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Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a solid update with a bigger display, longer battery life and better cameras

Surface Pro 8
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 features a powerful 11th gen Intel CPU and a vivid 13-inch display. It also offers Windows 11 out of the gate. Though not suitable for gaming, it’s a good 2-in-1 for everyday use and is a worthy update to the Microsoft Surface line.

For

  • Large, vibrant display
  • Tailor-made for Windows 11
  • Supports external devices
  • Sharp webcam

Against

  • Underwhelming gaming performance
  • Slim Pen 2 and Signature keyboard sold separately

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is the latest in the company’s line of 2-in-1 Surface Pro tablets. This iteration includes an 11th generation Intel CPU, a 13-inch 120Hz display, two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a removable SSD. Just as important, you'll get Windows 11 right out of the box with this 2-in-1. Its small size and lightweight design make the Surface Pro 8 ideal to use at home or on the road.

For my Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review, I found the device outstanding for everyday use, and I loved how well the touch-friendly Windows 11 operating system works with this machine. The front-facing and rear cameras are also fantastic, providing clean detailed images. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 8 disappoints as a gaming device and didn't live up to the promised 16 hours of battery life in our testing.

Despite some of those qualms, the Surface 8 Pro is arguably the best in Microsoft’s celebrated Surface lineup. Those looking to upgrade from the Surface Pro 7 or who are in the market for one of the best 2-in-1 laptops should give this one serious consideration: read on for our full Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Price and configuration

  • Many configurations to choose from
  • Platinum and Graphite models are available

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 goes on sale October 5 at the Microsoft Store  in two different colors, Platinum or Graphite. The Platinum model has eight different configurations, starting with a $1,099 base unit featuring an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. A $2,599 model offers an Intel Core i7, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD.

The Graphite model comes in only four configurations at the time of this writing. This includes a $1,199 model with an Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD on the lower end. The most expensive model costs $1,599 and sports an Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD. This latter model is the one we tested for this Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Design

  • Easy-to-carry, lightweight design
  • Thin bezels
  • Sturdy casing
  • Removable SSD

At 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches and 1.96 pounds, the Surface Pro 8’s small and light design makes it a suitable portable device.

The dark anodized aluminum casing is not only eye-pleasing, but it makes the 2-in-1 feel tough and sturdy. The back of the unit has a glossy silver Microsoft logo on the kickstand. You can lift the kickstand via the two indentations on either side of the unit. This is also how you’ll access the removable SSD. There’s a webcam on the back and another on the front.

Surface Pro 8

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The bottom of the Surface Pro 8 has a connector for the Surface Pro Signature or Surface Pro X keyboards, which snap magnetically onto the Surface Pro 8. Thinner bezels give the new device an 11% larger display than the Surface Pro 7. Overall, the Surface Pro 8 feels solid and looks great when sitting on your desk.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Ports

  • Only two Thunderbolt 4 ports

A power button, two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, and a Surface Connect port rest on the Surface Pro 8's right side. You’ll find volume buttons and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left side. You can connect monitors and external hard drives and GPUs to the Surface Pro 8. The latter option is something you’ll want to take advantage of if you plan to play games on the 2-in-1.

Surface Pro 8

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The minimal amount of ports initially seems like a negative, but in reality, the two USB-C ports and the Surface Connect port are all that’s required for daily use. Thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, you can pair devices such as the Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse or any number of Bluetooth gaming controllers. Being able to snap a Surface Pro Signature or Surface Pro X keyboard to the bottom of the device also frees up the USB-C ports.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Display

  • Brilliant picture quality

The Surface Pro 8 has a 13-inch PixelSense touchscreen display with a 2880 x 1920 pixel resolution and a 120Hz refresh fate. It also sports Dolby Vision and Adaptive Color technology.

Surface Pro 8

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Based on our testing, the display achieves an average of 452.8 nits and hits 444 nits around the center of the screen. This is close to the peak 450 nits Microsoft advertises for the Surface Pro 8. Images come through clearly in both bright and dimly-lit environments.

