It is when a market is mature and its growth stagnates that its super segmentation often begins. It’s been at least a decade that the PC market has leveled off, which has allowed tablets, like the iPad, to see the light of day. And despite an avalanche of products signed by Apple, of course, but also Samsung, Google, and Microsoft, this niche quickly ran out of steam, so much so that we saw the emergence of sub-niches, like that of “professional” tablets, or “Pro”, for short.
Hence the arrival of the iPad Pro a few years ago. And the many generations of Surface Pro, an ambitious product, but struggling to generate sales figures comparable to those of Apple, in this market.
The Surface of the future, today
Presented last fall by Panos Panay, the brain behind Microsoft’s Product strategy, the Pro X is an accelerated evolution of the Surface range. Microsoft has felt the need to take a bigger leap forward, with good reason.
It gives a much more refined tablet-PC hybrid, much more attractive than its predecessors. The touch screen takes up more space. The keyboard case is more ergonomic. Finally, we have small and ingenious storage space for the stylus accompanying the tablet, giving added value to this accessory which is not used by everyone.
All this does not come without a few caveats. In particular, the fact that this edition of Windows 10 powered by an ARM processor can not run all the software and applications that run without flinching on other computers with Windows systems.
Add to that a retail price that does nothing to make people forget these few software limits. But if you had to make the comparison, here are some advantages that place the Surface, Pro X, apart in a market where you can opt for a PC or even a touchscreen Chromebook (there are masses), a more classic Surface device (which do just as well), and an iPad Pro which also has its limits.
Keyboard, mouse, stylus … Alouette!
Unlike Apple, Microsoft incorporates a touchpad into the keyboard case of its Surface. It’s normal, Windows 10 obviously comes from a world where the keyboard and mouse are the default interfaces. The iPad is an evolution of the iPhone, a phone that operates with the tip of your finger (or lips …).
Being able to bet on the mouse pointer on the screen is an advantage for the Surface Pro X. Something that has just been reviewed by Apple, with iPad OS 13, the software that powers its tablets. But we still don’t have a touchpad built into its own keyboard case.
Besides, all of this accessory is to the advantage of Microsoft. The keyboard has keys that respond naturally to finger pressure, and these are backlit, as a bonus. Articulated in two movements, this keyboard allows you to carry around a stylus in a completely comfortable and invisible way. No chance it will fall at first contact.
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USB-C, LTE and… that’s it
The Surface Pro X is entitled to two USB-C ports and a power port, to which the power supply included in the box is connected. This one presents a classic USB port, to charge a mobile, as a bonus. Not stupid.
What is stupid is that the USB-C ports are not compatible with the most recent Thunderbolt 3 standard. During our test, the same cable which allowed to charge a Surface Laptop 3 could not charge the tablet, but Microsoft claims it’s still possible. Shop the right accessory if you want to avoid having to carry a power pack in your work bag while traveling. Microsoft may boast the 13 hours of autonomy of its new toy (closer to 10 hours, in reality, a slight disappointment), the fact remains that it is not enough for a typical business trip of two or three days…
Under the kickstand of the Surface, Pro X is a new port that is very interesting: a SIM card slot! The device also has its own eSIM, a virtual card to connect to LTE networks in its region for a few dollars.
If there is only one good reason to justify Ottawa’s desire to reduce the cost of wireless plans in Canada, this would be it: so that you can add a permanent LTE connection to your PC without breaking the bank. With or without a WiFi network, you don’t have to wonder if the speed is good, because it is, all the time.
Except by plane. But OK. Swapping a Micro SD slot for that of a SIM card is a logical development for Microsoft, which offers terabytes of cloud storage to its users, sometimes for free.
Extend the greenbacks!
The future is good, but it is expensive. The Surface Pro X starts at $ 1,350, with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of onboard storage. For the use of “pro”, it is a little fair.
Well equipped (as we often hear in automotive pubs…), a Surface Pro X with 16 GB of RAM & 256 GB of SSD storage, it goes up to 2020 dollars. It is not exactly the windfall of the century. And you have to lengthen an additional $ 370 for the keyboard with storage for your stylus.
It throws a cold shower on anyone who was hot to get their hands on such a device. Because everything, except the price tag, is worth the detour, about the Surface Pro X. Even the ARM processor, with its limits, has a little rebellious side, for those who rail against the eternal Wintel duopoly.
Note, an iPad Pro equipped in much the same way, with a SIM card drawer and a keyboard case, costs almost $ 2,000 too. Apple and Microsoft are therefore almost faces to face in a niche where people who are not afraid to extend greenbacks can now choose between Windows and iPadOS, and find advantages on both sides of this equation.
Microsoft Surface Pro X
Tablet PC with Windows 10 system (Home)
13-inch touch screen (2880 x 1920 pixels)
Microsoft SQ1 processor (ARM)
8 or 16 GB of RAM
128 to 512 GB of storage
2 USB-C ports
Compatible with SIM, eSIM