Surface Pro 9 with 5G Review: Windows on ARM is actually good now
Based on reviews. The issues have been some combination of Qualcomms lackluster processors and software. That has varied quite a bit in quality.. There are obviously some growing pains, but Windows on ARM has come a long way since the days of low end, Surface RT, tablets., Microsoft, Store and web apps are still central to the general Windows 11 strategy, but theyre a lot more plentiful. These days and emulating 32 and 64 bit x86 apps, while not perfect, on Windows, has become pretty useable.. So is it ready for prolonged use by more than tech? Nerds, like me To answer that question, we picked up a Surface Pro 9 with an SQ3 SoC and have been using it for well over a month. Now., And let me tell you, I think there are a lot of people. Whod love this device. Before jumping into the weeds lets, take a moment to just appreciate how aesthetically appealing the Surface Pro 9 is., With its rounded magnesium chassis and hefty weight. It feels great to hold in the hand for general reading and sketching. And its extremely sturdy. Kickstandwhich all tablets should really have these daysfeels, just as good to set up on a table for traditional productivity, tasks. Thats, backed by a bright and vibrant 32 120Hz 3K display that still looks fantastic, if not terribly different. From previous Surface Pros., Slim bezels to the left and right of the display allow the display to feel a bit larger. Thicker bezels at the top and bottom might seem awkward in 2023, but in practice they provide some extra room to rest.
My hands when handheld and enough space to attach the raised keyboard when on a table. On the sides, we have three ports: 1 for the Surface, Connectorwhich handles fast charging and data via an optional dockand 2. Usb 3.2 portswhich handle everything. A USB C connector can handle. The omission of a 3.5 mm. Headphone jack is pretty much blasphemy in my eyes, but two USB C ports seem adequate enough for a tablet like this and definitely better than old Surface devices, which only had a single USB, A and mini display port. On the inside. Our unit has 256 GB of storage via an M.2 2230 SSD and thats upgradeable, with only a SIM ejector tool and torx screwdriver.. During our usage downloading a few games, productivity, apps videos and plugins only filled a little over half the drive. Experience may vary, but its a positive sign for folks who want to just get the cheaper model. Plus 1 TB SSDs are only 100 200. These days. For a future upgrade path., We also opted for 16 GB of RAM. Honestly, if youre buying a laptop in 2023 for more thansay800, you shouldnt settle for less than 16 GB, especially whenlike with this tabletthat RAMs, not upgradable., Even if you dont think youll need that extra Memory right now, the additional cushion will definitely make usage a bit smoother over time.. Okay, on to how this thing actually feels to use. For general use. Casesim talking browsing the web chatting with friends, writing notes for laterthe Surface Pro 9.
Just hits it out of the park.. My typical usage has Edge open with up to a dozen tabs at least one Office app and at least one other app like a chat. App like Discord. Ive, seen RAM usage climb quite a bit, but CPU usage stays fairly low and the device stays fairly cool. Web browsing feels pretty smooth in general, even with a few web. Apps like Twitter, Tumblr YouTube Studio and multiple Gmail inboxes open. At the same time as the various tech articles Im in the middle of reading., Other reviewers have mentioned experiencing some slowdown when browsing webpages, especially in Chrome but Ive, been using this device pretty heavily over the past month or so and havent noticed any difference between it And my more powerful machines. That could be just a factor of a few months of extra development for the browser teams tbh., You could probably still tank performance if you open Chrome, with a few dozen tabs that youre quickly cycling between but Ive a feeling normal usage Wont cause many complaints. These days., The one exception for us, has been Google Maps.. We recently tried to use the Pro 9 to search for lunch spots while traveling and found that the labels on all the restaurants would randomly disappear. Really weird.. It was easy enough to just switch to one of our phones instead for the search, but it was still pretty annoying and indicates that not all web apps perform equally.
