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Surface Pro X review: A perfect PC but only in the right hands

The Surface Pro X is a complicated device to understand and that's a problem for consumers. But is it bad laptop? Not if you're the right person who needs what it does.

Surface Pro X
(Image: © Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

The Microsoft Surface Pro X is the first stab at the new Windows 10 on ARM platform. While Microsoft has done Windows ARM devices before (see Surface RT), this time the company is offering a more satisfying vision.

So, is the Surface Pro X a hit or a miss? Like all things, there is nuance. Built for "tech-forward mobile workers," the Pro X is undoubtedly divisive. For the right audience, the Pro X will be everything they need in modern portable PC. For most, they are better served with Surface Pro 7.

All-day battery, a slick new design, a super clever pen that hides away, large display, and always-connected 4G LTE make Surface Pro X a class all its own. But do you need one or just want one?

I've spent the last ten days with the Surface Pro X. Here is what I like, what needs work, who should not buy it, and why I actually prefer the Surface Pro X overall.

So slick, so modern

Microsoft Surface Pro X design and features

Surface Pro X

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

The Surface Pro X is possibly one of the most beautiful looking computers of 2019, up there with the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. With razor-thin bezels — at least on the sides — slightly curved aluminum body, and a 13-inch display, the Surface Pro X makes up for the Surface Pro 7's re-used looks. It's safe to assume that Microsoft didn't tinker with the Surface Pro 7 this year to give the Surface Pro X some wow factor, and it works.

Surface Pro X is a unique device with a particular target audience. Think of it more like a specialized tool rather than a do-it-all PC.

Surface Pro X only comes in one color — black. It's professional-looking, but the lack of zest for flair is depressing. The metal chassis is also exceptionally prone to fingerprints, something that the platinum Surface Pro 7 is adept at avoiding. Tossing on a custom skin from dbrand may not be a bad choice.

At just 7.3mm thin, the Surface Pro X feels very much like an iPad Pro — solid, metal, premium, and lean. The Surface Pro 7, by comparison, is a hair thicker at 8.5mm. Weight, however, is similar between both devices at just 1.7 pounds (775 grams).

CategorySurface Pro X
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home
Display13-inch PixelSense, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2880x1920 (267 PPI)
ProcessorMicrosoft SQ1
GPUAdreno 685
Memory8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x
Storage128GB, 256GB, or 512GB
Rear Camera11MP autofocus (1080p)
Front Camera5MP (1080p)
SecurityWindows Hello face authentication camera
ConnectivityWi-Fi 5
Qualcomm Snapdragon X24
Bluetooth 5.0
Ports2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1x nano SIM, 1x Surface Connect, Surface Keyboard connector
BatteryUp to 13 hours typical use
Dimensions11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 inches
(287mm x 208mm x 7.3mm)
Weight1.7 lbs (774g)
ColorsBlack

Audio is excellent, thanks to the dual front-facing speakers. They're loud and vibrant and are remarkably similar to the Apple iPad and iPhone sound profile.

Surface Pro 7 vs Surface Pro X

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows CentralMicrosoft Surface Pro 7 (left) vs. Surface Pro X (right). (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

There are two types of keyboards for the Surface Pro X, neither of which are included. The $140 Surface Pro X Keyboard is standard and comes in black while the $270 Surface Pro X Signature Keyboard with Slim Pen Bundle uses a black Alcantara fabric and includes the $145 new Surface Slim Pen.

Ports are sparse with just two USB Type-C Gen 2, either of which can be used for charging, data, or display out. Neither are Thunderbolt 3. There is no Type-A port, so users will need a dongle which is not included. While the lack of a micro SD card reader is unsurprising, the omission of a 3.5mm headphone jack is regrettable. Microsoft sells a $12 Type-C to headphone adapter for those who do not want to use Bluetooth.

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Surface Pro X SSD and SIM

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Surface Pro X SSD and SIM

While there is Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), the Surface Pro X, unfortunately, lacks newer Wi-Fi 6 AX. Bluetooth 5 and the 4G LTE X24 modem provide wireless connectivity. The LTE modem is a world-modem and not carrier- or SIM-locked, and users can sign up for an eSIM within Windows 10 directly. Users can even switch between a physical SIM and eSIM dynamically, which is excellent for traveling.

Surface Pro X kickstand

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

One upside of the new Surface Pro X design is modularity. Below the kickstand, there is a door that pops off using an included SIM tray tool. Below that door is the replaceable M.2 2230 NVMe SSD and nano-SIM card slot for the 4G LTE modem (eSIM is also supported). Smaller M.2 2230 drives are harder to find, but they can be bought inexpensively online, giving users an easy way to upgrade (or replace) storage. Because of this feature, the site iFixit gives the Surface Pro X a favorable rating for repairability.

Overall, the Surface Pro X feels and looks very premium. That's good considering the eye-watering $1,000 starting point.

Bright and glossy

Microsoft Surface Pro display

Surface Pro X display

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

Due to the thinner side bezels, the Surface Pro X gets a larger 13-inch display compared to the 12.3-inch one found on the Surface Pro 7. That number may seem small, but it is noticeable with the Surface Pro X being more enjoyable to use.

The 2880 x 1920 resolution gives a pleasing 267 pixel-per-inch (PPI) density. It's a higher resolution than the Surface Pro 7's 2736 x 1820, but due to its smaller size results in the same 267 PPI as the Surface Pro X.

Due to driver incompatibility, I was unable to test for screen brightness and color gamut. Microsoft quotes screen brightness at 450 nits, which is higher than the 400 nits of the Surface Pro 7. That seems fair as side by side the Surface Pro X is brighter. Assuming the color gamut is like the Surface Pro 7, the Surface Pro X should give 98 percent for sRGB and 73 percent for AdobeRGB, which is above average, but not extraordinary.

The cameras on the Surface Pro X are the best of any Surface – and Windows 10 PC – to date.

Like my criticism of the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 3, the Surface Pro 7 omits wide-color gamut (WCG) abilities, high-dynamic-range (HDR)/Dolby Vision, and anti-glare that other PCs in this price category feature.

Similar to other Surface PCs, the Surface Pro X lets users switch between an "enhanced" color profile with a more saturated look and higher contrast or a more neutral sRGB mode where color correctness is necessitated.

Slimming down and hiding away

Microsoft Surface Pro X pen and inking

Surface Pro X Slim Pen

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

Like all Microsoft Surface PCs, there is an option for a pen. This year is a bit different, though, as Microsoft has a new Surface Slim Pen that — as the name suggests — is shaped differently. Eschewing the round traditional pen shape, the Surface Slim Pen is similar to a carpenter pencil.

That new design lets the Surface Slim Pen stow nicely in the Surface Pro X's keyboard deck. Held by strong magnets, the tray also wirelessly recharges the pen when not in use. It's a smart idea — one that lets you forget you even have a pen right up until you need it. Hidden away, it also means you'll never lose the pen in your bag. The magnets are so good that even if you place then pen down incorrectly in the tray, it flips over to make sure it charges.

Functionally, the Surface Slim Pen is the same as the regular Surface Pen. It has a Bluetooth button at one end that also double as an eraser. There are two buttons near the tip for functions that can be assigned.

Surface Slim Pen

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

Based on Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP), formerly known as DuoSense2 under N-trig, the Surface Slim pen supports tilt and 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. Because of this, you can use the Surface Slim on other Surface PCs, and the older, regular Surface Pen also works on the Surface Pro X.

For artists, the usual pen jitter still occurs when slowly drawing straight lines.

Surface Pro X is not a lousy PC; it just a special one needing to find the right owner and that can be hard to figure out.

I had no issues using the Surface Slim Pen for notetaking or marking up documents. While you can use it for drawing and higher-level artistry, I think Microsoft is keener on people using this pen for work-related tasks.

Sadly, the new Surface Slim Pen is not cheap at $145. The extra $45 (compared to the regular Surface pen) likely goes towards the wireless charging technology. If you buy the Surface Slim Pen separately, you still get a small wireless charging dock for it.

Best cameras around

Microsoft Surface Pro X keyboard and cameras

Surface Pro X front web camera

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central Surface Pro X has the best front-facing camera yet on any laptop plus dual Studio Mics. (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

Considering the new design for the Surface Pro X, the keyboard feels remarkably familiar. With three-stage backlighting, ample key travel, and a decently sized glass-topped trackpad, the Surface Pro X's keyboard is as good as the Surface Pro 7's.

