The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) is a Windows tablet PC with a built-in kickstand and detachable keyboard. It replaces the Surface Pro 7 released in 2019, but Microsoft changed the design with the Surface Pro 8. It has a larger 13-inch display, up from 12.3-inch, as well as thinner bezels and more rounded edges, bringing its design closer to that of the Surface Pro X, Microsoft's ARM-based Surface Pro. The display supports Dynamic Refresh Rate, meaning it can adjust the refresh rate dynamically to improve responsiveness or extend battery life. It's available with Intel 11th Gen. CPUs, integrated graphics, up to 32GB of memory, and 1TB of storage. It has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 1080p webcam, and an IR camera for Windows Hello facial recognition. Lastly, it has a new type of cover keyboard with a slot at the top to store and charge the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2, but you still need to buy the keyboard and pen separately.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a good laptop for school use. It's easy to carry around since it's thin and lightweight, and its aluminum chassis feels sturdy, with excellent build quality. Its type cover keyboard feels great to type on and doesn't cause fatigue over time, allowing you to work on your assignments comfortably. It's a great choice for online classes since the webcam captures a clear, detailed image, and the microphone picks your voice up loudly and clearly. Unfortunately, its battery lasts only a little over 7 hours of light productivity, so you need to charge it during long days.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is only alright for gaming. It has a high refresh rate screen that goes up to 120Hz, providing fluid and smooth motion. You can get it with up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7 that's capable of handling medium-heavy workloads, but the laptop isn't available with any dedicated GPUs. Its integrated graphics perform similarly to entry-level dedicated GPUs like the NVIDIA GeForce MX350, but sadly, you still can't run modern triple-A games at good framerates. It's best suited for older games or less demanding titles.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is very good for multimedia playback. Its high-resolution screen is vibrant and bright, providing a detailed and colorful image, but it isn't enough to provide a great HDR experience since it doesn't have full DCI P3 coverage. Additionally, the speakers sound good overall and have an upper mid-heavy profile, but they don't get very loud. It's lightweight and easy to carry around, so you can easily watch videos while roaming around your home. Unfortunately, its battery can't quite last six hours of video playback, so you likely can't binge-watch your favorite shows without being prompted to plug in.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is decent as a workstation. It's available with quad-core Intel Core i5-1135G7 and i7-1185G7 CPUs that can handle moderately-heavy workloads and multitasking, as well as integrated graphics that perform similarly to entry-level dedicated GPUs. It's powerful enough for enthusiasts looking to get into workloads like 3D renders, video editing, or complex computations. However, it isn't suitable for industry professionals needing a powerful mobile rig since you can't get it with a high-end dedicated GPU. There are only two USB-C ports, but they both support USB4 and Thunderbolt 4 for flexible interfacing with displays and external storage.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is decent for business use. It has a sleek, aluminum chassis with excellent build quality and a lightweight, thin profile that makes it very portable. Its type cover keyboard feels great to type on and doesn't tire your fingers out over extended periods. In addition, it easily handles medium-heavy multitasking to help you work smoothly, and its clear webcam and microphone are great for video calls. Unfortunately, it only has two USB-C ports, so you need to use dongles or the Surface Connect port to attach to a dock if you intend to use it with multiple peripherals. Its battery can't last a full eight-hour workday, so you need to keep it plugged in.
We tested the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, in the Platinum color scheme. Aside from the screen, all the components are configurable; you can see the available options in the table below.
Our display and performance results are only valid for the configuration we tested. If you come across a different configuration option not listed above, or you have a similar Microsoft Surface Pro 8 that doesn't correspond to our review, let us know, and we'll update it. Some tests, like black uniformity and color accuracy, may vary between individual units.
You can see our unit's label here.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) is one of the best laptops of its kind. The Surface Pro lineup popularized the 2-in-1 tablet form factor, providing a premium user experience that similar devices from other manufacturers still can't match. Its versatility and compact design make it a great choice for school, work, and media consumption.
The Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) are both Windows tablets with detachable keyboards. The Surface Pro is better overall, with a sharper, brighter, more color-accurate display that goes up to a 120Hz refresh rate, a better-spaced keyboard and larger touchpad, and two USB-C ports that both support Thunderbolt 4. Also, the Surface Pro is available with much more powerful Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, lasts much longer when playing back video, and its SSD is replaceable. The Surface Go is lighter and more compact, so it's easy to bring around, but its screen flickers below 100% brightness, which can cause eye strain and headaches in people who are sensitive to strobing.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) and the Apple MacBook Air 13 (M1, 2020) are both thin and light devices suitable for on-the-go productivity use. The Surface is a tablet that runs Windows, while the MacBook is a traditional clamshell that runs macOS. The MacBook's M1 chip performs better when multitasking and running demanding tasks, and it provides almost double the battery life when browsing the web compared to the Surface. The MacBook also has a more color-accurate display with full DCI P3 coverage that's better suited for content creators, and its touchpad and speakers are better. On the other hand, the Surface's screen is sharper, brighter, and goes up to a 120Hz refresh rate, its keyboard feels better to type on, and its webcam and microphone are much better suited for video calls. Also, the Surface throttles less, and its two USB-C ports support Thunderbolt 4 as opposed to Thunderbolt 3 on the MacBook.
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 (2020) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) are both Windows tablets with detachable keyboards. The Surface Pro is better overall, with a sharper, brighter display that goes up to a 120Hz refresh rate, a better-spaced keyboard and larger touchpad, and two USB-C ports that both support Thunderbolt 4. Also, the Surface Pro is available with newer, much more powerful Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, lasts longer when playing back video, and its SSD is replaceable. On the other hand, the Surface Go is much more lightweight and compact, making it easy to bring around, it lasts longer when browsing the web, and its display is much more color-accurate.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) and the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 15 (2019) are both Microsoft-made devices that run Windows. The Surface Pro is a tablet with a detachable keyboard, while the Surface Laptop is a traditional clamshell. The Surface Pro is better with a sharper, brighter display that has a wider color gamut and goes up to a 120Hz refresh rate, better-sounding speakers, and two USB-C ports that both support Thunderbolt 4. Also, it's more compact, has slightly longer battery life for light productivity tasks, and is available with newer and much more powerful Intel CPUs. On the other hand, the Surface Laptop's build quality is significantly better and sturdier, its display is significantly more color-accurate, and its touchpad is larger and tracks gestures better.
The Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2021) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) are both very different laptops. The MacBook is a mobile workstation aimed towards content creators with heavy workloads, whereas the Surface is a tablet meant for productivity use. The MacBook's M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are significantly better at handling heavy tasks like video editing and 3D rendering than the Surface's Intel chips. Additionally, the MacBook's display, touchpad, and speakers are significantly better, and it has a more flexible port selection and a much longer battery life. On the other hand, the Surface's slightly taller 3:2 aspect ratio means you have to scroll less when reading articles or formatting text, and since it's lighter and more compact, it's easier to bring around. Also, you can easily replace its M.2 drive.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) and the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2019) are both very different laptops. The MacBook is a mobile workstation aimed at content creators with heavy workloads, whereas the Surface is a tablet meant for productivity use. The Surface's screen looks sharper, it supports a faster 120Hz refresh rate, and its slightly taller 3:2 aspect ratio means you have to scroll less when reading articles or formatting text. Additionally, it's easier to bring around since it's much smaller and lighter, its keyboard feels significantly better to use, and its 1080p webcam is better for video conferences. On the other hand, the MacBook's display has a wider color gamut with full DCI P3 coverage, its touchpad and speakers are far better, it has more Thunderbolt ports, and its battery lasts much longer. Also, its selection of higher-end Intel 9th Gen CPUs outperforms the more power-efficient Intel 11th Gen CPUs on the Surface, and you can get the MacBook with dedicated mobile workstation GPUs.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) is much better than the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 (2022) for most uses. The Surface Pro 8's display is larger, sharper, and brighter, and it has a 120Hz that improves responsiveness, especially when writing or drawing with a stylus. It also has better-sounding speakers, a better webcam, and a wider port selection. On the other hand, the Duet 3 is more portable, and its battery lasts much longer. The Surface Pro 8 has a better keyboard and touchpad; the downside is that you have to buy it the type cover separately, while the Lenovo's is included in the box.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 (2020) is a convertible with a 360-degree hinge, while the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2021) is a tablet with a detachable keyboard. The Surface is better for most uses, with a high refresh rate 120Hz display that's sharper, brighter, and more color accurate, a much better touchpad, and a far superior webcam and microphone that are better for video conferences. Additionally, it's much more portable since it's lighter and more compact. On the other hand, the Lenovo has a more flexible port selection, its battery lasts much longer, and you can get it with a dedicated NVIDIA MX330 GPU.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a tablet with a kickstand and a detachable keyboard. Like other Surface products, it has a sleek, modern design that fits well in a professional work environment. There's a chrome Microsoft logo on the kickstand and exhaust vents around the top and upper side edges of the tablet. The detachable Surface Pro Signature Keyboard comes in Black, Platinum, Ice Blue, and Poppy Red in a soft Alcantara finish, but you have to buy it separately. It isn't compatible with older Surface Pro keyboards aside from the Surface Pro X Keyboard, meaning if you have any other Surface Pro models, you have to pay extra for a compatible keyboard. It's worth mentioning that 2-in-1 devices with a keyboard attachment and kickstand usually aren't ideal for lap use. The keyboard can be unstable, the kickstand can be uncomfortable, and the screen can tip over easily because it's where most of the weight is.
