Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Review: This 2-in-1 Laptop Comes At A Hefty Cost

For the most part, the Surface Pro 8 lives up to Microsoft’s claims of it being a tablet that could finally replace the laptop.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Review: This 2-in-1 Laptop Comes At A Hefty Cost

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is exactly the 2-in-1 laptop that I had been waiting for. Having purchased the Surface Pro 7+ over the summer (it initially launched in the USA in January 2021), I wasn’t thoroughly happy with many of its features. It was just a slightly faster tablet than the one that came before it. So, when its successor, the Surface Pro 8—the first major Surface update/redesign since 2015—was launched in the United States in October, I was excited and immediately swapped my Surface Pro 7+ for the Surface Pro 8.

The Surface Pro 8 comes with a larger 13-inch display, including its 3:2 ratio, Thunderbolt 4 port, Intel Evo’s prowess on the inside, a multi-angle kickstand, and a full-sided Type Cover. This is the device that fans of Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets have been clamouring for many years. 

For the most part, the Surface Pro 8 lives up to Microsoft’s claims of it being a tablet that could finally replace the laptop. It does, however, come at a hefty cost.

The Surface Pro 8 that I bought from the USA hasn’t yet launched in India and Microsoft hasn’t indicated when it is coming to the country. The company has just said “sometime in 2022” for now. When it does come, one can expect it to be priced upward of a lakh, especially when bundled with the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 combo which is sold separately.

Microsoft recently launched Surface Go 3, the cheapest in the Surface line of tablets. So, it’s only a matter of time until the Surface Pro 8 is launched in the country.

Why does Microsoft still sell the SP8 without the keyboard cover and stylus?

Microsoft has positioned the Surface line of tablets as a “laptop replacement” for quite some time now. This is why it is all the more baffling that the keyboard and stylus are sold separately. I mean, the tablet itself is as far away from a laptop replacement as something like a Samsung Galaxy Fold (a foldable smartphone).

The in-built kickstand is absolutely brilliant

Having opened and closed the kickstand dozens of times since I received my tablet, I can safely say that it is sturdy as ever. It’s an in-built kickstand which means you don’t need any fancy cover with a stand. The kickstand holds up well and you can get the desired angle that you want without an issue. In fact, the kickstand rotates so far back (almost 180 degrees) that you can even use it flat, as a tablet, with the Slim Pen 2 to write some notes.

The only position where the kickstand doesn’t work as well is when you’re laying on a couch or bed and need to use it on your lap. In a few situations, it may not balance as well.

The display jumps out at you

Yes, the first thing that will jump out at you is the display. It’s about an inch better than that of the Surface Pro 7. It’s a 13-inch (2880 x 1920 resolution) touch display with a 3:2 ratio (for better productivity) and visibly smaller bezels than its predecessors. If you have opted for the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, then the keyboard deck will cover the bottom bezel when in laptop mode. The top bezel is a little chunky but you do need something to hold on to when using the device as a tablet.

Microsoft makes the display 60Hz by default (you have to go into the settings to enable the higher refresh rate) to preserve battery life. While understandable, I wish that the tablet supported the Dynamic Refresh Rate which automatically adjusts between 60Hz and 120Hz depending on the app in usage. This, in turn, would save a lot of battery. Hopefully, it is enabled in a future software update.

Never a stutter but a battery hog

I got the i5 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. I felt like the i7 would be an overkill for my usage and I was right. There was never a moment where the 2-in-1 couldn’t handle my day-to-day tasks. With medium-to-heavy usage that included typing, web browsing, photo editing, hours of listening and watching on Spotify and YouTube and the occasional gaming (Football Manager 2021 and TrackMania), I never really had to worry about any such lag.

There was no throttling when performing any of the tasks and the tablet rarely got hot enough for me to stop what I was doing and turn it off for a couple of minutes to let it cool down.

Thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, I zipped through my daily tasks with a smile on my face. This is a delightful tablet in day-to-day usage with one caveat. But that 120Hz will kill the above-average battery life. From over ten hours with 60Hz enabled to under eight hours with 120Hz toggled on. That’s a massive swing. I was hoping for something better from Microsoft after all these years, but alas, maybe it’ll have to wait for a future iteration in the Surface line.

Without the Signature Keyboard, it is not worth the cost 

It’s an optional accessory but I’d say it’s absolutely essential. It connects via magnets to the bottom of the Pro 8. The keys are clicky and it’s a pleasure to type things on them (including the entirety of this review). The touchpad may be smaller than what most are used to but it’s big enough for most. The keyboard didn’t wobble even when I was typing fast and furiously. There’s also a handy slot for the Slim Pen 2 hidden in the keyboard. The slightly redesigned Slim Pen 2 comes with a built-in haptic motor and it feels like you’re writing on actual physical paper when drawing or taking notes.

If you think the Signature Keyboard is too pricey, then you can buy any one of the numerous third-party Bluetooth keyboards in the market. There really isn’t any shortage of choice.

The tablet for the pandemic-induced conference calls

With all the conference calls going on these days, thanks to the ongoing pandemic, the Pro 8 is positioned as the best device for the work from home environment. With its 5-megapixel front-facing camera that can capture video in 1080p and two far-field studio microphones, I not only looked good but also sounded great on video calls every day. There wasn't a second where someone couldn’t understand me and I looked sharp as ever, if I may say so.

Is the Surface Pro 8 a worthy buy?

The answer is, most definitely, yes! As a hybrid between a laptop and a tablet, the Surface Pro 8 is the best example of a tablet that can replace a laptop, especially since it runs Windows 11 and not Windows RT (which was meant for certain tablets). Microsoft has listened to its customers and added some much-needed upgrades. It has two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C/USB 4.0 ports, better battery life than before, a display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a 120Hz refresh rate, and a terrific Signature Keyboard and a Slim Pen 2 to complement it.

Yes, without a keyboard, the Surface Pro 8 isn't worth the hefty cost. But with the keyboard, which is a pleasure to type on, it becomes a complete device. For a certain section of people, the Surface Pro 8 can definitely replace a laptop.

The Surface Pro 8 does cater to certain kinds of users and power users or gamers will want a laptop with a superior GPU. That said, I think the Surface Pro 8 is very well worth your consideration when it does launch in the country.