Surface pro X

MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO X REVIEW

 The microsoft surface pro X review! Microsoft is trying a million different things to try and bring Windows into the Modern Age and one of those things is this thing, the Surface Pro X. X, not 10.

I think it looks like a million bucks, but the really important part of the Surface Pro X is the processor.

It uses a Qualcomm ARM chip like your phone, instead of an Intel chip like your computer.

ARM could be the future, but the future ain’t cheap. This starts at $1,140 with a keyboard, and the model I’m testing here costs just short of $1,800.

The future also ain’t fast. See, we’re not gonna get to the future without some heartbreak. So, look, I mean, actually look at the Surface Pro X .

Microsoft Surface Pro X design 

It is beautiful! Microsoft went with an anodized aluminum in this nearly matte finish, which looks sharp as hell, but also, yeah, it picks up a ton of fingerprints which is something awful.

Surface pro X

But from the back you’d think this was just a black Surface Pro 7, just a little bit thinner with slightly more rounded edges. But, then this screen hits you.

It’s a 13-inch screen and a body that’s nearly the same size as the Surface Pro 7, and that’s because the bezels are much smaller here, at least on the left and the right.

It’s 1920 by 2880, which makes it a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is the best aspect ratio. Yes, it is.

There are two keyboard options, and one of them has this little slot where the new Surface Slim Pen can hide.

It’s really clever! It just kinda snicks right in, it charges right there, and it’s held down with magnets.

Surface pro X

It means you’re much less likely to lose it, or forget it in your bag, or whatever.

But, that extra space does seem to make this keyboard just a little bit more wobbly than other Surface keyboards, and when it’s clicked up, it’s harder to tap stuff on the taskbar, or even to see it sometimes.

That’s annoying, but if you really want a stylus, it’s probably all worth the trade-off. Now, I am not a stylus person, but this one seems all right.

It could get a little bit tiring to use for a long time because it’s so thin, but it supports all the stylus stuff that you’d want, pressure, and angle, and the eraser feature on the other side.

Let’s see, what else? Well, the hinge goes to whatever angle you need it to.

Microsoft Surface Pro X display

Microsoft reliably outfits Surface devices with gorgeous displays, and the Surface Pro X’s 13-inch, 2880 x 1920-pixel touch screen is the best yet. 

Surface pro X display

Will Smith’s bold salmon-colored shirt contrasted nicely with the deep aqua-blue Porsche in the trailer for Bad Boys for Life.

The vibrant neon-pink smoke Smith shoots through in an epic action scene was the same lurid hue you find on toys designed for girls.

It’s not quite 4K resolution but the Surface Pro X’s screen is incredibly sharp.

I got a quick glimpse of the pink floral pattern on the inside of Smith’s stylish suit jacket as he put it on. 

Display

According to our colorimeter, the Surface Pro X’s display covers 103% of the sRGB color gamut, which is a good result but lower than I expected given the saturated colors I noted in my anecdotal testing.

Based on the lab results, the Surface Pro X’s panel is more vivid than the displays on the Surface Pro 7 (97%) but not as colorful as those on the iPad Pro (128%) and the category average (126%).   

Surface pro X display

The Surface Pro X’s touch screen is very reflective so it’s good that you can crank the brightness up to 417 nits.

At that brightness, you shouldn’t have problems viewing the panel outside under bright conditions.

Only the iPad Pro’s (484 nits) panel gets brighter than the Surface Pro X’s, while the Surface Pro 7’s (395 nits) and the category average (359 nits) are dimmer. 

My taps and swipes were quickly registered by the Surface Pro X’s sensitive touch screen.

Even the arduous task of typing URLs using the on-screen keyboard was a lot less painful than it is on a less responsive screen.  

Microsoft Surface Pro X Slim Pen

Microsoft created a new pen just for the Surface Pro X. Called the Slim Pen, this $139 stylus is much thinner than the traditional Surface Pen and has two flat sides instead of a rounded body. 

