Review: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
I’m not going to lie, when I started using the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 sent in for review I was sceptical. I’ve never owned a 2-in-1 before, I’ve never even owned a tablet. ‘Why would I want one over my more powerful laptop?’. Plus, phone screens these days are so massive they basically are tiny tablets.
But I have to admit, the more I use the Surface Pro 7, the more I get it. Now, three weeks later, I am completely converted. I love it. I totally get why people would pick a 2-in-1 over a laptop. Of all the Windows 2-in-1s, this is absolutely the one to beat.
The Surface Pro 7 I’ve been using is one of the more powerful ones. It’s equipped with a 10th generation Intel Core i7 and 16GB of RAM. It eats up all everyday tasks you throw at it. Thanks to Intel’s new integrated Iris Plus graphics processor, the i7 model can even cope with some very light gaming or editing, although I wouldn’t recommend it for these purposes. For what I was using it for, the i7 model was definitely overpowered, and at £1,449 it’s very expensive. Out of the whole Surface Pro 7 line, the one I’d recommend is the £899 model with the i5, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. It’s very much built for casual on the go use, and those specs are perfect for that. Think writing and surfing the web, instead of gaming and editing videos.
So, you’ll be pleased to know, writing and surfing the web on the Surface Pro 7 are both absolute joys. For proper typing you’ll need to invest in one of Microsoft’s Type Covers, as these don’t come included. But this is a worthwhile investment. The £124.99/£159.99 Type Cover magnetically attaches to the bottom of the tablet and essentially turns it into a laptop – trackpad and all. When you swing the Type Cover on the Surface Pro 7 over and uncover the beautiful 12.3-inch, 2:1 aspect ratio, 2736 x 1824 touch-screen, it instantly wakes up and starts searching for your face to log in with the handy ‘Windows Hello’ feature. The older Surface Pros all need to be woken up with the touch of a button, so paired with the 72 hours of standby life on the 7, this is a very nice feature. Then, once you’re in and the Type Cover is extended in front of the device, just fold out the robust kickstand on the back and your tablet has become your laptop.
Typing on the Type Cover is a surprisingly good experience. Before I began typing I was expecting it to be a mushy, unsatisfying affair (Apple we’re looking at you and your iPad Pro keyboard…) but to my surprise it was wonderful. The keys are all solid and have a nice amount of travel. They bounce back up after you’ve pressed them quickly and with purpose, like any good laptop keyboard. One very slight downside is that, if you’re a particularly aggressive typer who likes to hit their keys hard, the lack of any support under the keyboard can mean it will annoyingly rattle a little. Initially I was expecting the combo of Type Cover and kickstand not to be very lap-able. And I was half right. It’s not as easy as a traditional laptop, but with a bit of work you can very easily write with the Surface Pro 7 on your lap.
Once you fold the Type Cover away on to the back of the device, it becomes my favourite way to scroll the internet ever. It’s wonderful. The screen is so crisp and beautiful, and the touch controls are so responsive, accurate, and easy to use. It makes scrolling down the absolute cesspit that is Twitter a fun and tactile experience. Each Tweet I retweeted on the Surface Pro 7 I did with a little bit more enjoyment than I’m normally used to. On the Surface, I look forward to the task of scrolling about with my finger trying to find a YouTube video just as much as I enjoy actually watching it. I just really enjoy actually interfacing with this device.
Yes, I know this all sounds a bit daft, and they’re only tiny little things. But all these tiny little things add up in a very impressive way to make the Surface Pro 7 that bit better than its competitors. Using the Surface casually is where you really feel that great performance I was talking about a bit further up. Everything is snappy and responsive. Pages and apps load without so much as breaking a sweat.
Sometimes with great performance comes a lacklustre battery life, but on the Surface Pro 7 this is not the case. The battery for me, in most cases, lasted around eight hours. So you only need to charge it once a day. Of course if you push the hardware a little bit with more graphically intensive programs, or use it to watch every single Lord of the Rings film in one sitting, it’s going to be less – more like five or six hours. So you’ll probably have to give it a quick charge between The Two Towers and Return of the King.
When I say ‘quick charge’ I really do mean quick. On top of the good battery life is the inclusion of a new fast charger that can recharge the battery from zero to 80% in under an hour. After using this I can safely say I want it on all of my devices. Another reason to get the 7 model is the addition of a USB-C port. It’s hard to believe that the Surface Pro hasn’t had a USB-C port up until now, but I am extremely thankful that it does. It makes the device even more versatile, and even easier to recommend. It’s a shame Microsoft didn’t decide to go with a Thunderbolt 3 port, and instead decided to go for USB-C 3.1. But I’m glad it’s there.
Microsoft also sent us a Surface Pen to try out with the Surface Pro 7. This £99 accessory is very technically impressive, and a lot of fun to use and note take with. But I’m not an artist, so I can’t really personally speak for how good it is for genuine graphic design. My mother is, however, and she found it a lot of fun to doodle away with the pen. She’s drawn with real pens and pencils all her life and said she feels like the Surface Pen doesn’t replicate the feeling of drawing on paper at all. But she was very impressed with all the technical features that creating art on a Surface had to offer.
Now, the one thing that I don’t like about the Surface Pro 7 is the design. This is a weird one. Alongside the 7, Microsoft also released the much better looking Surface Pro X. If they’d only released the 7 and the X didn’t exist, I don’t think the design would bother me anywhere near as much. The X is very similar to the 7, but it runs on a mobile ARM chip rather than an Intel CPU. The Surface Pro X has this stunning screen to body ratio and tiny bezels that the Surface Pro 7 sorely needs. Surface Pros have looked exactly the same for the last four years. And while they don’t look awful, they certainly look dated. The big chunky bezels surrounding the screen are just not what you want in 2020. And the release of the sleek and beautiful Surface Pro X alongside the tired design of the Surface Pro 7 seriously highlights its need for a visual update. Design aside, as with all Microsoft Surface products, the build quality is absolutely impeccable. How they manage to make something so small and so light feel so sturdy and so good is totally beyond me.
So would I recommend the Surface Pro 7? If you have a Surface Pro 6, no absolutely not. The performance is slightly better yes, and there is a new USB-C port. But unless you’re absolutely desperate for USB-C the upgrade just isn’t enough. And if you were desperate for USB-C, why did you buy a Surface Pro 6 in the first place? That was a bit silly wasn’t it?
If you’re looking for a new computer and can’t decide whether or not you want a tablet or a laptop, then this is the device for you. Especially if you don’t have a Surface Pro already. Even if you’re dead set on a new ‘traditional’ laptop, have a proper think about what you’re buying it for. If you’re buying it for gaming or video editing – definitely don’t get this. If you’re buying it for light usage like surfing the internet, watching stuff, using while travelling or drawing and photo editing, you should be seriously thinking about a Surface Pro 7.
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