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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).

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 Samsung 830 SSD (opens in new tab). The contrast is even starker between Surface Pro 7+ and Surface Pro 6. It's nowhere near PCIe 4, but it's better.

Broadening results to other modern laptops and Surface Pro 7+ is comparable to other devices in its class with similar hardware configurations. The results are nothing special, but Microsoft is the only vendor using a fanless Core i5, whereas all the others are actively cooled. That is notable.

Turning to battery life and there are some interesting conclusions. Leaving 4G LTE on (but not being actively used) has no impact on battery life. Running PCMark 10's Modern Office Battery rundown benchmark (with LTE off, brightness fixed at 40 percent, and on recommend power), Surface Pro 7+ earned 11 hours and 13 minutes of run time. Leaving LTE on and re-running the benchmark resulted in 11 hours and 12 minutes of runtime, which is remarkably consistent.

By comparison, Surface Pro 7 scored only 9 hours and 52 minutes with the same settings. While an extra 1 hour and 20 minutes is not a massive gain, that additional 90 minutes could be 'make or break' for many users in daily usage. Toss in the apparent performance gains of Surface Pro 7+ and 4G LTE availability, and it is even more noteworthy.

Turning to Windows Battery Report, which is based on my real-world usage and Surface Pro 7+ ranges between 7 hours and 30 minutes up to 11 hours with lighter use. Your experience will depend on how bright you set the display and how hard you push the GPU.

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

Even with the lack of a fan, Thermals are excellent with Surface Pro 7+ never getting too hot to touch thanks to its vertical orientation and heat dissipation through the top vents.

Configuration options

Surface Pro 7+ pricing, models, and availability

Surface Pro 7 2021 Profile

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

With the inclusion of LTE, up to 32GB of RAM, and both black and platinum colorways, there are quite a few configuration options for Surface Pro 7+. Here are all of them broken by category.

Surface Pro 7+ Wi-Fi Commercial

ModelPrice
11th Gen Intel Core i3, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB, Platinum$899
11th Gen Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB, Platinum$999
11th Gen Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB, Platinum/Black$1,299
11th Gen Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB, Platinum/Black$1,599
11th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512 GB, Platinum$1,999
11th Gen Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB, Platinum$2,399
11th Gen Intel Core i7, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB, Platinum$2,799

Surface Pro 7+ LTE Commercial

ModelPrice
11th Gen Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB, LTE, Platinum$1,149
11th Gen Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB, LTE, Platinum$1,649

Surface Pro 7+ Wi-Fi Education

ModelPrice
11th Gen Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB, Platinum$899
11th Gen Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB, Platinum$1,199

Pricing starts at $899 for the Core i3 with 8GB and 128GB of storage (platinum) and peaks at $2,800 for Core i7, 32GB, and 1TB of storage (platinum). Education models are $100 cheaper, only come in platinum, and do not have an LTE option.

The Surface Pro 7+ is now available but you can't just go pick one up from your local store. The Surface Pro 7+ is for business users, and to order one you'll need to go through a Surface Commercial Authorized Device Reseller (opens in new tab) or the Microsoft Store Business Desk (opens in new tab).

Should you buy?

Surface Pro 7+ is dull but also incredibly powerful

Surface Pro 7 2021 Hero

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

If Microsoft were marketing Surface Pro 7+ as a consumer device, it would be easy to critique the thick bezels, lack of 5G, and lack of Thunderbolt 4. Those are still cons for many, but Surface Pro 7+ is aimed squarely at enterprise and education markets where such things are less important.

It's evident Surface Pro 7+ delivers substantial improvements, especially over the last LTE model from 2018. Businesses will appreciate improved 4G LTE, a removable SSD, and up to 32GB of RAM. Intel 11th Gen is a colossal upgrade with markedly increased CPU and GPU performance. Those benchmarks are only made sweeter by the considerable jump in battery life.

Surface Pro 7+ has some stiff competition from Lenovo and HP, which offer Thunderbolt 4 and even 5G.

Some will see Microsoft as being stubborn (or lazy) with Surface Pro by not revamping the design. That's fair. But, IT departments will rejoice that this new version does not break compatibility with Surface Dock 2, Kensington Dock, or need new cables. Companies buying these en masse for the next two to four years will likely be OK with any perceived limitations.

