Surface Pro 9: Release date, price, and everything you need to know
It’s been nearly a year since Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 8, which is quite a fantastic device. Bringing big new features like Thunderbolt 4 and a 120Hz display, it’s easily one of the best Surface devices ever, and one of the best laptops you can buy right now, too. Since the product seems to be on a yearly refresh cycle ever since the Pro 6, it’s time to talk about the Surface Pro 9.
Based on the usual release cadence for new Surface Pro models, as well as on what we’ve heard, the Surface Pro 9 is likely coming this fall, which means it’s not too far off. At this point, we know most of what there is to know about it, and there are some notable changes, including merging the Intel Surface Pro line with the Qualcomm Surface Pro X line.
Navigate this article:
- When is the Surface Pro 9 release date?
- What’s changing in the Surface Pro 9?
- How much will the Surface Pro 9 cost?
When is the Surface Pro 9 release date?
The Surface Pro family is Microsoft’s most consistent line of products, starting back in 2012 and getting a refresh almost every year since. It sounds like that’s not changing, as we’re expecting Microsoft to hold another Surface event this October, where the Surface Pro 9 will be featured alongside a Surface Laptop 5 and the Surface Studio 3. The device will likely be announced a few weeks ahead of its official launch, and it may be available in different markets gradually, similar to what happened with the Surface Pro 8 and other models.
The Surface Pro 9 will also be arriving shortly after Microsoft officially releases Windows 11 version 22H2, and it will be one of the very first devices to showcase the new software update. There are quite a few improvements for touchscreen devices in that update, so the Surface Pro 9 is the perfect showcase device.
What will change in the Surface Pro 9?
With the Surface Pro 8, Microsoft introduced some big new changes. It added Thunderbolt ports, a bigger display with smaller bezels, a 120Hz refresh rate, support for haptic feedback with the Surface Slim Pen 2, and more. But before that, the Surface Pro family was nearly unchanged for years, at least in terms of big new features. Typically, Microsoft only introduces major changes every few generations, so the Surface Pro 9 will likely focus on refinements and a spec refresh.
Merging the Arm Surface Pro X and the x86 Surface Pro 9
Back in October 2019, Microsoft released the Surface Pro X. It used a version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx called the Microsoft SQ1, and while it wasn’t the first Windows on Arm PC, it kind of legitimized the idea. It was still rough around the edges; in fact, when Microsoft launched its Chromium-based Edge browser, it wasn’t even native to Arm, having to run in emulation if you wanted it.
The Surface Pro X had some very minor refreshes, one the next year with a very moderate boost from the new SQ2 processor. The year after that, Microsoft introduced a Wi-Fi only model. And when the Surface Pro 8 came out last year at a hefty price increase over the Pro 7, Microsoft’s answer was that if you want a less expensive Surface Pro, get a Pro X.
Now, the Surface Pro X is getting a proper refresh with a new SQ3 processor, but it’s not going to be called the Surface Pro X 2. It’s going to be called the Surface Pro 9, just like the Intel model. It will be differentiated as the Surface Pro 9 with 5G.
Back in 2019 when the Pro X was introduced, it was a radical redesign for the Surface Pro. The Intel models has been using mostly the same design since 2014’s Surface Pro 7, so it looked pretty dated. The Surface Pro X had slimmer bezels, a thin and fanless design, removable storage, and more. When the Surface Pro 8 came along in 2021, it brought along some of these improvements, so they’re a lot more similar now.
Intel P-series processors
Indeed, something we’ve heard for the Surface Pro 9 is that it may be getting more powerful processors, not only bumping up to 12th-generation models, but also switching to the new P series. This would be a major change considering the Surface Pro lineup has typically used Intel’s U series processors with a 15W TDP, but the P series nearly doubles that to 28W.
That means you’ll see a lot more performance, since the new P-series processors can have up to 14 cores and 20 threads. But these processors also heat up significantly more and use a lot more power, so it will be interesting to see how this affects battery life on the Surface Pro. After all, it’s meant to be a very portable device.