The build quality is excellent. It has an anodized aluminum chassis for a weighted, sturdy feel, and it doesn't easily pick up fingerprints. The keyboard cover attaches firmly to the laptop's bottom edge, and its strong magnets hold the keyboard steady at an angle while typing. Like most type cover keyboards, the Surface Pro 8's keyboard noticeably flexes when you type with it at an angle, but even so, it doesn't feel flimsy.
The kickstand's hinge is adequate. There are indentations on either side of the kickstand to make it easier to open, and you can use one hand to open it up if the laptop is upside down. The kickstand's hinge is sturdy, smooth to adjust, and keeps the tablet propped up solidly at any angle. The 170-degree range is the maximum angle of the tablet, not the range of the hinge because the tablet would fall shut if it were at 90 degrees or less.
The Microsoft Surface Pro is a very portable and lightweight device, so it's easy to bring around with you. Its Surface Connect charger is also lightweight and compact. The posted measurements are with the keyboard attached. The device is slightly thinner and lighter without the keyboard; here are the measurements:
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8's serviceability is awful. It's extremely difficult to open without permanently damaging it. Additionally, the RAM isn't replaceable, so you need to purchase the model with enough memory for your needs upfront. What's different compared to older models is that you can now replace the M.2 2230 SSD via a small access panel on the lower rear, behind the kickstand. You only need to use a thin, sturdy device like a SIM eject tool to open it. You can view the Microsoft Service manual, downloadable here under "Surface Pro 8 Service Guide", for more information.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8's IPS panel has a very high pixel density, resulting in sharp images and text. Its 3:2 aspect ratio gives you more vertical room than a standard 16:9 display, which is great for reading documents and websites, as you don't have to scroll as frequently. The panel is actually PLS, which is a type of IPS panel.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8's display supports an adaptive refresh rate that balances performance with battery life. It brings the screen down to 60Hz when content is mostly inactive, like when typing up an email or reading an article, but goes up to 120Hz when you scroll or write using a pen, resulting in very smooth-looking animations and fluid cursor movements. However, this Dynamic Refresh Rate feature is only available if you manually download and install the latest graphics driver from Intel. Microsoft will likely add support in a future Windows update, but there isn't a specific date yet. The panel has a fast response time to deliver clear motion, making it a good option for viewing fast-moving content like sports and gaming.
The Microsoft Surface Pro has a decent contrast ratio. Its PLS panel delivers slightly deeper blacks than most IPS panels, but it's still not as good as a VA or OLED panel. At this contrast level, blacks still look gray in the dark.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 gets bright enough to overcome glare from sunny interiors. It's just enough for use outdoors, but you might have trouble seeing dark-color content. It gets very dim at its lowest setting, which is great for dark room viewing as it's less straining on the eyes.
The Microsoft Surface Pro has decent reflection handling. Its glossy finish mainly struggles with direct reflections, like a bright lamp or open window during the day. The reflections are visible even with the screen at maximum brightness.