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

Surface Pro 7+ for Business does have stiff competition, though. Lenovo's similar ThinkPad X12 offers Thunderbolt 4 and even 5G with its famed Lenovo keyboard and TrackPoint. HP has the refreshed Elite x2 G8 (due in April) with 4G LTE, Thunderbolt 4, more display options, and up to 2TB of storage. Both are exceptional options that fill in Surface Pro 7+'s obvious gaps should they bother you. Microsoft's own Surface Pro X SQ2 has a larger display, pen storage, and overall more modern look. For something fancier and more of a traditional laptop, Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga with 5G is fascinating.

For more ideas, see our best 2-in-1 laptops. And if you need an always-connected PC, see our best LTE laptops and best 5G latops for additional alternatives.

But if you are hooked on the Surface Pro's design and Microsoft's vision, it is hard not to like the new 7+, even if it is for business. It's a bit boring, but it's also a workhorse. The good news for consumers is it seems likely we will get a more substantially revised Surface Pro 8 later this year. If Surface Pro 7+ is a preview for performance and battery life, it will be worth the wait.

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

26 Comments
  • Better battery life than Surface Pro X? More than an hour of battery life more than SP7 even with LTE on? Intel 11th gen is no joke. (I realize some of this is the larger battery.) And the i5 out-benchmarks the old i7 (though I'd be worried about how that holds under consistent loads and would probably still opt for the i7 if I were buying). Pretty great overall gains from my SP7. "The good news for consumers is it seems likely we will get a more substantially revised Surface Pro 8 later this year. If Surface Pro 7+ is a preview for performance and battery life, it will be worth the wait." Awesome. I'll be skipping a generation but good news all around. Great read, thanks.
  • It says edges out, not better. I really doubt it's as consistent as Surface Pro X. Intel just isn't as efficient as ARM for battery life and heat. It doesn't say how much bigger the battery is.
  • I mean, 30 minutes with LTE on and a full processor? That's pretty damned good. Remember the SPX is ARM and has nowhere near the power.
  • "It doesn't say how much bigger the battery is."
    Surface Pro 7 is 43.2WHr while Surface Pro 7+ is slightly larger at 48.9WHr.
  • That increased battery life is down to a larger 50 Wh battery because the 7+ uses a thinner display like the Pro X. The Pro X also has a much smaller 38 Wh battery because Microsoft made the stupid decision to make a thinner device, probably to compete against the iPad Pro. The Pro X weighs the same as the Pro 7 because it uses heavier aluminum instead of magnesium because they couldn't make a strong and thin magnesium body. I hope the next Pro X has a thicker magnesium body so they can fit a big 45 or 50 Wh battery to get 15 hours real running time.
  • Wow, MS didn't want to give people with extra cash a high end with LTE? Seems like Bill Gates would buy one!
  • There's an i7 version. Bill Gates barely works for Microsoft now.
  • As noted in the review, they made the Core i3 and i5 versions fanless, which is amazing. In that space where the fan would go is where they put the 4G LTE modem. If they wanted an i7 model with LTE they'd have to create either a new board to allow it or reduce the battery size for the modem. By using this design, they get to keep the hardware the same across devices, which is better for production.
  • Hi Daniel, Was it the Surface Pro 7+ we saw in all those Surface Pro leaks than that looked the same as the Surface Pro 7? Thanks
  • Yup, as this is completely identical to the Pro 7 save for the 4G antenna lines and interior chip changes.
  • Do you expect that Surface Pro 8 will offer LTE configurations as well?
  • We talk about that on this week's podcast (and last week's), but the short answer: no. We don't know that for sure, so I want to be clear, that's my speculation. But I feel they will keep Pro X as the always-connected version with 5G for the fall. It'll be a distinguishing feature between Pro X and Pro lines. I could be wrong, but that's my feeling how they will keep these product lines separate.
  • Could you give a crack at running Age of Empires II DE? I'd really like to upgrade my SP5 and want something that AoEII is at least playable on, but I LOVE my surface and it's formfactor. I'm hoping to the Xe graphics are just enough to make it enjoyable.
  • My Surface Pro 3 needs a replacement, I hope the SP 8 works just as well if not better.
  • Honestly if this is any indication, it'll be awesome.
  • In the past, there was not much difference between i5 and i7 (at least when I compared my top spec:ed Sony Vaio i7 of 2010-11 against the Asus i5 of a friend). My main concerns with the Surface Pro 7+ are:
    * After 3 years with the Surface Book 2, I was hoping for at least a 13" screen. (Big plus.)
    * My next laptop should have *at least* LTE, and preferably 5G. Thunderbolt is less important to me. (Required.)
    * I'd *prefer* to step up at 32 GB RAM (from the 16GB on my Book 2). (Big plus.)