Switching to other productivity apps like the Office suite it doesnt seem to stutter any. As one of The few ARM based tablets with full Excel available – this is actually extremely usable for analytics work, even if top end Excel functionality wont be as smooth as it could be elsewhere due to the limited processing power., But for creating a few spreadsheets with. Maybe a few VBA functions or Power, Query tables Ive had no problems, so far., Editing, YouTube scripts in Word or taking notes in OneNote also feels great, even with the keyboard detached since its essentially the aspect, ratio of a standard piece of paper. For quick wording, changes And comments the onscreen keyboard is perfectly useable. Outside of Office products. We also tried Google Docks and Sheets, as well as various coding, IDEs and everything worked without a hitch., As with all thin and light computers, there are probably some power user tasks which might break usability. Butfor general usagewe have yet to experience any hiccups.. We also tested out the webcam quite a bit. Across Teams, Discord, Zoom and Facebook Messenger. The 5MP 1080P webcam looked pretty great. Thats, partially thanks to an extra neural processing unit, Microsoft added specifically for the SQ3 Surface Pro to offload some of the video and audio enhancement features. Right in the Settings, its easy to turn on quality of life features like auto. Framing background blur and a feature that slightly corrects line of sight to make it seem as though Im looking at the camera, even while Im looking at my screen.
. These are all extremely useful tasks for anyone who spends a lot of time in video calls and will likely satisfy most people who dont already need a dedicated webcam for their day to day routine. Throughout all of our testing and our extensive holiday travels, the battery also Held up reasonably well. And based on personal experience, brand new Surface Pros tend to have okay battery life, but the Pro 9 beat out my expectations with great standby time, while packed in a bag and enough screen on time. To last me, a full workday. Part of thats due to the lack of a fan in this tablet., Even when pushed a bit its a whisper quiet machine that doesnt seem to get above slightly warm during general usage.. That lack of a fan could be detrimental to overall performance on any tasks that require sustained CPU or GPU usagekinda, like what weve seen with Apples M2 machines., But for general productivity tasks, though thats perfectly fine, considering the CPU and GPU will likely only be used. In short, bursts., The overall vibe here is that Im able to do anything Ive wanted to do with this device when it comes to general computing tasks., The only real annoyances were small performance glitches, like with Google Maps and that apps occasionally take longer than expected to Launch. Im not sure why theres a delay and its kinda awkward to adjust to, but maybe its something that can be patched out in the future.
Other than those two issues. There havent really been any slowdowns stutters or glitches, while using the device for my basic every day, tasks.. That doesnt mean this Surface Pro isnt. Without its faults, though, as there were instances where we started to have some real mixed experiences. Specifically when we started to go beyond basic productivity apps and try out more professional use cases, we started to run into multiple app compatibility issues and performance limitations. Being realistic for A second, though Surface Pros arent powerhouses and Im not holding anything against it, for not winning any races against my M1 Pro MacBook. Theyre for different use cases after all., However, hyper portable machines, like the Surface Pro 9, need to be able lighter work like basic video And image editing that I can then pass on to my more performant machines for me to feel like I can rely on them for my general use. Thats my perspective and when testing. From that perspective, we immediately hit a roadblock. Trying to download Adobe apps was an exercise in futility. Out of the dozen or so apps typically available through Creative Cloud. Only Photoshop and Lightroom are available to download. Thats a bit disappointing, considering how quickly Adobe rushed to get other common apps like Premiere and After Effects running on Apple Silicon. Performance in Photoshop also left a ton to be desired. Its usable for sketching and some light image. Editing work, but the program seemed to take up more resources when opening larger files than Id remembered even back drugin, when I was learning Photoshop on a Surface Pro 4.
, Its enough for me to recommend staying away from Creative Cloud apps on these machines. Unless you really need to do some quick editing., So how about other non Adobe apps, We also attempted to install DaVinci Resolve, but it just couldnt identify the GPU and wouldnt open. That really sucks, and after a ton of searching for actually compatible video editors, we were Left with essentially just ClipChamp. Andfrom personal experience, ClipChamps fine for quick low quality trimming, but thats about it., Apps, more focused on image, editing or stylus, inputlike Affinity, Designer Whiteboard or Clip Studio, Paintworked, pretty well though. Within Affinity Designer. I did notice some small slowdowns in certain menus, but I otherwise had a great time. Doodling some vector art using the app. Affinity Photo was much of the same experiencewith. No issues for basic photo, editing but slowdowns in certain menus.. Those slowdowns seem more like a software issues than anything to do with the hardware, but might still be frustrating for anyone. Looking for non Adobe tools., This device seems almost made to use with Whiteboard, though, since the Slim Pens, haptic feedback works well in the app without any noticeable delay when drawing or taking notes.. The same could be said about Clip Studio, Paint, sketching lining and coloring feels fantastic.. Its honestly become my favorite sketching tablet to just sit back and doodle on.. I could totally see this as a single computer for an artist to sketch and finish a piece make some additional edits and post it to all of their social media without any friction.
