Surface Pro 7 Plus for Business review: LTE and Intel 11th Gen make a huge difference, even if the rest is boring

The new Surface Pro 7+ is aimed squarely at businesses who'll love the 4G LTE and substantial performance and battery gains.

Surface Pro 7 2021 Lede
(Image: © Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

In January, Microsoft announced not Surface Pro 8, but Surface Pro 7+ with the unique "for Business" added on to the name. It is a move we have not seen from the company before, but it makes sense if a modernized and revamped Surface Pro 8 for consumers is due later this year.

There is not a long list of changes between Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 7+ for Business, but that does not mean they are insignificant either. Indeed, bumping to Intel's latest hardware and adding in Iris Xe graphics is a game-changer for this PC category.

So, who should get Surface Pro 7+, and what does better internal hardware get you? Let's find out.

The TL;DR

Surface Pro 7+ for Business What's new

Surface Pro 7 2021

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

This review will be slightly different from previous Surface Pro ones simply because I already did an exhaustive review of last year's Surface Pro 7, which is still relevant. Instead, I will focus on what is new with Surface Pro 7+ compared to previous versions, summarized this way:

  1. New configuration options: Up to 32GB of RAM
  2. Design: New removable SSD enclosure
  3. Connectivity: New optional 4G LTE
  4. Performance: Intel 11th Gen + Iris Xe graphics
  5. Longevity: Larger battery, longer battery life

Some of these are self-explanatory.

For the first time, you can now order a Surface Pro with up to 32GB of RAM instead of being limited to just 16GB. That model, which features a Core i7 and 1TB SSD, will set you back a jaw-dropping $2,800, but for developers and those who really like Surface Pro, it is an excellent option to have available finally. You can't get that model, though, with LTE.

The new removable SSD enclosure follows Surface Pro X, which has had a similar design since late 2019. Consumers may value this option, but it is driven by enterprise and government customers who want an easier way to upgrade hardware and ensure security (since IT can remove the drive before servicing).

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CategorySurface Pro 7+
Operating systemWindows 10 Pro
Display12.3-inch PixelSense, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2736x1824 (267 PPI)
Processor11th Gen Intel Core i3-1115G4 (Wi-Fi)
11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 (Wi-Fi or LTE)
11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 (Wi-Fi)
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics (i3)
Intel Iris Xe Graphics (i5, i7)
Memory8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x (Wi-Fi or LTE)
32GB LPDDR4x (Wi-Fi)
Storage128GB SSD or 256GB SSD (Wi-Fi or LTE)
512GB SSD or 1TB SSD (Wi-Fi)
Rear camera8MP autofocus (1080p)
Front camera5MP (1080p)
SecurityTPM 2.0
Windows Hello face authentication camera
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax
4G Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem (optional)
PortsOne USB-C
One USB-A
One microSDXC
One Surface Connect+
Surface Keyboard connector
3.5mm headphone jack
BatteryUp to 15 hours (Wi-Fi)
Up to 13.5 hours (LTE Advanced)
Size11.5" x 7.9" x 0.33" (292 mm x 201 mm x 8.5 mm)
Weighti3, i5: 1.70 lb (775 g)
i7: 1.74 lb (790 g)
ColorsPlatinum
Black

Swapping the SSD is a simple task. Use a SIM tool for popping the door, removing the single T3 Torx screw to slide out the drive. The form factor is M.2 2230, so it is smaller and more stubby than regular laptop SSDs, but the performance and concept are the same. I wrote a detailed guide on swapping the SSD for Surface Pro X, and everything applies here to Surface Pro 7+ for Business.

Surface Pro 7 2021 Ports

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

Everything else is the same with Surface Pro 7+ compared to Surface Pro 7, including the excellent dual-front facing speakers, color-accurate display that supports touch and inking, and the entire design. Even ports, which are still limited to a single Type-A and Type-C (power, data, display out; no Thunderbolt) with a Surface Connect for power, remain unchanged. There's also a headphone jack on the upper left side, as expected.

LTE, processor, and battery life get a little more complicated, so they get detailed sections in this review.

For more in-depth discussions on Surface Pro 7+'s design, pen functionality, keyboard, audio, and more, please refer to my full Surface Pro 7 review.