Of course, some will still have an issue with "lapability" and the Surface Pro X following similar complaints of the Surface Pro series. This model does not advance the category any further, but I'd argue the current design is nearly perfect considering the 2-in-1 design.

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Surface Pro X rear camera

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Surface Pro X keyboard

One small change I have not seen mentioned elsewhere are some tiny magnets that help keep the Surface Pro X Signature Keyboard closed. While you can shake it loose, the magnets help lock the cover to the Surface Pro X's display. It's a small but welcomed addition.

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Front facing camera Surface Pro X

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Surface Pro X rear camera 11MP

The cameras on the Surface Pro X are the best of any Surface — and Windows 10 PC — to date. They're terrific with excellent sharpness and clarity, beating even the Surface Pro 7. The 5MP full HD front-facing camera with dual Studio Mics ensure exceptional Skype conference calls. New in the back is an 11MP full HD (1080p) camera with autofocus. That's a small bump from the Surface Pro 7's 8MP camera, but it shows when taking pictures of whiteboards.

Windows Hello — Microsoft's system for bio-authentication and facial recognition — works quite well as anticipated. Due to the Qualcomm ARM processor, the Surface Pro X is nearly "instant on" each time you open the keyboard. That said, the Intel-based Surface Pro 7 is often faster, which is surprising.

Faster than you think

Microsoft Surface Pro X benchmarks and battery

Surface Pro X battery

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

Talking about the Surface Pro X for performance and battery is nuanced. Powered by the Microsoft SQ1 processor, which is an amped-up Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx at 3GHz, the Surface Pro X runs Windows 10 Home with surprising speediness.

To get technical, the Surface Pro X runs an ARM64 processor, which is different from an Intel or AMD x86 one. While the Surface Pro X can run older desktop (32-bit x86) applications, it does so in an emulation layer. These apps generally run fine, albeit with a slight performance hit compared to running native ARM64 apps. Those native apps include ones recompiled for ARM64 — like the new Microsoft Edge browser — or most apps in the Microsoft Store based on UWP.

Compared to the Intel Core i5-8250U with Intel UHD 620 Surface Pro X easily topples it by a wide margin.

Microsoft claims that "95 percent" of the software people run on this class of device is covered by the Surface Pro X. The exception being 64-bit x86 applications, with the most notorious being modern Adobe software. Two qualifications though about 64-bit apps. It is rumored that Microsoft will be adding 64-bit x86 app emulation sometime in 2020 and Adobe has stated they are in the process of recompiling many of its popular apps for ARM64. That news changes nothing for the present, but the limits of Windows 10 on ARM and the Surface Pro X are resolvable.

Surface Pro X cover

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

Qualcomm claimed that the Snapdragon 8cx can best an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 processor. Those claims are accurate. When running apps compiled for ARM64 or based on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), the Surface Pro X is quite fast for this class of device.

Geekbench 5

Geekbench 5.0 (CPU) (Higher is better)

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Surface Pro XSQ17252,819
Surface Laptop 3 13.5i5-1035G71,1774,413
Surface Laptop 2i5-8250U9093,372
Surface Pro 7i5-1035G41,1914,441
Surface Pro 6i7-8650U1,1133,519
Surface Pro 6i5-8250U9043,440
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390i7-1065G71,2093,571

Geekbench 4

Geekbench 4.0 (CPU) (Higher is better)

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Surface Pro X (ARM)SQ13,50511,727
Surface Pro X (x86)SQ12,1826,822
Samsung Galaxy Book2 (ARM)SD8502,2627,405
Samsung Galaxy Book2 (x86)SD8501,3454,164
HP Envy x2 (ARM)SD8352,1116,314
Surface GoPentium2,0783,934
Surface 3Atom x71,0782,777
Surface Laptop 3 13.5i5-1035G75,26517,345
Surface Laptop 2i5-8250U4,20313,233
Surface Laptopi5-7200U3,7257,523
Surface Pro 7i5-1035G45,24517,350
Surface Pro 6i7-8650U5,03713,864
Surface Pro 6i5-8250U4,28714,031
Surface Pro 5i7-7660U4,5139,346
Surface Pro 5i5-7300U4,3028,482
Surface Pro 4i5-6300U3,3196,950
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390i7-1065G75,45919,097

3DMark

Night Raid 1.0 (Higher is better)

DeviceCPUScore
Surface Pro XMicrosoft SQ17,078
Lenovoi5-8250U6,517
Delli7-8650U6,085
Samsung Galaxy Book2Snapdragon 8502,972

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

DeviceReadWrite
Surface Pro X2,023 MB/s832 MB/s
Samsung Galaxy Book2722 MB/s205 MB/s
HP Envy x2513 MB/s197 MB/s
Surface Go (SSD)1,185 MB/s133 MB/s
Surface Go (eMMC)260 MB/s145 MB/s
Surface 3149 MB/s33 MB/s
Surface Laptop 3 13.52,338 MB/s1,583 MB/s
Surface Laptop 3 152,028 MB/s806 MB/s
Surface Laptop 21,509 MB/s811 MB/s
Surface Laptop486 MB/s244 MB/s
Surface Pro 72,040 MB/s809 MB/s
Surface Pro 61,632 MB/s814 MB/s
Surface Pro 5847MB/s801 MB/s
Surface Book1,018 MB/s967 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 73902,400 MB/s1,228 MB/s

.

Let's talk context using Geekbench 4. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Book2 – another Windows 10 on ARM PC running the older Snapdragon 850 chipset — the Surface Pro X emulating Win32 almost beats that device when running native ARM64. The multi-core score with the Microsoft SQ1 processor also approaches a Core i5-8250U when running native ARM64 apps. Indeed, the octa-core SQ1 dominates the Surface Go's dual-core Pentium (11,727 vs. 3,934) and easily beats it even for single core (3,505 vs. 2,078).

The Adreno 680 GPU in the Surface Pro X is no slouch, either. When using 3DMark's GPU-intensive Night Raid 1.0 benchmark, the Surface Pro X (7,078) more than doubles the Samsung Galaxy Book2 (2,972). Compared to the Intel Core i5-8250U with Intel UHD 620 (6,517), the Surface Pro X easily topples it by a wide margin.

Thanks to added PCIe NVMe support for the SSD, even storage has jumped to 2,000/800 MB/s sequential read and write speeds on the Surface Pro X. Previous Snapdragon PCs were held back by slower eMMC storage –which limited performance to just 700/200 MB/s. Those results put the Surface Pro X's storage performance at the same level as the Surface Laptop 3 15-inch with AMD.

Surface Pro X LTE

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

RAM is also much better too. Previously, Windows 10 on ARM PCs were mostly limited to 4GB and DDR3. The Surface Pro X not only skips that for 8GB, but there is a 16GB model too (used in this review). That RAM is the newer LPDDR4x and is quite performant and energy-efficient.

Whatever your thoughts on Windows 10 on ARM, it is clear Qualcomm is making massive generational jumps in performance.

If you need a PC with LTE, turns on quickly, and brings the benefits of a 2-in-1 laptop, Surface Pro X solves some problems for you.

Unfortunately, the promises of a "weeks' worth of battery" have evaporated as Qualcomm ramps up processor and GPU performance. Microsoft claims just 13 hours of usage from the 38WHr battery. It is fair to say that 10 hours is attainable when sticking with Microsoft Store apps (ARM64, UWP) but falls closer to 7 hours if only using emulated 32-bit x86 ones like Google's Chrome browser. Those are still good results for a PC this light and thin with LTE — it's about 25 percent more longevity than a Core i5 Surface Pro 7.

Recharging is also a highlight. Like the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 3, the Surface Pro X ships with a 65-watt Surface connect charger with Fast Charge ability. I was able to jump from 18 percent battery to 62 percent (up 44 percent) in just 30 minutes. Another 30 minutes brought the Surface Pro X to 90 percent resulting in about 70 percent charge per hour. Users can also charge with one of the two Type-C ports as an alternative.

