Microsoft has hit the new Surface series hard, launching Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro X and Surface Laptop 3. The revised laptop makes sense for us; the Surface Laptop 2 debuted in June 2017 so it’s about time we’ve seen a new model.
Yet bringing together two Surface Pro tablets is a bold move. The Pro X is a higher-price, sleeker new professional laptop, while the Pro 7 is a somewhat more compact edition that has much more in common with older Surface Pro versions.
The Pro 7 feels a little lazy. Yes, that’s a bit uncharitable for us, but you can barely tell the difference when you compare it even back to Surface Pro 4. Three Surface Pro generations have come and gone, with only the slightest hint of innovation in design. The bezel looks big in 2019 for a tablet; the kickstand feels a bit sturdy, but it doesn’t look any different.
The Surface Pro X shakes things up and it shocks us, despite the mere weeks between their launches, that the Pro 7 looks so … well, usual. It’s still a beautiful design that feels good-made but it’s simply no longer exciting.
The rear and sides of the Pro 7 are solid metal, which gives the chassis a sturdy feel but is liable to scuff should you drop it. The screen is fairly well protected by the metal encircling it, and look as bright and colorful as ever, a testament to the display quality of the Surface line.
As any Surface owners would know, the Pro 7 without its keyboard cover looks incomplete. We have the Signature Type Cover in a dark ochre, which with its magnetic clasp snaps satisfactorily onto the Pro 7 frame. The Pro 7 itself is an all-black affair; it looks particularly sleek, with the Type Cover attached.
But the keyboard’s box has a tell-tale issue; for Surface Pro 5, 6, and 7. For three generations this piece of hardware has not been updated and of course, the Pro X has its own unique version. We believe that this product’s design ethos was ‘ if it doesn’t break, don’t repair it. ‘
The Surface’s position is a halfway-house between tablet and laptop, and that’s definitely reflected in Microsoft’s design choices. The keyboard of the Type Cover still feels good to use, much better than the Touch Cover (which uses pads rather than physical keys).
In one very key respect, the Surface Pro 7 differs from its ancestors: the internal hardware. This tablet rocks one of Intel’s new 10th-generation CPUs, which not only delivers improved overall performance over older processors but also comes with Intel’s new, integrated Iris Plus graphics–provided you don’t purchase the version with an i3 processor.
Our configuration has a quad-core i7-1065G7 processor and 16 GB RAM, making it the most powerful version of the Pro 7 (although this model has a storage capacity of only 256 GB, which can go up to 1 TB). This model is priced at £ 1,449 at the moment but later more on that.
The difference is significant; over the Surface Pro 6, the newer processors offer performance improvements of around 20%. Whether this is 3D rendering, video encoding or crunching equations, it’s more competent in every region. Note that if you are looking to do serious professional studio work like 4 K video editing, you probably still want a proper laptop.
However, the new Iris Plus graphics are making a huge difference. Gaming in 1080p is actually feasible here–definitely not in extreme environments but decent enough for a Fortnite location if you’ve got a mouse. We reviewed a handful of games (including Portal, Dirty Bomb, Everspace and, you know, Crysis) and they were treated pretty well for most.
This powered-up performance has sadly come at a cost. The Pro 7 battery is pretty lackluster, falling short in battery life comparisons of the older Pro 6. If you are simply word processing, it can hit the advertised 10.5-hour battery life from a full charge, but in practical terms, any tough tasks will cut that in half or worse, although this is typical of laptops with a bit of grunting to them.
Sadly, video playback also has a very bad impact on the battery, but it will play a movie easily at full volume without having to be charged. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker, but we just wish the battery had a little more juice. At least it charges fast, using the proprietary port of Microsoft’s Surface Connect.
One of the Surface tablets ‘ strangely most appealing features remains: Windows 10, issued directly from Microsoft, free from annoying bloatware apps or custom Android user interfaces. It is instantly familiar and compatible with the software and lacks any further irritations.
In terms of connectivity and compatibility, the Pro 7 now also has USB-C support, a huge boon for modern tech-heads, and keeps one conventional USB port to ensure older hardware is still usable. The USB-C port has no data transfer rates from Thunderbolt 3 but it is still a good addition.
This Surface also comes equipped with superior sensitivity to the Surface Pen along with gesture control, features implemented in previous models and remaining backward compatible here. If you already own the new-model Surface Pen, Pro 7 is doing better than ever.
Then there are all the usual things; Windows Hello for facial recognition login, tablet mode for quick on-the-move updates, your phone sync for Android devices connection. Of particular note is the instant-on performance: the Pro 7 boots incredibly fast, and it can be unlocked with Windows Hello active before you have even finished opening the Type Cover.
So, If you’re looking for a flexible tablet for work or pleasure, the Surface Pro 7 is definitely worth a look.
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