Microsoft should merge the Surface Pro X with the Surface Pro 9 this fall

Surface Pro X Sq2 Flat
Surface Pro X Sq2 Flat (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft's Surface Pro X is coming up on three years old this fall. When it was announced, it was touted by CVP Panos Panay as the next evolution in the 2-in-1 form factor, featuring a new design, larger screen, thinner chassis, and an ARM SoC powering everything under the hood. It was launched alongside the Surface Pro 7, which at that point had been rocking the same design for roughly five years.

It was a breath of fresh air for the Surface Pro line, but the Surface Pro X was a fundamentally different product. It was less powerful than the Surface Pro 7 but had built-in LTE and better battery life. It had app compatibility issues due to the ARM architecture and wouldn't work with previous Surface Pro accessories such as the existing Type Cover. But it was thinner, lighter, and more portable than its legacy sibling.

Everything about the Surface Pro X was new, and with it launching alongside the older-looking Surface Pro 7, the new moniker made sense. Yes, both were Surface Pro devices, but they were different in several ways. Now, fast forward to 2022, where the Surface Pro 8 exists alongside the Surface Pro X, and this differentiation is a lot less clear-cut.

The Surface Pro 8 launched last year and was the first "mainline" Surface Pro device to adopt the form and design language of the Surface Pro X. It has the same sized 13-inch screen, built-in LTE, similar battery life, and is compatible with the same accessories. On the Surface Pro X side, app compatibility is no longer much of an issue thanks to advances in Windows 11 on ARM, which further blurs the line between these devices.

These two products are now remarkably similar in a lot of ways, almost to the point where branding them differently doesn't make much sense. Sure, the Surface Pro X is still a different architecture, but that doesn't matter much anymore as the Surface Pro X can run all the same apps the Surface Pro 8 can, just with less performance in scenarios where emulation is required.

Bring them together

Surface Pro 8 Hero

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

With the differences between Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 8 so slim, I think it's time that Microsoft merged the product lines under the Surface Pro 9 branding later this year. Microsoft could position the ARM SKUs as entry-level models while keeping the Intel Core i5 and Intel Core i7 models around for higher-tier SKUs and enterprise customers.

If we take a look at Microsoft's pricing structure for the Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 8, Microsoft is already doing this. The Surface Pro X is positioned as an entry-level (base model) Surface Pro at $899, compared to the $1199 starting price of the Surface Pro 8 with an Intel Core i5. Why not formalize this by calling them both Surface Pro 9 later this year?

Here's my hypothetical pricing structure to show how the ARM and Intel models could exist alongside each other:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Microsoft SQ3 (no LTE)8GB128GB$999
Intel Core i58GB256GB$1199
Microsoft SQ3 (with LTE)16GB256GB$1299
Intel Core i516GB256GB$1399
Intel Core i716GB256GB$1599

... and so on.

It would make sense from a performance perspective, too. The custom Snapdragon 8cx Gen3 expected to power the Surface Pro X this fall could rival that of an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7, but the Surface Pro 9 is going to ship with 12th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7 chips, which are much more powerful than 11th-gen Intel chips.

Plus, it's not like Microsoft hasn't done something similar before. If we look at the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Laptop 4, those devices can be had with both Intel or AMD chips, with each offering different performance and battery benefits and disadvantages. So, there's a precedent for this, and I don't see why Microsoft couldn't also do it with the Surface Pro 9 with Intel and ARM.

Now, it's true that the Surface Pro X isn't identical to the Surface Pro 8. The Pro X is thinner and lighter, but is that enough to warrant different branding for each? I don't think so. Plus, Microsoft could use this as an opportunity to merge the Pro X and Pro 9 chassis, putting the ARM SoC into the thicker Surface Pro 9 design and discarding the thinner Surface Pro X body.

Discard the Surface Pro X chassis?

Surface Pro X 2020

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Hear me out — doing this would allow Microsoft to enhance the ARM model in one of two ways. It could put in a much bigger battery, which would enable the Surface Pro 9 with ARM to be the first Surface device with true all-day battery life. Or, the alternative is it would allow room for a fan, possibly enabling Microsoft to overclock the SoC and squeeze out more performance.

Either option is a win for Surface Pro X fans, but it would come at the cost of the thin Pro X chassis we have today. Even if Microsoft does keep around the thinner chassis found on the ARM model, I think the differences between Pro X and Pro 9 are too slim to differentiate them by name. It just doesn't make sense.