Surface Pro X

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

Thermals are excellent with the Surface Pro X as the device barely ever gets warm. There is no ventilation or fans needed, so noise concerns are non-existent.

The bottom line on the Surface Pro X's performance is this: when running native ARM64 or UWP apps, it's a speedy system on par or even ahead of most 8th Gen Intel Core i5 Ultrabooks. When emulating x86 32-bit applications, performance slows closer to an Intel Core i3.

Target audience

Surface Pro X: Who is this for?

Surface Pro X

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

Surface Pro X is a unique device with a particular target audience. Think of it more like a specialized tool rather than a do-it-all PC.

Microsoft Surface hardware chief Panos Panay said the Surface Pro X is for "a tech-forward, mobile professional". That sounds like corporate marketing jargon, but there is some truth to it. Much of today's workforce is increasingly mobile, relying on a few core productivity-based apps like Microsoft Office, OneDrive, Outlook, web, PDF readers, remote access, VPN, and custom line-of-business (LOB) apps. These workers need something very portable, long battery life, 4G LTE, and instant-on abilities with inking for document management.

Panay says more about who would benefit from the Surface Pro X:

And so, if you're leaning into tech, and you want something a little bit cutting edge, this is a great product. It's crazy cool. If you work on a train, a bus, a plane, if you're ride-sharing in a car, you like working at the park or at Starbucks, that's a mobile user to me. They use their products everywhere. It's perfect for that.

That's a very different demographic than general computing with traditional Intel-based Ultrabooks or gaming devices. You would also be forgiven for not being a part of the target audience for the Surface Pro X, which is why the Surface Pro 7 still exists. Could you use other laptops for this scenario? Sure, but the Surface Pro X with LTE, longer battery, and always-on ability is in a class of its own.

The Pro X audience is not mainstream, but it is increasingly relevant for what is often referred to as "nomadic workers". The Economist wrote that by 2035, up to one billion workers could be classified as "location independent." Microsoft — in conjunction with Qualcomm — has been hard at work making a line of PCs that cater to this crowd.

If you need a PC that's always on LTE, turns on quickly, and brings the benefits of a 2-in-1 laptop, Surface Pro X solves some problems for you. But if you want PC gaming, the ability to run computer-aided design (CAD) apps, heavy-lifting things like video editing and media creation, then the Surface Pro X creates problems. Knowing where you fall on that spectrum determines if the Surface Pro X is right for you.

Confused? That's understandable. Luckily, Microsoft has a tool to help steer you towards the right Surface.

Tough call for buyers

Microsoft Surface Pro X buy or not?

Surface Pro X

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

Reviews for the Surface Pro X are mixed, at best. Part of that is due to the inability to run high-level video editing applications (although VideoReDo and Avidemux work well), or professional photo apps from Adobe (Polarr Photo Editor Pro is an excellent alternative).

Is the criticism warranted? It depends on how you approach the Surface Pro X. I'd argue that many reviewers treat the Surface Pro X like any laptop. It's not. It's meant as a lightweight, always-connected, thin-client for productivity-based jobs. Writers, journalists, students, academics, "nomadic" self-starters, road-warriors, real estate workers, or anyone who wants an iPad-like experience can all benefit from Surface Pro X. I could contend these are niche users but that doesn't make them less critical. There are dozens of laptops, Ultrabooks, work stations, gaming rigs, and convertibles on the market for consumers who don't fit the Surface Pro X's demographic.

Undeniably, video games are almost all but out on the Surface Pro X save for older 32-bit games (e.g., StarCraft: Remastered), or casual ones from the Microsoft Store like Angry Birds 2. Microsoft's Project xCloud, which lets you stream console-quality games, can solve this problem, but Project xCloud for PC is not due until sometime in early 2020. You should buy a laptop on what it can do today, not what is promised tomorrow. (I have heard Project xCloud runs great on Surface Pro X).

Surface Pro X

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

My dilemma for this review is meshing my preferences with what is best for the potential buyer. I could tell you to pass on the Surface Pro X, but that betrays the fact that for my job and lifestyle, it is the laptop I use daily. Here is a running list of apps I use on the Surface Pro X without any issues:

  • Microsoft Office (Word, OneNote, Excel)
  • Microsoft Edge (ARM64)
  • Hulu
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Spotify
  • VUDU
  • Disney+
  • Twitter
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Mail (Outlook.com)
  • Flow Mail (Gmail)
  • Polarr Photo Editor Pro
  • Microsoft News
  • GroupMe
  • OneDrive
  • Skype
  • Microsoft To Do
  • myTube! (YouTube)
  • MobileDiscord PTB (Discord)
  • Unigram (Telegram)
  • ExpressVPN using manual configuration

There are no compromises I am making with the Surface Pro X compared to other laptops. But I do gain 4G LTE, an excellent display, satisfying audio, an all-day battery, and one of the most refreshing PCs around.

If Microsoft's new Edge browser is not your choice, Firefox now has an ARM64 version in testing and, of course, you could just run Google Chrome (albeit with a slight hit on battery and performance). Other popular apps like Apple iTunes, Amazon Music, Audible, Facebook, Sling TV, VLC, Paint.net, and others all are available too. And while the lack of gaming is noteworthy, I rely on my Nintendo Switch Lite to fulfill my mobile needs regardless of what laptop I carry anyway.

So, who should not buy Surface Pro X? People who want PC gaming, software developers, those who rely on Adobe apps, and people who do a lot of video editing. For those users, the Surface Pro 7 would be a much better choice.

While I didn't have any catastrophic bugs with the Surface Pro X, I did experience an issue with the display brightness slider not responding (fixed upon a reboot). I also find the Surface Pro X goes into a "deep sleep" state more often than the Intel-based Surface Pro 7, which was surprising — Intel is catching up to some of Qualcomm's flashiest selling points.

Surface Pro X

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

But the big question for most people is if the Surface Pro X is worth it? Probably not because most people also don't need 4G LTE and a strictly productivity-focused, mobile thin client PC. Surface Pro X is the most expensive Windows on ARM PC yet. Starting at $1,000, you also need to add at least $140 for the keyboard, or $270 if you want the keyboard and Surface Slim Pen. You could drop $2,070 (plus tax) in total for the 16GB model with 512GB of storage, keyboard, and pen. That's outlandish.

Like the new Samsung Galaxy Fold, the Surface Pro X is cutting edge, and with that comes compromises (as well as a dent in your wallet). Because of the cost and the nuance around apps and gaming, most people will be better served to buy Surface Pro 7 (or even Surface Pro 6 on discount).

But for those who need a thinner convertible PC with LTE, long battery life, inking, more modern design, and who work primarily with ARM64 or UWP apps, the Surface Pro X is worthwhile. No PC checks all of those boxes. That doesn't make the Surface Pro X a lousy PC; it just makes it a special one needing to find the right owner.

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.

