Like most tablets, the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is not much to look at. But set it up with its preferred accessories – a magnetically attachable keyboard and ergonomic mouse – and it becomes a beautiful machine.
Thanks to a retractable kickstand in the back of the device, it is one of the most versatile tablets on the market, overqualifying it as 2-in-1 detachable Windows tablet.
As the name indicates, it is the ninth incarnation of the Surface Pro lineup, although there have been various “in-between” models as Microsoft worked at refining the concept. Ever since the Pro 3, released in 2014, the Surface division has been a money-spinner, generating more than $6-billion dollars turnover last year. The accessories, of course, help.
The combination is every bit as gorgeous as the MacBook Air and Dell XPS and, like its predecessors, it makes a style statement as well as an impact on productivity.
The Surface Pro 9 is powered by the 12th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, delivering a performance boost over the previous edition and its 11th gen chip. The rest of the upgrades are incremental.
The display remains a 13-inch, 2880 X 1920 pixel, 120Hz touchscreen, with a PixelSense Flow display that allows for recognition of finger gestures and devices like the stylus. Microsoft says the underlying mechanics have been improved to make on-screen writing more natural. The stylus has also been upgraded, with the Surface Slim Pen 2 providing greater accuracy across a number of productivity and creativity tasks.
The front and back cameras have also not changed noticeably, but again their software has been improved. The front 5 megapixel 1080p camera now supports Windows Hello, meaning the camera recognises the user’s face when logging in. A rear 10MP 1080p camera can record 4K video.
While it looks cool on desktop by itself on its own kickstand, comes into its own when attached to a Surface Pro Type Cover. The touchscreen still functions, but the look is delightfully rounded out when one adds a Surface Arc Mouse, an ergonomic, slim, devices that is shaped to match one’s hand, and snaps flat to fit more easily into a laptop bag. It allows both vertical and horizontal scrolling and connects to the Surface via Bluetooth.
The Type Cover and Arc Mouse integrate seamlessly and enjoyably with the Surface, and turn it into a great experience.
There is one ongoing frustration with the Surface Pro, however: it demands one’s Microsoft credentials, over and over again. It’s not enough to log on with a Microsoft account – every application seems to want a piece of the “hello, stranger” action.
After using it for a while, of course, that issue disappears, and it becomes a versatile and aesthetic device for productivity, entertainment and creativity,
The 12th gen Intel chip means it is up to demanding tasks like video editing, gaming, and having various apps open when multitasking.
What does it cost?
The Surface Pro 9 starts at R27,999 at HiFi Corp (www.hificorp.co.za)
The Surface Pro Type Cover costs R2,485 at First Shop (www.firstshop.co.za)
The Surface Arc Mouse costs R1,899 at Braintree (shop.braintree.co.za)
The Surface Slim Pen 2 costs R2,999 at Incredible Connection (www.incredible.co.za)
Why does it matter?
I’ve said something this before, but it remains a valid perspective on the device: The Surface offers serious competition to the MacBook Air, it promises a full working day of battery life in typical use, and has an instant-on touchscreen. This makes it a productivity powerhouse in its own right.
What are is biggest negatives?
- Yes, we know premium laptops and tablets are expensive, but to get the most out of the Surface Pro 9, things get very pricy. The Pro 7 started at R17,999 when it first arrived in 2020, and the latest price is way beyond inflation.
- While it has two USB-C and Thunderbolt 4 slots, it does not have an SD card slot to expand storage, although it does offer built-in SSD storage options ranging from 128GB to 1TB.
What are its biggest positives?
- The 12th Gen Intel chip is almost tangible, in terms of the performance boost it gives the Surface Pro 9.
- The 13-inch display is highly responsive to finger and stylus touch.
- The versatility of the 2-in-1 design means it can be used as a tablet, laptop, or studio.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee