Introduced in October 2022, the Surface Pro 9 is Microsoft’s latest take on the popular 2-in-1 computer format. Offering a versatile format that is hopeful in giving you the best of both a computer and tablet world, it’s not always the best at either.
With the release of every new generation of computer, whether from the likes of Microsoft, Dell, or HP, there is a reasonable expectation that it will get better year after year. So, what do you do if the newest model year isn’t any better than its predecessor? Beyond that, what if it’s potentially worse?
This may very well be the case with the Surface Pro 9, which, in many ways, is a step backward from previous generations carrying the same name. Let’s take a deeper look at the Surface Pro 9 and the eight reasons you should skip this model year.
|Price||Starting from $999|
|Size||11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches|
|Display||13” PixelSense Flow Display (2880 x 1920p resolution)|
|Processor||12th generation Intel Core i5/i7 processor/Microsoft SQ3|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe Graphics/Adreno 8cx Gen 3|
|Operating System||Windows 11|
|Battery Life||Up to 15.5 hours|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6E, 5G, Bluetooth 5.1|
|Ports||2 USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, 1 Surface Connect, 1 Surface Type Cover|
|Color Options||Platinum, Sapphire, Forest, Graphite|
This may be the biggest annoyance of all when it comes to any of the most recent Surface Pro launches and not just the Surface 9. As Microsoft still refuses to include both the Type Cover and the Pen with the Surface Pro, you are forced to add them on as extras. For the Type Cover, this means an additional $159 in order to do any typing whatsoever. While less critical for overall functionality, the Surface Pen is another $129 and it’s going to come in handy when you convert the Surface Pro to tablet mode.
The type cover is a definite pickup as it’s a must as part of the overall 2-in-1 form factor, but why it’s just not built into the price is really questionable. Instead of packing it up at one price as other best 2-in-1 computers do, Microsoft’s decision to sell it separately is a little mind-boggling. Selling the Surface Pen separately makes more sense as not everyone will pick it up but the keyboard is a must-own, so it should be included as part of the purchase price.
- i5-2450M CPU model
- Up to 15.5 hours of battery life
- 13” PixelSense touchscreen
- Virtually edge-to-edge 13” PixelSense touchscreen
- Surface Slim Pen 2
Not for Gaming
This may not be a glaring issue for every Surface Pro 9 owner but it’s not the best gaming computer, and that’s just fine for those who want to focus on using this computer for everyday use. Anyone who wants a computer that can help with both productivity and then turn around and entertain you with some games on a flight home might want to try a different computer. This computer is definitely better for Call of Duty.
You can play games on the Surface Pro 9 if you keep your expectations very low for the Intel Iris Xe GPU that is inside the Surface hardware. Not only is it not designed for gaming, but it would also be a tough ask for anyone to consider this good as a great option for video editing just as much as it is for Steam. The good news is that many people are likely looking elsewhere for gaming computers but someone who wants the best of both in a 2-in-1 should skip the Surface Pro 9.
- Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 included
- USB-C connection
Performance Improvements (or Lack Thereof)
Traditionally, when it comes to yearly computer releases, you like to see leaps in performance from one year to the next. In the case of the Surface Pro 9, Microsoft didn’t look at single-core performance enough to consider that it wouldn’t improve much with the Surface Pro 9. According to online testing, the Surface Pro 9 actually performs around 10% worse than the Surface Pro 8. What’s more, other independent online testing discovered that multicore scores out of the 12th generation Intel chips inside the Surface Pro 12 performed worse than previous generation chips.
The same can be said for graphic benchmarks, which also performed worse than the Surface Pro 8. None of this is to say that you won’t be able to do most of your daily tasks, but when you buy a new computer, you want to know that it’s better than before. In the case of the Surface Pro 9, at least as far as single-core testing is concerned, you cannot say that. The result is that you may want to consider skipping the Surface Pro 9 altogether and waiting for next year, or better yet, going for the now less expensive Surface Pro 8 hardware.
The good news is that if you want the 2-in-1 form factor and strong performance, there are a ton of options on the market that fit these criteria.
