Surface Pro X 2: Release date, what we know, and what we’re hoping for
Microsoft’s Surface Pro X is the company’s endorsement of its Windows on ARM efforts. It uses modified Qualcomm processors for a fanless design that’s thinner than the Intel-powered Surface, and in many ways, it’s ahead of the curve.
The Surface Pro X has narrower bezels than the Surface Pro 7, and it’s the first Surface to fit a pen garage into the attachable keyboard. In fact, Microsoft spent a lot of time rethinking what the new Surface device would be like; being so thin, the team couldn’t stick with the traditional Surface features, like magnetically attaching the pen to the side. The keyboard connector was redesigned, USB Type-A was ditched, and more.
Now that the Snapdragon 8cx has launched from Qualcomm, it’s time to talk about the Surface Pro X 2.
Navigate this page:
- Surface Pro X 2: Pricing, branding, and release date
- Surface Pro X 2: What to expect
- Surface Pro X 2: The wish list
Surface Pro X 2: Pricing, branding, and release date
To be clear, Microsoft hasn’t announced this product, and there really aren’t any solid rumors around it. We don’t even know for sure that it will be called the Surface Pro X 2; that’s just an assumption. Back when Microsoft announced the fifth-generation Surface Pro, it went back to numerical names with the Surface Pro 6, saying it was easier for customers. Unless Microsoft changes up branding on the Surface Pro X entirely, Surface Pro X 2 is the likely bet.
The custom Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 processors in use now are just tweaked versions of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx, which hasn’t been refreshed in a meaningful way until just recently. It’s likely that Microsoft could have an SQ3 that’s based on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, given how closely Microsoft and Qualcomm work together on this.
Considering this, a spring release date for the Surface Pro X 2 seems likely, and Microsoft does release products in the spring when it’s mostly a spec bump. If the company is doing a more significant redesign, a fall launch is more likely, but since the Surface Pro 8 was just made to look like the Pro X, it’s safe to say that this design will be here for a while.
I do expect pricing to come down though. When the Surface Pro X first launched, it started at $999.99, although you can get it for $150 less these days. That got you an SQ1 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. For an incredible $300 more, you could upgrade to the same configuration but with 256GB of storage. Now, Microsoft just announced a Wi-Fi only model, bringing the entry-level price down to $899.99. While still more expensive than an entry-level Surface Pro 7, it’s much less expensive than the entry-level Surface Pro 8, which costs $1,099.99.
Prices on these types of things just tend to come down over time. The Surface Pro X was a first-gen product, so it was expensive. The Surface Pro X 2 should be less expensive, although by how much is anyone’s guess.
Surface Pro X 2: What to expect
A spec bump
First of all, second-generation Surface products have historically been spec bumps. This was the case with the Surface Pro 2, Surface Book 2, and Surface Laptop 2. Exceptions include the Surface Go 2 — which had a larger screen — and even the Surface 2, which had a better screen than the infamous Surface RT. I would expect the Surface Pro X 2 to look and feel exactly the same as the Surface Pro X, just with a faster processor.
You might recall the Surface Pro X was actually refreshed last fall with the Microsoft SQ2 processor. It wasn’t rebranded to the Surface Pro X 2 though, even though it also came in a new Platinum color. Even the spec bump from the SQ1 to the SQ2 was that minor. In my testing, Geekbench single-core scores jumped from 766 to 794, and multi-core scores jumped from 2,946 to 3,036.
The Microsoft SQ3 will be a much bigger difference. For a Microsoft SQ3, Microsoft will be using the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, which offers a 60% boost in CPU performance, an 85% boost in graphics performance, and triple the AI performance.
The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 was a difference of 150MHz clock speed over the original, and that’s it. Qualcomm said the reason for such a minor refresh was because it was trying to shorten the time between when a chipset is announced, and when it lands in products you can buy. Indeed, the Snapdragon 8cx was originally announced in December 2018, but the Samsung Galaxy Book S — the first laptop to use it — didn’t ship until the beginning of 2020. The Surface Pro X, which used the modified 8cx known as the SQ1, shipped a bit earlier in November 2019.
Because of that shift in strategy, we can assume we won’t have to wait as long between when the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is announced and when it begins to ship, and indeed, Qualcomm said devices based on the SoC are coming in the first half of 2022. That also means less time between when it’s announced and when it’s modified into the Microsoft SQ3.
