The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is expected to probably drop this year. I say probably because these days, anything could delay the release, from supply chain issues related to coronavirus and the company's own decisions to hold on new hardware (though competitors aren't holding pat). The Surface Pro 8 will have a burden on its hands, though: correcting the Surface Pro 7's slight battery life issues.
Our Surface Go 2 review shows that Microsoft can still get reliable longevity out of its entry-level Surface, but our Surface Book 3 review made us concerned that Microsoft's tablet surfaces can have battery life problems. Hopefully, the Surface Pro 8 will take some lessons from each to land in our best laptops list.
The Surface Pro sits in the sweet spot of the Microsoft Surface lineup. It's more affordable than the Surface Book, more powerful than the Surface Go and more nimble than the Surface Laptop.
Last year, Microsoft added a new member to the family with the Surface Pro X, which promised amazing battery life and luxurious design. Frustratingly, poor performance and compatibility issues with the wide world of Windows 10 apps were a major shortcoming.
Hopefully, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 can help the company make 2020 a better year than 2019. Here's everything we know (and want to know) about the Surface Pro 8.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 release date
While a firm Surface 8 release date isn't here yet, we can certainly look at Microsoft's historical cadence to learn more about when to expect it.
- Surface Pro 7: October 22, 2019
- Surface Pro 6: October 16, 2018
- Surface Pro (5th Gen): June 15, 2017
- Surface Pro 4: October 26, 2015
- Surface Pro 3: June 20, 2014
- Surface Pro 2: October 22, 2013
- Surface Pro: February 9, 2013
Judging by that list, we can figure out a couple of baseline rules. Microsoft rarely misses a year (2016 being the sole exception) and that the new Surface Pro comes out in October more often than not, and since 2014, it's had a one to 1.5-year window between each Surface Pro.
This would set our eyes on October 2020 as the likely month of its release. That being said, the 1.5-year end of the window, plus two Surface Pros dropping in June, suggest that June 2020 is not a bad backup option. That could especially prove to be the case if supply chain issues (which have hit the 5G iPad Pro) muddy Microsoft's schedule.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 price
Thanks to years of relatively stable pricing, the Surface Pro 8 price is not that hard to predict, even without any leaks (unlike the Surface Book 3 pricing, which has leaked a lot).
Let's start by examining the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 6. Last year's model started at $749 for a Core i3 model, and the 2018 Surface Pro started at $799 with a Core i5 CPU. Those will be 10th Gen Intel CPUs, of course.
So let's say the Surface Pro 8 likely starts at around $800. But we're more likely to recommend a unit with a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD model, which has typically made the price jump to $1,199.
Except we hope pressure from Apple changes that. The entry-level MacBook Air 2020 packs a 256GB SSD by default at $999, so maybe the Core i5 model we mention above could go down to $1,099 or even $999?
Of course, the Surface Pro 8's price doesn't stop there, as most will customize the tablet to become a laptop. That costs at least $129 (basic Type Cover) and upwards of $159 (Signature Type Cover). Digital artists may throw an extra $99 for the Surface Pen.
We expect all of the above pricing to stay where it was last year, even if we wish it could drop a little (the Surface Pro 7 pushed past the $2,000 mark when fully customized). Maybe Microsoft could provide lower pricing by giving an AMD option, but aside from that, or the above SSD price drop, the Surface Pro 8 is expected to be about as pricy as predecessors.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 design and features
Since we're not even in the leaked renders stage of Surface Pro 8 news, we're mainly focusing on Microsoft patents to see what Microsoft could be working on behind the scenes. Just realize that patents aren't a sign of what a company is releasing anytime soon, or even what they plan to produce, as sometimes they're just one company preventing another company from trying something, in a game of patent chess.
That being said, we've seen some wild potential Surface Pro 8 features from Microsoft's patents, stuff that would get folks to definitely consider an upgrade.