- Compatible with Surface Pro 8/Surface Pro X/Surface Laptop Studio/Surface Duo 2
- With haptic motor sensation
- Real-time writing
- Pinpoint accuracy
No Headphone Jack
The internet went up in arms when Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone and, ever since then, headphone jacks have been disappearing with any number of new electronics. In the case of the Surface Pro 9, it marks the first year a headphone jack has not been included, which feels like a real omission. Given the rise in remote work and the use of video calling software, including a headphone jack feels like something that is not only helpful but a necessity these days.
Instead, as a Surface Pro 9 owner, you are forced to choose between a Bluetooth or a USB-C dongle. While using a Bluetooth headset is likely fine for most people, if you want the absolute best video call quality, a wired headphone set is still the way to go. Hopefully, Microsoft sees the error of its ways and brings this back with the Surface Pro 10.
This is a pretty notable concern, but for anyone looking at the Surface Pro 9, you actually have the choice between two systems. The first is the more popular model with Intel processors but there is a second alternative for anyone who wants connectivity while on the go. On the positive side, this marks the first time a Surface Pro model has 5G cellular connectivity available. The disappointing part is that you can only get an ARM-powered SQ3 processor.
Aside from the idea that you now have to subscribe to a cellular plan, you are also subject to slightly worse performance with the ARM processor over the already worse-performing Intel processor. All of this is to again emphasize that if you are hoping to see the Surface Pro 9 outperform its predecessors, it doesn’t. Still, there are some definite benefits of having 5G but you have limited options when making this choice, and it begs the question as to why Microsoft went down this road.
At least you have Wi-Fi 6E to rely on with the Intel version, so that’s something to consider.
Gets Pricey Quickly
As is traditionally the case with most Microsoft Surface computers, the $999 starting price with the Surface Pro 9 can head north pretty quickly. Aside from having to add the separate costs of the Type Cover and Surface Pen, you can jump up $400 right off the bat if you want to make the switch from the Intel Core i5 to the Core i7 processor.
At its highest point, if you want to completely spec out the Surface Pro 9 (without 5G), your total price can jump to $2,299, and that is before adding the keyboard or the pen. This price will give you the maximum amount of 32GB of RAM and 1TB SSD but it’s also more than double the initial asking price.
If you stick with the 12th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, you have fewer options as far as pricing and specs, including different combinations of RAM and SSD space. At best, you can only upgrade to 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, so if you want to keep costs down somewhat, you have to stick with the lesser of two processor options.
Not Every Color Choice is the Same
Interestingly enough, even as Microsoft offers four colors of the Surface Pro 9 with Platinum, Sapphire, Forest, and Graphite, they are not created equal. For reasons unknown, only the Platinum color has three different spec options for the Intel Core i5 processor with Sapphire, Forest, and Graphite only having two. It’s an unusual decision by Microsoft and it’s tough to say why they would want to limit consumers to different specs based on color choice instead of making everything equal.
If you make the leap to the Intel Core i7 processor, it’s still the Platinum color that has the most options with four different spec choices. The Sapphire, Forest, and Graphite are still only limited to two different spec choices going as high as 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. If you want to max out the hardware and hit the aforementioned $2,299 price tag, you better really love the Platinum color in order to do so.
Microsoft makes a booming promise of around 15.5 hours of battery life with average typical use. While they do not specify what that average typical use consists of, there is a really strong belief that you will not get anything near the promised battery life. Aside from the fact that Microsoft cut 30 minutes off overall battery life from the Surface Pro 8, you may not even see as much as 10 hours when performing your daily productivity and entertainment tasks.
Battery life is most often based on you using the computer as much as it is the hardware but as online reviews and social media conversations indicate subpar battery life, it’s a worthwhile consideration before purchasing.
Alternatives to the Surface Pro 9
If you’re convinced that the Surface Pro 9 is a bit subpar, you may want to consider one of the many alternatives to this 2-in-1 device. The HP Spectre x360 and the Lenovo Yoga 9i are stellar options if you’re looking for a powerful laptop with a detachable keyboard. If you prefer to use a tablet, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 or the Apple iPad Pro are great choices.
As beautiful as the Surface Pro 9 hardware is and as much as Microsoft has a well-deserved history of pushing out solid hardware, the Surface Pro 9 doesn’t hit the mark the way that it should. Between disappointing performance compared to the Surface Pro 8, the lack of a headphone jack, and the need to buy both the keyboard and pen separately, you can do better with other 2-in-1 computer options available right now.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Mr.Mikla/Shutterstock.com.