Microsoft Surface Pro 9 review: The price of 5G

Depending on the model you choose, the Surface Pro 9 is either a high-performance laptop/tablet hybrid built for the home or office, or a durable 5G machine designed to get work done on the go. I spent the better part of a week testing the latter version and found that its always-on connectivity and excellent battery life came with some serious sacrifices.

No matter which Surface Pro 9 you buy, you’ll enjoy an updated version of our favorite 2-in-1 laptop with a great display, versatile design, and a great keyboard and stylus experience for those willing to People who splurge on accessories. But not all flavors of this flexible notebook are created equal, and if you pick the wrong one, you could be seriously disappointed.

Excellent Windows 2-in-1 (if configured correctly)

The Surface Pro 9 is a great Windows 2-in-1 laptop for work, streaming, and sketching, and a great upgrade for folks coming from a Pro 7 or earlier. Unless you absolutely need cellular connectivity, skip the 5G model in favor of the cheaper Intel version.

Tried and true design (now in color!)

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Mike Andronico/CNN

The Surface Pro 9 sticks to the same solid design as last year’s model, making it our favorite 2-in-1 laptop. Its aluminum body feels sturdy yet lightweight, its flexible stand lets it go from a laptop to an almost flat canvas in an instant, and the tablet comes in some interesting colors for the first time. I’m not going to lie, I was frustrated with the same old silver color on my review unit because the new sapphire and forest options look beautiful in photos (and the graphite option is back if you like something darker). Considering the new iPad Pro is still limited to silver, I’m glad to see some more popular options on the Surface Pro 9. I’m also just a blue fool.

I also like that the new Surface colors complement the optional signature keyboard array (only $180; $280 with the Slim Pen 2), so you can mix and match or create a clean, unified look. If you’re upgrading, most older Surface Pro keyboards will still work.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

Microsoft’s detachable keyboard — which attaches to the Surface via a simple, satisfying magnetic snap closure — still feels great, with bouncy keys and a soft-touch Alcantara coating that keeps my wrists comfortable during long typing sessions . I also appreciate that the keyboard provides a little nook for the Surface Slim Pen 2. Not only does this charge the stylus and keep it neatly out of sight when you don’t need it, but it’s also a safer solution than magnetic hanging the pen on the side, just like on the iPad Pro.

Great display and pen experience

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Mike Andronico/CNN

The Surface Pro 9’s display is the same as last year’s model, which means it’s excellent. I love the way my mouse cursor slides smoothly across the screen, thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, and hours of sports and YouTube videos I watch on the device look colorful and crisp. The top and bottom display bezels on the Pro 9 are still a bit thicker than I’d like (especially from the near-seamless iPad Pro), but it still has a great screen – it really changes when you put a pen in it Gotta be lifelike to it.

I tested the Pro 9 with the $130 Surface Slim Pen 2, which provided the best stylus experience I’ve ever had on a tablet. Microsoft’s Premium Pen includes advanced haptics internally that does a great job of simulating the feel of whatever virtual tool you’re using, whether it’s a pencil or paintbrush. I’m not an artist, but doodles on Microsoft’s 13-inch tablet feels great, and it’s more satisfying than the more static experience you get with the Apple Pencil on the iPad or the S Pen on the Galaxy Tab. I also appreciate that the Slim Pen 2 has physically programmable buttons on the front and back, which I found to be more reliable than the click-based controls on the $129 Apple Pencil 2 for things like changing tools and undoing.

Samsung’s S Pen (included in the Galaxy Tab S8 lineup) gets points for its extra features — like translating text by simply hovering over it — but not for taking notes and drawing on a digital screen. In other words, nothing beats Microsoft’s stylus.

Amazing battery life and a good enough webcam

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Mike Andronico/CNN

While the 5G-based Surface Pro 9 I tested didn’t offer the best performance (more on that later), it made up for it with really good battery life. In our battery test, Microsoft’s 2-in-1 lasted up to 11 hours and 43 minutes of 4K video playback, beating top Windows laptops like the Dell XPS 13 (8:31), while we got a good 11 hours from the new iPad Pro M2. The effect nearly doubled (6:10). This device will last you all day on the go, an ideal feature for a 5G-enabled laptop designed to let you work from anywhere. We haven’t tested the Intel-based version of the Pro 9, but based on our experience with similar machines, you should expect battery life to suffer if you opt for a more powerful processor.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

The Surface Pro 9’s 1080p webcam is good, taking sharp selfies on a par with the Dell XPS 13, but not quite as well as the MacBook Air M2. It got me through everyday video calls, and its integrated Windows Hello feature made it easy to log into my machine with a quick face scan. The Pro 9’s rear 10-megapixel camera is relatively blurry and dull compared to the average smartphone, but I’m not sure how many people are running around taking pictures with a 13-inch tablet in hand.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

The Surface Pro 9 comes in two versions, one powered by an Intel processor that delivers the type of performance you’d expect from a mainstream laptop, and one with Microsoft’s SQ3 chip that trades sheer speed for cellular 5G capabilities that will let you surf the web anywhere— Even without Wi-Fi. I tested the latter model, and the sacrifice you make for persistent connections is immediately apparent.

