with its Microsoft SQ3 chip, is more comparable to the older Surface Pro X. Even still, the Microsoft SQ3 offers a huge 85% performance boost over the SQ1 and SQ2 found in the Surface Pro X, thanks to a newer 5nm SoC design from Qualcomm.

Now, that's not to say the SQ1 and SQ2 found in the Surface Pro X are bad. While it's certainly not a performance machine, the Surface Pro X is still great for day-to-day productivity usage, including using Office, browsing the web, checking email, listening to music, and watching videos. 

If you want to do any creative work, we'd recommend spurging for the Surface Pro 9 with 5G at least, or if you want to go all out with 4K video editing, the Intel versions will be the one to get. 

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.