Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: How much better is it?

Surface Pro 8 vs surface pro 7
(Image credit: Future)

Editor's Note: Microsoft just unveiled a new Surface Pro 9 tablet and a Surface Laptop 5 alongside a new Surface Studio 2+ all-in-one desktop. Keep that in mind as you shop, because new hardware means you can probably get last year's models at a discount. If you're more interested in the new stuff, stay tuned for our full reviews!

A Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7 comparison will come in handy if you're having a hard time deciding which Microsoft Windows tablet to buy.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 8 debuted as a flagship Surface product alongside Windows 11, and it remains a solid performer. Like its Windows 10 predecessors, the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 7 Plus, the Pro 8 is a slick Windows tablet that doubles as a decent laptop when you attach the (optional) detachable keyboard.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 2-in-1s are generally well-designed, portable, and capable enough to handle most work you need to do on the go. But they're also pricey when you include the keyboard and the battery life hasn't been great, which tends to keep the Surface Pro from appearing on our list of the best 2-in-1 laptops.

But how do Microsoft's Surface tablets stack up, year-on-year? We're diving deep into this Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7 face-off to show you.

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: Price

The Surface Pro 8 is available at a starting price of $1,099. You can pay an extra $179 for the detachable Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, and $129 for the new Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus.

That's a bit more expensive than the $749 starting price of the Surface Pro 7, which could also be equipped with a detachable keyboard cover and the Surface Pen for $159 and $99 extra, respectively. That means the fully kitted-out Pro 7 with keyboard and stylus cost a smidge over $1,000, which is less than the base Pro 8 costs today.

Still, it's not a huge price increase, and the Pro 8's upgraded internals and display do seem to justify the added cost. The base Pro 8 now comes with double the RAM of the entry-level Pro 7, for example, and the entry-level consumer version of the Pro 8 has an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, whereas the base Pro 7 came with a weaker 10th Gen Core i3 chip.

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: Specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Pro 8Surface Pro 7
Starting pricefrom $1,099from $749
Display13-inch touchscreen (2880 x 1920 pixels)12.3-inch touchscreen (2736 x 1824 pixels)
CPU11th Gen Intel Core i5-i710th Gen Intel Core i3-i7
GraphicsIntel Iris Xe GraphicsIntel UHD or Iris Plus
RAM8-32 GB4-16 GB
Storage128-256 GB (LTE), 128 GB - 1TB (Wi-fi only)128 GB-1 TB SSD
Ports2 x Thunderbolt 4/USB 4, 1 x Surface Connect port, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Type Cover port1 x USB-C, 1 x USB-A, Surface Connect port, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Type Cover port, microSDXC card reader
Cameras5 MP front-facing camera (1080p video), 10 MP rear camera (1080p/4K video)5 MP front-facing camera (1080p video), 8 MP rear camera (1080p video)
Size11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches
Weight1.96 pounds1.6 pounds

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: Design

Microsoft  updated the design of the Surface Pro 8 in small but meaningful ways. It's about the same size (only 0.4 inches thicker) and a bit heavier (by less than half a pound) than the Pro 7, with a 13-inch display -- a minor but welcome improvement over the 12.3-inch screen in the Pro 7. 

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 in laptop and tablet modes

The Surface Pro 8 looks a lot like the Surface Pro 7, but with a bigger screen plus better ports and internals (Image credit: Microsoft)

Gone, too, are the Pro 7's USB-A port and microSD card reader. They will be missed, but you can replace them with the right adapters. And those adapters can be plugged into the second Thunderbolt 4 port, as the Surface Pro 7's single USB-C port has been upgraded to dual Thunderbolt 4's.

So while the Pro 8 is a clear improvement, design-wise, over the Pro 7, it's not terribly different: the Pro 8 shares the rounded, flat-edged look of its predecessor, with the same built-in kickstand and optional detachable keyboard that turns the Pro into a serviceable Windows laptop. 

Winner: Surface Pro 8

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: Display

The 3:2 display of the Surface Pro 8 is a little over 10% larger than that of its predecessor, up to 13 inches diagonally from the 12.3 inches of the Surface Pro 7. The resolution's been bumped up as well, to 2880 x 1920 pixels, though it has the same 267 pixels-per-inch pixel density as the Pro 7.