The Microsoft Surface Pro's black uniformity is good. There's some clouding here and there, as well as some IPS glow near the top corners. However, these uniformity issues are only visible when viewing very dark scenes in a dark environment.
The Microsoft Surface Pro has a passable horizontal viewing angle. The image remains accurate as long as you look at the screen from more or less straight on, but it quickly dims and washes out if you move sideways. This means it isn't very good for sharing content with people around you if color accuracy is important.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8's vertical viewing angle is passable. The image quickly dims, and colors quickly wash out if you look at the screen at sharper angles from above or below. For the best image accuracy, you still need to look at the screen from more or less straight on, which can be difficult in some situations because of its kickstand and type cover keyboard.
The Microsoft Surface Pro has good color accuracy out of the box. Most color and white balance inaccuracies are minor and hard to spot. The color temperature is only slightly warmer than the standard 6500K, giving the image a barely noticeable reddish tint. The gamma is slightly lower than the sRGB curve at all brightness levels, making all scenes appear a bit brighter than they should. This level of accuracy is fine for most people doing general productivity tasks, but for color-critical work, it could use some fine-tuning.
The image looks similar between the "sRGB" and "Surface Panel Standard" color profiles, but "Surface Panel Standard" is the more accurate of the two. The "Vivid" profile makes most colors appear more vibrant and is the least accurate.
The Microsoft Surface Pro has an excellent color gamut. It has full sRGB coverage, meaning it accurately displays all the colors used in most web content. It has excellent Adobe RGB and DCI P3 coverage, but it's likely still not enough for professionals working in those color spaces.
The backlight is flicker-free, which helps reduce eye strain.
The Microsoft Surface Pro has a great keyboard. It's a detachable type cover with a soft Alcantara finish, giving your wrists a comfortable spot to rest. The keys are well-spaced, feel satisfying to type on, and have a good amount of travel, so you can type for extended periods without feeling fatigued. There's still some flex in the keyboard if you have it set up at an angle, but overall, it feels pretty rigid. There's a slot at the top of the keyboard to store and charge the Surface Pen. You can adjust between three brightness levels or turn it off completely.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 has a good touchpad. It tracks movements and gestures well, but because it's small, it can be hard to perform actions like dragging and dropping. Palm rejection also works well. You can click anywhere, but it's harder to click at the top.
The Microsoft Surface Pro has good speakers. They sound clear and natural, but like most laptop speakers, they have very little bass. They still sound good at max volume, although they don't get very loud, to begin with.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 has an excellent webcam. The image looks clear, detailed, and well exposed. Voices sound loud and clear over the microphone with very little background noise, making it great for conference calls. There's also a separate Windows Hello IR camera or quick logins through facial recognition.
The Microsoft Surface Pro's port selection is disappointing. It only has two USB ports, which means you'll likely need to get a dock or hub if you want to connect multiple peripherals or displays. On the upside, the two USB-C ports support up to 40Gbps data transfer speed and two external 4k displays at 60Hz. You can charge the laptop via the proprietary Surface Connect port or USB-C. The Surface Connect port is compatible with Microsoft's Surface Dock 2; you need to buy the dock separately.
The wireless adapter is an Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is available with the following CPUs:
Both CPUs are low-power processors designed for light to medium productivity tasks, like web browsing, text processing, video playback. They can also handle photo editing and some light video editing. The Core i7 is faster than the Core i5, but the difference is small and isn't noticeable when performing light productivity tasks.
The Microsoft Surface Pro is available only with Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. The Core i5 has 80 execution units, while the Core i7 has 96 execution units. The i7 performs better, but again, the difference is minimal. Neither are powerful enough to handle graphically demanding tasks like 3D animation, video editing, and gaming.
You can configure the Microsoft Surface Pro with 8, 16, or 32GB of RAM.
You can get the Microsoft Surface Pro with a 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD. The i5 models can have up to 512GB of storage, whereas the i7 models start with 256GB. You can replace the M.2 2230 SSD via a small panel at the back.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 performs very well in the Geekbench 5 benchmarks. It's fast enough to provide a smooth experience in most general productivity tasks, as well as more demanding tasks like video editing, as long as the material isn't overly complex. If you have a demanding workload like 3D CAD, it's best to get a laptop with a more powerful H-series CPU like the MSI WS76 (2021) or an Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2021), as they'll provide a smoother experience and complete renders faster. The Intel Core i5-1135G7 will only perform slightly worse. As for the GPU compute performance, the Intel Iris Xe is better than most integrated graphics but still not ideal for such demanding tasks.
