Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: How much better is the new tablet?

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Pro 7: How much better is the new tablet?

During its latest Surface event, Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 8, alongside a handful of other products. If you’ve kept up with the news, you’ll know the Surface Pro 8 is one of the biggest evolutions in the Surface Pro family. But just how much better is it? Let’s compare the Surface Pro 7 and Pro 8 to find out.

Overall, the Surface Pro 8 takes some of the improvements of the business-oriented Surface Pro 7+, but adds some major changes on top of that too. In the past, most generational Surface Pro refreshes haven’t warranted an upgrade if you had the previous model, but this year, it’s a different story.

Surface Pro 8 vs Pro 7: Specs

First off, let’s compare the specs in these two models. Obviously, the Surface Pro 8 is going to have better hardware overall, but there are definitely some points worth going over.

Surface Pro 8Surface Pro 7
Processor
  • Intel Core i3-1115G4 (up to 4.1GHz, 2-core) (commercial customers only)
  • Intel Core i5-1135G7 (up 4.2GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i3-1005G1 (up to 3.4GHz, 2-core)
  • Intel Core i5-1035G4 (up to 3.7GHz. 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1065G7 (up to 3.9GHz, 4-core)
Graphics
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
  • 4GB
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
Storage
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
Display
  • 13 inch PixelSense Flow (2880 x 1920) display, up to 120Hz refresh rate, touch, Surface Pen support
  • 12.3 inch PixelSense (2736 x 1824), touch, Surface Pen support
Audio
  • 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • 1.6W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio
Webcam
  • 5MP, 1080p front-facing webcam
  • 10MP, 4K/1080p rear-facing camera
  • 5MP, 1080p front-facing webcam
  • 8MP, 1080p rear-facing camera
Biometric authentication
  • Windows Hello IR camera
  • Windows Hello IR camera
Battery
  • Up to 16 hours of battery life
  • Up to 10.5 hours of battery life
Ports
  • 2 Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C) ports
  • Surface Connect port
  • 3,5mm headphone jack
  • 1 Surface Connect port
  • 1 USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • 1 USB Type-C (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD card reader
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.1
  • Optional: LTE (Qualcomm Snapdragon X20)
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0
Colors
  • Platinum
  • Graphite
  • Platinum
  • Matte Black
Size (WxDxH)
  • 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 in (287.02 x 208.28 x 9.4 mm)
  • 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 in (292 x 201 x 8.5 mm)
Weight
  • 1.96 lbs (889 grams)
  • Core i3/i5: 1.7 lbs (775 grams)
  • Core i7: 1.74 lbs (790 grams)
Starting price$1,099.99 (consumer models with Intel Core i5)$749.99

Performance: Tiger Lake is a big step up for the Surface Pro 8

The first of the upgrades in the Surface Pro 8 over the Surface Pro 7 is the processor, since it now comes with Intel’s 11th-generation (Tiger Lake) CPUs instead of the 10th generation. The Surface Pro 8 isn’t actually the first Surface Pro to use Tiger Lake processors, as the Surface Pro 7+ also had them, but that doesn’t make this upgrade any less impressive. Microsoft touts an over 40% improvement in CPU performance over the Surface Pro 7, though this might also be because the base consumer model now comes with a Core i5 processor instead of a Core i3.

Still. Intel Tiger Lake delivers a solid performance upgrade over the previous generation. Here’s how the higher-end models compare, based on GeekBench benchmarks.

Intel Core i5-1035G4
(Surface Pro 7)
Intel Core i5-1135G7
(average)
Intel Core i7-1065G7
(Surface Pro 7)
Intel Core i7-1185G7
(average)
GeekBench (single/multi-core)1,100 / 3,9531,255 / 4,2041,210 / 4,2991,418 / 4,854

CPU performance isn’t all that’s improved either. Intel Tiger Lake processors come with a big leap in graphics performance too, thanks to the new Iris Xe Graphics GPU. According to this test by LaptopMedia, the Iris Xe Graphics GPU in the Intel Core i7 processors scored almost double the points in 3DMark Fire Strike, with a score of 5,682. By comparison, the Iris Plus Graphics in 10th-generation CPUs scored just 3,024.