I think doing this would also do a lot for "normalizing" ARM in the Windows space. Up until now, Windows on ARM devices have always been marketed as a stand-out, special case affair, but they really shouldn't be. If Microsoft wants people to forget about the architecture and normalize ARM, it needs to start treating ARM products like any other Windows PC. Stop giving them special names and unique designs and treat them like all the other PCs out there.

Finally, merging the Pro X and Pro 9 under one moniker would free up the "Pro X" brand for another variation of the Surface Pro in the future. Whenever Microsoft is ready to once again push the boat out in design or form factor, it can bring back the Pro X branding for that device. With foldable PCs on the horizon, I think the "Pro X" moniker would be a great fit for a foldable Surface tablet, if or when that ever arrives.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

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

  • Number 9 will be skipped as also happened with windows. And iPhone too. So it will be Surface Pro X (3rd gen) and the Surface Pro 2022
  • That was because it was intended to be the last Windows release. I'm expecting it to be Pro 9. They've only dropped the number once but brough it back for the Pro 6.
  • The best part about the X using the Pro 9 chassis would be the presence of the headphone jack. I could see a merger of the X and regular Pro, but Microsoft needs to do big moves with ARM, they have to go all out, I'm not even saying that they have to make their costum Arm cores (though that would be great), they have to partner with AMD for the GPU and make 15W SoC on the latest TSMC node, this last part is important, Samsung use their own considerably inferior node and Qualcomm doesn't seem to have a problem doing the same, so Microsoft has to do it. Microsoft has to truly commit to ARM, they can't cross their fingers and pray that others commit to leadership ARM performance, because they aren't even doing it in their most important products, maybe Nvidia will come and shake the market, but that's a maybe and maybes aren't enough.
  • +
    agreed. Maybe I'm too cynical, but this sounds to me Microsoft are not going to get the kind of performance yields out of these new custom Qualcom chips as hoped. Windows on Arm cannot be understated, and I disagree with the article it shouldn't be treated as just an 'entry level' Surface Pro 9, 11, 12 whatever.
    It has to show ARM can truly rival, and in some cases exceed the x86 architecture and be the 'iPad Pro' of Windows. Microsoft has had a bad habit of not fully committing or losing focus on a few flagship devices over several years, with Surface Pro X 1 debuting as its first real Windows 11 ARM tablet, many gave it some slack for a first gen product, this is not the time for the third generation to be ho-hum. Sure make the Surface Pro X thicker to stuff in more battery, storage, etc...but make sure that ARM processor plays the part as well. Also It may not seem like a big deal for Intel users of Surface Pro devices, but as an Arm tablet user having a fan is a big turn off.
  • What percentage of Surface users are still using headphones that require a physical connector? The Surface is a mobile first device, why would they prioritize keeping a headphone jack?
  • Why they should prioritize it? Because it's a PC, I still use it with my phone occasionally, so on a PC that's supposed to run professional programs, having an headphone jack is essential. An headphone jack on a PC is the expected, I question how many people bought it without even questioning if it had one, because a PC that doesn't have a headphone jack sound so stupid.
  • What headphones are you plugging into a PC, let alone a phone in 2022?
  • I have a Bose QC35 that a firmware update borked the battery on. Still work as long as they are plugged in. Plus, when I'm working in the field and need to jump on a meeting, no wireless technology is faster/more idiot proof than plugging in a pair of earbuds. YMMV, but personally I still see this quite a bit.
  • Yeah, the problem is that sometimes pairing can muck around while wired is for sure will work as expected, unless the cable or port is really broken. Heck sometimes there is an annoyances where my earbuds got switched source once the PC is logged on due to Phone Link app automatically transferring calls but not intentional.
  • I use SHP 9500 and ATH-M40X headphones. Bluetooth is fine for phone calls, but still don't sound as good as wired headphones.
  • But plugging into the cheap DAC in a laptop does? Sure.
  • For a cheap laptop, sure. But I bet flagship laptops will likely have at least decent DAC built in. Surely user with high impedence headphones will not plug it directly to headphone jack of any devices unless with dedicated amp. But there are still low-impedendance ones that are still sound great. Though I don't agree that Bluetooth is only fine for phone calls since its not easy to find that sound good, but dedicated headphone may still deliver bit better or at least sound profile that is more preferable that many Bluetooth headphone or buds that tend to be colored to certain way.