. Just dont expect to use this for complex 3D scenes or heavily textured brushes.. Those use cases also make more powerful machines struggle.. So its no surprise that theyre not ideal here, but its worth, noting regardless. So far, not so bad.. The questionable compatibility with Adobe, apps and DaVinci Resolve kinda sucks, but as long as I can still use it for sketching and image, editing, theres a definite role for the device in my workflow.. Unfortunately, that highlights the potential problem with the device for others. Most of the apps. I need work. Just fine, but Ill occasionally run into something that either doesnt work at all, or only runs a bit slower through emulation.. That ultimately means that if someone buys this device and their daily workflow depends on a lot of obscure or unoptimized apps performance could be more sluggish or hit random roadblocks.. Before investing in a new platform like this, most people will want to look up the apps. They know they use and see if theyre supported., If they are great Theyll, likely have an experience close to mine with few hiccups and justreally normal performance outside of a few awkward moments. But if not, they could still have great performance but theres a chance. They may not., And I think that chance is what really rubs people the wrong way when it comes to these ARM based Surface devices.. After all, no one wants to pay 2000 for a computer running on a platform that limits how they can use their device.
. But I honestly think most people wont have a ton of issues with the Pro 9 as long as they dont buy it expecting something. Revolutionary. AlthoughI might honestly be tempted to consider it revolutionary myselfespecially when looking at the competition.. Obviously, this isnt the machine to buy for anyone looking for the highest performance available in a laptop, but performance is pretty solid when used with apps that work and balanced with solid versatility and battery life. The closest comparisons. I can really think of the ARM based Surface Pro. 9. Are the M2 iPad Pro the newer XPS 13 2 in 1 and the Intel Surface Pro 9., While the iPad Pro is a solid choice with the M2 being much more performant on paper, at least than the SQ3, its also held back by the awkward limitations of Ipados usability quirks. Many folks do manage to work around those limitations, but Windows on ARM is just a lot easier to work with for a productivity oriented machine even with the compatibility caveats that come along with it. Having only 1 USB C port and non expandable storage. Also doesnt quite help sell the device over the Surface Pro line. On the Windows side, both Dells tablet and the Intel Surface. Pro 9 are fairly solid choices, as well. i7 skus have a decent performance bump over SQ3 and the there are none of the awkward compatibility complaints from Windows on ARM.. Both devices have slightly worse battery life than the SQ3 Surface.
Pro 9, though, due to less efficiency and both tablets, including fans., They also dont have 5G support., And I know a lot of you might probably roll your eyes. At that., Thereve been more than a few thought pieces published over the past couple months. Basically calling 5G an overblown mess that really hasnt created any substantial use cases., But that really hasnt been the case for us. During the holidays. We even tested the connection when traveling on some Southern Ohio backroads, where cell service used to drop completely for us. Speeds, werent. Incredibly fastmaybe 5 mbpsbut. They were more than enough to watch YouTube or browse Twitter. Heck. In Milwaukee I sat in a coffee shop lined with metal playing Control via Stadia on a 5G connection, and it was extremely fluid and responsive at 720p.. Maybe thats not something everyone needs out of their device. For us, its been an appreciated, add on which has eliminated the need to use up our limited 5GB of mobile hotspot from our phones and also saving battery life as a result.. For anyone who does a lot of travelling doesnt have solid home internet or even wants to do some work during their morning commute. It could honestly be a solid reason to choose the ARM based Surface Pro 9 over the other Windows tablets.. All things considered, it feels like this device carves a niche for itself as this very quiet, versatile and portable machine. From a standpoint of pure utility and flexibility.
I think itd be hard for me to recommend one of those other tablets over the ARM based Surface Pro 9, unless someone knew for sure that a specific app they needed wouldnt run well on ARM., Even still its clear that the platform has some room to grow. Overall. Processor speeds need to be better to live up to the Pro in the Surface. Pro name and compatibility needs to continue its upward trajectory to eliminate the remaining friction of accessing necessary apps. Id love to see what the next generations of this device look like, or even something like the SQ3 packed into the cheaper Surface. Go line. With whats in front of me right now, though, Im pretty happy with our purchase.. Those are my thoughts, though. What are yours Would you consider a Windows on ARM device for your next laptop? Are there any app compatibility issues youd be concerned about in particular? Let me know down in the comments, As always, if you found this video interesting or informative, go ahead and give it a like, then get subscribed for more tech. Videos in the future. In our next video well actually be taking a look at this same device as a hyper portable gaming machine. So far, its surprisingly promising. Thats, all for this video though.