Microsoft’s Surface Pro X was supposed to signal a new chapter for Qualcomm’s foray into Windows PCs and tablets, one where battery life was no longer the sole selling point. To its credit, the new, semi-custom Microsoft SQ1 chip (based on the Snapdragon 8cx) delivers improvements in graphics and performance. We also appreciate the appearance of USB-C and a marvelously-engineered pen cubby.  

But in a baffling turn of events, the Surface Pro X falls short in battery life. Meanwhile, the app compatibility issues and bugs that are an unfortunate staple of Snapdragon-powered PCs remain. Maybe it can be tolerated in a system like the Samsung Galaxy Book 2, which delivered 18 hours of battery life. But not the Surface Pro X, with a mere 8 to 10 hours. The tired chant of “this is a new architecture, give it some time,” doesn’t fly anymore. When a bug or another issue pops up—and it probably will—it’s painful.

Microsoft Surface Pro X pen cubby Mark Hachman / IDG

Pull the keyboard out a bit, and the Surface Pen is exposed in its charging cubby.

Microsoft Surface Pro X basic specs

Surface Pro X: Beautiful physical design

Little has changed from our first impression of the Surface Pro X: It’s a Surface Pro tablet, revved up for a new generation of tablet users. Interest in tablets has apparently diminished somewhat, given the lack of third-party Windows tablets we’ve seen recently. But Microsoft’s Surface tablets are known for their sleek, stylish physical designs, and the Surface Pro X lives up to its legacy. 

Don’t forget, however, that you’ll be tacking on an outrageous $270 for just the keyboard (and pen), a virtual necessity. That’s the price of a Chromebook or a cheap desktop.

The Slim Pen pen is a delight, though. In a few years, this design detail (first spied in January, in Dell’s Inspiron 13 and 15 7000 Black Edition laptops) may be duplicated enough to become ubiquitous, much like tablet kickstands today. But discovering the pen simply can’t help elicit the thought: oh, they’ve finally solved it. It even has a small charging light. I have no idea what the pen’s battery life is, because it’s essentially always being charged when not in use.

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Microsoft Surface Pro X pen undocked Mark Hachman / IDG

If you remove the Slim Pen, a popup offers to launch the Microsoft Whiteboard app.

The pen’s cubby, in addition to charging the pen, magnetically flips it if you insert it incorrectly. The Windows logo should be up, and the Surface Pro X will rotate it if it’s not properly oriented. 

Microsoft describes the Surface Pro X chassis design as “signature anodized aluminum with carbon composite fanless thermal cooling,” a fancy way of describing how light, sturdy, and cool it all is. I never detected more than just a bit of warmth.

The kickstand reclines not quite to 180 degrees, with just a bit of flex in it for drawing purposes. The kickstand is stiff and supportive across the entire range of motion, giving a lot more ergonomic flexibility than a more traditional clamshell, which generally reclines to about 45 degrees off the horizontal. 



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