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Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review: This or a convertible notebook?

By Kenny Yeo - 28 Feb 2020

Introduction

Note: This article was first published on 5 Feb 2020.

Still the king of detachable notebooks?

Say hi to the 7th and latest generation of the Surface Pro.

For the past few years, if you wanted a detachable notebook, you’ll go out and buy a Surface Pro. End of story. There have been challengers and pretenders but none close to matching the Surface Pro’s level of usability and refinement. So dominant is the Surface Pro that now most brands don’t even bother trying to come up with a credible rival.

The latest Surface Pro is called the Surface Pro 7 and it features Intel’s latest processors and some other subtle tweaks. Does it still rule the roost as the king of detachable notebooks? And should you get it over a convertible notebook? Read on to find out.

If you're keen to check out its pricing and configuration options, head over here to get your fix.

 

What’s new

The only visual clue that you are looking at the latest Surface Pro is this USB-C port. Everything else is unchanged.

There are only three notable updates to the Surface Pro 7 and they are the processor, ports, and connectivity options. Let’s start with the processor.

The Surface Pro 7 gets Intel’s newest 10th generation Ice Lake processor. This is a “true” 10th generation part built on Intel’s newest 10nm process. As usual, users will get a choice of Core i5 or Core i7 processors paired with up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage. The full list of configurations are below:

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 configurations
Processor Intel Core i5 Intel Core i5 Intel Core i7 Intel Core i7 Intel Core i7
Memory 8GB 8GB 16GB 16GB 16GB
Storage 128GB SSD 256GB SSD 256GB SSD 512GB SSD 1TB SSD
Price S$1,388 S$1,788 S$2,188 S$2,688 S$3,288

Thickness is unchanged and remains the same at 8.5mm. The Surface Pro Type Cover adds about 5mm to bring it to about 13.5mm.

The next big update is the inclusion of a USB-C port in place of the outdated Mini-DisplayPort. This was something that many people have been clamouring for and it’s good to see Microsoft respond positively. Unfortunately, it isn’t a Thunderbolt 3 port so you don’t get the ultra high 40Gbps bandwidth. Instead, it supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 so you get a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 10Gbps. This is going to be good enough for most people. You can use it with USB-C docks and hubs to output to multiple displays and connect peripherals. It also supports charging so you can use it with an aftermarket USB-C power charger if you wish. Its only downside is that it won’t work with Thunderbolt devices. So external GPUs and super-quick Thunderbolt SSDs are out of bounds.

The microSD card reader is under the kickstand.

USB-C aside, you still a single good old USB-A port, 3.5mm headphone jack, a hidden microSD card reader, and a single Surface Connect port. The Surface Connect port lets you charge with the bundled power adapter (this keeps your USB-C port free) and also lets you connect to the Surface Dock.

The last big update is support for Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax. Wi-Fi 6 is the next big standard in wireless networking. It offers higher transfer speeds, but more importantly, improves support for the number connected devices by leveraging on LTE technology. Seeing that we have so many Wi-Fi-enabled devices, this is the biggest reason why you might want to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6.

 

What's not new?

The new Surface Pro isn't a bad-looking but those thick bezels are an unsightly relic from the past decade.

Basically everything else. The form factor, dimensions, weight, and display are all identical to the Surface Pro 6, the Surface Pro (5), and even the Surface Pro 4. It means the Surface Pro 7 is still highly compact and very portable but it also means the design hasn’t changed since 2015 and it is starting to look very dated. The thick bezels, especially, are quite an eyesore especially when there are much sleeker-looking tablets like the iPad Pro and Galaxy Tab S6 around.

The Type Cover is a great accessory for the Surface Pro 7 but it's also likely going to be the most expensive keyboard you'll ever buy considering it costs S$249.

Also unchanged is the fact that accessories are sold separately and are really pricey. The Type Cover keyboard, which I would argue is essential to the Surface Pro, is a whopping S$249. And if you want to doodle or take notes, be prepared to shell out S$149 for the Surface Pen. This is something to take note of as it adds a sizable amount to the overall cost of the device.

7.5
  • Design 7.5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7.5
  • Value 7
  • Mobility 9
The Good
USB-C, finally
Nice display
Compact and super portable
Good all-round performance
Class-leading build quality
Power efficient, decent battery life
The Bad
Starting to look dated
Only one USB-C and USB-A port
No Thunderbolt 3 support
Accessories are not included and pricey