96 Comments
  • Great review with actually useful information for people who aren't Mac users who edit video (or pretend to) all day. I am a former Surface 3 user and this blows it out of the water according to this data. I think the Gen 2 could be really something special, not just for the ultra-mobile productivity niche the current version appears designed for. Would I take this over a future Surface Pro 8 (Pro X chassis with next-gen Intel inside)? Probably not, but I bet many will and will love it. Plus, when prices come down with competition and more polished lower-end WoA devices, this could be great for buyers.
  • Finally, a balanced and nuanced review that isn't hipster tech blogger whining about not being able to edit 4K video, play COD2, perform nuclear physics calculations all at once on the Surface Pro X. I'm curious as to how you obtained the x86 battery life figure...was that just exclusively using Google Chrome over the course of seven hours? Or did it also include using other apps like Office, Slack, etc.? I figure that seven-hour figure can improve if you do a 40% x86 app/60% ARM64 app usage scenario.
  • Thanks for the balanced review. A lot of the review industry seems to still be in the mode of "but can it run crysis?" I've currently got an SP4, and while I like it, there are still compromises. I do a lot of development on it, but I feel the need for more power and screen real estate than the SP line can provide. I actually think that in the next year, I'll probably go to two devices; some kind of beefy laptop, and an SPX.
  • I have a SP3, and I am a developer as well. This is the exact approach I am considering - more powerful laptop or desktop and an SPX. Currently, I have a SP3 dock with 3 monitors on my desk (1 being an LG Superwide). I can really get it done with this setup, and that's with my dated SP3. I could easily get a box and leave it there, just for heavy lifting, and RDP to it when necessary.
  • Suppose one has a powerful home desktop. How would the SPX work as a "terminal", say using TeamView, running "light" applications locally (the SPX hardware), and more demanding applications on the desktop (via the network)? With LTE support, this should be possible, I guess?
  • As a web developer here's a suggestion: invest in a desktop computer that you can RDP into anywhere. Obviously the best value would be a used sub $150 Dell optiplex, but that would depend on how reliable your home internet is. A fallback option would be a hosted Windows server somewhere. Something like Azure <https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/virtual-desktop/> or really, any small business server shop might be able to host a machine for you at a lower cost.
  • I see the point, and I've used Azure VMs for exactly this purpose. Relying on a remote machine just brings in too many variables that I can't control.
  • But that "can it run Crysis" question, or at least the spirit behind it, is pretty important. Most of the time I use my Surface it will be for the normal, low-impact day-to-day stuff I always do. But I buy Windows machines because I know when I have to use something else, like an obscure piece of software from 15 years ago or a professional package I suddenly need to finish a piece of work, that it will handle those with ease. It's that security that comes with being a jack of all trades, even if it's better at some things than others. When you have a product like this, one that potentially takes a BIG performance hit when you try using something out of the ordinary and may mean compatibility issues too, it upsets that paradigm.
  • There's the whole new Visual Studio Online experience now as well. Same concept as using the remote debug and execution with an Azure VM for development, but better optimisation and integration with VS 2019 (in Preview), and VS Code (as well as VS Code in the browser). Could make only having only an SPX for development much more possible (moreso once an ARM64 version of VS Code is released).
  • I'm always hounding The Verge because so many of their reviews seem to revolve around how well "X" can run Photoshop/edit video. It's a very tech elite perspective, overlooking the fact that most people don't use Adobe for anything other than reading PDFs. I'm glad Dan took a more balanced approach and considered how the every day road warrior would use this. I would still love to get a SPX but you have to be ready for anything when you work in IT so ultimately I settled for an SP7 as my travel companion.
  • Nice review. My SPX should be shipped by the next two days.
  • I just took back my SPX. I love the hardware Sooo much. I wanted it for light gaming, news, videos, etc as well as for word and other office use. If my work bought it for me it would be perfect. However, as a consumption device it made no sense. I think once they get x64 simulation the device will perfect, but without it is more limited than I would hope. Again goes to what the device should be used for as Daniel laid out clearly. Great review
  • This review tells folks what the Surface can do and what it wont do. which is what folks want to
    know. Frankly I think that Microsoft wont get the windows on ARMs software like people want
    for 2 years because it will take them time to work out bugs & to get 64 bit X86 emulation
    software they are working on working well enough to be use able, When they do some People
    will give up using some Intel CPU 2 in 1's
  • Great in depth and objective review. The thing I love about Rubino's reviews is the fact he makes a concerted effort to objectively understand the purpose and role of the devices he reviews. That makes me as a reader think about the device in the same way, rather than emotionally responding to someone in the tech journalist field that I really want to trust (and should be able to). Appreciative of that. Questions for Daniel: Which config of the SPX are you using? Also, did you get to play around with both RAM configs, and if so, is there a noticeable difference in performance/snappiness?
  • Thanks for the feedback. re: RAM. For this review, I used the 16GB version. I probably would have been fine with the 8GB one as that is what I use with Surface Laptop 3. That said, there is a bit more guidance here as I believe if you run x86 32-bit apps more often the 16GB of RAM may be more handy. If you stick to ARM64 I think 8GB should be fine. I also think there's a bit of "how often will you use it?" that comes into play. If you're going to be on this 8 hrs a day then I'd go for 16GB. If just going to the coffee shop to use Office for a few hours then 8GB should be enough.
  • Thanks for the insight. I'm going for the 16GB option. I think the extra RAM will be welcomed, considering my use case. I feel I will have an ARM - x86 mix of about 70-30 or so (maybe 60-40).
  • The only game i play is the old Age of Conquerors via voobly.
    Will that work normally on SPX? Please let me know. :)
    I am assuming , downloading the voobly client would not be a problem on SPX.
  • I would actually argue and say that the X is the the mainstream PC, I'm currently on college and besides gamers (that don't wouldn't even use a thin and light, much less a 2 in 1) nobody uses their PCs for more than web browsing and office and fpr those people this is objectively better.
  • No youtube video review? :(
  • Daniel, I appreciate your ability to review a device for the market it was built for rather than the generic, dated (but sadly still too common among tech writers) notion that every Windows PC must do every thing every possible user might want to do. I used to buy top spec models of my out of the office devices. I stopped doing that a few years ago when I finally figured out what I needed. Step 1 was the i5 based Surface Pro 5. I've never missed the i7 CPU or larger memory or storage. And I've never played a game on that device. That is why I was delighted with the Pro X when it was announced, because I am clearly a member of the market this was designed for. Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful review.
  • I see ProX as the step needed for Microsoft to try regaining the mobility market.. not the current mobile space. but one that savy mobile users looking for the next best options.. Many including myself prefers a bigger screen real estate... the device could either folding out to a bigger screen or come so thin that it is acceptable as an alternative mobility device. Next, instant on is a fundamental must have... something Microsoft will get there through WoA (ProX) or Android (Duo) on Arm chip. The future is perhaps a combination of Neo and Duo. Before we get there end of 2020, Microsoft's immediate and intermediary option is ProX with Android or iPhone. ProX is for savvy users who already see the future preferred way to combine 2in1 with mobile, but need the best option NOW without waiting for another year. Once someone is used to instant on with bigger screen real estate (iPad) but now tighter integration with enterprise the laptop way through ProX, the no delay, no disruption of flow, one would not go back the Surface laptop or Surface way when on the move.... ProX is the preparation for the next possibility or what next for existing savy mobile users.. Take it or just stay sideline as spectator... 😊
  • I think most people would be equally served with a 12" or 13" tablet running android.
    Especially with cloud services being the future.
    Also i don't think Netflix app works on Windows on Arm yet, so no offline content too? I wish there was the possibility on windows X86 or Arm to run android apps as well
  • I accept your feedback as one of the major trends of window users😊... I see the investment of Microsoft into this major partnership resulting in Pro X hardware as a long term plan to capture an increasingly unserved, unsatisfied savy mobile digital segment, seeking first for enterprise productivity, yet media consumption on the move.. holding it literally standing or sitting... the way of existing mobile users.. Do u see yourself as one of these????? Join the Pro X next generation 😜
  • "Also i don't think Netflix app works on Windows on Arm yet, so no offline content too?"
    Not sure where you heard that, but I'm watching Netflix UWP app on Surface Pro X right now. I can download movies/shows too 🤷‍♂️
