When Microsoft launched the Surface Pro in 2013 it set the benchmark for what a Windows 2-in-1 could be, even if some people (including us) thought it wasn’t necessarily the best of both worlds.
For the past few generations little has changed: each successive update has been iterative and it actually took until 2019 for Microsoft to finally add USB-C support (but not Thunderbolt 3).
With an eighth-generation Surface Pro expected in 2020, will it be another tweaked model, or something more radical? Here’s what the rumours are saying.
Surface Pro 8 rumours at a glance:
- 11th gen Intel Core processors
- Solar-powered Type Cover
- Speaker built into kickstand
- Launching October 2020
When is the Surface Pro 8 coming out?
Microsoft hasn’t announced anything, but using history as a guide, it’s a sensible bet that the company will hold a hardware event around October 2020 – as it has done in recent years – to unveil the Surface Pro 8, the next Surface Laptop and also the finished Surface Neo and Surface Duo.
There are two complications though. First, it's been reported that the Duo is nearly ready to go, and so Microsoft might move its release forward to summer 2020 - though we'd be surprised if this led it to move the Pro 8 up as well.
The second problem is the coronavirus. Microsoft has admitted in an earnings call that "the supply chain is returning to normal operations at a slower pace than anticipated," in reference to its personal computing devices. It didn't specify if this refers to the Surface Pro 8, or confirm that it will lead to any delays in product launches or availability, but there's a definite risk that the virus outbreak could cause the 2-in-1 to miss its expected October release.
How much will the Surface Pro 8 cost?
Expect Microsoft to stick with the same price range as the current model. That means an entry price of around £799/$749 up to a top-end model for around £2299/$2299.
Don’t forget that you only get the tablet in the box: if you want a keyboard (the Type Cover) and a stylus, both are optional – and quite pricey – extras.
What are the Surface Pro 8’s rumoured specifications?
As with previous models, Microsoft will undoubtedly use the latest-available Intel Core processors. It’s possible that – as we saw with the Surface Pro X – that an ARM-based Surface Pro 8 could exist, but Microsoft may launch a second-generation Pro X instead: the SQ1 processor was its own design in collaboration with Qualcomm.
It’s really too early for any leaked spec sheets or photos, but a couple of patents have been spotted for tech which could well make its way into the Surface Pro 8.
First is the expandable speaker enclosure (via WindowsLatest) which appears to involve speakers mounted on the kickstand – or Type Cover – and which use an enclosed area between the kickstand and the tablet as a ‘resonance chamber’.
Basically, when you open the kickstand it forms a speaker enclosure that gives louder sound without making the device itself bulkier. Quite how the enclosure would work isn’t clear: the patent covers multiple options with one or more speakers, and also details an accordion-style setup which would fold flat when you close the kickstand.
As the flow-chart shows, sensors and software will determine whether the enclosure is open or closed and adjust sound accordingly.
If you don’t consider the speaker patent a credible upgrade, then this one will be even less so. Another patent spotted by WindowsLatest shows solar panels on the back of the kickstand (actually the stand of a cover).
Solar chargers are nothing new, but the real issue is that most users are unlikely to work outdoors with their Surface Pro enough to make this idea workable. Current solar chargers are next to useless for a lot of people and, with USB power banks so affordable, we can’t imagine many people will want to buy a more expensive solar cover for their Surface Pro.
It’s nice that the Surface Pro 7 has a USB-C Port, but it uses the USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard. That gives it a potential speed of 10Gb/sec, which is pretty fast. But it’s a quarter of the speed of Thunderbolt 3 and the Intel chip in the Pro 7 has support for Thunderbolt 3.
We’d like to see Microsoft address this in the next model.
Elsewhere, there’s no real need for any huge changes. People clearly like the form factor, as it strikes a good balance between screen size and usability. Plus, other screen sizes are already catered for by the Surface Pro X, and the Duo and Neo. We’re looking forward to finding out how much those two will cost in particular, but as and when more rumours crop up for the Surface Pro 8, we’ll be sure to add them here.