We pointed our colorimeter at the Surface Pro 8's screen and found it achieves 103.7% of the sRGB color gamut and 71.9% of the DCI-P3 color gamut (the closer to 100%, the better). Colors pop and it’s easy to see small details in streamed video content, video games, and just about everything else.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Audio

  • Cleverly hidden speakers
  • Impressive sound for a tablet

The Surface Pro 8 houses its speakers behind the top bezel. Audio quality on portable devices can be hit or miss, sounding thin and flat. While the Surface Pro 8’s audio isn’t mind-blowing, it’s impressive for this kind of device.

If you keep the volume below 75%, the audio from the Surface Pro 8 sounds crisp and clear. This holds true whether it’s a YouTuber speaking from their studio or a video game with booming explosions and music. Bass isn’t terrible but it’s not superb either. Audio quality suffers when it’s set to maximum, with everything becoming a jumbled mess. Keeping the audio between 50-75% is fine in most instances.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Performance

  • Solid performance on everyday tasks
  • Gaming performance is underwhelming
Microsoft Surface 8 Pro specs

Starting price: $1,099
Tested price: $1,599
Type Cover keyboard: $129 extra
CPU: Intel i5-1135G7 | Intel i7-1185G7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Display: 13-inch screen (2880 x 1920)
Memory: 8GB | 16GB | 32GB (LPDDR4x RAM)
Storage: 512GB | 1TB (128GB or 256GB removable SSD options)
Ports: 2 Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, headphone jack, external GPU and HDD support
Size: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches
Weight: 1.96 pounds

My review unit came with a quad-core 11th Gen Intel i7-1185G7 processor and 16GB of RAM, making it twice as fast as the Surface Pro 7, according to Microsoft. Whether it was browsing the web, watching YouTube videos, or listening to Spotify, the Surface Pro 8 never buckled during my testing — all programs ran smoothly. The built-in Windows 11 operating system is no doubt a contributing factor to the 2-on-1’s impressive performance.

On the Geekbench 5.4 overall performance test, the Surface Pro 8 scored 5,347. This is lower than the Dell XPS 13, which scored 5,639, and nowhere near the M1-powered 2021 iPad Pro's score of 7,298.

Unfortunately, gaming on the Surface 8 Pro proved less than stellar. I installed Scarlet Nexus (via the baked-in Xbox app on Windows 11), assuming it would be an easy game for the Surface Pro 8 to handle. It wasn’t. From the jump, the game struggled to hit 30 frames per second (FPS). Only by lowering the resolution to 1440p and setting all graphics to medium did I finally enjoy a steady-ish 60 fps.

Testing Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, the game averaged 37 fps at 1080p resolution and 29 fps at 1920p on the Surface Pro 8. In comparison, the game averaged 67 fps at 1080p and 41 fps at 2160p resolution on the Dell XPS 15.

I wasn’t able to use an external hard drive or GPU to play games during my testing. However, if you can, I suggest turning to those external devices. While the Surface Pro 8 excels at everyday tasks, it lacks in the gaming department. If you're looking for a dedicated gaming laptop, the Razer Blade 14 or the Alienware m15 R4 are better options.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Battery life

  • Less battery life in our testing than Microsoft promised

Microsoft says the Surface 8 Pro battery lasts for up to 16 hours based on typical usage at 150 nits with auto-brightness and adaptive color disabled. However, our tests conclude that the tablet lasts for 9 hours, 6 minutes, and 33 seconds (at 60Hz) by continuously surfing the web.

By browsing the web, watching YouTube, listening to Spotify, and playing video games, I managed to squeeze nearly 7 hours from the Surface Pro 8 during my first test. Gaming is, of course, what ate up the brunt of the battery life. After charging the unit overnight, I managed to get close to ten hours of usage by performing all of the aforementioned tasks minus gaming.

