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For the last few years Microsoft has divided its Surface Pro tablet lineup in half. The Surface Pro X line was powered by ARM-based chips from Qualcomm while the Surface Pro (standard) models featured Intel processors.

This fall Microsoft is shaking things up with the new Microsoft Surface Pro 9 which is available with Intel or ARM processor options. Prices start at $1000 for a model with an Intel Core i5-1235U processor or $1300 for a 5G version with a Microsoft SQ3 processor (based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8CX Gen 3).

That’s not to say that the processors are the only differences between the two versions of the tablet. While they look nearly identical thanks to nearly identical screens, bodies, and accessory support (including a Surface Pen and detachable keyboard covers), there are some pros and cons to each processor.

For example the model with the ARM-based Microsoft SQ3 chip supports 4G and 5G wireless networks and gets up to 25% longer battery life. But it has LPDDR4x RAM instead of LPDDR5, tops out at 16GB of memory instead of 32GB. And the Intel-powered models have Thunderbolt 4 ports, while the ARM version tops out at USB 3.2 speeds.

And then there’s the question of performance – Microsoft says the Surface Pro 9 with a 12th-gen Intel Core processor should deliver up to 50% better performance than a Surface Pro 8 with an 11th-gen chip. But the company notably does not make any performance claims for the Surface Pro 9 with 5G.

While that model does have a dedicated neural processing unit that brings support for real-time camera effects including background blur and eye contact, and Qualcomm says its 3rd-gen Snapdragon 8cx chip is much faster than the 2nd-gen, it’s likely that you’ll trade at least a bit of performance for longer battery life and increased connectivity if you opt for the ARM model.

Surface Pro 9 (Intel)Surface Pro 9 with 5G (ARM)
ProcessorIntel Core i5-1235U
Intel Core i7-1255U
Microsoft SQ 3 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 8CX Gen 3)
GraphicsIntel Iris XeAdreno
NPUNoNeural Processing Unit
Display13” PixelSense™ Flow Display
2880 X 1920 (267 PPI)
sRGB and Vivid Refresh rate up to 120Hz (Dynamic refresh rate supported)
3:2 aspect ratio
1200:1 contrast ratio
Adaptive Color
Auto Color Management supported
10-point multi-touch
Dolby Vision IQ support
Gorilla Glass 5
13” PixelSense™ Flow Display
2880 X 1920 (267 PPI)
sRGB and Vivid Refresh rate up to 120Hz (Dynamic refresh rate supported)
3:2 aspect ratio
1200:1 contrast ratio
Adaptive Color
10-point multi-touch
Dolby Vision IQ support
Gorilla Glass 5
RAM8GB, 16GB, or 32GB
LPDDR5
8GB or 16GB
LPDDR4x
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
Removable SSD
128GB, 256GB, or 512GB
Removable SSD
Battery47.7 Wh
Up to 15.5 hours
47.7 Wh
Up to 19 hours
SecurityTPM 2.0
Windows Hello face login
Microsoft Pluton security chip
Windows Hello face login
Cameras10MP rear with auto-focus and 4K video support
1080p front-facing
Audio2W stereo speakers
Dolby Atmos sound
Dual far-field studio mics
Ports2 x Thunderbolt 4/USB Type-C
1 x Surface Connect port
1 x Surface Type Cover port
2 x USB 3.2 Type-C
1 x Surface Connect port
1 x Surface keyboard port
1 x nano SIM card slot
WirelessWiFi 6E
BT 5.1
WiFi 6E
BT 5.1
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou
NanoSIM and eSIM
5G-NR NSA (mmWave): Release 15 DL 64 QAM up to 4.2 Gbps 4xDL CA (400MHz), 2×2 MIMO
5G-NR NSA (mmWave): Release 15 UL 64 QAM, 2xUL CA (200MHz), 2×2 MIMO
5G-NR NSA (mmWave) Bands: n257, n260, n261
Gigabit LTE – A Pro Release 15 with 4×4 MIMO and LAA
LTE DL Cat 20, 256 QAM up to 2Gbps, 5xDL CA
LTE UL Cat 13, 64 QAM Contiguous 2X ULCA
LTE Bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 48, 66, 71
WCDMA: 1,2,5,8
SensorsAccelerometer
Gyroscope
Accelerometer
Magnetometer
Ambient Color sensor
MaterialAluminum
ColorsSapphire
Forest
Platinum
Graphite
Platinum
Dimensions287 x 209 x 9.3mm
11.3″ x 8.2″ x 0.4″
Weight879 grams
1.94 pounds
883 grams
1.95 pounds
Starting price$1000$1300

One thing you might have noticed isn’t in those specs? A headphone jack. The Surface Pro 8 and Surface Pro X had one, but the Surface Pro 9 does not.