  • @Daniel Rubino Attempting to force normal everyday home users to use Store apps instead of their normal desktop sites has worked so well in the past.
    What could possibly go wrong! Daniel, thank you for the review. Few sites provide such in depth reviews. My concern for this device is that store sales people won't explicitly explain to potential customers the differences between this W10 and traditional desktop W10. I fear many customers will get this baby home and be both confused and angry because it isn't what they are used to.
    The media being what it is will jump on the controversy and ignore the fact that W10X isn't for everyone as you pointed out in your review and most tech sites will do the same. Edit: The device you used for the review is the 16GB, 256GB version and costs a staggering $2448 here in Australia. You can add another $550 for the 512GB version. Can you fathom the level of disappointment/anger of users if it can't even run desktop sites like Netflix perfectly.
  • This device isn't running Windows 10X. Microsoft is even confusing enthusiasts, how will they explain this stuff to mainstream users?
  • I going to replace my Pixelbook with this, but I wish the OS was 10X.
  • Many here has recognized what Microsoft is doing now is completely very different from last few years. I am not working for Microsoft I hope there is a few here would agree that it takes courage to invent, not once, but again and again, NEW category... The no of right soul users, who have been searching, will find Pro X as the article described.. I am confident. .. Let us hope this site will re visit this issue again and again next few months... Great job to this article.
  • Apple already owns this category with the iPad and more specifically the iPad Pro which mauls the Surface X in just about every area. With iPadOS taking on a more desktop-centric look and experience, it's easy to see why people would choose the iPad Pro over this flawed device. Maybe in a few years the Surface X concept will have the software to match the hardware. Or maybe Microsoft will just kill it off when it fails to gain enough traction, which Microsoft has a strong history of doing.
  • Wayne Gretzky once commented that the essence of his game was to skate to where the puck will be. My sense of the Surface Pro X and the iPad Pro is they are expressions of where Microsoft and Apple anticipate personal computing will arrive as the 5G networks build out which in turn makes universal connected ubiquity a reality. Today, these two devices are imperfectly realized and face different challenges in the near term. The iPad Pro suffers from an operating system that lacks the robust features one expects to find in MacOs or Windows. The Surface Pro X is challenged by the shift from x86 to ARM CPUs and how that affects 40 years of legacy software development. When chasing where this puck, this paradigm shift, at some point one must simply take that first push off towards that future and accept that much work is incomplete. What I find remarkable here is how excellent these devices are given the current engineering limitations. I interpreted Mr. Rubino’s Surface Pro X review as capturing this tension between what is possible and what will be. What I appreciate most about this review is the thoughtful fleshing out of who is the primary customer for this device. Clearly this device, when compared to other options, casts a fairly narrow shadow. Over the decades my relationship to computing has changed significantly from youthful enthusiasm, to working computing professional, to now, someone that follows the computing universe like one follows a beloved baseball team. Today, because of the current state of technology, these devices are an even greater part of my life than they were even 10 years ago in a wide range of areas such as managing my life, communication, art, and entertainment to name a few areas. For now, the Surface Pro X, is not quite the machine for me. This hesitancy is rooted in the incomplete software situation, an understanding of what Moore’s Law should make possible, and Windows 10 X along with Surface Neo. In other words, for now I am content to sit in the stands and watch the puck sail along the ice while I type madly away on my Surface Pro 2017, soon to be a Surface Pro 7. Make no mistake here – in my head I too am skating. We are truly living in a remarkable moment with respect to technology. Excellent work Mr. Rubino. Thank you.
  • "My sense of the Surface Pro X and the iPad Pro is they are expressions of where Microsoft and Apple anticipate personal computing will arrive as the 5G networks build out which in turn makes universal connected ubiquity a reality."
    I agree with that, good insight and way to put it.
  • Hey Dan,
    I almost bought the SPX but ended up buying the SP7 to replace my SP5 (which went to a family member), so far with no regrets. I wanted the X because of it's updated case design and slightly larger display. Every 0.1 inch helps. It also has a bit better battery life. But I don't need LTE. And in its favor, the SP7 is slightly cheaper, and faster than the SPX for MS Office and similar apps. And I don't have to wait for any compatibility issues to be solved. In all other areas they are pretty much the same: 1) They have the same size and weight. I don't understand why the X is touted as being lighter than the 7. They weigh the same within a gram. 2) They have the same "form factor," which I love. 3) Both effectively offer "instant on" from sleep mode. And 4) both can drive a pair of external UHD/HDR monitors and be charged via USB-C. For prospective buyers who need LTE and like the Surface Pro form factor (and don't need to run Photoshop), the SPX is clearly the best Surface Pro they can buy. But for those who don't need LTE, would you recommend the X or 7?
  • "But for those who don't need LTE, would you recommend the X or 7?"
    Surface Pro 7, but again, it also depends on usage. If you use a PC like I do (like the apps I listed) the Pro X gets the job done too with about 20% more battery (plus cooler design, larger display, etc.).
  • Nice detailed review. This is different from other generic reviews you see everywhere. I'm not sure about this device it still feels like it's a mistake to release a beautiful hardware with incomplete software and stick a huge price tag (with accessories). I think this is an experimental device for MS fans. For a common user there are better choices available than this. I appreciate MS for trying again and again, which shows MS does believe in this device and it will get better in future. It's just not ready yet.
  • I appreciate the sitting on the fence analogy.. In my view, for decades, Microsoft depends on Intel. On 2nd of Oct, the Surface family includes for the first time, AMD and Qualcomm... Coming from Microsoft, this is a critical message to Intel AND especially to consumers who demand cost effective, energy efficiency, environmental friendly, and innovative CPU/GPU/AI mobility solution. I hope Microsoft and other major OEM, will continue this platform that provides this democratic consumer voice for the best combination of mobile CPU, GPU, AI capabilities... SPX chip is not just another Intel chip, it comes with an integrated AI chip that has yet to be seriously taken advantage for our day to day productivity, at an energy cost effectiveness perhaps unmatched by Inlet chip Most reviewers ====> left out this AI superiority in SPX. It is great that this site draws leading hardware reviewers and talented developers... We need to anticipate this coming trend.. We need a new benchmark to measure this integrated AI and how this impacts energy consumption. We need to drive more developer- friendly SDK to exploit this AI. SPX will then not be just another Surface member. It is a hardware designed and delivered for a platform for creative and talented apps developers to express their talents to design apps that may have special impact to mentally and physically challenged patients through AI in a mobility device, through LTE, truly liberated the freedom of movement There is no disruption of flow in connectivity... from WiFi to LTE... This will not matter to the normal majority, but for these patients, it is day and night... Different!!!! The benchmark of this article clearly shows how powerful this machine is when comes to multicore native performance. We can keep saying that this machine comes with incomplete apps. For a few developers and startup , there is now a hardware, so specially designed.. that allows them to deliver a prototype to raise capital investment to address a real patent use case... I hope this suggestion will draw the attention of the next Microsoft marketing campaign Not just for the majority... but the less previledge few... The new Microsoft....
  • There is nothing innovative about this machine. Microsoft merely shoehorned Windows onto an ARM processor. Something they have been doing for a couple years now. This machine is massively expensive, has mediocre battery life, poor performance, and does not have a touch focused UI or software. At $999 + $150 this machine makes no sense at all. It isn't innovative. It is another half-baked, half-serious Microsoft product.
  • @bleached Daniel points out W10X is for a certain user base and not for everyone. My concern is sales people in stores won't be as honest as Daniel has been leaving many customers arriving home with an incredibly expensive device that won't be as useful as the laptop it's replacing.
    This won't end well.
  • This isn't running Windows 10X. It should be though. It is confusing.
  • Look into the eyes of parents whose children get liberated and able to travel without dependency on WiFi or the need to ask for wifi password and yet bieng productive within Microsoft ecosystem.. Just wasted 3 min writing to the best known worse idiot.. 😉
  • Those children are using handhelds, not PCs. In the times you are using a PC, WiFi is readily available.
  • "Most reviewers ====> left out this AI superiority in SPX."
    Yeah, I did ask MS about the Skype/AI thing and it's not out "for a few more months". I was told that after the review went live, but I will definitely follow up on that when it happens.