Microsoft slim pen

The flat edges help the stylus sit in its wireless charging cradle or in the slot embedded in the Signature Keyboard.

That’s right, the Slim Pen charges wirelessly, unlike the regular Surface Pen, which requires a AAAA battery.

Not everyone will like how the flat edges feel in their hand but I find the pen to be more ergonomic than the rounded version.

Because of those unique edges, the stylus felt a lot like the iconic Lamy Safari pen in my hand.

Surface pro X slim pen

Using the Slim Pen, I drew an admittedly decent drawing of a landscape in 3D paint.

The stylus tip’s sensitivity felt good and I was able to tilt the pen to get some shading. I also didn’t notice any lag, even when I quickly swiped across the screen.

For what it’s worth, Microsoft says that the pen has “exceptional pressure sensitivity” but doesn’t give exact figures (the Surface Pen has 4,096 pressure points).  

Microsoft surface Pro X Ports and Connectivity 

It’s fanless. It has two USB ports, but not Thunderbolt. You can replace the SSD if you can find one in this weird size, and you can put a SIM card in it for LTE. Even the power and the volume buttons are in nicer places.

MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO X REVIEW

I wish there was a microSD card slot, and I wish there was a headphone jack, but overall, this is actually really close to what my platonic ideal Surface hardware would be.

The whole design of the Surface Pro X makes the Surface Pro 7 design look like it’s 4-years old, because it is literally 4-years old.

This, however, looks like the future. In fact, I’ll just say it.

MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO X REVIEW

This is the best looking, nicest computer that I have held in at least a year. Better than any MacBook, better than the iPad Pro, and way better than any Surface.

So, so far, so good, right? Totally, but that heartbreak is still coming, and it’s spelled A-R-M. 

Microsoft Surface Pro X Arm Processor 

The Surface Pro X runs on an ARM processor instead of an Intel x86 processor.

It’s made by Qualcomm, but Microsoft customized it especially for graphics performance. It’s called the SQ1, the square. I dunno, whatever.

Surface pro X specs

Why ARM? Well, it’s where computers want to go because ARM is developing faster than Intel these days.

It supports LTE directly, and it can usually get better battery life, but there are two problems.

ARM processors can’t sustain high speeds like Intel chips can, and most Windows apps aren’t optimized for ARM. Let’s start with the performance. It’s mostly fine.

No, really, I mean it! It’s actually better than I was worried it would be. It’s much faster than other ARM-based Windows computers.

I have the model with 16 gigs of RAM, and I am regularly running, like, a dozen apps and over two dozen tabs across a couple of different browsers, and nothing is grinding to a halt.

MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO X REVIEW

Now, if you end up getting the 8 gig model, you’re probably gonna wanna chill out on that just a little bit.

Now, you can see that it’s slow, but it’s way faster than, say, I dunno, a Surface Go, which, to be fair, costs about a third of this thing.

There is some weird lag sometimes, but, mostly, I didn’t notice too many problems when I was doing office stuff.

You know, Microsoft Office, but also what your average office drone, like me, has to do these days.

Run Slack, keep an eye on Twitter when they’re bored, edit some spreadsheets, grind through email, and so on and so on.

So, that’s what’s fine, but when it comes to more intense software, like Photoshop, you can barely even call it an option.

Surface pro X

Photoshop technically runs on this thing, but look at the zoom. It’s just awful! I wouldn’t even call this usable in a pinch.

This is where I wish I could kinda just stop and say that, if you know what you’re getting into with this thing speed-wise, you could talk yourself into buying it.

Think of it sort of like a Chromebook that happens to run Office apps, right? Let’s just pretend, right? For a minute, just pretend with me. So, let’s talk about apps. 

Running apps in Microsoft Surface Pro X

 So, the apps that run best on the SQ1 are the ones that have been compiled to ARM64.

That means they’re 64-bit, and that they’ve been designed to run on this chip.

Those apps are fast, and they don’t hurt your battery life much, and they are pretty rare, actually.

A bunch of native Windows apps do it, and there’s some stuff on the Microsoft Store, but there’s not a ton more.