For example: the Surface Pro 8 kickstand could be a lot more functional than it currently is. One patent filed to the USPTO shows the Surface Pro with solar panels inside of the kickstand, which is one way of solving the Surface Pro 7's unfortunately short battery life.
And if that doesn't inspire your confidence, note that the patent reads "a larger number of solar panels can also be used, rather than the four panels shown". Of course, since this is a kickstand, the angle of those panels could be adjusted to grab the most amount of sunlight.
That being said, I'd assume that such a kickstand would be an optional add-on, like the Type Cover and Surface Pen, which would increase the price by a substantial amount.
Another way that Microsoft might make the kickstand even more impressive is by having it kick (sorry) out the jams. Another USPTO patent filed by Microsoft, this one titled "EXPANDABLE ENCLOSURE FOR ELECTRONIC DEVICE RESONANCE BOX". And while the language of the patent is a bit high-falutin, the big takeaway is this add-on would give "the benefit of amplifying audio ... without adding significantly to the device volume or requiring an auxiliary speaker system".
Of course, the Surface Pro could certainly use such an upgrade, as we noted in our Surface Pro 7 review that its "speakers are fine for a short YouTube or Netflix binge, but they're too quiet to help you get immersed in your favorite music and movies". Meanwhile, the MacBook Air 2020 blew us away with its sound.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 specs
We hope that Microsoft is seeing how the industry is trending to thinner bezels, and can find a way to give us a screen that's larger than the 12.3-inch display in the current Surface Pro, without changing the chassis or making it bigger.
We're not sure how far they could stretch, but I'd say we could get something closer to (but not the same size) as the Surface Pro X's 13-inch panel. The Surface Pro 7's face measures 90.85 square inches (11.5 x 7.9 inches), which is close to the Pro X's 92.66-square-inch face (11.3 in x 8.2 inches).
Next, let's think about how much of a speed boost that the Surface Pro 8 will get. The Pro 7 features Intel's 10th Gen Ice Lake (10nm) processors, and while the "Tiger Lake" CPUs are slated to replace that chip, those CPUs don't have a specific release schedule yet.
What we do know is the Tiger Lake chips are due in the 2nd half of 2020. How does that jibe with the potential October 2020 release? Only time will tell. What we can be sure of is that there will be Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 versions available, as that's the standard process.
Will Microsoft also allow for shoppers to pick an AMD processor? The company allowed that for the Surface Laptop 3, but that laptop disappointed with performance. Hopefully, the gains in the latest AMD chips will provide more performance to enjoy.
Regarding memory and storage, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Surface Pro 8 with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, though as I said earlier, I'd hope that pressure from Apple could double that default storage, bringing it to 256GB, and similarly 4GB of RAM feels short.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 changes we want
Hours of additional battery life: The Surface Pro 7's biggest flaw was its seven hours and 52 minutes score on our web-surfing (over Wi-Fi) battery test. That was a huge drop from the Surface Pro 6's 9:20 time. The more-affordable Surface Go 2 beats it by more than 2 hours, posting a time of 11:39. It's also less than the 9:31 time we saw from the MacBook Air 2020 and the 12:39 we saw from the 1080p Dell XPS 13.
More stability: We keep seeing reports of Windows 10 update fails, and one recent update sent the Surface Pro 7 into a series of random shutdowns across potentially hundreds of users. The Surface Pro is a flagship Microsoft device and should be reliable.
Shrunken bezels: This is less about what I want, but more about where the industry is going. Look at the XPS 13's InfinityEdge displays, and the smaller (but still there) bezels on the iPad Pro 2020. If the Surface Pro is still supposed to be an industry leader, it should look like a device released today, or in 2021, not like the model that came out last year.
Stronger sound: As we mentioned above, the patent of an amplifier in the kickstand is certainly appealing. The Surface Pro 7's sound output doesn't impress anyone, and I really hope Microsoft can catch up on volume.
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