Microsoft usually refreshes its Surface hardware every October, but things were very different this year. To start off 2021, Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 7+, a refreshed version of 2019’s Surface Pro 7 for education, business, and enterprise users. It comes complete with LTE, a removable SSD, and Intel’s latest 11th generation processors inside.
That doesn’t mean that there is not a Surface Pro 8 on the way. There still hasn’t been much official talk about the Surface Pro 8 from Microsoft, but rumors are pointing that the next version of the flagship 2-in-1 instead is still coming, leaving us to speculate about the possibilities.
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, livestreamed, or prerecorded event and blog post where Microsoft talks about its flagship 2-in-1.
But what about a specific release date? Rumors previously pointed to January 2021, but Microsoft ended up releasing a Surface Pro 7+ in that time frame instead. The latest rumors, fueled by a report from Windows Latest, indicate that Surface Pro 8 may still be on the way, though. If they hold up to be true, look for a release in the fall, likely September or October, when Microsoft usually holds its hardware events.
This Surface Pro 8 delay could largely be due to the strains from the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly impacted supply and demand in the PC industry. It also could be attributed to Microsoft pushing Intel’s available supply of 11th-generation processors for enterprise, business, and education users to the Surface Pro 7+ first, while waiting for more supply for the Surface Pro 8 or later.
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. It might even be close in pricing to the Surface Pro 7+, which starts at around $900.
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.
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 next 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 like it will make its way over to the Surface Pro 8 just yet.
Microsoft didn’t change the design on the Surface Pro 7+, aside from the addition of a removable SSD and new LTE antennas, so we expect more of the same with Surface Pro 8. 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 a bigger 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 and a patent that shows a kickstand with a speaker inside. We don’t expect to see any of this in the Surface Pro 8, but they could be features coming further down the road.
Intel’s Tiger Lake or Alder Lake?
With the Surface Pro 7, Microsoft finally updated the Pro lineup with the latest and greatest Ice Lake processors from Intel. The Surface Pro 7+, meanwhile, got Intel’s 11th-generation processors. 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 and then landed inside the Surface Pro 7+. It would make sense for Microsoft to go with these chips in Surface Pro 8, too, as Intel’s next 12th-generation Alder Lake desktop CPUs are rumored for September and the second half of 2021. With the strain of the pandemic, it’s not certain if that is enough time for a mobile version to come to the typical fall refresh for tablets and laptops.
If all this holds up to be true, then the tablet could have incredible performance compared to the original Surface Pro 7. Tiger Lake chips would double the graphics performance, and we’ve seen this in our reviews of other laptops with the new CPU. It’s also rumored that Alder Lake could come with “a sizable performance uplift.”
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
Then 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 offers 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 aimed exclusively for the Surface Pro 8.
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