  • Apple sells an iPad with far better battery life, a high end ARM processor, superior build quality, a full touch interface, a mature touch ecosystem, and it starts at only $329. If you need more features, you have the option. Even if you add LTE and storage to match the SPX, the iPad is still half the cost! Microsoft needs to get these ARM devices at a similar price. Nothing about this machine justifies it starting at 3x the price of an iPad. Make it slightly smaller, load Windows 10X, and sell it for $299. If Apple can do it, why not Microsoft? This current pricing strategy guarantees that reviews will be poor as expectations for a $1200 device are much higher, sales will be low, and the ARM user base won't grow so the ecosysyem will not either. It is only a matter of time before this lack of ecosystem prevents Microsoft from having a competitive mainstream computing platform.
  • "Apple sells an iPad with far better battery life"
    False. iPad Pro does not get much better battery life it also gets around 10 hours. Why do you just make up facts? From TechRadar:
    "Perhaps the iPad Pro 12.9’s biggest weakness is its battery life – that should come as no surprise to iPhone fans, as Apple’s phone batteries have always been on the small side, but it’s rather annoying in a device that’s intended to be used as a productivity tool. It’s a 9720mAh battery, but we’re left wishing Apple had put an even bigger power pack in the big tablet... The iPad Pro 12.9 wasn’t exactly snappy to charge up either, as it took two and a half hours to get from empty to 100%. This felt disproportionately slow for how much battery life the tablet had, so if you’re planning on working out and about, it’s probably best to stay plugged in when you can. " superior build quality,"
    That's opinion, not fact. And you can't upgrade storage on the iPad Pro. iFixit gave iPad Pro "Repairability Score: 3 out of 10" versus "6 out of 10" for Surface Pro X.
    "a mature touch ecosystem"
    Right, mostly phone apps. Instagram on the iPad still can't even do landscape. What was Engadget's review for the iPad Pro's headline? "Big and powerful, but it won't replace your laptop"
    "Even if you add LTE and storage to match the SPX, the iPad is still half the cost!"
    Again, you're being dishonest. You're the most disingenuous person in our comments and you know this. iPad Pro 12.9 inch starts at $999 WITHOUT LTE AND WITH 64GB of STORAGE. iPad Pro 12.9 inch with LTE and 256GB of storage is $1,299.00 and that is without the keyboard. IT'S THE SAME COST. Could you please just stop lying for once?
  • Absolutely agree Daniel, the price is more than justified compared to the ipad pro, and this can in no way be compared to the basic ipad
  • I am comparing it to the base iPad of course. The iPad Pro is an option if you want luxuries, but it doesn't really add much value. The base iPad has pen and keyboard support, runs the same apps, and does anything the iPad Pro does. The base iPad is the one Apple is selling in large quantities, that they built their user base with. Why would I buy this for 3x the price of the base iPad? The only reason I see is the slightly larger screen. If Microsoft wants ARM to be competitive, they need to build a user base so developers will take it seriously and create native software experiences. To do this, Microsoft needs to price these to be competitive with the volume drivers.
  • There are only three reasons to get an ARM windows device at this point in time: 1) lower cost; 2) longer battery life; 3) built in LTE. A comparable X is more expensive than a 7 (comparing 16gb ram, 256gb storage, i5 at $1399 with 16gb ram, 256gb storage ARM at $1499). Dan's measurements of 7 battery is about 8 hours. X is 10 hours on ARM processes and 7 with x86 processes. Say X has an equally mixed ARM and x86 usage with an average of 8.5 hours. That is about the same battery life. For me LTE is a no go since I'm not willing to pay for the SiM. So given the limitations of ARM where it cannot run x64, which includes drivers too, I don't get the point of the Surface Pro X. Also, in the review, in one of those large bullets, it states "Compared to the Intel Core i5-8250U with Intel UHD 620 Surface Pro X easily topples it by a wide margin". I don't see that in the benchmarks. The i5 beats the X in Geekbench 5 and 4. The review is biased because 4 out of 5 is too generous. X fails on two of the three reasons to get ARM. I say it fails on the battery because I would expect at least 50% better battery; not 6% better. You need the advantages of lower cost and better battery to overcome the slower performance and limitation of x64. The best you could possibly rate the X is 2 out 5.
  • Why would you expect to get 50% better battery? You don't get that out of your phones or tablets today.
  • Well said. I love surface products, but this one is not up to the mark.
  • "This one is not up to the mark" for you. That would be more accurate. And that is perfectly fine. Not every PC needs to work for every possible user. Surface Pro X is designed for a specific group of users, and it absolutely meets the mark for me as a member of that group.
  • That just nail it, why to get a $1300 machine with all the limitations when you can get a traditional SP which is more powerful, cheaper and the battery life is just similar. And yes, one of the selling points of the ARM architecture is an increase on battery life, a significant one. I just can't buy into this just for the "always connected" gimmick. 3 out of 5 being generous.
  • You missed the whole point of this review then.
    "I just can't buy into this just for the "always connected" gimmick. "
    This is your attempted argument: "I don't need this technology ergo it's a gimmick." That's not an argument, that's your judgement about a PC for yourself. Here's why you are wrong. I need this device. Others in my profession need this device. Business people, writers, students, need this device. Ask yourself THIS question: "I don't need this laptop, but could there be people on this planet who would prefer this? Does this solve some problems for them?" That's how you do a review. Basing a product purely on your needs and wants is a blog, it's pedestrian, it's boring, it's wrong. You don't need always connected? GO BUY EVERY OTHER ULTRABOOK ON THE MARKET lol. LIke, seriously. Why does every PC that is released need to be for YOU?
    "one of the selling points of the ARM architecture is an increase on battery life, a significant one"
    Surface Pro with Intel could not be this thin and have as good as this battery life. It's a 20 percent increase. That doesn't impress you? That's fine. For some of us those extra 2 hours is important.
  • I agree with you Daniel. I think as a portable device for travelers who want full versions of office it's perfect. I love the fact you actually considered business use cases whom this device is for. Most managers, salespeople, consultants, vp's and c level folks will never use the adobe suite or play games. I do wish that there was more app support for occasional downtime like offline Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime. Otherwise I feel this device is perfect for my needs.
  • Even the article headline is ringing alarm bells for me. "devil is the details
    Surface Pro X review: A perfect PC but only in the right hands
    The Surface Pro X is a complicated device to understand and that's a problem for consumers. But is it bad laptop? Not if you're the right person who needs what it does" That headline is hardly a ringing endorsement.
  • We understand is just his job lol
  • "That headline is hardly a ringing endorsement."
    You want a ringing endorsement or accurate information so you can better understand this laptop? If you want some endorsement I choose to use the Surface Pro X as my mobile PC, and I choose it over every other major Ultrabook of 2019. Hope that helps.
  • when is the video review coming out?
  • Funny, biggest "innovation" seems to be the smaller bezels, everything else just screams Windows RT all over again - a platform that looks like Windows but really isn't and you have to tip toe around what you can install and expect to run. Not to mention there seem to be no practical benefits over a traditional x86 powered device - all the workarounds and "tips" are unnecessary with a SP7. If at this point there is still no clear benefit to running Windows on ARM its probably time to cancel it, especially at the ridiculous price Microsoft is asking.
  • "there is still no clear benefit to running Windows on ARM its probably time to cancel it, especially at the ridiculous price Microsoft is asking."
    Damn dude, hate to tell you but you should not pay attention to the news coming next month. You'll want to sit that out.
    "a platform that looks like Windows but really isn't and you have to tip toe around what you can install and expect to run"
    iPad Pro can't run Mac software. You probably can't even name 4 apps that run only as 64-bit without searching on the net. I find this argument specious.
  • It seems you know some important news coming shortly concerning Windows on ARM
  • Comment retracted due to the stupidity of the comment's author.
  • "You should buy a laptop on what it can do today, not what is promised tomorrow." Quoted for truth as this really applies to all tech. Too often I'm seeing reviewers say that some issue could be fixed with a software update, but particularly with phones, if it's some sort of hardware interaction, then it usually never comes. I think they tend to save those improvements for a new model rather than release it to older phones.
  • Nah, a lot of words, like too many of them. I mean I understand your statement but why should I get a $1,300 device when the battery is not great, just to run chrome and Microsoft office suite apps? No thank you. I don't know if it was a mistake but like you say "an iPad like experience", why not to buy an iPad pro when you can get all the apps plus great battery life. I am not buying into the "always connected gimmick". Can you release a video stating the difference of what you are all calling "always connected" compared to the traditional, but better choice, cheaper and more powerful surface pro? PD I know is just your job.
  • "Nah, a lot of words, like too many of them. I mean I understand your statement but why should I get a $1,300 device when the battery is not great, just to run chrome and Microsoft office suite apps? No thank you. "
