Microsoft has unveiled the latest iteration of its Surface Pro tablet computer, and inside is an unexpected surprise. While the Surface Pro 9 has the usual spec-bumped Intel processor, a sharper PixelSense display and Thunderbolt 4 port, there’s also the option to swap out the Intel parts for a new SQ 3 custom ARM chip. Windows 11 isn’t much better at supporting ARM than the last time Microsoft offered this option, but it has 5G and better battery life for a $300 premium over Intel.
At first glance, the new Surface Pro doesn’t change the formula from last year’s Surface Pro 8. It has a 13-inch LCD at 2880 x 1920 (120Hz) with narrow bezels. A kickstand on the back lets you prop the tablet up on any flat surface. The Intel version comes in some fun colors like sapphire (blue) and forest (green), but you still have to pay extra for the keyboard and stylus. It’s $180 for the keyboard and $280 for the keyboard and stylus combo.
It’s the first time Microsoft has offered an ARM chip in its Surface line since 2020’s Surface Pro X, but it’s not giving the device different branding this time — they’re all just different versions of the Surface Pro 9. t announced official details of the SQ 3, but reports claim it’s an overclocked Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, a 5nm system-on-a-chip (SoC) with eight high-powered CPU cores. Microsoft also said it adjusted the angle of the 1080p webcam to make it more natural.
The cheapest model packs a 12th Gen Core i5, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for $1,000. Meanwhile, the cheapest model with the SQ 3 ARM chip is $1,300 with the same storage and RAM. There are also some other drawbacks.
The Intel version can be upgraded with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, but the ARM computer only gets 16/512GB and the RAM is LPDDR4 instead of LPDDR5. You also have to deal with the more limited software support of Windows on ARM. There will be versions of this computer with and without millimeter wave 5G support — the one available in the US will have mmWave, but it won’t include it in markets where the technology is less common. All versions of the ARM Surface Pro 9 will have sub-6 5G support.
You can pre-order the Surface Pro 9 ahead of retail availability on October 24th. Remember, at the “starting” price you only get 16GB of RAM and no keyboard.