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Microsoft Surface Pro X review: Small step for Windows on ARM

Design and battery life favour the 2021 edition of the Microsoft Surface Pro X but the Apple Macbook Pro and Air may prove to be more versatile

The 2021 edition of the Surface Pro X, launched in India this month, is not a huge step forward from the 2020 edition. (Press handout)

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Consumer laptop makers worldwide concur that the notebooks we will use in future will run on ARM chips—chips that use the same system architecture as the chips on our phones. And while naysayers will remain, devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro X and Apple’s M1 powered Macbooks have proved that this future is not too distant.

The 2021 edition of the Surface Pro X, launched in India this month, is not a huge step forward from the 2020 edition. It has an updated Qualcomm SQ1 or SQ2 processor, depending on how much you are paying, and a slightly lower price. While the 2020 edition would cost you 98,999 for the tablet alone, the latest version will cost about 5,000 less for the entry variant.

Also read: Apple MacBook Pro 14 review: Return to glory

After nearly a decade of Surface devices, we have come to learn one thing: that Microsoft is neither going to make these devices cheaper, nor is it going to bundle the Type Cover keyboard and Slim Pen into the price. Which means that the actual price of the Surface Pro X will always remain above 1 lakh, just like a Macbook, or many of the top iPads, that this product competes with.

The first being the fact that Microsoft’s PixelSense displays are amongst the best that any laptop can offer today.
The first being the fact that Microsoft’s PixelSense displays are amongst the best that any laptop can offer today.

There are mainly three things that the Surface Pro X has going for it. The first being the fact that Microsoft’s PixelSense displays are amongst the best that any laptop can offer today. This isn’t a device for photo or video editing but if you want movies and images to look good, it does that very well.

The two other things, which are arguably more important to most users, are that the Surface Pro X offers literally a full day’s battery life, along with expandable storage. There’s a SIM slot-like compartment under the kickstand on the back which allows users to slot in a new SSD on this device.

Windows on ARM still doesn’t feel as fast as macOS does on Apple’s new ARM chips.
Windows on ARM still doesn’t feel as fast as macOS does on Apple’s new ARM chips. (Press handout)

One could also argue that the Microsoft Surface Pro X is a much sleeker and stylish-looking device than a Macbook, and I dare say the 5MP front camera on this device is better than the ones on comparable Macbooks. But when it comes to performance, Apple’s ARM-powered devices surpass the Surface Pro X.

Windows on ARM still doesn’t feel as fast as macOS does on Apple’s new ARM chips. Which doesn’t mean that the Surface Pro X isn’t usable or feels as slow and sluggish as a five-year-old laptop would today. But if performance is of paramount importance to you, the Macbooks are still far ahead.

A good thing is that Windows 11 seems to be faster on the new Qualcomm SQ2 chip than Windows 10 used to be. Microsoft has also taken steps this year to enhance app support for these chips, while Google has already started testing ways to bring Android apps to Windows devices as well.

All this means that the future for devices like the Surface Pro X is bright, with a lot to look forward to. The question, however, is whether you should be buying this device right away. And that’s a trickier one to answer.

To be sure, the Microsoft Surface Pro X is a decent device that does make a case for those who put design and battery life over everything else. But for those who don’t mind such prices, the Macbook Pro and Air might prove to be more versatile, even if the Surface’s detachable keyboard could make it easier to carry around.

Also read: The Xiaomi 11T Pro is let down by design

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