    What you do with your money is your business. People drop $1,700 on iPad Pros and yet still need a MacBook to do real PC stuff 🤷‍♂️
    "when the battery is not great"
    Name me a 2-in-1 PC with this feature set that has better battery life. Go. (Update: I'll answer for you. There is no convertible this thin and light with this good battery life and 4G LTE. Not even clsoe).
    "why not to buy an iPad pro when you can get all the apps plus great battery life."
    You actually don't use an iPad Pro or have read reviews, right? Battery life is about 10 hours on the iPad Pro. Where are you getting your facts? As to why not just buy an iPad Pro here's why: it's not a good laptop, period. The reviews say that. It's a godo tablet, not a replacement for your PC. There's also the issue with "buy in". Have you bought an iPad ever? You have to now commit to the Apple ecosystem and re-buy many apps, forced to use Safari-based browsers, and have to have to deal with a lot "phone apps". iPads make sense if you own a Mac and an iPhone. It makes less sense if you're in the Microsoft/Windows world running Microsoft software. You KNOW this.
  • So I priced out a HP Spectre x360 13t with i7-8565U, UHD Graphics 620, 8GB ram, 256GB storage, 1920x1080 screen, with Intel XMM 7560 LTE. $1029.99. This of course already has a keyboard and comes with a pen. Similarly speced X will run you $1583.98 with keyboard and Slim Pen. If I want to go to 512GB storage on the Spectre, it will only cost me $60. If I want to get 512GB storage on the X, it will cost me a frecken $500 more! Microsoft's configuration options are horrible. Granted, the Spectre weighs 2.92 lbs and the keyboard does not detach. The 2-in-1 design is cool. And the Spectre is only 1920x1080 resolution. But the Spectre does not have the x64 limitation. Microsoft needs to fix the x64 limitation. If they fix it, the 4 out 5 rating makes a lot of sense. It is a cool LTE device. But if the Surface Pro 7 also offered LTE, I would never consider the X given the state of Windows on ARM with x64.
  • Quite clearly you shouldn't get one, but it doesn't mean it wouldn't fit with other people's requirements, $1300 may seem expensive, but that's because you have no value on the advantages, but to me if it could have fitted in with what I require (and it doesn't) that's small change for a device you could potentially be using for 1000s of hours and reaping massive benefits at the same time. The median salary in the US means that the price difference is only a few hours pay, between this and whatever cheaper alternative you would choose, for something that will be used for so much time, this cost may be worthwhile.
  • Given Microsoft's emphasis on inking in W10 in general and with the new Surface Pen for this device in particular, I am at a loss to understand why the new Edge (Chromium) is not prioritising support for webpage markup. Am I unusual in my enthusiasm for this feature on the legacy Edge?
  • Excellent review, with adequate focus on strengths, weaknesses and particularly use cases!
    Still a VERY expensive device; I would need to see it drop quite a bit in price for me to consider it, but for those for whom money is not an object...
  • The whole "if you know what this device can do, and who it's for, you should be fine" is all well and good, until you look at the price. I just spec'ed out an 8gb/256gb model with kb/pen, almost $1600. For this level or performance, it should be much lower.
  • Maybe. People buy iPad Pros for the exact same price, but still need to have a MacBook Pro to do real PC work. Does that make sense? For some people the Pro X can fit both roles.
  • So the Pro X performance can match the iPad Pro performance?
  • Is there a native ARM version of Office 365, or are we stuck with 32bit emulation?
  • No, and that is a major disappointment. You might say that's too much work, but heck, they recompiled Windows 10 for it, and that has to be even harder.
  • For Office they are using CHPE technology, this, in contrast to other emulated apps, also have the higher level DLLs native - which makes only a fraction of the app emulated. This decision was based on the fact that if you completely compile Office native ARM64 you would lose compatibility with existing plugins. A good compromise if you ask me - and certainly not a good example of lazyness.
  • I bought a top of the line Surface Pro X, and I ended up returning it after a couple of weeks. Here is why, and the pro's and con's of the device. My user profile is I am a heavy power user, but really just of the basic Office 365 suite along with Adobe Acrobat, QuickBooks, and a web browser for various back office apps. Occasionally I will do light graphic or video editing. And then basic media consumption. Pros: I loved the LTE and the stowability of the pen. Battery life and performance were okay. Loved that I could charge through USB-C, using a new GAN-style USB-3 charger cuts down the weight and bulk of the stock MSFT charger that I keep in my work bag (and that stock charger could really use some design love; I don't like it at all, except the extra USB port). Cons: I am a heavy ink user, and I hated how the pen tip felt. Other pens have a slight amount of friction that gives it more of a paper-like feel. I was surprised at how much this bothered me. I didn't mind the "carpenter pencil" feel where it's flat rather than round. That works fine, and I like the eraser and buttons. The lighter weight was also nice. But the tip just drove me nuts when I wrote with it. I consider this a serious oversight. Inking just doesn't feel "right" when writing on the screen. There is no friction and no slight flexing/"give" to it when you press down on the surface, like there is with a real pen or a pencil, or like there is with a regular Surface Pens or other pens going back to the Windows XP Tablet Edition PCs. I didn't like how heavy or bulky this was. It is about the same weight as a regular Surface. It is slightly thinner, but I don't care as much about that as I do weight, especially when I lose a regular headphone jack (maybe it's just me, but I have yet to find a set of stereo Bluetooth headphones that are as convenient and fit in my ears as well and are as comfortable to wear as some cheap and compact wired headphones. Plus it's just another thing to charge daily, and I'm sick of that. Yes, there is a heaphone jack-USB-C adapter you can get as Mr. Rubino mentions, but it's currently out of stock and anyway it's another thing to lose.) Lack of native ARM support. I think there is a case for this as a superior device (performance+battery life) if you can get more native ARM64 apps out there. There just are too few of them right now. Basically none of the apps I use, and as I mentioned above, I'm not a graphic/video power user. This includes all of Microsoft's first-party apps. I would have expected Microsoft to have shipped an ARM64 edition of Office 365 at launch with this Surface Pro X. Edge Dev support is probably coming, and I hope they get ARM64 Electron support so things like the Teams app will not perform as abominably. But as Mr. Rubino says in his review, you buy a computer based on what it has, not on what it is GOING to have. I did download VideoLAN's VLC for ARM64 beta, and it worked great. There was a noticeable difference in performance and battery drain. The net of it was, this device was about the same (minus pen storage and LTE support) as my existing Surface Pro 7. But for a lot more money. It just wasn't worth it for me, and I don't even use fancy programs from Adobe (I don't think Acrobat Professional counts, though it doesn't work either without some serious hacking). Once MSFT themselves show that they're serious about supporting ARM64, and they get a more pen-like tip to the pen, I might reconsider. For now, I'm going back to my Surface Pro 7, which is working fine. Honestly, I think the best device for me would be a Surface Go with an ARM chip, because I have a desktop at work. That might be really interesting if they get enough ARM64 software support. We'll see what happens there.
  • There are hundreds of dirt cheap Bluetooth headphones to choose from. They aren't going to fit any different than a wired pair. Are you really running a wire from your computer to your head in 2019?
  • Dan, thanks for the great article. It was super helpful to have such a thorough and informed review, and you helped answer many questions I've been wondering about before I make a purchase.
  • Is Windows rot still an issue on ARM devices?
  • Very nice review. I am a bit torn on this device. On the one hand I think it's great that MS is pushing ARM and hope they will continue supporting it. Also I think the price is justified give the hardware. On the other, they made the mistake of putting a smaller battery (38wh) in the pro x to make it not heavier than the pro 7. By the way the crippled the pro 7 (no screen redesign, no LTE and even smaller battery than the pro 5 and 6, 42wh instead of 45wh) just to put the pro x in a better light...
    I do understand, but still, compromising on battery capacity on both was a mistake IMO.
    Also I am still not fully convinced by the form factor. And on the go device needs to be lappable and this is only uncomfortably so... (and I have several surface devices). MS needs to make a yoga device with a 3:2 screen (with or without ARM but with LTE). Anyway I do hope they will do the same move to ARM with the surface go. While a surface go X could be great even the previous form factor would benefit from this chip. I doubt however they will go with the same chip and will probably use the new 7cX or a customized version thereof. Hopefully it will still be more powerful than the pentium gold and above all will have a much better battery life...