Always connected

Surface Pro 7+ now with 4G LTE

Surface Pro 7 2021 Lte

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

LTE is crucial for business devices due to the inherent security flaws found when using open Wi-Fi networks, especially when traveling at airports or coffee shops. Moreover, it is much more convenient to have an always-connected PC versus tethering with your phone.

Microsoft last offered a Surface Pro with 4G LTE back in 2018 with Surface Pro 5. A lot has changed in those three years, with Intel going from dual-core to quad-core processing, resulting in a colossal leap in multi-core performance. So, it makes sense to see that option here in 2021 for business users.

Microsoft uses the Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem supporting CAT 18 and up to 1.2 Gbps downloads and CAT 13 and 150 Mbps uploads. It is not as fancy as Qualcomm's newer X24 modem with up to 2 Gbps downloads, but it is more than adequate for most users. This modem is also a significant jump from the 2018 model, which only supported LTE Advanced CAT 9 up to 450 Mbps downloads.

Surface Pro 7unbox

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

For 2021, it is odd for Microsoft to pass over an option for 5G, which many companies like HP and Lenovo are offering in their 2-in-1 devices. Microsoft says its customers did not list 5G as a priority feature, which may be accurate, but it seems unlikely to hold water in two years from now. Nonetheless, 4G LTE is still quite capable and, when paired with the latest Intel hardware, is quite performative.

There's not a lot new with Surface Pro 7+, but Intel's latest CPU makes a massive difference in performance.

Surface Pro 7+ supports both a physical nano-SIM and eSIM profiles. Users can dynamically switch between the two profiles through network properties, making it easy for IT departments to manage. Users can also buy data on the go with the Mobile Plans app, which activates instantly.

The laptop is SIM-unlocked and supports global LTE bands, including 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66. Compared to the previous LTE Surface Pro, Surface Pro 7+ supports more bands, including 13, 25, and 66.

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

LTE performance is excellent with Surface Pro 7+, primarily due to the ideal antenna placement. Microsoft gets credit for putting the antenna at the top and rear of the device, ensuring maximum reception exposure.

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

Interestingly, Microsoft hides the 4G LTE antenna through a very creative process they had to invent. A laptop must have "windows" built-in that are non-metal based for adequate reception. Microsoft accomplishes this with a "gapless and stepless" process, fusing the antenna seamlessly to the chassis. It is a subtle thing, but it demonstrates Microsoft's focus on detail and design worth calling out.

During my testing, the modem never crashed or had problems reconnecting. With a decent T-Mobile connection, I was able to pull down nearly 40 Mbps, and an impressive 47 Mbps upload in my office.

With no LTE, Surface Pro 7+ falls back to Wi-Fi 6 powered by Intel. There's also Bluetooth 5.0 for peripherals and headphones.

Damn that's good

Surface Pro 7+ Benchmarks and battery

Surface Pro 7 2021 Powerbattery

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

The crux of Surface Pro 7+ comes down to its upgraded Intel 11th Gen processor and Iris Xe graphics (available in Core i5 and i7 models). Like previous Surface Pro generations, the Core i3 and i5 options are still fanless, whereas the Core i7 model uses active cooling when necessary. (Microsoft uses the empty fan slot in the i5 model for the 4G LTE modem).

Surface Pro 7+ is the fastest Surface for all intents and purposes (Surface Studio 2 being the exception). While multi-core scores are dramatically improved over 10th Gen models, Iris Xe graphics help the most.

On Cinebench 23, Surface Pro 7+ with a Core i5 not only beats Surface Pro 7, but it blows away a Surface Pro 6 with a Core i7-8650U.

Battery life of Surface Pro 7+ can edge out even Surface Pro X.

On Geekbench 5, Surface Pro 7+ is the fastest Surface, even beating a Surface Book 3 15" with a 2020-era Core i7-1065G7.

In 3Dmark Time Spy, which uses CPU and GPU, Surface Pro 7+ nearly doubles Surface Pro 7 and triples that of Surface Pro 6. Surface Book 3 15" redeems itself thanks to its much beefier NVIDIA GeForce GTX-1660 Ti, but it's not by a lot.

These results suggest that the Core i7 Surface Pro 7+ would even be more impressive for raw performance, albeit at the expense of having a fan.

Another nice bump is the noticeable increase in storage performance. Surface Pro 7+ gains some faster sequential read speeds (2,200 MB/s) and gets an even more significant jump in sequential write (1,076 MB/s) over Surface Pro 7 thanks to the 256GB