The new Surface Pro X is one of Microsoft's most hotly anticipated devices of 2019. Unlike the Surface Pro 7, or the Surface Laptop 3, it's quite different from anything the company has released before. It is also something that I've been quite excited for myself, which is why I went ahead and purchased one from the Microsoft Store for this review.
From its super-slim bezels, new Surface Slim Pen, and the custom Microsoft SQ1 processor powering the device, there's a lot to talk about. Today we'll be taking a quick look at all that and will be unboxing the Surface Pro X, and sharing some initial impressions ahead of our full review in the coming weeks.
Bezels, be gone!
As I took the Surface Pro X out of the box, the first thing I noticed is its slim bezels. A bit similar to an iPad Pro, the bezels are very slim on the right and left sides of the device. The top bezel is still a bit large, mainly due to the Windows Hello webcam on top. As for the bottom bezel, it almost disappears when the Type Cover keyboard is attached.
Compared to my older Surface Pro 2017, these slim bezels really make the device beautiful. It really brings out all the beauty of the 13-inch screen, and its 2880x1920 resolution. While not quite edge-to-edge like the XPS 13, it's quite immersive, especially for me, as someone who is constantly stacking windows side by side when working.
Overall, the Surface Pro X still feels really nice to hold in my hands, thanks to its round corners and balanced weight. Great as it is, I am a bit concerned that the device will become a fingerprint magnet, but I think it's something that I can get used to it over time with the proper care. I'm also a bit let down to see the omission of a MicroSD card slot, as this has been a signature feature of the Surface Pro since the original Surface.
But, all around, this still feels like a Surface Pro that I've always loved, with the design improvements I always wanted. Its black matte magnesium finish is still absolutely beautiful and cool to the touch. The kickstand still makes the device easy to use on my desk and my lap. The keyboard cover is still a magnetic attachment and increases the overall usability of the device. And, it's all now flanked by a beautiful slim bezel and downright beautiful screen.
A note on the specs
Under the hood, Surface Pro X only features one SoC option. It's powered by the Microsoft SQ1 processor paired with the Adreno 685 GPU. RAM options range from 8GB or 16GB, and there's either 128, 256, or 512GB of removable SSD storage.
I opted for the most basic $1,000 model with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. It should also be noted that the SSD in the Surface Pro X is technically removable, though Microsoft wants you to do that through authorized dealers.
Anyway, this SQ1 SoC is based on the Snapdragon 8cX processor and was designed in partnership with Qualcomm. Microsoft claims it can be as good as the Intel Core processors inside the older Surface Pro 6. It supposedly has three times more performance per watt than the 8th-generation CPUs.
We'll be testing that later, and will run benchmarks in a separate post, but first, we want to mention that only 32-bit apps will work on this device through emulation. Yes, this Surface Pro X is powered by the full version of Windows 10 Pro, but since it's an ARM device, there are limits to 32-bit apps only. It's up to developers to recompile their apps to ARM64 for it to work on the Surface Pro X.
But for now, in my brief day or so with the device, it has proven good enough for web browsing in the 32-bit version of Microsoft's Chromium-based browser. However, many early reviewers have reported issues with the SQ1 processor powering the Surface Pro X. Some have reported experiencing Blue Screen of Death, not being able to install their favorite apps, as well as random freezing when the device wakes.
After a day-two firmware update, so far in my time with the device, I haven't had any of those issues. However, coming from a Surface Pro 5, I did notice that apps from the Microsoft Store and even Windows 10 updates were kind of slow to download and install. But, I took the Surface Pro X on the road for me for Microsoft's HoloLens showcase event in New York City, and it was very reliable for web browsing, writing up a draft post in Word, and more I didn't experience any freezing, but you can expect my more in-depth analysis and some comparisons in the future full-review.
I'll also want to mention that this is an always-connected PC. This means that you'll be able to live a life free of WiFi. You're getting up to Gigabit LTE Advanced Pro via the nanoSIM and eSIM tray on the device. That's thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon X24 LTE Modem built-in. There's even the "instant-on" feature. I set the device down, and it's able to resume right where I left off, right away, without any drain to the battery.
Do you see the USB-C?
As I pointed out in my original hands-on, another thing I noticed with the Surface Pro X is the USB-C ports. There's two alongside the left side on the device. You'll also find the Surface Connect port on the right side.
Sadly, there's no headphone jack, which means I needed to use my Bluetooth Surface Headphones with my Surface Pro X. Lacking a good quality USB-C to USB-C cable at the moment, I also needed to use a dongle to connect up my camera and phone to transfer photos and the video for the post. But USB-C does offer one advantage, I was able to charge up my Surface with my portable power bank. Microsoft quotes a total of 13 hours of battery, and the Surface Pro X supports quick charge, but I only experienced about 10 hours in my testing so far. I'll be sticking to the regular version of Edge for the full-review to test the full potential of the device.
I'll also mention that these USB-C ports don't support Thunderbolt 3, which is a letdown since it means that you can't use an external GPU to go with it. Still, after years of seeing MiniDisplay Port and USB-A on the Surface Pro lineup, this is quite refreshing.
A fairly great type cover to go along
Moving along, is the need to mention the new Type Cover Keyboard with the Surface Pro X. Overall, typing on it feels about the same as it did on my older Surface Pro 5 Type Cover. However, clicking the trackpad feels a bit more hollow and loud, that could be due to it being new and there being no wear and tear. It's very loud, so much so that my mother heard me clicking my way through typing this review, and asked what was making that annoying noise.
The way the Type Cover attaches to the screen is also a bit weird. Since the pen is in the middle of the connector on the top of the keyboard, only the two sides grip the screen. This means it the Surface Pro X is quickly rocked or moved, the keyboard just a tiny a bit to the right and the left. Otherwise, it's fairly comfortable. I haven't experienced the weird sensation that Tom Warren experienced, where his Surface Pro X type cover covers the entire taskbar.
Surface Slim pen feels great
Now, for the Surface Slim Pen. To me, having the flat pen is more ergonomic than having a round pen, like with the older Surface Pen. It fits in my hand more easily, although the "click" button is now in the thin facing side of the pen, and harder to reach.
This new pen is housed in the keyboard, and, coming from the Surface Pro 5, I sometimes forgot it was even there. I was just too used to seeing it snapped to the side of my Surface, so that's something I did. I will have more on the pen experience in my full review, but for now, I'll mention that it's rechargeable via that cradle in the keyboard.
Quite impressed, for now...
At the end of the day, I'm quite impressed with the new Surface Pro X after just two days of use. All around, it's a nice device. However, given it's powered by Windows 10 on ARM, I am still concerned about the overall reliability of this new Surface device. While the experience with 32-bit app-emulation has been solid for me so far, and the battery life decent, it might be subject to change as I put more use into the device. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.