  • I realize other parts of the review address it, but come on it's not a "slight performance hit" or "slight hit" when it comes to x86 performance based on those figures. The Pro X's single-thread performance drops to (within the margin of error) that of a Surface Go. That's an older device costing just over a third of the price of a Pro X. Yikes. I think it's maybe time to accept that Qualcomm and Microsoft's claims for the performance of x86 emulation have been overstated, at least for right now. Although it's quite likely people will appreciate the recommendations, I'm also not sure users in this price bracket are willing to live with software substitutes in order to get acceptable performance. Telling someone they should consider switching from the Adobe software they know to something by "Polarr" for use on their $1000 machine isn't exactly likely to be a big selling point for that machine. The great benefit of Windows continues to be being able to run the massive professional software library available, when you start having to compromise on that does a Windows device really make much sense?
  • Overall snapdragon 8cx/ Microsoft sq1 is a great leap for Windows on arm platform but still it's handicapped by software compatibility & emulation.but Windows on arm must continue to keep intel work hard on fanless chips.
    really interested in intel chip inside surface neo now if it reaches similar performance levels as Qualcomm 8cx/sq1 with equally good battery life then that would be great for Windows 10x. I am also interested In whether Qualcomm & Microsoft can bring performance parity at lower levels like apple did with 399$ ipad mini'19 & 499$ ipad air'19. Both products run on apple a12 bionic processor which is little slower than ipad pro's a12x in multicore & gpu performance but notably according to benchmarks it's as good as snapdragon 8cx/sq1 in terms of cpu performance.
    It would be wonderful if Microsoft can bring 8cx/sq1 performance in surface go segment if possible instead of designing separate hardware for Windows on arm they should just offer same hardware eg. Go, pro , laptop ,book in arm options.
  • Just like Windows rt major problem with Windows on arm devices is perception issues that it gonna face in the market. an average joe doesn't know the difference between Windows on arm & Windows on intel because both looks & works same. hence when the user encounters app compatibility problems it leads to negative feedback.
    This is major hurdle for Microsoft.desktop apps are main selling point for Windows tablets but this desktop apps also hampers store app development & lack of mobile operating system makes situation worse because it makes user transition slower towards store apps.
    Windows 10x must deliver on this front by enhancing tablet mode at the same time dealing with x86 compatibility efficiently. Ipad pro doesn't face similar perception issues because user knows what they are getting hence those who choose is it over laptop are ready to make whatever compromises & alternative app adoption. although despite ipad os advancements it's still worse laptop than a surface pro x but apple is surely building strong foundation for their future laptop-tablet hybrid. Microsoft must work seriously hard on tablet mode of Windows 10x.
  • One reviewer called ProX next to S7 as fake PC😉.... It is up to us who believe in ProX to communicate correctly... Especially the communication materials sent to sales worldwide.
  • I went to Best Buy and checked one out today and was pretty impressed! I tried the 8GB w/o LTE version and it may be a great fit for my needs on the go. I am leaning towards the 16GB version but don't think I want to pay the extra $500.
  • Hey Daniel, I think it might be helpful to re-frame the Surface Pro X a bit and set the right expectations. Right now everyone is comparing it to an SP7, which is natural considering the similarities but it should really be compared to the iPad Pro 12.9". It would be helpful to see a 1:1 comparison between them in terms of photos, specs and price of the tablet alone and the accessories. Maybe compare a number of top apps 1:1. I know Adobe Photoshop always comes up in reviews, maybe comparing the iPad's Photoshop vs Pro X's 32-bit Photoshop, which is full Photoshop. Surface Pro X already has full Adobe Illustrator and iPad's Adobe Illustrator is coming later. I am sure there are a number of apps & capabilities (mouse support) that can be compared to draw a contrast. I believe when people see them side by side in all of these aspects and it a sets expectations correctly. Once the expectations are level set then the advantages of the SPX will be more clear.
  • Hello, I think I am the target user for this, but my one make-or-break question is if this will run MS Project 2019. It does meet the specs, but will it run decently?
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  • From personal hands-on experience, here is my comparison between Surface Pro X, Surface Pro 7 i7, Surface Pro 6 i5 and Surface Go. Everyone can see the obvious advantages of the SPX (form factor, LTE, battery life) but most people have doubts on the user experience doing the kind of stuff most people do for their jobs (browsing, Microsoft Office, email) and during the breaks (Netflix, Youtube, Spotify). - Surface Go : Nice little toy. Frustratingly slow for most tasks. Not a productivity tool for business persons. - Surface Pro 6 i5 : Almost good enough for everything, except for the too small screen and the thermal issues. From time to time, it almost goes to a halt while it cools down. When that happens, you feel like trashing it. Also, lack of USB-C can be very frustrating. DP isn't as useful and Surface Connect is absurd. - Surface Pro 7 i7 : Great machine but that small screen makes it difficult for some tasks (Powerpoint editing for example). And, it's not silent. i5 SP6 is silent but slow. i7 SP7 is super-fast, it has the right I/O ports but it's not silent and it has the same problem as all PCs. You need to shut it down completely if you want to be sure to keep the battery charged. This shut down and power-up sequence is frustratingly slow. - Surface Pro X : I fully agree with Daniel Rubino. It's a perfect PC for business persons. It's faster in real-life than the i5 SP6 (I don't care what Geekbench says, I work on the thing so I know from experience), it's completely silent and it runs what I need to run. The convenience of embedded LTE and instant-on/off is a life changer when you travel a lot. Being able to just close the lid (the keyboard) to switch-off and then open it to start back where I was without having lost any battery life is sooooo wonderful. In real-life, the battery life is much much better than it looks on benchmarks just because of that. Sure, I'd love to have the Dropbox app but I can live with OneDrive, Google Drive, Mega, etc... Too bad for Dropbox, they need me more than I need them. Sure I'd love to have more native ARM64 apps already available but having Edge-Chromium is really the most important one and it works great. So, overall, am I happy with my SPX, absolutely. Is it worth the price? Probably not but no Microsoft hardware is really worth its price. Would I buy it again now that I've been using it for a while? Absolutely yes.
  • Can I install Visual Studio and write python code? How is the shell?
  • I really want one! This would be perfect for my needs.
  • "a super clever pen that hides away" What's stopping MS from making a Surface Pro 7 keyboard that works with this pen?
  • I picked one up a few weeks ago to replace my Surface 3 LTE. I use it to run a 32" 1080p TV in my RV. The Surface 3 was ok but the picture could have been better and the atom could be slow at times. The Pro X is an unbelievable upgrade. I have an AT&T unlimited tablet sim for less than $24.00 per month. I went from no bars to 3 bars at my daughter's house. Speeds went from well under 10 Mbps to over 30 and there is no problem streaming Netflix, YouTube, or PBS
  • I was about to get the Pro 7, i will wait till i can try the X, it looks perfect for what i need it for.
  • So I took the plunge.... 8 gig ram with 256 hard drive. You see so many videos warning you that is not the right device it's so horrible it's awful it doesn't work.... It works perfectly for me and for what I do for work. Pairing the SIM card with T-Mobile unlimited data like 20 bucks a month says so much that it's worth the purchase price alone. I did manage to get it on sale I think it was $400 a bucks off plus a $200 credit to add so in the end with the combination keyboard I paid about $1,000. Here is some of the things it make it worth it for me
    -a full windows integration with OneDrive which is key for work
    -a smooth WinZip utility which is needed again for work because of certain files that are sent to me with security protocol.
    -always on connected for like 20 bucks a month unlimited data with T-Mobile.
    -all day battery life without the stress of having to worry if my battery is going to run out
    -no need for bringing multiple chargers with me. And if I needed, it's very easy to connect a power bank in my while in my bag to get a full top up charge..... I think the battery is only 5,000 mah or something so it's very easy to top this up or carry it extremely small power bank they can give you 20 hours of battery life. so the whole conversation about this only getting 6 or 7 or 10 hours is just thrown out the window.
    -no compromise. Full suite of office applications that sync seamlessly to my cloud storage for both personal and work.
    -pretty aesthetic value I need to throw this in it's a good-looking device and extremely thin.
    -the screen is actually larger than the current surface pro.
    -I have no problem with multimedia videos play well in the sound is acceptable I keep hearing but the sound is better on this and on the regular surface pro but I don't agree with that. In conclusion, for me, I did make the right decision to buy this device.
  • Can I use Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, windows SDK, Driver Kit in it? And Should I use x86 creative professional softwares like Adobe Creative Cloud, Autodesk or Blender in it?
  • Thanks for this review. I finally picked one up recently and for the majority of my needs - the sq2 fits with more vpn/apps working on ARM 2 years in... The only thing I have run into now is the inability to fix the HDMI overscan issue - this was fixed recently on Intel based surface devices with the Intel® Graphics Command Center App - however I can't seem to find an equivalent for the surface pro x sq2 device. Do you know if this is going to be a native win 11 feature? Or will I need a similar app (like the Intel one) made by Qualcomm? Thanks!