Microsoft is combining its Surface Pro X and Surface Pro lines into one product this year, the Surface Pro 9. After 10 years of Surface 2-in-1 concept, you can now choose between an SQ3 Arm-powered processor with 5G support and Intel’s 12th Generation Core Processors. And for the first time, you can also choose colors that extend across the entire exterior of the Surface Pro 9, not just the Type Cover.
The choice between processors could be tricky this year, simply because the Surface Pro 9 with SQ3 is the only model with built-in 5G support for the first time. Microsoft won’t offer 5G on its Intel Surface Pro 9 line, so you’ll have to go Arm if you want the mobile connectivity option. That was a trade-off based on app compatibility and performance in the past, but both have come a long way since the first Surface Pro X.
During my short time with the Surface Pro 9 with 5G, it was hard to see that it was running on an Arm chip. I’ve been using a Surface Pro X with the SQ2, which already had solid performance gains over the original, and I’d expect even more with the latest SQ3 chip. Microsoft is partnering with Qualcomm to adapt its latest chips for Surface, and the company must be confident in its Windows on Arm work to merge the Surface Pro X line with the flagship Surface Pro this year.
New to the Surface Pro 9 is the addition of colors all over the exterior. You can only get color options on the Intel versions of the Surface Pro 9, including a new blue sapphire option and forest green. I have a soft spot for the green option, as the color really pops on the Surface Pro 9.
Microsoft even teamed up with design house Liberty London to create a limited-edition Surface Pro keyboard laser-etched with a blue floral pattern based on Windows 11’s Bloom wallpaper. Who knows, we might see in the future. custom surface etchings for everyone.
Inside, Microsoft uses the regular 13-inch PixelSense Flow Display (2880 x 1920) on both Intel and SQ3 models with support for 120Hz refresh rate. You only get Dolby Vision IQ support on the Intel model, but both are 3:2 and have a 1200:1 contrast ratio.
The actual dimensions of the Surface Pro 9 are identical for both Intel and SQ3 options, and the only difference is in weight. The mmWave Surface Pro 9 weighs 883 grams, while the Intel version is 879 grams thanks to the extra cooling.
Both models start with 8 GB of RAM as the base, which can go up to 32 GB on the Intel side and 16 GB on the SQ3 model. Both start with 128 GB of storage that can be configured up to 1 TB on Intel and 512 GB on SQ3.
Another bonus for the Surface Pro 9 with SQ3 is the addition of a neural processing unit (NPU). We’ve seen Microsoft experiment with automatic eye contact with the Surface Pro X in the past, but this year the NPU delivers more power than ever before. In addition to redirecting eye contact, there are improved camera and audio features such as automatic framing, background blur in portraits and even a new Voice Focus function that impressively removes background noise.
I got to test the new Voice Focus feature on Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus. Even with pub noise blasting into the room, Voice Focus removed the background audio perfectly. We’ve seen similar software like this from Nvidia, Discord, and many more, but Microsoft’s work runs directly on this NPU chip, so it doesn’t take resources away from the CPU or GPU on the Surface Pro 9.
These new features are also available in any Windows app, so they aren’t tied to Teams and you can use them in Zoom, Discord, or other audio and video apps. Obviously, this NPU work is still in its infancy, but it’s likely to shape what Microsoft does with Surface over the next decade.
Microsoft plans to ship the Surface Pro 9 on October 25, with prices starting at $999.99 for the Intel model and $1,299.99 for the SQ3 version.