Microsoft usually refreshes its Surface hardware every October, but things were very different this year. The focus for Microsoft was on the Surface Duo dual-screen smartphone. That means the follow-up to 2019’s Surface Pro 7 wasn’t discussed at all in 2020 or given its yearly refresh.
There hasn’t yet been much official talk about the Surface Pro 8 from Microsoft, but rumors are pointing to a January 2021 release for the flagship 2-in-1 instead, leaving us to speculate about the possibilities for the Surface Pro 8.
Price and release date
Microsoft has shifted its press events to an all-online format due to the pandemic, so we’re not expecting Surface Pro 8 to appear in an in-person event like the Surface Pro traditionally has in years past. Instead, there will likely be an online or livestreamed event.
But what about a specific release date? Rumors are pointing to January 2021, according to Windows Central. This delay largely could be due to the strains from the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly impacted the supply and demand in the PC industry. It also could be attributed to Microsoft waiting and perfecting Intel’s new 11th-generation processors for the tablet. If it ends up being a mere spec bump, Microsoft could end up quietly launching the Surface Pro 8 without a big event.
Price is a bit easier to guess. We don’t officially know the price of the Surface Pro 8, but we can assume it will remain at a similar price to previous iterations, which start at around $800. Of course, unless Microsoft changes its mind, the Surface Pen and Type Cover Keyboard also will be added costs. Those usually are separate purchases of $99 and $129, respectively.
You can expect the same pricing for the Surface Pro 8, and we don’t think a lower price will be an option as the Surface Pro is always an expensive product. If you’re hoping to buy a cheaper Microsoft tablet, then the Surface Go 2 or Surface Laptop Go are the better options.
Rinse and repeat design
Over the past few generations, the Surface Pro’s design has been a bit of rinse and repeat. Its display has always had thick bezels, the device has always been wrapped in its signature magnesium finish, and you could always find a kickstand in the back.
For the eighth generation, it’s looking as though this design will again persist. Though Microsoft already has a template for improving the design with its Surface Pro X, it doesn’t look as though this will make its way over to the Surface Pro 8 just yet.
We say this because an alleged prototype device for a supposed Surface Pro 8 was recently up for sale on eBay. It’s hard to verify the authenticity, but the photos of the device show that it has a similar design to last year’s Surface Pro 7. It was listed with this year’s 11th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage, but more on that later.
Again, we don’t know the true fate of the Surface Pro 8’s future, but there have been some rumors and patents that previously hinted toward an update. One patent from 2019 describes a new hinge built into the kickstand that avoids screws or fasteners and may have been used in the hinge of the Surface Duo. Other kickstand patents include a kickstand with a solar panel built into it for increased battery life or a patent that shows a kickstand with a speaker inside. We don’t expect to see this in the Surface Pro 8, but they could be features coming further down the road.
Intel’s Tiger Lake chips
Typically, Microsoft’s Surface Pro lineup has always been a generation behind when it comes to the processing power inside. We saw this with the Surface Pro 6, which didn’t have Intel’s then-latest Whiskey Lake processors. With the Surface Pro 7, though, Microsoft finally updated the Pro lineup with the latest and greatest Ice Lake processors from Intel. We’re expecting the same for the Pro 8.
Under the hood of the Surface Pro 8, we expect to find Intel’s latest 11th-gen Tiger Lake CPUs. These were first announced at CES in January 2020, then detailed in August. Since then, the processors have landed in Dell’s XPS 13, and other laptops like the Acer Swift 5. Now, it is Microsoft’s turn.
Indeed, per that eBay listing we mentioned earlier, as well as Windows Central’s sources, it’s looking as though Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake will be the CPU option for the Surface Pro 8. Specifically, the eBay listing mentioned the Core i7-1165G7 processor. This means we could see other 11th-gen processing options like the Intel Core i5-1135G7, or even the Intel Core i3-1125G4. Windows Central reports that Microsoft will include “powerful Iris Xe integrated graphics,” an exclusive feature of the Tiger Lake processors.
If all this holds up to be true, then the tablet could have incredible performance compared to last year’s Pro 7. Intel said that Tiger Lake would double the graphics performance, and we’ve seen this in our reviews of other laptops with the new CPU. The Surface Pro 8 an interesting tablet for light gaming or video editing.
Don’t expect Thunderbolt
Last year’s Surface Pro 7 brought just one major change to the formula: The inclusion of USB-C. We were all happy about that change, which finally allowed for USB-C charging. Will the Surface Pro 8 then make the jump up to Thunderbolt technology? Thunderbolt 4 is launching on Intel’s Tiger Lake platform and would expand the Surface Pro’s ability to function as a desktop replacement.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely at this point. Microsoft has put off using Thunderbolt in its more powerful computers, such as the Surface Book 3. Leaked internal documents have indicated that Microsoft considers Thunderbolt a security concern, but the company has not made any specific statements on the matter.
If the Surface Pro 8 moves to Tiger Lake, however, its port technology will be bumped up to USB4. The latest version of USB takes inspiration from Thunderbolt, and allows for data transfer, display, and power delivery through a single USB-C port. It’s not as powerful as Thunderbolt 4 will be, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen
Of course, there is also the Type Cover keyboard, which occasionally will come in new colors and attaches to the Pro with a proprietary pogo connector. It’s a key element of the Surface Pro line, and again, the Surface Pro 8 could take some inspiration from the Surface Pro X in this regard.
The Surface Pro X introduced the Surface Slim Pen into the mix. It’s an extremely light and thin stylus — so small that it can actually fit into the slot of the Surface Pro X’s redesigned Type Cover. It can charge while in the slot, and can even be hidden away by folding up the top portion of the magnetized keyboard attachment. The Slim Pen might not be as comfortable as the original Surface Pen, but it was an intuitive way to store the stylus without adding any girth to the overall package.
We’ll have to wait and see how much inspiration the Surface Pro 8 takes from the Surface Pro X, or if Microsoft has some new design changes made exclusively for the Surface Pro 8.
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