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Microsoft Surface Pro X Overview: Elegant, but the software hasn't caught on yet


Sarah Twee / CNET

The Surface Pro X belongs to a very small, very exclusive category of computer products. It's one of only a handful new releases every year that encourages colleagues to proactively email me asking where, when and how to get it. It is easy to see why there is a serious buzz. The standard Surface Pro 7 is a definition of a hybrid laptop-to-laptop dictionary for Windows and has been that way for the last few generations, falling into something of a very comfortable middle age. There were a few minor plot twists in design, components and features, but the last few versions were almost painfully unusual, which really says something about a category that looked like a science-fiction-a-decade ago.

But Microsoft did not allow its hit computer group to hit cruise control. Double screen Surface new and duo prototypes are already among the most anticipated products in 2020, even if it is based on just a few cursory nods. And a piece of future technology that's here already is Surface Pro X, a new take on the tablet-plus-keyboard concept that combines PC sensation with DNA on a smartphone.

X factor

You can say that Pro X should feel futuristic because it's named X. And not X like 10, like iPhone X. This is true X-Files, X-Men, X-Com, etc. -Type X, universal shortcut about the mysterious unknown.

This is, after all, tablet secrets. Most suited Surface Pro 7 & # 39; s it features a slimmer, lighter body. Insert an LTE SIM card into a hidden slot under the magnetic panel. Most importantly, a redesigned needle is needed and fits into an innocent magnetic break, embedded in the small overlap where the clipboard meets the magnetic hinge.


Sarah Twee / CNET

There's more. This is a slimmer, sleeker, more refined take on the Surface Pro idea. The keyboard roof remains great, backlit with a frankly more satisfying click on its keys than the MacBook. The high-resolution display of 2,880×1,920 pixels is surrounded by a slim, modern shield, and the back of the bar remains perfectly adjustable, if not still very comfortable on the lap.

So why then does the Surface Pro X feel like such a missed opportunity? Physical redesign is in place, but diving deeper into the hardware specifications and confusing pricing structure, there's a lot that makes me scratch my head. It's insidious in terms of Intel-based tablets, being charged too much for its must-have add-ons and software support being hit or miss.


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Twisting the ARM

Most of these problems stem from the fact that this is not a typical Intel-powered Windows PC (or even AMD-powered). It's one of a very small subset of Computers running Windows from an ARM chip, similar to those found in most modern smartphones. Microsoft calls this processor SQ1, and it is collaboration between Microsoft and Qualcomm, based on the second Snapdragon chipset.

Pro X, along with upcoming Samsung Galaxy Book S, is probably the third wave of these ARM PCs, which launched some of the original models from HP, Lenovo and Asus. Most of them like Asus NewGooverpriced and underdeveloped, with higher than expected prices and many operating and software constraints, and had no promised 20-hour battery life, which should offset these shortcomings. It's hard to find a solution to a problem when your device isn't too big for solutions.

Your typical Chromebook is also limited, but shoppers have embraced it in exchange for simplicity, security and most importantly, priced at a sweet spot of around $ 300- $ 400. Most ARM and 2-in-1 power laptops to date are premium systems, making them a tough sell.

The new math

And it is precisely that mathematics that makes the Surface Pro X more than anything else. The design, from the excellent ratio of the screen to the frame to the hidden needle, is great and makes this my favorite surface to date in terms of true hands-on experience. But while Intel-based Intel-Surface Pro 7 starts at $ 749, the more limited Pro X starts at $ 999.

Based on purely practical feel and acceptable size and weight, I would like to suggest the additional $ 250 as a luxury item. After all, this is what you can expect to pay for a new one MacBook Air, if you take advantage of the frequent deals of $ 100, some retailers offer this very popular 13 inch laptop.


Sarah Twee / CNET

But the Surface Pro family's biggest historic Achilles heel is clouding the water. That great magnetic clip-on keyboard and newly redesigned needle are not included in the box, no matter which configuration you purchase. They're sold separately, though I've never seen a Surface Pro, X or otherwise, in the wild or in advertising, without them.

The Surface Pro X keyboard is an extra $ 139, and the best thing I can say about it is that it's less than $ 159 you'll pay for a very, very similar Surface Pro 7. Keyboard, really different from a regular Surface Pen, such as razed to his hinge home, it's an extra $ 144, as opposed to the standard $ 99 pen. It's more than 25% premium, above the starting price, it's already more than any previous Windows ARM computer.

But it might be worth the extra investment, because the engineering is so strong overall, making the device feel and look great. It really depends on what you plan to use.


Surface Pro 7 (left) to Surface Pro X.

Sarah Twee / CNET

Work in progress

Try installing Photoshop CC now and you will receive the following message: "Your computer's 32-bit system cannot run the latest version of Photoshop CC, which requires a 64-bit computer. Please follow the instructions for downloading the latest compatible version. "Adobe is well aware of the problem, has already demonstrated a version of its Fresco imaging application for Surface Pro X and says," We are working hard to bring other key parts of the Creative Cloud to Surface Pro X as soon as possible. "

Running Windows applications on something other than a Windows computer is quickly confusing. The basic rule comes from Microsoft's own documentation: "Drivers for hardware, games and applications will only work if they are designed for a Windows 10-based ARM 10 computer." There is more to the specifics of how the SQ1 chip works hereBut the takeaway is, "mainstream x86 chip software won't work on ARM machines."

What is the ground here, except that Adobe applications come at a certain point and standard things like Office already work? Like the Chromebook, any Internet-based tool I tried worked great, and it's easily 75 percent of the usual needs: Webmail, Netflix, social media, and so on. And that's certainly a legitimate argument to make. It's simply easier when you're talking about a $ 300 Chromebook (or even a $ 650 Chromebook) from $ 1,269 tablet-combo-keyboard-plus-keyboard-plus-needle-combo.


Sarah Twee / CNET

Another great benefit is the always-on LTE connection, via the micro-SIM slot hidden under the magnetic panel behind the clamp. It's still a rarity for laptops and tablets, and even the Surface Pro 7 will have to wait for the LTE version. The downside is that you actually have to pay for the monthly service, as is the case with LTE iPads and your phone.

The other major concern is the alleged extra-long battery life of ARM-based laptops. In previous generations, we have found that 20 plus hour claims are outdated and come around ten hours instead. For the Surface Pro X, Microsoft claims only "up to 13 hours of battery life, based on typical use of the Surface device". In our initial testing, the Pro X ran 8 hours, 50 minutes while recording video, which is respectable, but not record-breaking. Battery and benchmark testing continues at CNET laboratories and we will update them with final grades when available.

There's so much I really like about the bold new direction of the Surface Pro. Thin design; better display and frame; excellent stylus application; decent battery life; and a great keyboard experience. But the relatively high cost, especially given the cost of accessories, software compatibility issues, and heavy specs for mature Surface Pro 7 compatibility make this ideal only for a small subset of the tablet population.

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