The Surface Pro 8 now comes with at least 8GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5 processor with Intel Iris Xe Graphics.

Not only that, but the new Surface Pro 8 finally does away with the models with just 4GB of RAM. Arguably, this hasn’t been adequate for a premium device for a while, so starting at 8GB makes a lot more sense. However, the maximum configurations are the same across the two models, going up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage.

Another big boon for the Surface Pro 8 is battery life, with Microsoft promising up to 16 hours of typical device usage on a charge. This is a massive increase from the 10.5 hours the company promises for the Surface Pro 7. This is probably helped by the fact that the Surface Pro 8 is slightly larger and thicker, which means it can accommodate a bigger battery.

Angled view of Surface Pro 8

Surface Pro 8

It’s worth bringing up the price here because when you compare the starting price of the Pro 8 with the Pro 7, the difference is stark. But that’s partly because the Surface Pro 8 has a much better base configuration, with 8GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5 processor. If you wanted this configuration in the Surface Pro 7, it would cost you $899, so the price jump isn’t as big.

Display: The Surface Pro 8 is bigger and better

Another factor contributing to the price increase for the Surface Pro 8 is the new display, which got its biggest upgrade in years. Instead of a 12.3 inch display, the Surface Pro 8 now has a 13 inch display, along with a corresponding increase in resolution — from 2736 x 1824 to 2880 x 1920 — so it’s still just as sharp. This matches the Surface Pro X line, and it helps the Surface Pro 8 feel a lot more modern. Microsoft says this new display is also brighter and it supports Dolby Vision for HDR content.

The Surface Pro 8 has a bigger and brighter display, with HDR support and a 120Hz refresh rate.

But that’s not all in terms of upgrades. The Surface Pro 8 also supports a refresh rate of 120Hz, and it’s the first Surface PC to do it (alongside the Surface Laptop Studio). If you’ve used a modern high-end or even mid-range phone, you’re already familiar with high refresh rates, and they’re also common in gaming PCs. However, Windows tablets haven’t been graced with them until now, so this makes the Surface Pro 8 one of the best out there. Having a high refresh rate means animations, transitions, scrolling, and inking will all look smoother than ever, and it’s also great for some games.

The sound system has also received a bit of upgrade from the Surface Pro 7 to the Pro 8. There are still two stereo speakers on each side of the display, but now each of them has 2W of power, up from 1.6W. The Surface Pro 8 also touts support for Dolby Atmos surround sound, another new feature for the lineup.

Surface Pro 7 angled view

Surface Pro 7

Turning over to the webcams, both laptops have a 5MP 1080p front-facing webcam, but Microsoft says it has improved the low-light performance of the camera in the Surface Pro 8. The most notable upgrade is on the back, which now has a 10MP camera capable of recording 4K video, whereas the Surface Pro 7 used an 8MP 1080p camera. Both laptops have dual far-field microphones, so the audio recording experience should be great on both.

Design: The first big Surface Pro redesign since 2015

The overall design concept of the Surface Pro 8 is still the same as the Surface Pro 7. It’s a tablet with an adjustable kickstand, and you can attach a keyboard cover to turn it into a laptop experience. But there are some notable differences, and this is the first time the Surface Pro line has seen a significant redesign since the Surface Pro 4.

As mentioned above, the Surface Pro 8 has a bigger display, but it also has smaller bezels on the sides. As such, it’s actually slightly less wide (in landscape mode) than the Surface Pro 7, but it’s taller and thicker. It’s slightly heavier too. This can affect portability somewhat, but the difference isn’t big enough to really matter for most users.

But this design brings some other changes with it. First, the Surface Pro 8 is the first numbered Surface Pro to ever redesign the Surface keyboard connector. It now uses the same connector as the Surface Pro X, which means you need a new Type Cover/Signature Keyboard if you used previous Surface devices. And the new Surface Pro Signature Keyboard is another big piece of news since it includes magnetic storage and charging for the Surface Slim Pen 2.

