Microsoft's Surface Pro X Is a New, Improved Surface RT

Several years ago, Microsoft tried to launch a mobile tablet that was capable of running Windows. The Surface RT was compact and light, but it ran on a mobile processor that didn't support the standard version of Windows. Depending on which side of the Surface fence you sit on, its hypermobile design and experimental software was either its biggest flaw or an idea ahead of its time.Now Microsoft is trying again. It just announced the Surface Pro X, a thinner, sleeker-looking version of its Surface Pro tablet. The Surface Pro X also uses a mobile processor, but one capable enough to run Windows 10—a custom-designed chip codeveloped with Qualcomm . This new chip is called the SQ1—which stands for Surface Qualcomm 1— and while it’s not Microsoft’s in-house chip design, it’s supposed to signal a step forward in the evolution of mobile chips for Microsoft products.

Photograph: IAN BATES
The Surface Pro X has an edge-to-edge, 13-inch display with a resolution of 2880 x 1920 pixels and a 2:3 aspect ratio. It has the same kickstand in the back as its Surface Pro cousins, but the edges of the tablet are slightly rounded, giving it a softer look. Its aluminum body also comes in a matte black finish, setting it apart from the gunmetal gray and multicolored hues of other Surfaces. It’s just 0.28 of an inch thick and weighs 1.7 pounds (the same weight as the other new Surface device announced Wednesday, the Surface Pro 7; more on that below).
Microsoft is claiming this “pro” tablet running on Qualcomm’s ARM-based processor should be three times as powerful as the Surface Pro 6 and get about 13 hours of battery life on a single charge. The new processor has a dedicated AI engine that will, among other things, simulate a steady eye gaze during video conferences, even if you're looking away from your screen. The tablet's front-facing "studio" mics are also said to be improved from other Surface tablets.The Pro X also supports a newly redesigned Surface Pen, one that feels less like a pen and more like a soft, flat-sided artist’s pencil. The Pen rests and charges in a tray on the detachable Typecover keyboard. And the Pro X supports LTE broadband, so it's an always-connected computer.
Until we have the chance to use it, it’s hard to say exactly how well Windows 10 will run on this new device. But Panos Panay, the company’s chief product officer, said in an interview with WIRED that he believes Microsoft has learned a lot from its Surface RT experience. Back in 2012, the company was aiming to offer a diversity in silicon types but didn’t seem to understand that just running on a mobile architecture wasn’t enough. The software experience matters a great deal too.