  • Some cheap ones that came with my phone, sometimes I forget to charge my Bluetooth ones and sometimes I can't be bother to pair them with my laptop so I just use the wired headphones. I find a headphone jack useful and I don't even care about the lag.
  • Pop a USB adapter on them and no more issues. Do you also require an optical disc?
  • Well because more likely there is a user still have that headphone or headset or earbuds that still use that connector, and better to deal with than another dongle. Wireless earbuds and headsets with multi-device pairing are still not that too common, only handful expensive and few inexpensive ones has it. The convience of Bluetooth earbuds or earphones is great if paired on a single device, but cumbersome on multiple devices you want to swap out in between quickly, unless you got multi device pair. Wired is simple, plug in and it works, no charging needed. And there will be some owners owning really good wired headphones and having it directly connect to device is a convenience which still deliver great sound. Maybe not as great with dedicated DAC but those are far more niche among audiophiles to carry with them. Not to mention, these are still being used as a regular "laptop computer". Pretty much most laptops nowadays still have that port due which allows users to use their existing accessories.
  • Yeah, my Bluetooth earphones can only connect to a single device at a time and it's a pain to change to my laptop, it's much easier to just use a cheap wired one that came with my phone.
  • Also agree that "9" should be off limits and the type of bold moves you are talking about would be online with a version number skip. The thing that I always think is confusing is that Surface 10 is kind of the same thing as Surface X in Roman numerals.
  • Just curious, but why would/should 9 be skipped? Are people superstitious with the number, or is there some negative connotation with it?
  • I'm curious as well because in some numerology circles 9 is a very important number. 3 6 9 are important numbers with 9 being the most powerful. (3+3+3=9. 3+6=9, etc.) Nikola Tesla was obsessed with these numbers and many believe his work with them led to so many of his inventions.
  • I would like to know why Microsoft's ARM-to-X86 translations are not as efficient as Apple's Rosetta. I have a Pro X and its translations are only about 50% efficient, while Rosetta can reach 70%. At the moment, there are still few native ARM programs. I can say that the performance of my Pro X is sufficient for daily office tasks, but for programs that need to be translated, a 50% performance trade-off is very fatal. In addition, even with the translation, the current Pro X cannot run some x86 programs because it lacks some relevant drivers. Examples: Bluestacks, Duet, etc. It also can't install the drivers for my Apogee audio interface. I've heard of other people having problems trying to connect to the printer. Supporting the transfer of 64-bit programs doesn't mean that all is well, and it looks like WoA still has a long way to go.
  • The reason is mainly because of vertical integration. Apple controls the Hardware, and software, the hardware is static, with no or vary little variables. ARM to X86 on Windows isn't like that. If all drivers are going to be same, optimization is easier, I don't have to compile and build as many packages, less heavy code, less instruction, quicker results. The cost of that, is lack of variety, and flexibility with hardware. It's interesteing to note that I can upgrade the storage on Pro X....but I can't with apple. Moving to iphone, upgrading storage was never an option to begin with. Maybe someday we'll be able to upgrade the memory on windows on arm devices. But that will never be a possibility with Apple because of their design philosophy. I'm willing to take the performance hit for added freedom and flexibility.
  • With only Qualcomm currently making Windows on ARM SOCs the hardware is static too.
  • Not exactly. Windows on ARM is still a derivative of an OS meant to be installed on a variety of platforms, not just the Qualcomm devices we see. Also, the Qualcomm exclusivity agreement is over
  • Microsoft doesn't translate, it emulates. Very different. I'd love to know why Microsoft couldn't write an x86 to ARM translator though. I don't get a 50% performance trade-off. There is a noticeable delay in load times but once it's loaded into memory it's more like a 10% drop. In real-world use it's very minor. "In addition, even with the translation, the current Pro X cannot run some x86 programs because it lacks some relevant drivers." M1 Macs have this problem too. Drivers need to be ARM native on both Windows and MacOS.
  • It's code translation. There's an XTA or x86-to-ARM folder in C:\Windows that holds the translated binaries cache. x86-32 is slower because it uses the WoW subsystem whereas x64 almost directly maps to AArch64.
  • They really shouldn't merge the x86 and Arm brands yet. Windows on Arm simply can't do as much as Windows on x86, so having some Pro 9s be Arm and others Intel could easily lead to another Windows vs Windows RT situation. Once Windows on Arm can serve as a viable replacement for x86 (à la macOS on Arm vs Intel), then the two lines can and should merge.
