Developing the Versatility and Power of Microsoft

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 is the next 2-in-1 from the long-running premium brand, focusing on Microsoft’s vision of modern computing. I’ve spent time with the Pro 9 to find out Redmond’s latest thinking in the tablet space.

The Surface Pro 9 is Microsoft’s latest 2-in-1 device and the third device to use the design language introduced with the Surface Pro X. You have a light machine thanks to the magnesium casing, but not so light that it feels fragile.

The Pro 9 uses a lesser bezel size, allowing the 12.3-inch display to dominate the device. Once again, Microsoft has decided on a 3:2 screen ratio, which is far better suited for ‘working’ on the go than the 16:9 screens found in more comfort-oriented computers. You still have the iconic kickstand, which allows the display to be positioned optimally when in use, and support for the Surface Pen and detachable Surface keyboard. Both of those are additional purchases, so the Surface Pro 9’s higher price is – again – a sting in its tail if you need the full experience.

The Surface Pro 9 line-up is a pair of devices. While the Surface range has always offered varying levels of Intel processors, the Surface Pro 9 also offers an ARM-based version; We have a sequel to both the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Pro X.

My review unit is the Intel based version. It’s more suited to tasks that require additional computing power – video and media editing come to mind, as well as complex legacy x86 applications. The ARM-based version is poised to be a highly mobile device with longer battery life and better connectivity. In practical terms, the Intel-based Pro 9 I’m reviewing could consistently reach the seven-hour mark for battery life with my mixed real-world usage.

Notably, the ARM-based version is the only variant to come with 5G connectivity, though it tops out at 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage… the Intel models go up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage on the Core. i7 model.

How does the Surface Pro 9 fare in day-to-day use?

The touch screen is impressive, and with a resolution of 2736 x 1824 pixels, there’s a lot of information on the screen. This is especially noticeable when running Office-based apps. I’m all for getting as much information as possible on the screen, especially on web pages, and again the wide display allows that to happen.

I’ll also highlight Microsoft’s use of tiling many app windows, and ‘preset’ configurations that you can quickly switch to. While a lot of UI furniture still needs to be displayed, the larger screen means you don’t lose as much information compared to a smaller display running a 16:9 ratio screen.

As a device for consuming content, the Pro 9 is excellent (albeit expensive). Lightweight and long battery life means the machine is very reliable, it will keep moving in your hand if you take it for granted. Where it starts to get weird is creating content. Because with all the best will in the world, using your fingers for touch, and an on-screen keyboard for input, isn’t faster or faster. It’s convenient in short bursts, but it’s no good trying to use the naked Surface Pro 9 when the creativity is flowing fast.

Microsoft didn’t send a keyboard or Surface Pen with the review Unity, and I was trying my best to just look at the Pro 9, but I’ll be honest… after two weeks, I gave in and popped the Surface Keyboard and Slim Pen from my old Surface Pro X to Pro 9. There is at least some backward compatibility on offer.

The Surface Pro line has been an evolutionary line. There has hardly been a huge jump in offering; Everything is a cool step up from previous models. Include 5G connectivity on ARM-based models. It builds on the 4G LTE on the Pro X, which later arrived on the Surface Pro 8. The accuracy of both the Surface Pen and touchscreen has improved over time, with more precision being added to the screen, more features such as pressure sensitivity in the pen, and a faster inking experience thanks to the hardware.

To start this journey, some first steps have to be taken. For the Surface Pro 9, I’d argue that the integration of ARM into the main Pro line-up is a huge step forward, and everything else is the result of aggressive application of Moore’s Law.

The Surface Pro 9 is capable in the best definition of the word. It has everything you would expect in a tablet computer – from a large and responsive screen to light and easy mobility through to secondary features that offer good quality-of-life options to consumers.

The ARM-powered version of the Surface Pro 9 is where I think Microsoft is pushing the envelope. Not only does it have ARM’s advantages of battery life and portability, it also includes advanced video calling software, with AI allowing for better audio and visuals.

Would it have been nice if this was added to the Intel version? Yes, but it’s nowhere close to being a deal-breaker.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro is a versatile line that has worked hard to establish the Windows-based tablet as a viable option for many people. Yet the two biggest issues – which are intrinsically linked – remain. Surface Pro 9 is an expensive option. You’re paying a premium for a 2-in-1 instead of a regular laptop. And if you want to unlock the 2-in-1 capability, you’ll need to pay even more for a keyboard and pen.

What you get is a powerful, lightweight and portable computer. The physical design feels solid and premium; In use, it is smooth to use and quick to respond; And with both the Microsoft name and the longevity of the Surface Pro brand, there’s a sense of comfort and reliability that surrounds the product.

Now read my review of Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio, a transforming laptop with high-end power…

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