New Arm-powered Surface Pro and Surface Laptop aim directly at Apple Silicon Macs

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If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Microsoft has announced a pair of new devices powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Plus and X Elite processors. They're far from Microsoft's first PCs with Arm processors in them—2012's original Surface, the Surface Pro X, and the Surface Pro 9 with 5G have all shipped with Arm's chips instead of Intel's or AMD's. But today's new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are the first Arm devices to be the primary Surface offerings rather than a side offering, and they're the first to credibly claim that they can both outperform comparable Intel- and AMD-designed chips while offering better battery life, a la Apple's M1 chip in 2020.

One caveat that I hadn't seen mentioned in Microsoft's presentation or in other coverage of the announcement, though—Microsoft says that both of these devices have fans. Apple still uses fans for the MacBook Pro lineup, but the MacBook Air is totally fanless. Bear that in mind when reading Microsoft's claims about performance.

All of these devices meet Microsoft's minimum hardware requirements for its new "Copilot+ PC" initiative, which is meant to support more on-device processing for AI-powered activities like chatbots and image generation. All of the devices are available for pre-order now and will begin arriving on June 18.

The Surface Laptop 7

Various Surface Laptops in the four available color finishes.
Enlarge / Various Surface Laptops in the four available color finishes.

The Surface Laptop—referred to as the "7th edition" in its Microsoft Store URL but simply called the "Surface Laptop" most other places—is Microsoft's first traditional laptop with an Arm chip. The laptop comes in both 13.8-inch and 15-inch sizes and starts at $1,000 for a 13.8-inch config with a Snapdragon X Plus chip, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. The cheapest 15-inch version is $1,300, but it includes a Snapdragon X Elite chip instead.


We'll need to test these firsthand before we make any declarations about performance and battery life, but Microsoft's messaging is muddy. The devices declare on a "key specs" sheet that they will give users up to 20 or 22 hours of local video playback. But the full specs sheet claims a much shorter 13 and 15 hours for "active web usage." Microsoft quotes 18 and 17 hours of "typical device usage" for the Surface Laptop 5, but it's unclear how "typical device usage" and "active web usage" compare to each other since Microsoft says they're different tests.

The laptops’ design doesn’t depart much from the standard slimline clamshell design originally defined by Apple’s MacBook Airs, though thinner bezels in the 13-inch model have allowed Microsoft to squeeze a little more screen into a comparably sized device. All of the new Laptops also use metal for the wrist rest and keyboard deck; the fuzzy Alcantara material is no longer an option. Their screens still use IPS panels instead of OLED, but they do come with boosted 120 Hz refresh rates

Both laptops continue to offer a Surface Connect port to maintain compatibility with the existing range of Surface chargers and accessories. And other ports are still kept to a minimum: you get a headphone jack, a single USB-A port, and two USB-C ports, which is enough to charge the laptop with a USB-C charger while still being able to use other USB-C dongles and accessories. The ports do lack full Thunderbolt certification, but more ports is probably preferable to more-capable ones in this case.

At 2.96 and 3.67 pounds, respectively, the two laptops are heavier than the Surface Laptop 5 that is still available for consumers to buy, but a bit lighter than the Intel-powered Surface Laptop 6 that Microsoft began offering to businesses back in March. Microsoft isn't offering an Intel equivalent of the seventh edition Surface Laptop.

Both laptops can be configured with up to 16GB of RAM, up to 1 TB of storage, and a Snapdragon X Elite processor. Fully loaded versions will run $2,400 and $2,500 for the 13- and 15-inch models. Microsoft says the SSD is removable, which opens the door to storage upgrades, though the company also says that "this device does not contain user serviceable parts" and that the SSD is "only removable by an authorized technician following Microsoft-provided instructions."

The Surface Pro 11

Surfaces Pro in all their available color options, with color-matched keyboards.
Enlarge / Surfaces Pro in all their available color options, with color-matched keyboards.

As for the Surface Pro tablet, this update to Microsoft's flagship convertible is a lot closer to what Microsoft shipped a year and a half ago in the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 9 with 5G. The new Surface Pro, called "11th edition" in its Microsoft Store URL but not in most other places, still weighs just a hair under two pounds, still has the same dimensions (and maintains compatibility with the same Slim Pen and keyboard covers), and still has a 13-inch screen. It starts at $1,000 for a version with a Snapdragon X Plus chip, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and an IPS LCD display; keyboards and pens are still add-on accessories.

The big difference this year is that Microsoft is offering the Surface Pro with an OLED display option. It starts at $1,500, though it also includes a Snapdragon X Elite processor and a 512GB storage upgrade. Both screens share the same 2880×1920 resolution and 120 Hz refresh rate, and Microsoft lists the same color profiles for each—the main difference will be contrast

Like Apple and the latest iPad Pros, Microsoft bundles several upgrades together in the Surface Pro. It's not possible to buy the Snapdragon X Elite version without also buying an OLED display, for example, and the 32GB RAM and 1TB storage upgrades are also exclusive to the OLED version. The SSD is still removable, but as in the new Surface Laptop, Microsoft says it's only meant to be upgraded by authorized technicians and not by end users.


The port layout is also the same as the old Surface Pro 9, with just a Surface Connect port on one side and a pair of USB-C ports on the other. The headphone jack is still gone, and the USB-C ports aren't Thunderbolt-certified.

Microsoft's battery messaging for the Surface Pro is just as muddy as it is for the new Surface Laptops—14 hours of local video playback or 10 hours of "active web usage," with no comment on how it stacks up against the Surface Pro 9's "typical device usage" numbers (15.5 hours for Intel, 19 hours for the Arm version). We'll need to do more testing to see how they stack up.

None of the Surface Pro models available for pre-order today come with cellular connectivity options, but Microsoft says a version with 5G is "coming later in 2024." The one new accessory of note is a new "Flex Keyboard" cover, which has a Bluetooth connection that allows it to operate when detached from the Surface and also features a 14.3 percent larger touchpad and silent typing, but it also comes with an eye-watering $450 price tag. The Flex Keyboard can be used with the Surface Pro 8 or newer, and the cheaper Signature Keyboards and standalone Surface Pro Keyboards are still compatible with the new tablet if you don't want to pay that much.

Listing image by Microsoft