Microsoft has now revealed the new Surface Pro 7+, but there are only a handful of upgrades and they're only available to business and education customers. Many of these minor upgrades were the ones rumoured to come to the Pro 8, including 11th-gen Intel processors and LTE connectivity.
But what does this mean for the future of the Surface Pro line? Will the Pro 7+ ever come to consumers, and will we still see a Pro 8 in 2021? Here's everything we know at this stage.
Surface Pro 8 release date
Microsoft ditched the annual Surface Pro hardware refresh in 2020, although it's not clear how much this decision was impacted by the pandemic. The company announced the Surface Pro X and new Surface Laptop Go in its place, but Zac Bowden at Windows Central has long suggested a new Surface Pro would arrive early in 2021.
That came in the form of the Surface Pro 7+, although that device is only available to business and education customers and sporting the minor upgrades that its name suggests.
In an article reporting the news, Bowden now says a consumer-focused Pro 8 may arrive 'later this fall'. Could that mean an October 2021 launch?
Surface Pro 8 price
We can use a combination of Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 7+ pricing to give an estimate of how much the Surface Pro 8 will cost.
The regular model started at £799/US$749 when it launched in October 2019, although the maximum configuration set you back £2249/US$2299/AU$3749. The Pro 7+ starts at US$899 (approx. £660), while adding LTE will set you back at least US$1,149 (approx. £850).
We'd expect the Pro 8 to also support 4G, so that last figure is a good guide of how much you're likely to pay. However, it could rise significantly if Microsoft adopts 5G as well. As always, this price doesn't include the Type Cover keyboard case, which can cost as much as £124.99/US$129.99.
MSPoweruser is suggesting that the baseline model will jump to around US$1,000, while an eBay listing claiming to be an i7 Surface Pro 8 sold for US$1,300 after one bid, although these may both have turned out to be in reference to the Pro 7+.
What are we expecting from the Surface Pro 8?
Many of the leaks so far have suggested the Surface Pro 8 would be a minor update, but most of the rumoured new features are now in the Surface Pro 7+. With that device only available to business and education customers at launch, it only serves as a guide for the next consumer-focused Surface Pro.
The Pro 7+ has the same design language as we've seen from Microsoft in the last few years, with an identical 12.3in 2736x1824 PixelSense display flanked by some fairly sizeable bezels. The main change from a design standpoint is the inclusion of a removable SSD, although Microsoft may be reluctant to include that on a consumer device.
Many of the other upgrades are under the hood, the main one being the inclusion of LTE connectivity. It's only 4G, but this represents a big step forward for the Surface Pro line. All Pro 7+ variants have been upgraded to 11th-gen Intel processors, but only the i5 models support LTE. The baseline Pro 7 Plus model comes with a Core i3 processor (the regular model starts at i5) alongside 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The latter can be configured up to 1TB on more expensive models.
Wi-Fi models come with a microSD card slot, while LTE models swap this out for a nano SIM tray. The rest of the ports are identical to the regular model: one USB-C, one USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack and Surface Connect for charging.
The other notable upgrade comes in battery life, with the capacity increasing from 46.5Wh to 50.4Wh. Alongside the move to the more power efficient 11th-gen processors, Microsoft says this will allow you to get up to 15 hours on a single charge (up from 10.5 hours on the regular Pro 7).
Here's a full list of specs:
- 12.3in PixelSense display (2736x1824)
- 11th-gen Intel Core i3-1115G4 (Wi-Fi), Core i5-1135G7 (Wi-Fi/LTE) or Core i7-1165G7 (Wi-Fi)
- UHS (Core i3) or Iris Xe (Core i5, i7) graphics
- 8GB/16GB/32GB RAM
- 128GB or 256GB SSD (Wi-Fi or LTE); 512GB or 1TB SSD (Wi-Fi)
- Ports: 1 USB Type C, 1 USB Type A, MicroSDXC reader, Surface Connect, 3.5mm audio jack, nanoSIM
- 5MP front-facing camera, 8MP rear-facing camera
- 15 hours battery life or 13.5 hours with LTE Advanced (claimed)
- WiFi 6 (802.11ax)
- Bluetooth 5
- Qualcomm X20 modem
- Windows 10 Pro
- 11.5 x 7.5 x 0.33 inches (8.5mm)
- 0.77kg pounds
Moving forward, it's also possible that we'll see an ARM-based Surface Pro 8. It's been included in both generations of the Surface Pro X - the SQ1 processor was designed by Microsoft in collaboration with Qualcomm, and the recent SQ2 built on those foundations.
Elsewhere, a couple of patents have been spotted for tech which we're hoping could make its way into Surface Pro accessories. Shortly after the release of the Surface Pro 7, a Microsoft patent was published with the title 'EXPANDABLE ENCLOSURE FOR ELECTRONIC DEVICE RESONANCE BOX’.
From the included diagram above, it looks like Microsoft is planning for a dedicated speaker system to be attached to future iterations of the Type Cover accessory. Should this be available with the Surface Pro 8, it could deliver serious improvements to the audio experience.
Further rumours on the Surface Pro 8 come courtesy of Windows Latest. In January 2020, they reported on another patent that suggests Microsoft may include solar panels on the very same Type Cover, which may offer an alternative method of charging the Surface Pro 8. While it's unlikely both would be included, it shows Microsoft is thinking outside the box when it comes to upgrades.
Surface Pro 8 wish list
Following the release of the Surface Pro 7+ in January 2021, we're still holding out hope that the Pro 8 will bring a long-awaited redesign. Dutch website LetsGoDigital helped create a 3D concept video for the Surface Pro 8, which embodies many of the things we'd love to see come to the device:
Should any of these ideas come to fruition, it would be an exciting step forward for the Surface Pro line. A stealthy black look, significant slimming of bezels and move to USB-C for charging would all be extremely well received. Here's more detail on what we'd like to see:
- USB-C for charging - Although Microsoft finally embraced USB-C on the Surface Pro 7 and 7+, it still stuck with the proprietary Surface Connect port for charging. It feels like a logical next step to use the port for charging.
- Thunderbolt USB-C - Following on from the above point, we hope the USB-C port will get Thunderbolt 4 support, which enables much faster data transfer.
- Slimmer bezels - The Surface Pro 7 and 7+ have significantly slimmer bezels than the Go 2, but we feel Microsoft could go further here. The Surface Pro X has shown us what is possible here, and there could still be plenty of room for a front-facing camera.
- Better webcam - Talking of cameras, Microsoft has stuck an 8Mp sensor in the last three generations of Surface Pro. It's far from the worst webcam around, but with so many people currently relying on video calls, further improvements would be welcome here.
- Bigger battery - While the Surface Pro 7's battery life wasn't a dealbreaker, it often struggled to make it through a full 8-hour day. While the Pro 7+ improves on paper, strong battery life should be a priority in the next Surface Pro.
- New size options - The Surface Pro line has maintained a 12.3in screen since the release of the Surface Pro 4 in 2015, and never opted for more than one size. A display closer to 13in would provide a direct iPad Pro rival, while it would also provide scope to introduce a smaller-sized alternative.
- 5G support - This is probably a long shot, especially if the Pro 8 does arrive before the end of 2021, but we'd love to see 5G come to the device. With the business-focused Pro 7+ supporting 4G connectivity, it would be the logical next step
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