  • Name one thing Windows 11 on ARM can't do, the Pro 8 can? I'll wait.
  • Pro 8's 11th generation Intel, while not the most powerful, is sufficient to afford some of the more CPU-loaded productivity software. Pro X's translation significantly compromises usability in this area. For example, dragging images in Photoshop has a very serious stutter. It also works very poorly when running a DAW. Pro 8 has no problem accomplishing these tasks. The other problem comes from the driver issue I mentioned above. As a musician, I can't connect the Pro X to my audio interface. You might say that most people don't use the Surface for making music, but even for the average office worker, external devices such as printers may not connect. Such moments are fatal when they occur. I'm now using Laptop Studio as my primary and its CPU performance isn't much better than the Pro 8, but it runs all my projects and installs all the software and device drivers I need. In contrast, the Pro X does its job as a backup machine very well. But for someone who only has one device, using it is a wary experience. The current WoA on the Pro X is like a sweet time bomb, usually good, but it's hard to know when it will detonate.
  • If Microsoft could somehow fit Nvidia's Ampere Arm chip in a Surface Pro X. Yes. But for now, no. At this point, I'd rather a surface 9 or whatever, optimize features (Thunderbolt 4 or better, possibly AMD, better IGPU, high, faster refresh, better pen sensitivity, 5G...etc)
  • ... or better yet - rename Surface Pro X -- Surface RT! 😁
  • Still don't get the flappy hinge design, been avoiding the format...
  • It would be smart that Microsoft put AMD Ryzen 6000 chip in new Surface Pro. Tests showed that it was better than Intel with less power.
  • A big 60 Wh battery with an ARM chip would get real world 12-15 hour battery life, at least.
  • That would be sweet. It was done on the Pro 8 to match Pro X battery. Tells you alone ARM is superior in battery. They had to stick in a bigger battery so it didn't suck.
  • I think the Pro X was done to demonstrate how thin ARM designs could get, a pointless metric when it's used as a laptop replacement in most cases. I wouldn't mind adding 50 or 100 grams in weight to get a much larger battery and a slightly thicker chassis. An 800 g 13" tablet isn't going to be used one handed anyway.
  • No. The “Pro X” IS an entry level laptop. Windows on ARM has a LONG way to go. Not just Windows, but there are very few ARM Windows apps. Windows on ARM makes as much sense as iPadOS on Intel. The benefits are purely theoretical. Yes, I had a couple of Pro Xs. I was not impressed at all. Way too much stuff running in battery-killing emulation. Sold them on eBay. Maybe it’s better now, but I no longer care. The problem with WOA is Windows apps. Office is not even ARM native. If Microsoft can’t be bothered to produce native ARM Windows apps, no one else is going to either.
  • Yea you need to use windows 11 for arm most of your complaints are fixed. also most of ms products have an arm version. Such as office, vscode, powershell, edge, etc. Ms is embracing the arm architecture for their apps and has made great strides in making arm native software for their products. It's taken some time but for ms native apps they are in a good place. I personally use a Samsung book go with WOA 11 and it runs great.
  • Just no! An entry level laptop costs 300-400. As you've owned two you know full well the Surface Pro X isn't entry level. It's an insult the work Microsoft did to design and make it. Rubbish. Unless you game or media create Windows on ARM runs great. Why would buy two anyway? "Office is not even ARM native. If Microsoft can’t be bothered to produce native ARM Windows apps, no one else is going to either." Given you've owned two you don't seem to much about the platform. Microsoft 365 has been ARM native since at least 2019. Teams ARM64 came in 2021. On Windows 11 it even says it is in Task Manager. They present as 32-Bit or 64-Bit (depending which you install) for addon compatibility, but it recognises you've got an ARM processor and installs ARM64 binaries. Look up ARM64EC. The OneDrive Sync Client is ARM native too.
  • Entry-level is just the cheapest SKU in a product line. It does not mean "cheap product." There's an entry-level MacBook Pro. Entry-level Samsung Galaxy S22. Entry-level Surface Pro. Everything has an entry-level SKU. It's the barrier for entry for a user buying a device. Another term for it is "base SKU" What you're thinking of is low-cost devices, which are designed to be cheap. Surface Pro X is not a low-cost device, and certainly not cheap, but that doesn't mean it can't be positioned as an entry-level SKU alongside the main Surface Pro line.
  • You are ignoring the fact that people are stupid. If they are not differentiated they will buy ARM and expect it to do all the things x86 does.
  • It can do all the things x86 does. Name one thing Windows 11 on ARM can't do and Intel PC can? I wouldn't say people are stupid for not understanding PC technology. Most people just buy a PC not understanding what they're buying.