Qualcomm actually has a pretty exciting roadmap. Following the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, it should start sampling completely custom chips using technology from its Nuvia acquisition in late 2022. After that, it’s going to be aiming to compete with Apple Silicon, something the San Diego firm is struggling to do right now.
I’m almost hesitant to say this, given Microsoft’s reluctance to adopt modern technologies, but we should expect 5G in the Surface Pro X 2. One of the value indicators with Windows on ARM was supposed to be integrated cellular connectivity, even if many companies are opting to build Wi-Fi-only models instead. But the Surface Pro X comes with 4G LTE, no matter which one you get, and that’s a good thing.
The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, unlike the Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3, still doesn’t have a 5G modem, but it’s considered a 5G chipset. That should translate to 5G in the Microsoft SQ3. Whether it supports mmWave or only sub-6GHz bands is anyone’s guess though.
Surface Pro X 2: The wish list
I can make you all sorts of wish lists around the Surface Pro X. It’s my favorite Microsoft PC. But there’s only one thing I really want — Thunderbolt.
We all know Microsoft is the only PC OEM that sells premium Intel-powered PCs without Thunderbolt. And yes, it’s time. It was time for that years ago. But we’re talking about an ARM-powered PC right now. There’s never been a Qualcomm-powered PC with Thunderbolt, and if there’s an AMD-powered one, I haven’t seen it. The only non-Intel products I’ve ever seen that have Thunderbolt come from one company — Apple.
I understand that this year’s Surface Pro X still isn’t going to compete with Apple’s totally custom silicon. That’s OK. Let’s see Thunderbolt though. USB 4.0 allows for 40Gbps data transfer speeds. You’ll be able to use it to connect dual 4K monitors or one 8K monitor, depending on the limitation of the chipset (Apple supports one external monitor, up to 6K). External GPU support is unlikely without native drivers, but you’d have access to the wide array of Thunderbolt peripherals on the market.
But the benefits of Thunderbolt aside, Apple does it. For years now, I’ve been watching as Macs were ahead of Surface on USB Type-C, Thunderbolt, and some other things. Let’s stop watching from the sidelines while Apple goes the extra mile.
A high refresh rate display
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 offers a 120Hz display, and it’s pretty great. Let’s put something similar on the Surface Pro X 2. To go a bit deeper on that, I’d really like the Windows ecosystem to drop some of the stark differences between PC and mobile. A big example is how any premium smartphone has a high refresh rate display, but in the PC world, that’s seen as a gaming feature, and those high refresh rates will make sacrifices for better gaming performance.
This isn’t just a change for the Surface Pro X 2. This is something we need across the board, just like better webcams. The Surface Pro X already has a 5MP front camera for 1080p video though. Most of Microsoft’s lineup offers FHD webcams, although still, you can buy a $300 phone that has a higher-resolution front camera.
When Microsoft announced the original Surface Pro X, it came in Black, rather than the more traditional Platinum color that Surface is known for. The Platinum model came later, but one thing worth noting is the Surface Pro X is made out of aluminum, while the Intel-powered model is made out of magnesium. That’s why the Pro X is thinner but still the same weight; aluminum is a heavier material.
Aluminum is also easier to anodize, so it can be more easily produced in different colors. The best example is obviously the Surface Laptop. While the Surface Laptop 4 comes in more subtle colors today, it was originally introduced in bold, beautiful colors like Cobalt Blue and Burgundy (we can pretend Graphite Gold didn’t happen). With newer models, we got Black, Sandstone, and Ice Blue.
I’d love to see some of these colors in the Surface Pro X 2. I know I’m not a designer; I don’t know if the right choice is the bolder colors that looked so beautiful on the Surface Laptop, or the more subtle colors that might look better on a Windows tablet. I also don’t want to once again fall back on “Apple is doing it”, but seriously, Apple is doing it.
I actually planned to only include Thunderbolt on my wish list, since it’s really just one of those things that stands out. But the higher refresh rate and the different colors snuck in there. I’d also love to see a quieter keyboard and touchpad, and while this may seem minor, my hope is this will launch with Android app support, something that’s coming in Windows 11, but not at launch.
This is all we know about the Surface Pro X 2 for now. We’ll update this page as we learn more. As we get closer to launch, there should be no shortage of leaks and rumors.