Tech review: Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is a minor refresh

Besides sporting Intel's new 10th-generation Core processor, the new Surface Pro replaces the Mini-DisplayPort on the previous model with a USB Type-C port.
Besides sporting Intel's new 10th-generation Core processor, the new Surface Pro replaces the Mini-DisplayPort on the previous model with a USB Type-C port.PHOTO: MICROSOFT SURFACE/YOUTUBE

Microsoft continues to play it safe with its latest Surface Pro 7 tablet.

Besides sporting Intel's new 10th-generation Core processor, the new Surface Pro replaces the Mini-DisplayPort on the previous model with a USB Type-C port.

The new Intel chip includes features such as a faster integrated graphics chip and support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard. The latter, when used with a recent Wi-Fi 6 router, leads to better wireless performance.

But the Surface Pro 7 does not support the Thunderbolt 3 technology - despite this feature being integrated in the new Intel processor - for speedy data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps.

Instead, it supports the USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard, which is rated at up to 10Gbps for its USB Type-C port. This port can be used to charge the Surface Pro 7, though the included charger continues to use the proprietary Surface Connect port.

Like previous models, it retains a similar unibody magnesium chassis with an adjustable kickstand. A piece of good news for local consumers: they can now choose between the usual platinum colour and the matte black version for the Surface Pro 7. The black option was unavailable here for the Surface Pro 6.

However, the Surface Pro 7 is still hefty for a tablet, at just under 800g. The sheer size of its 12.3-inch display makes the tablet unwieldy and awkward to hold with one hand.

This display is surrounded by relatively thick bezels. While these chunky borders help to prevent accidental screen touches, they also make the Surface look dated compared to most modern laptops with near-bezel-less screens. Even Apple has shrunken the bezels on its iPad Pro tablets.

Also missing from the Surface's admittedly-excellent screen are recent advances in display technology, such as a wide colour gamut or high refresh rate. There is no anti-glare matte screen option, too.

  • FOR

    - USB-C port

    - Intel 10th-gen chip offers better graphics and wireless performance

  • AGAINST

    - Worse battery stamina than predecessor

    - Design looks stale for 2019

    - No Thunderbolt 3 support

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $2,188

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-1065G7 (1.3GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel Iris Plus Graphics

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 12.3 inches, 2,736 x 1,824 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: USB Type-C, USB Type-A, Surface Connect port, MicroSD card slot, headphone jack

    BATTERY: 44.6 watt-hour

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN:3.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY:3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 3.5/5

While the base Core i5 model for the Surface Pro 7 starts at $1,388, the overall price goes up if you factor in the optional Surface accessories. Those who like to sketch may want to get the Surface Pen ($148), which can be used when tilted, like an actual pen, and supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity.

The detachable Type Cover keyboard accessory costs $199 while the upscale Signature version, which is covered in a suede-like Alcatara material, costs $249. Microsoft's keyboard cover continues to offer surprisingly-good key travel, but it does have some flex and is not as stable as a laptop keyboard, especially when placed on the lap.

With 16GB of system memory and a 256GB solid-state drive, my Surface Pro 7 review set runs smoothly enough and opens applications quickly. In the PCMark 10 benchmark, it managed an overall score of 4,233, which is comparable to the similarly-specced Acer Swift 5, which managed 4,388.

The latest Surface Pro, though, fares much worse than its predecessor in our video-loop battery test. It managed 5hr47min, which is much shorter than the 7hr20min for the Core i5-powered Surface Pro 6.

Seeing as the previous Surface only received a processor upgrade, it is disappointing that the latest version is yet another minor refresh with a newer chip and a USB-C port. To worsen matters, the battery life has taken a severe hit.

If you have a Surface Pro from the past couple of years, it might be advisable to skip the new iteration and hope that Microsoft will revamp the design for the next iteration.