  • Will they have an ARM chip worth it? When that happens, why would they use Intel at all anymore for laptops?
  • No, No, No. Terrible idea. Nothing says, "we don't have faith in a product" than branding it "entry level". It's NOT entry level, they're as premium as each other. The Pro X is a very capable machine. Performance is perfectly fine unless you want to game or create media. It's been my only PC for 2.5 years, everything runs great. Edge, WhatsApp, Outlook 365, Word 365, EverNote, Facebook Messenger for Windows, plus a bunch of Web Apps. Really, no complaints. Best PC I've owned. App emulation delay is minor! Like I said, unless you game or create media. No one's buying a Surface Pro 8 for that either. It's a dumb argumen.t p.s. The cheaper price is because people will pay more for an Intel than ARM based Surface Pro. MS
    can charge top dollar for the Pro 8. So they do.
  • Microsoft needs to get the marketing message right for Surface Pro ARM. It should be about long battery life, LTE and 5G, quiet fanless running, so you get an iPad-like form factor running full Windows.
  • I think he means entry level Surface, so basically have ARM, I5 and I7 models (hey, maybe even drop an I9 in there MS). Not that the product itself is entry level for laptops. So it would be marketed as the base model.
  • You're misunderstanding my use of "entry-level." I simply meant it as the base SKU, the cheapest model you can buy, which is exactly how the Surface Pro X is already positioned alongside the Surface Pro 8. I'm not calling it cheap, I'm saying it's the cheapest model you can get. It's the model at the entry-level, the one you can buy for the least money. Microsoft is already doing this with the Surface Laptop 4 as well. The AMD variant is the entry-level, base SKU for the least amount of money, but nobody see's it as the product Microsoft doesn't have any faith in. There's models with AMD that are more expensive. The same would happen with the Microsoft SQ3 in a Surface Pro 9. If anything, moving the ARM chip into the Surface Pro 9 brand would be solidifying Microsoft's commitment to it.
  • I think the Pro X is a great product. I've been using a Gen 2 Pro X for my daily work for some time now. Sure if I've got process intensive apps to run I will use my desktop but for everything else the Pro X is fine. With the recent Windows 11 update and improved emulation it runs all my apps now. The main thing for me is: It is Quiet - no fan! I've tried the Surface Pro 7/8 devices. I did have an i5 Pro 7 with passive cooling and that was good. The problem is all the Pro 8 devices have cooling fans. I hope the ARM Pro X devices continue. I'll be first in the cue for the Gen 3 version if MS produce one.
  • I don't think so. at least not at this time. Too many people would just look at the price and not understand the differences. Now, if Microsoft was at 99.99% compatibility maybe but then there are the other differences that will always keep these separate. Oh, MS put the same size battery in the Pro X as in the Pro 8/9... and why is a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8+ 12.4" with equivalent size so much lighter? ~200g I don't believe the kickstand weighs 200g.
  • To be fair though, I feel like anyone buying the base model is probably just running office, Facebook, the occasional social media app and the like. Which ARM is more than capable of doing.
  • I couldn't disagree more worth every topic in this article. The thinness and reduced weight are game changers when using it in tablet mode. ARM should be thin and light as possible, while still maintaining reasonable battery life. I don't need 25 hours of battery life, but I do need a tablet I can handle better. I have the Pro X and the Pro 8. The Pro 8 is used for my workday and software development. But the Pro X is used for all my personal, mostly as a tablet. The battery life is more than sufficient. It's also a great travel computer when I don't need to do a lot of work. I also think merging them is completely the wrong direction. No thank you! There are still tradeoffs with ARM, and they need to be clear about what you're getting.
  • What I love about my Surface Pro 8 is that it is so thin but it is a full blown desktop grade computer that has everything I need. And it also has 2 TB4 so I could connect to my eGPU to turn it into a gaming machine and working machine. I always wanted to upgrade to Asus Flow Z13 but then I really like how light my SP 8 is. And with 2x TB4 ports, I connected with my 18 ports USB-C hub for everything else so no MicroSD slot, not a deal breaker for me. However, there is one thing I really would like to have in SP9 is double the battery life. Watching just a 1080p local mp4, SP8 can last no more than 6 hours. I would like to see it lasting 9 hours minimum.
  • I think that this is a very interesting theory. I love Windows on arm and use it as my daily laptop driver. The only downfall is that arm is not compatible with all apps as of now. Once this gets solved I believe the two can be merged into one.
  • All Windows PCs for work should ship
    With 16gb RAM because of fat boy Teams. SQ3 will totally rock.