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  1. Are there any potential/rumored CPUs that could be put into a Surface Go 4? < 10 W TDP unless passive cooling and battery capacity at this size has made some breakthroughs recently.

    The Go 3 effectively has a 2018 CPU.

  2. How did intel Abandon ultra low power? Those E core in Alderlake are coming to budget laptop in terms of i3 N300 and N305, with same perofmance as current Arm flagships.

  3. I’m excited to see the performance of this Microsoft SQ3 chip. Hopefully it can perform at least as well as the i5 model during x64 emulation.

    1. That’s because Microsoft had an exclusivity deal for Windows-on-ARM with Qualcomm. Without any competitors they’ve been dragging their heels when it comes to performance.

      That contract expired recently, that’s why they had to compete this round. We could see ARM-books with different processors soon: Snapdragon, Tegra, Exynos, Dimensity, RockChip, Unisoc Tiger, VIA, Allwinner, AMLogic, etc etc.

      I found some early results for it (Windows GeekBench 5.4):
      QC 8CXg3: 1100 single, 5000 multi
      Intel i7-1265u: 1700 single, 6000 multi
      AMD r7-6800u: 1500 single, 9000 multi

      Note, ARM can currently surpass Intel if they used the full-8core build of X1 processor. And they can get close to AMD if they upgraded to the new 12-core standard with the X3. But they should leapfrog both in 2024 with the new-3nm node and Cortex-A730 or Cortex-X4 builds. It should rival the Apple M1 as well, but neither are using the same software so that’s a moot comparison.

  4. No new Surface Go?

    Too bad Qualcomm ARM chips (I doubt MS’ customized variant is much different) are so far behind Apple’s chips, Intel mostly abandoned the ultra low power segment and AMD only dipped their toes in for a brief moment a long time ago.

    How are ARM chips doing from other vendors? Are they noticeably behind Apple too?

    1. Apple really showed what can be done with ARM that other vendors couldn’t or at least not yet. Makes me wonder what Apple could have done with x86 in some alternate reality.

    2. It seems the Go has a different release cycle as the other Surface products. Maybe a Go 4 in 2023.

      I wonder if it’ll have a customized AMD chip. It’s been repeated (without a source) on the interwebs that the Steam Deck APU was originally for MS until they dumped it and Valve picked it out of the trash. I guess a 15 W APU is too high for the Go and too slow for the Pro.

    3. No new Surface Go?

      Too bad Intel doesn’t seem to be making decently powerful sub-10 W TDP CPUs nowadays. The one in the Go 3 is really just a renamed 2018 chip.

  5. I looked it up. Only the ARM version is passive cooled, meaning no noise. The intel versions has cooling fan AGAIN. I wonder why… The surface pro 6 and 7 had no cooling fans and at that time that was innovation, even before the apple M1 which also don’t no require fans.
    You would think intel cpus became more energy efficient and less hot and thus easier to make fanless…
    This is step back, after a while it sucks dust inside and you have a high pitch sound from fan at random times while using the tablet I am afraid.

    1. The reason they abandoned the fanless design was because they chose to increase the TDP.

      The i5-8250U in the Surface Pro 6 was a 15w TDP.

      The i5-1135g7 in the Surface Pro 8 offers a configurable TDP of 12-28w. Microsoft chose to use the chip at 28w. Essentially they almost doubled the potential thermal output of the CPU.

      1. Good luck cleaning the dust buildup!

        Another year of new products with almost year-old processors. If they had used AMD the performance per watt would go up, but still not enough for fanless performance

    2. thanks for looking that up. The ARM version is gimped to accommodate Intel in the lineup. Surface Pro X design was better and could’ve been used for the SQ3. Maybe they’ll move Intel along with ARM back to the Pro X chassis when they move to a more efficient process. DDR4 and no Wi-Fi only version for the ARM for pricing parity meant they’re still trying to please Intel, at the expense of a mediocre lineup for the 10th anniversary.

      On another note, Windows is just littered with bugs and Clipchamp ads… iCloud integration, really? Can’t even properly view my photos with the poor performance of Photos even on my 6-core Zen 3 processor, which still vanishes (it doesn’t crash or BSOD, just vanishes) at least once per day. Lame company, Microsoft.