Surface Pro 8 being drawn on with the Surface Slim Pen 2

The Surface Pro 8's 13-inch touchscreen can be upgraded from 60 Hz to 120 Hz, which should make for smoother input when using a stylus (Image credit: Microsoft)

However, the Pro 8's screen is capable of either a 60Hz or 120Hz refresh rate, which you can configure in Windows 11. While 60Hz is more than good enough for day-to-day tasks, bumping it up to 120Hz should make the experience of using a stylus (like Microsoft's new Surface Slim Pen 2) a little smoother and more enjoyable, since the screen can only respond to input as fast as it can display a new image.

The 120Hz display will also let you achieve framerates higher than 60 frames per second while playing games, but you'll have a hard time doing that with the Surface Pro 8's integrated graphics chipset.

Emitting up to 453 nits of brightness and reproducing 104% of the sRGB spectrum, the Surface Pro 8's display is also brighter and more colorful that the panel in the Surface Pro 7 (395 nits, 97%).

Winner: Surface Pro 8

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: Performance

Surface Pro 8

The Surface Pro 8 packs more power under the hood than its predecessor, thanks to 11th Gen Intel CPUs and more RAM (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Pro 7 impressed us with its performance in 2019, and in our lab tests the 10th Gen. Intel Core i5-powered model with 8 GB of RAM competed favorably with the iPad Pro and contemporary 2-in-1 laptops. 

The new Surface Pro 8 (tested with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU and 16GB of RAM) delivers even faster performance. For example, the Surface Pro 8 completed our video transcoding test in Handbrake in 13 minutes and 30 seconds, less than half of the 32:47 time posted by the Surface Pro 7.

In our testing, the Surface Pro 8 had no trouble zipping through Windows 11, but gaming wasn't as great as we'd have liked. We had to turn Scarlet Nexus down to 1440p and medium graphics settings to get to 60fps, and Testing Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm hit 37fps at 1080p and 29fps at 1920p. 

Winner: Surface Pro 8

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: Cameras

The Surface Pro 8's cameras are a bit better than its predecessor, though like the Pro 7 it still sports a 5 MP selfie camera with the capacity to capture video in up to 1080p. It also supports Windows Hello, meaning you can log into Windows 11 with your face.

Surface Pro 8 cameras

The rear camera of the Pro 8 has gotten a big upgrade, up to 10 MP with 4K video capability (Image credit: Microsoft)

The rear camera has gotten a more significant upgrade, up to 10 MP from the 8 MP back cam on the Pro 7. That should make any impromptu photos you shoot look a little nicer, plus the Pro 8's camera can capture video in up to 4K

If you really care about camera quality, the Pro 8 gives you reasons to consider upgrading past the Pro 7. But tourist jokes aside, most people don't tend to do a lot of photography with their tablets; if that sounds like you, the Pro 7 should still do you just fine.

Winner: Surface Pro 8

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: Battery life

Surface Pro 7

The Surface Pro 7 lasted just under 8 hours in our battery test, which is good but less than Microsoft's advertised 10+ hours. Microsoft claims the Pro 8 can last up to 16 hours, so we expect it outlast the old Pro 7 by a decent margin. (Image credit: Future)

The Surface Pro 7's biggest disappointment came with its poor endurance, where it only lasted 7 hours and 52 minutes on the Tom's Guide Battery Test (web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits). The Surface Pro 8 upgrades that time by just over an hour, posting a time of 9:07 on our battery test.

Winner: Surface Pro 8

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: Scorecard and winner

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Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Pro 8Surface Pro 7
Design (15 points)1311
Display (25 points)2220
Performance (30 points)2924
Cameras (10 points)98
Battery life (20 points)1917

All told, Microsoft's Surface Pro 8 appears to be a minor but meaningful improvement over the Surface Pro 7 and the Surface Pro 7 Plus — and across the entire board at that. It's nice to see Microsoft bumping the entry-level RAM allotment up from 4 to 8 GB, and the bigger, brighter 13-inch display should make using the Pro 8 that much more immersive. Plus, the upgraded 120Hz version ought to make tapping and doodling on the tablet's touchscreen feel a bit smoother.

That said, if you already own a Pro 7 or Pro 7 Plus, the Surface Pro 8 doesn't seem worth upgrading to unless you're starting to notice meaningful slowdown. If you just need a 2-in-1 Windows tablet to get work done, the Pro 7 should still be more than enough to meet your needs. Yes, each capacity of the Pro 7 models has been upgraded, but the difference isn't that stark in many. 

But if you're starting to notice performance issues in your old device and want to take advantage of the Pro 8's more powerful components, or if you use your Surface as a creative tool and want to take advantage of the newer model's upgraded 13-inch 120Hz display, it makes sense to upgrade to the Pro 8.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.