But, ARM processors can run apps that were compiled for 32-bit x86 Intel chips.

MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO X REVIEW

This is actually most of what you’re gonna run. Chrome and Spotify, and even Microsoft’s own Office apps, like Word and Excel.

Heck, the Edge browser beta runs this way! I can notice a small speed difference with these apps, especially in Chrome, but mostly the emulation mode here, is much better than I expected!

All of which brings us to the real problem.

There are a bunch of Windows apps, and especially the newest and most powerful Windows apps, that are 64-bit, but designed to work for x86 and not ARM, and they don’t run at all.

I’m talking about apps like Adobe Lightroom, and even a bunch of Lightroom alternatives that I wanna try, but I can’t. I’m also talking about games. 

Gaming on Microsoft Surface Pro X 

Games are a full-on non-starter. I don’t mean that they’re slow. I mean they literally don’t start.

You can’t install Fortnite. You can install Steam, but pretty much everything you download isn’t gonna work.

Surface pro X gaming

So, here’s a game that I love. It’s called Into the Breach, and it’s a disaster! Just what is happening on the screen, here? Well, okay, you can play Angry Birds 2.

Whoo! See, everybody has that one app that they need, and mine’s Lightroom, and you have to do a ton of research to figure out if your app actually works on this computer.

There’s no list that you can just go look it up on. And, hell, Microsoft’s own online store has a homepage that’s filled with apps that don’t work on this computer!

Microsoft promised me that they’re gonna fix the filters, so that only compatible apps show up here, but c’mon!  Whew, all right, that was a lot of bad news. How ’bout some good news again? Well, the speakers. 

Speakers 

MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO X REVIEW

Microsoft Surface pro X speakers are really loud, and they’re pretty good! Bluetooth also seems solid, and thank God, because there’s no headphone jack here.

LTE also works really seamlessly on Windows 10. I think the battery life is medium.

Battery life 

Microsoft surface pro X battery life is not great. Other ARM laptops promise 20 hours of battery life, but Microsoft only promises 13 hours of typical use.

That also includes a bunch of downtime in standby mode. So, me, I’m getting just over 6 hours of active use throughout a day, and maybe nine or 10 total, if you include all those standby times.

Surface pro X battery life

That means that I usually have to plug this Microsoft Surface pro X in the mid afternoon just to feel safe.

I think the battery life should be better on this kind of computer, especially at this price. At least the Fast Charging is really fast.

When I was using the Surface Connect charger, and this thing was in standby, I got from 5% to 50% in half-an-hour! And, while I was using it on charging, it also felt pretty fast.

It will also charge over USB-C, but it just won’t be as fast as using the original charger. 

CONCLUSION

So, at this point, you’re asking yourself, “Why wouldn’t I just get a Surface Pro 7? “It has better performance, and all of the apps work.” And, you’re not wrong.

I think that this hardware, and especially this screen, is much nicer.

Surface pro 7

But, I don’t know that it’s nice enough to justify all those other trade-offs. Maybe someday, when there are more ARM apps, but not today.

I will give Microsoft some credit for making an ARM machine that’s fast enough, and that runs real Windows 10, instead of RT, or Windows S, or whatever.

And, again, this Microsoft Surface pro X is one of the best looking computers around, but the apps are not ready yet.

There might be a bunch of people who won’t care. If you just need Office, and email, and Spotify, and Netflix, and whatever, this thing is great!.

Surface pro X

It’s basically the perfect computer for an executive, or a CEO. But, for the rest of us, if we’re gonna spend anywhere between $1100 and $2000 on a Windows computer, then we should expect it to do more.

Buying this computer is making a huge bet that ARM apps are going to get made, and I think that’s just too risky.

This hardware looks great, but you don’t just look at computers, you need to use them! Like I said, it’s a heartbreaker.

 Hey everybody, thank you so much for reading this Microsoft Surface Pro x review blog! What do you think? Are the ARM apps gonna come to justify this thing? Let’s talk about that down in the comments.

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