Though 10 hours is better than 7 hours, it's still short of the promised 16 hours. If you can, it’s best to keep the Surface Pro 8 plugged into a charger during use.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Webcam

  • Both front and rear cameras deliver sharp quality

Like its predecessor, the Surface Pro 8 features a 5MP front-facing camera. The camera produces detail-rich images if you snap photos anywhere with decent lighting. Even if your lighting situation is less than ideal, the camera still produces a clear image. Though I’m not a fan of selfies or looking at pictures of myself, the camera did an excellent job of capturing my best and worst features.

The front-facing camera is superb for virtual meetings. As long as your room’s lighting isn’t terribly dim, whoever you video-chat with should see you nice and clear. A webcam of this quality is especially appreciated by those of us who work from home and must attend virtual meetings.

The 10MP rear-facing camera impresses more than the front-facing camera. I snapped pictures of my (cluttered) room and could distinguish titles on book spines and video game covers. Whether you use the front or rear camera, you won’t be disappointed.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Software

  • Windows 11 comes installed
  • No bloatware on the screen

Aside from the recycle bin and Microsoft Edge, the Surface Pro 8's screen is free of unnecessary bloatware. But the big story on the software front is that Windows 11 comes bundled with the Surface Pro 8. 

For many who buy the device, the Surface Pro 8 will offer their first hands-on experience with Microsoft’s latest operating system. Considering Windows 11’s touch-friendly interface, it’s perfect for the Surface Pro 8. I didn’t miss Windows 10 at all during my testing. All of the new features and apps felt natural to use.

You can read our full Windows 11 review for a detailed analysis.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Heat

  • Lukewarm during normal activities
  • Gaming makes the tablet run hot

The Surface Pro 8 is lukewarm to the touch when using it in tablet mode, particularly around the kickstand where the SSD resides.

The fans are inaudible during normal use but whirr loudly when you play games on the Surface 8 Pro. They get so loud, in fact, they drown out the game’s audio. Due to how hot the device becomes when gaming, I recommend you place it on a desk. But in all honesty, I wouldn’t recommend gaming on the Surface Pro 8.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Surface Slim Pen 2 and Surface Pro Signature keyboard

  • Slim Pen 2 has fantastic haptic feedback
  • Signature keyboard feels like a natural extension of Surface Pro 8
  • Both peripherals sold separately

The optional Surface Slim Pen 2 and Surface Pro Signature keyboard are essential for getting the most from the Surface Pro 8.

Haptic motors inside the Surface Slim Pen 2 make the digital pen feel like you’re writing or drawing on paper. Digital artists won’t soon trade their Wacom tablets for a Surface Pro 8, but Microsoft’s tablet isn’t a shabby tool for them to use either. The pen isn’t as responsive as I would have liked, but it beats using your fingers to write or draw.

Surface Pro 8

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

My review unit also came with the Surface Pro Signature keyboard and I found it an indispensable peripheral. I’m not knocking the tablet’s built-in keyboard interface. It’s snappy, responsive, and doesn’t take up much real estate on the screen (though you’re free to enlarge the keyboard’s size if you want). That said, I preferred using the attachable keyboard. Keystrokes produce a satisfying click when pressed but I wish they provided more resistance. The Signature keyboard acts as a screen cover and also wirelessly charges the Slim Pen 2.

Surface Pro 8

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The main drawback of these accessories is that they’re both sold separately. Even if you opt for the $1.099 Surface Pro 8, paying an extra $129 for the Surface Slim Pen 2 and $179 for the keyboard stings. These two crucial tools should have been bundled with the tablet.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: Verdict

As the latest in Microsoft's 2-in-1 lineup, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 feels like a next-gen device. Its exceptional display quality makes watching videos a delight. The powerful CPU ensures you won’t experience significant slowdown when browsing the web, video chatting, or performing other everyday tasks. Windows 11 also feels like it was tailor-made for the device.

Gaming on the Surface 8 Pro leaves much to be desired, and the battery life doesn’t last as long as Microsoft claims. The Surface Slim Pen 2 and Surface Pro accessories pair brilliantly with the device but you have to spend additional money for them.

While not perfect, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a solid 2-in-1 Windows 11 tablet that's a satisfying upgrade over the Surface Pro 7.

Tony Polanco

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.