The Microsoft SQ3 processor
While the standard Surface Pro 9 will of course include Intel’s 12th-gen P-series processors, the Surface Pro 9 with 5G will include the Microsoft SQ3 chipset. Just like we’ve seen from previous Microsoft SQ branded processors, it’s mostly a rebranded Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx chip, in this case the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. While Microsoft really tries to make it sound like it developed this thing in-house, keep in mind that ‘SQ’ stands for Surface Qualcomm. This is very much a Qualcomm processor.
It’s also a massive step forward from the Microsoft SQ2, or the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2. Here are some Geekbench scores, and while Geekbench 5 doesn’t come close to providing a full picture of the chipset, it’s pretty much the only benchmark that runs natively on Arm.
|Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3
|Surface Pro X
|Surface Pro X
As you can see, the SQ3 is set to be a big improvement. It should give it a boost toward becoming more of a mainstream computing device.
It will be the first 5G Surface
As the name Surface Pro 9 with 5G suggests, the model with the Arm processor is going to support 5G. Previously, the Surface Pro X only supported 4G LTE, thanks to the integrated cellular modem that comes with Qualcomm chipsets. Intel-powered Surface devices, such as the Surface Pro 8 and prior, the Surface Go 3 and prior, and some others, have also maxed out at 4G.
Qualcomm doesn’t have a 5G modem integrated into the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, and there’s a trio of modems that an OEM can choose to pair with it. Chances are that it will support millimeter wave for ultra-fast speeds, at least when you’re outdoors and within line of site of an antenna. Almost all of the 5G laptops that have Qualcomm chipsets have supported mmWave, while Intel-powered laptops have been sub-6GHz only.
Millimeter wave requires a lot more work in terms of antenna design, and Microsoft would have to work with Qualcomm for that to work properly. And again, it really only works outdoors. Because of the frequency, even the slightest interference will block the signal. But when it works, it can support multi-gigabit speeds.
Some feature parity between the Arm model and the Intel model
With the Surface Pro 8, Microsoft introduced Thunderbolt 4, a 120Hz display, and haptic feedback when writing with the Slim Pen 2 that made it feel like writing on paper. It’s likely that we’ll see the latter two in the Surface Pro 9 with 5G. Both the 120Hz screen and the haptic feedback when using the Slim Pen 2 were exclusive to the Surface Pro 8 and the Surface Laptop Studio, so even the new pen features do require special hardware. I expect both of those things to be available on more Surface models soon, and I’d expect Microsoft to phase out the old Surface Pen.
Thunderbolt is an Intel technology. While it’s totally possible for an OEM to put a Thunderbolt controller in a non-Intel PC, I’ve only seen it done on Apple’s Arm MacBooks. What we’re seeing now in AMD laptops is USB4, which is more like Thunderbolt 3. It still gets the same benefits, such as 40Gbps data transfer speeds, but OEMs can choose less expensive options that only support 20Gbps.
I don’t expect the Surface Pro 9 with 5G to support USB4 either. The reason is that while AMD billed USB4 as a feature of Ryzen 6000, it wasn’t for the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. I expect Thunderbolt 4 in the Intel model, and USB 3.2 in the Arm model.
Of course, the Arm model should still be fanless, so there will still be some disparity between the two chassis. While they’ll both support the same keyboards and pens, they won’t both support accessories that fit the chassis, such as Brydge’s keyboards.
How much will the Surface Pro 9 cost?
One thing that we don’t know yet is how much the Surface Pro 9 will cost. Last year with the Surface Pro 8, Microsoft significantly raised the barrier of entry by increasing the starting price to $1,099. At the same time, it introduced a Wi-Fi only model of the Surface Pro X, lowering the barrier of entry for that from $999 to $899.
The tricky part with the Pro 9 is that it seems like there won’t be any Wi-Fi only model with the Microsoft SQ3 chipset. It’s possible that the price on the Intel model could come down, being that the Surface Pro 7 actually started at $749 at launch. One way to do that would be to introduce a Core i3 model, something that never happened with the Pro 8.
Microsoft will probably announce a fall devices event soon, and we’ll update this article as we learn more. If you don’t think it’s worth the wait, check out our review of the Surface Pro 8 to see if you should buy that instead.