Surface Pro 9 5G review (SQ3): A beautiful lie

Are you able to consider it has been 10 years since Microsoft first launched the Floor? That is a decade of making an attempt to make hybrid pill PCs a factor, one thing I am nonetheless undecided many individuals really need. However, what, I am going to give Microsoft credit score for making an attempt to push laptop computer designs ahead in an period when everybody was making an attempt to repeat Apple’s unibody MacBook Professional and ultra-thin MacBook Air. The Floor was a radical various.

The Floor Professional 9 with 5G makes it clear that Microsoft has discovered some classes since its first tablets: It is impeccably designed, and it is the primary Floor to faucet into speedy 5G networks. Sadly, it is also a disappointing reminder that Microsoft can not help however repeat a lot of its earlier errors. It is yet one more ARM-based Home windows PC that we won’t probably advocate.


  • Nice AI webcam options
  • Wonderful {hardware} design
  • Beautiful 13-inch display
  • Handy detachable SSD
  • Constructed-in 5G


  • ARM chip results in typically gradual efficiency
  • Some compatibility points with older apps and video games
  • Costlier than the quicker Intel mannequin
  • Nonetheless suffers from Floor ergonomic points

Gallery: Floor Professional 9 5G | 13 Pictures

That is not precisely shocking, given our lukewarm response to the ARM-powered Floor Professional X line. However what’s extra galling this yr is that Microsoft is definitely calling it the Floor Professional 9 with 5G, as if it is immediately similar to the Floor Professional 9 powered by Intel’s Twelfth-gen chips. That is greater than hubris – it is an outright lie, one that can undoubtedly confuse customers and IT employees for the following yr.

Certain, they each have the identical beautiful and impressively skinny aluminum case, 13-inch PixelSense show, and really usable keyboard covers (that are sadly nonetheless offered individually). Each fashions even have the identical built-in kickstand, which helps you to prop up the display on a desk, or for those who’re feeling dangerous, in your leg for on-the-go computing. For those who’ve seen a Floor pill earlier than, particularly final yr’s stable Professional 8, not a lot has modified.

Surface Pro 9 with 5G

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

A story of two Surfaces

This is the rub: Microsoft now has one product line operating on two very completely different chip designs, Intel’s x86 {hardware} and Microsoft’s customized SQ3 ARM system-on-a-chip (itself based mostly on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3). The Intel-powered Floor Professional 9 can run all the legacy Home windows apps you’d count on. The SQ3 mannequin, alternatively, can solely run newer apps natively. The whole lot else is emulated, resulting in considerably slower efficiency. On the plus facet, Home windows 11 helps x64 emulation now, so the Professional 9 with 5G can run loads of apps that the Professional X could not when it launched. However that does not cowl video games, and it is a compromise I do not assume anybody must be making at this level.

What’s much more irritating is that Microsoft is making you pay a $300 premium above the $999 Floor Professional 9 for the privilege of proudly owning an inherently slower pc. How a lot is built-in 5G value to you, then?

Surface Pro 9 with 5G

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

A greater Home windows on Arm expertise, however not by a lot

After utilizing the Professional 9 with 5G for a number of days, I am much more baffled by Microsoft’s reckless try at shoving its x86 and ARM product strains collectively. Whereas a number of of the corporate’s engineers assured me in a latest interview that the efficiency can be comparable between the SQ3 and Intel fashions, I knew that was inaccurate the minute I launched Chrome. As an emulated x86 app, it is slower to launch and pretty laggy whereas looking the online and juggling tabs. Microsoft Edge, alternatively, is snappier throughout as a result of it is a native ARM app.

I usually run a number of browsers without delay, because it’s the simplest method to separate work and private accounts. I am unable to simply transfer to Edge full time. So if I needed to work the way in which I am used to on the Floor Professional 9 with 5G, I would just must stay with an expertise that is worse than a three-year-old Floor Laptop computer. Does that sound like progress to you? Whereas it carried out typically advantageous with native apps like Spotify and Evernote, multitasking between them and emulated apps nonetheless felt noticeably sluggish. In some ways, it felt like a step down from the Floor Professional 6 I reviewed 4 years in the past, save for the silkier 120Hz refresh charge on the Professional 9’s bigger display.

Geekbench 5 CPU

3DMark Wildlife Excessive

Cinebench R23

Microsoft Floor Professional 9 5G (SQ3, Adreno 8cx Gen 3)




Microsoft Floor Professional 8 (Intel Core i7-1185G7, Intel Iris Xe graphics)




Microsoft Floor Laptop computer Go 2 (Intel i5-1135G7, Iris Xe graphics)




ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED (Intel i7-1280P, Iris Xe graphics)




The entire benchmarks I ran on the Floor Professional 9 additionally present that it is slower than any premium laptop computer we have reviewed over the previous few years. Certain, Geekbench 5 was operating as a slower emulated app, however its rating can be indicative of how different emulated packages will run. Even the weak Floor Go 2, with its low-power Eleventh-gen Intel chip, managed to outperform the Professional 9 5G in single-core efficiency. (Not less than the SQ3 faired higher with multi-core speeds.) 3DMark’s Wildlife Excessive take a look at, which is among the finest methods to check cross-platform gaming, additionally returned a low rating, as I anticipated. (The larger shock? It was on par with the ASUS ZenBook Fold 17, a foldable pc held again by a low-wattage Intel chip.)

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