Slim Pen 2 in pen garage

Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with Surface Slim Pen 2 attached to a Surface Pro 8

And you need that storage because the Surface Pro 8 is no longer designed to attach the classic Surface Pen on the side, thanks to the curved edges of the chassis. Now the Surface Slim Pen (or Slim Pen 2) is the standard for all flagship Surface devices, including the Surface Pro 8. Specifically, the new Surface Slim Pen 2 is ideal for the Surface Pro 8 thanks to the Microsoft G6 processor inside the tablet. Using this processor and the haptic feedback inside the Surface Slim Pen 2, you can now get the feeling of writing with a pen on paper.

The Surface Pro 8 finally adds two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a first for the Surface Pro line.

That’s not all. The Surface Pro 8 also brings a long-awaited feature — Thunderbolt 4. Instead of standard USB Type-C and Type-A ports, the Surface Pro 8 now has two USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support. This means you can connect Thunderbolt docks, external monitors, or even external GPUs to the Surface Pro 8. Yes, you can feasibly turn your Surface Pro 8 into a gaming PC and take advantage of that 120Hz display.

This is likely another factor in the price increase for the Surface Pro 8, as Thunderbolt licensing has costs associated with it. Otherwise, the ports are the same. You still get a Surface Connect port — so you can keep using a Surface Dock if you have one — and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Connectivity: Now with LTE

Microsoft has usually offered some versions of its Surface Pro products with LTE support, but with the Surface Pro 7, that wasn’t the case. If you wanted LTE, you’d have to opt for the Surface Pro 7+, which included a few other upgrades. Now you can get LTE on the Surface Pro 8 — but those models aren’t available just yet. Microsoft usually releases LTE versions later on, so this isn’t new. The LTE modem in the Surface Pro 8 is the Qualcomm Snapdragon X20, which promises theoretical download speeds of up to 1.2Gbps and uploads of up to 150Mbps.

Otherwise, wireless connectivity is similar between the Surface Pro 7 and Pro 8. Both models support Wi-Fi 6, and the Surface Pro 8 also comes with Bluetooth 5.1. This is an upgrade over Bluetooth 5.0 in the Surface Pro 7, but it’s not enough to make it significantly better.

Bottom line: Worth the upgrade?

For years now, it’s been hard to recommend upgrading to the latest Surface Pro model if you already have the previous one, or even the one before that. It’s always just been a spec bump, so unless you needed the performance, there wasn’t much reason to spend that money.

The story is a bit different this time, since this is the biggest upgrade the Surface Pro line has received in many years. The spec bump is here as usual, but you also get a bigger, brighter, and smoother display with HDR support, improved speakers, and perhaps most notably, Thunderbolt support. This gives you lots of new expansion options you couldn’t get with just the Surface Dock.

There’s more than one good reason to make the upgrade this time, so if you’ve been waiting for a shake-up, this is it. Whether it’s a necessary upgrade is, of course, still up to you. All those benefits are big, but you may or may not need them.

Front view of Surface Pro 8

Surface Pro 8

And of course, if you don’t have a Surface Pro yet or you have an even older model, then this is certainly the best time to jump in. The asking price is higher than it’s ever been, but frankly, if you were buying the base model of the Surface Pro 7, you weren’t going to have a premium experience. The price increase isn’t as big as it may initially seem, but it’s definitely still there. In our opinion though, it’s worth the extra money you pay for it.

Regardless, you can still choose your preferred model using the links below. For the Surface Pro 8, you can buy the tablet and the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with the Slim Pen 2 using the links below. You can also buy the Surface Slim Pen 2 by itself if you don’t want the keyboard.

    Surface Pro 8
    The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft's flagship tablet, and it comes with an all-new design, a 120Hz display, Thunderbolt 4, and more.
    Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with Surface Slim Pen 2
    The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard complements the Surface Pro 8 with a keyboard and trackpad to make it feel more like a laptop. This bundle also includes the Surface Slim Pen 2.

As for the Surface Pro 7, you can buy it using the links below, including the Type Cover. You can also add the Surface Pen to round out the experience.

    Surface Pro 7 with Type Cover
    The Surface Pro 7 is a lightweight premium Windows tablet with high-end Intel processors. This bundle includes a Surface Pro Type Cover, so you can easily turn it into a laptop-like experience.
    Surface Pen
    The Surface Pen allows you to easily draw and write on Surface Pro devices. It features 4,096 levels of pressure and tilt support, making it a great option for digital artists.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.