    * I don't want to step down from 1TB SSD. (Required.) With a swappable SSD, can the LTE model be *upgraded* to 1 TB SSD? Apart from this, the battery life seems to be ok now. Is it *really* bigger (measured in mAh), or is the extended battery life purely due to an more efficient 11th gen processor?
  • 5G is not so important yet and it is also often throttled or such. If you are going to keep the 7+ for lets say 2-4 years 4G is fine generally speaking and it will not matter much for resale value after that (since 4G will keep working anyway). Yes you can (as in I am 99% sure) upgrade the SSD to a 1 TB one and they are being sold. You do need to be a bit careful with swapping the SSD, see also this link for some tips: https://dancharblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/19/upgrade-sl3-or-spx-to-1tb/ Regarding the battery life, it is a result by both actually. The screen size... yeah I agree. I believe HP and Dell have 13 inch Elite/Latitude tablets but they also have some cons compared to the Pro 7+. Thinkpad X12 might also be one to take a look at. But overall the Pro 7+ seems to be the most interesting one at the moment.
  • Cue the obligatory Ryzen version when? Lol. Joking aside, 7+ hopefully is an indicator on what performance to at least expect from the Sp8. In regards to 5G, I doubt we will see a Surface Pro with 5G from Microsoft until there is one size fits all solution just like 4G LTE. As any 5G device would need to support both mmwave and sub-6 for better interoperability - which would have some impact battery life. As well as requiring internal design changes. Not to mention 5G is only available in some places and is not ubiquitous as the infrastructure is not there yet. Or Microsoft maybe able to design around the impact on the battery given that there was no notable difference in battery life with 4G LTE off and on. Anyway, at the present time 4G LTE is more than enough for most businesses and telecom providers aren't going to be refarming 4G LTE spectrum for a stop gap for 5G any time soon.
  • Some countries just finished migrating 3G GSM-based voice to VoLTE. I would expect full 5G migration to take another 3 years in major urban areas, a few years on top of that for the outskirts.
  • Lol, that's a very optimistic time frame especially given the current circumstances in regards to the impact on supply chains and manufacturing of electronics.
  • I have to say, I drank all the cool aid from microsoft way back in the early days of windows phone in the 12s and 13s. Insider from the first days of the programme, owned many MS surface devices since the SP2--for work and for home. Last year bought a SP7 for my wife, it bricked on first update about 2 weeks after purchase and there was no support--eventually Media Markt refunded. I have been converted from fanboy to skeptic. The quality is mediocre, the software just OK and that is after some burning-in at the expense of customers. The design is a bit lazy and lacking any urgency for innovation. Finally, MS will cut and run at first sign of trouble--no matter what...so caveat emptor--your purchase today may be on the shelf tomorrow with your zune, your windows phone, your harmon kardon speaker, your groove music purchases, your band...I mean honestly, figure it out or don't sell it.
  • Sorry to say this but Media Markt sucks, there are much better shops out there with way better warranty (at least in Europe).
    What does zune etc have to do with a Windows laptop? With MS you always have to be a bit careful with new products (bit similar to e.g. with Google and new software) but everything that runs plain ol' Windows is incredible safe to get. You basically are guaranteed to get years of updates, even longer than apple devices (and a stable experience if you wait a month or 2 before installing a big feature update).
    The lack of innovation is only on the outside true, inside lots of things are improved like SSD hatch and bigger battery, 2 major pros.
  • Nah, sorry, but you're talking rubbish. We have a shed load of Surface Pros in work and, pretty much, they've been perfectly fine. " and there was no support" - There is support. I've returned machines with smashed screens that MS replaced for FREE (Around the SP4 years). No issues. Fill in the online form and get answers/options. The Surface is a Windows machine. It cannot be left behind and, if it is, its' left behind with all of the Dell/HP/Toshiba/Acer/Sony/etc machines.
    P.s. MS is STILL providing firmware updates for older Surface devices. Not many do that.
  • I am sorely tempted, but I have gotten used to the whole pen in the keyboard surface pro x. For people that complain about the bezels, you need them if you use it as a tablet, trust me. If the pro 8 has bigger battery, lte and the pro x keyboard (and keeps the micro sd) I will be in. Not having a usb-A on the pro x still catches me out!
  • Yeah agreed usb-a port is still very useful. Pro X keyboard would be very nice as an upgrade.
  • Yup, especially there aren't many cheap usb-type c data usb sticks. We need these to be ubiquitous as well as usb charging cables and chargers before USB-A can be completely phased out. It will be awhile yet...