Skip to main content

I’m finally excited for the future of Windows tablets again

The ProArt PZ13 on display on a white table.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Windows tablets have slowed to a halt.

In its beginning, the Surface Pro was a shining beacon for Windows tablets, a device that other manufacturers could follow the lead of. But over the years, the Surface Pro eventually became the only player in the game — a sad reminder of a trend that never reached its full potential.

But change is afoot. The transition to Arm has arrived in Microsoft’s Copilot+ PC platform, meaning Windows tablets will perform better and last longer. They’ll feel like proper iPad competitors. The new Surface Pro announced in May was the beginning, but at Computex 2024, a new Windows 2-in-1 has now arrived to compete. Some momentum is building again, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

A new breed of 2-in-1

The detachable keyboard, being shown on the ProArt PZ13 in a press photo.

Following up on the new Surface Pro, Asus has announced the ProArt PZ13, a new 2-in-1 Windows tablet to join the Copilot+ platform. It shares a lot in common with the new Surface Pro, of course. It has a 13-inch OLED screen, comes with a detachable keyboard and kickstand, and uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon X chips. That last aspect is the most important, of course. The Arm architecture used by Qualcomm’s chips allows for some huge advances in efficient performance and battery life. I won’t repeat all the benefits here, but devices built on these new chips are going to provide a huge leap forward — making them much more capable rivals to the MacBook and iPad.

But these advances are particularly important for a device like this. These are meant to be highly portable — easy to slip into a bag and not stress about the extra weight. In other words, they’re exactly the types of PCs that will benefit from having lots of extra battery life.

Asus didn’t make any specific battery claims about the ProArt PZ13 beyond what Qualcomm has stated about the platform in general, but this device has a large 70 watt-hour battery inside, which sounds promising. Microsoft claims the Surface Pro will get 14 hours of local video playback, but it only has a 52 watt-hour battery.

The back of the ProArt PZ13 in a press photo.

Beyond battery life, the other main advantage of these Snapdragon X laptops is thermal efficiency. As we’ve seen with recent Apple designs, these Arm devices should be able to shrink in size without a huge drop in performance. The ProArt PZ13 exemplifies this with its compactness and portability, measuring at just 0.35 inches thick and weighing 1.87 pounds. That’s not quite as thin and light and the iPad Pro, but it’s getting closer and it’s actually slightly smaller than the new Surface Pro.

This is something I’d like to see improve in future generations of Windows 2-in-1s, especially since you still need to add the weight and thickness of the keyboard cover for the overall package. At the very least, though, there is now the potential for manufacturers to go for more extreme designs, emphasizing portability over performance. That’s the great strength of the openness of the Windows ecosystem — it allows for more variation and customization.

The future is still cloudy

The new Surface Pro on a table.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

And this is only the beginning. We haven’t even got to fully test these new Copilot+ systems out yet, since they don’t come out until June 18. In the case of the newly announced Asus ProArt PZ13, we don’t even have a final price yet for it.

I’m not going to pretend like just one additional 2-in-1 means we’re seeing a renaissance in the category. There are still plenty of Windows device manufacturers who have chosen to sit it out for now. Until we see new 2-in-1s from the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo, with new innovation in the form factor, the Surface Pro and ProArt PZ13 will remain more niche than mainstream devices.

But consider this: Many of the biggest complaints against the iPad Pro have to do with software. It’s extremely powerful and has the most premium hardware available — and people love the form factor. But the limitations of iPadOS make it impractical or inefficient in some settings, and that’s something Apple has been very slow to address.

This should be a chance for Copilot+ 2-in-1s to step in. These devices have the advantages of the tablet design, paired with a full version of Windows 11 that’s capable of running every app imaginable in a familiar way. It might still lack the expansive touch-first mobile app ecosystem that the iPad has, but if it can fulfill its performance and battery life promises, that might not matter as much today as it has in the past.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Larsen
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
I’m worried about the future of the Microsoft Surface
Panos Panay with a Surface

I've always rooted for the Surface. What started exclusively as a way to push the concept of the Windows 2-in-1 has grown into a full-fledged premium laptop brand, with options at nearly every price point.

But after a year like 2023, it's hard not to feel like we may be reaching a turning point for the brand.
Lack of momentum

Read more
I’m a laptop reviewer. Here’s why I still use a laptop from 2021
Apple MacBook Pro 14 front view showing display and keyboard deck.

I'm pretty much always using a new laptop as my daily driver -- whichever one that I'm testing for review. And in 2023 alone, I've reviewed almost 40 machines, ranging from near-budget machines with solid performance and impressive features all the way up to innovative devices like the HP Spectre Foldable PC.

But occasionally, there's a lull in new releases, which gives me a chance to do a gut check. Which laptop do I return to as my primary work machine? To my own surprise, it's none of the flashy new releases from 2023. It's a laptop from way back in 2021 that remains my favorite. Not coincidentally, it's the only laptop I've purchased myself in years. That laptop is the first-gen Apple MacBook Pro 14, and it's held up so well against the competition that I still haven't felt compelled to replace it. Here's why.
The display continues to blow me away

Read more
Surface Laptop Go 3 vs. Surface Pro 7+: is it an upgrade?
Microsoft Surface Pro 7

The Surface Laptop Go 3 is Microsoft's new affordable Surface laptop, with upgraded hardware and long battery life making it a compelling option for budget laptop buyers in 2023. But for anyone considering an upgrade to a Surface device at around that $800 price, the Surface Pro 7+ still presents an attractive purchase, and it can flip into a tablet when you need it.

That brings to mind the age-old question, of whether newer is automatically better. In this case, it might not be. Let's take a look at the Surface Laptop Go 3 versus Surface Pro 7+, to find out.

Read more