The Microsoft Surface Pro performs well in the Cinebench R23 benchmarks, making it suitable for rendering work. However, if you're a professional with deadlines, there are more powerful CPUs that can get the job done much faster, like the H-series CPUs typically found in mobile workstations and gaming laptops or Apple's in-house SoCs.
The Microsoft Surface Pro's performance in Blender is middling. The Core i7-1185G7 takes a while to render the simple bmw27 scene, so it isn't suitable for content creators who work on a deadline. The i5-1135G7 is slower and will take even longer to render the same scene. Blender doesn't support the integrated Iris Xe Graphics, but it'll likely take longer than the CPU to render the same scene no matter which CPU you choose.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 performs poorly in the Basemark GPU benchmark. The Core i7's Iris Xe Graphics is among the better-integrated GPUs, but it still isn't ideal for graphically demanding games. It can only handle lighter puzzle-like games, as well as some older or extremely well-optimized titles.
The Microsoft Surface Pro's storage drive performance is outstanding. Its fast read and write speeds mean that it boots up, launches applications, and transfers small files very quickly. Its sequential write speed is slightly slower in comparison, so transferring large files takes a bit longer, but the laptop still feels snappy and responsive. The speed of the SSD may vary depending on the size, as larger SSDs tend to perform better.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 has mediocre battery life. Even if you only perform light tasks like web browsing and text processing, you'll have to plug it in at some point to get through a typical eight-hour day. Models with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 will likely last longer, but not significantly. Battery life can vary greatly depending on your usage.
Borderlands 3 isn't playable on the Microsoft Surface Pro 8. The Intel CPU's integrated graphics can't handle such a demanding game. The gameplay is choppy even with the lowest graphical settings, which isn't ideal for an FPS game that requires precise aiming. The i5-1135G7 will run the game even worse since its integrated GPU has fewer execution units.
The Microsoft Surface Pro runs Civilization VI poorly. The turn times are comparable to even high-end laptops like the Dell Alienware m15 R3 (2020) with the Intel Core i7-10750H, but the Surface Pro 8 can't maintain 30fps unless you bring a couple of graphical settings down. The game runs significantly better if you use the "Minimum" preset, although it's still playable at lower framerates since it's a turn-based strategy game that doesn't require precise movements or fast reflexes. The i5-1135G7 will perform slightly worse and have slightly longer turn times because of its slower clock speed.
CS:GO runs well. The gameplay is mostly smooth with high settings; it only stutters occasionally. You can get much smoother gameplay with lower the graphical settings. The Core i5-1135G7 will perform slightly worse.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider runs poorly. The gameplay is too choppy at high settings. It's playable on the lowest graphical settings, but it's still far from smooth. The large frame time spikes are scene changes in the benchmark and aren't representative of the laptop's performance. The i5-1135G7 will perform worse since its integrated GPU has fewer execution cores.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 handles thermals and fan noise well. The fan is almost completely silent even when the laptop is running at full tilt, meaning it's suitable for use in noise-sensitive environments like classrooms. The tablet portion houses all the laptop's components, so the keyboard doesn't get hot at all. Under load, though, the bottom center of the tablet gets hot, as you can see here, so it can be uncomfortable to use in tablet mode depending on how you hold it.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8's performance over time is good. Neither the CPU nor the GPU get very hot. The GPU's throttling is minimal and isn't noticeable. The CPU throttles more, but it's still not too bad and is only noticeable when performing sustained, demanding tasks.
The Microsoft Surface Pro doesn't have any additional pre-installed applications other than a Microsoft 365 trial.
The Microsoft Surface Pro an IR camera that you can use to log into your account, authenticate sign-ins on browsers, and validate purchases on the Windows Store. It's fully compatible with the Surface Slim Pen 2, which has haptic feedback to simulate the feeling of using different writing tools on different surfaces. It also slots into a hidden spot in the keyboard to charge instead of using a replaceable battery. Any pen supporting Microsoft Pen Protocol will work fine, though.