My SQ3-powered Surface Pro 9 device felt sluggish out of the box, as even basic operations like typing text in Slack or organizing emails can feel frustrating at times. I wouldn’t say this version of the Pro 9 is completely unusable—my day-to-day split-screen multitasking works fine—but I’d expect a machine that starts at $1,300 to offer better performance.

Those impressive speeds were backed up by our benchmarks, where Microsoft’s 2-in-1 consistently trailed the competition. On the Geekbench 5 single-core test (a good measure of a laptop’s basic productivity), the Pro 9’s relatively low 1,122 score beat our Intel Core i5-powered Dell XPS 13 by about 22 percent and a whopping 40 % slower than the excellent performance we got from the M2-powered (and similarly priced) MacBook Air and iPad Pro. Even the Surface Pro 8 we tested last year with a previous-generation Intel Core i7 processor was faster than the Pro 9 in the single-core test. Our Surface Pro 9 model couldn’t even run the graphics portion of Geekbench 5, so don’t expect to do a lot of light gaming (unless you’re streaming from the cloud) or video editing.

The battery life on the Surface Pro 9 5G is fantastic, but if you’re on a slightly poorer battery life and don’t have a cellular connection, I highly recommend buying the Intel-based model.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

If you own a Surface Pro 8, there’s no reason to upgrade this year.This is pretty much the same device Microsoft is releasing in 2021, just with a new processor choice, some new color options, and even fever port than the previous model. While the Pro 9 still has the same two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports and the proprietary Surface Connect charging port, it also ditches the headphone jack – forcing you to either rely on Bluetooth headphones or opt for a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. While this trend is becoming common among mainstream tablets and laptops, you can still get a headphone jack on the latest MacBooks, and Dell is at least offering a free adapter with the jack-less XPS 13.

Surface Pro 7 users will enjoy a nice boost when upgrading to the Pro 9, as you’ll get a smoother 120Hz screen, a sleeker design, thinner display bezels, and more USB-C ports. But those who stick with the Pro 6 or earlier will see the biggest leap here, as the Pro 9 will finally bring you into the modern era with a USB-C connection and significantly better performance and battery life.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

The Surface Pro 9 ships with Microsoft’s recently released operating system, Windows 11, which brings a much-needed visual update to Windows while offering plenty of useful multitasking and general quality of life improvements.Problem is, it’s designed for a mouse and keyboard, which makes the Pro 9 not as good as a standalone tablet

There’s no dedicated tablet mode like Windows 10, which means you have to manually navigate the software’s relatively small icons and menus to get anything done. It just feels like a laptop touchscreen without a keyboard, a far cry from the intuitive, touch-friendly navigation you get on devices like the iPad Pro. The Surface Pro 9 doesn’t really come to life until you attach the excellent Signature Keyboard — and has the best stylus experience when you pair it with the Slim Pen 2 — but if you choose not to spend the extra $280 or so, you’re Need to turn it into a real computer.

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Dell XPS 13 2022 1

iPad Pro M2 11-inch Product Card


13-inch, 2880 x 1920 PixelSense display

13.4-inch 1200p display (touch optional)

12.9-inch, 2732 x 2048 Liquid Retina XDR display


12th Gen Intel Core i5 / i7 or Microsoft SQ3

12th Gen Intel Core i5 / i7

Apple M2


8GB / 16GB

8GB / 16GB / 32GB

8GB / 16GB


128GB / 256GB / 512GB

512GB / 1TB Solid State Drive

128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB


1080p webcam, 10-megapixel rear camera

720p webcam

12-megapixel ultra-wide camera (front); 12-megapixel wide, 10-megapixel ultra-wide, ProRes support (rear)


Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (2), Surface Connect

Includes Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (2), USB-C to USB-A adapters

Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (1)


11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches, 1.94 lbs

11.63 x 7.86 x 0.55 inches, 2.59 lbs

11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25 inches, 1.5 lbs


Sapphire, Forest, Silver, Graphite

amber, sky

space gray, silver





The Surface Pro 9 is a great 2-in-1, especially if you’re getting your first Surface or upgrading from a Pro 7 or earlier — but only if you choose the right model. Unless you absolutely need a constant 5G connection, or can live with moderate performance in exchange for battery life, I’d point the vast majority of people to the Intel version. It starts at $1,000 and should offer at least slightly better speeds than the pricier $1,300 5G version. This price gap is especially stark considering you’ll pay an extra $280 for the keyboard and pen necessary to really get the most out of this machine.

If you just want a great Windows laptop, the Dell XPS 13 (starting at $1,000) gives you more value for money without having to splurge on additional accessories. If you’re primarily after a powerful tablet that can replace a laptop, the iPad Pro (starting at $800) is unmatched in terms of performance. I also highly recommend considering last year’s largely similar and often discounted Surface Pro 8 (starting at $800), which isn’t as fast but has the advantage of a headphone jack. But for everyone else willing to pay for the best detachable Windows laptop (especially for drawing and sketching), the Surface Pro 9 is the best. Of course, if you configure it correctly.

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