The last time Microsoft put an ARM processor in a Surface was in 2012 when the series first launched. Powered by an Nvidia Tegra chip, the Surface RT (Run Time) was ill-received due to the lack of native apps and the ultra-restrictive Windows 8 RT operating system.
But ARM has resurfaced in the Surface Pro X, this time donning the form of the Microsoft SQ1 chipset.
In recent years, Microsoft has been working closely to optimize Windows to run on ARM chips. The company today said it’s the time is right to once again lean on ARM for its mainstream, mobile-centric device.
The latest chipset is custom-made built on the same die as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx, and features a new Adreno 685 graphics subsystem. The chipset has a 7W thermal envelope, twice that of the Snapdragon 855, which sits at around 2W to 3W. It can even be configured up to 20W if warranted.
It’s also important to note that the Surface Pro X isn’t marketed as a low-performance device. On stage, Microsoft said that the Surface Pro X is “twice as fast as the Surface Pro 6”.
According to Microsoft, the Surface Pro X can last up to 13 hours on a single charge. Given that ARM devices champion battery life, 13 hours feel a bit short. With that said, it does support 65W fast charging.
The Surface Pro X isn’t the only Windows device with an ARM processor. The Samsung Galaxy Book S uses the unmodified Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx chipset and also runs the full version of Windows 10. It features a clamshell design and is quoted to run for 20 hours on one charge.
Microsoft has also clamped down on serviceability. Users can now self-service machines and swap out the SSD, which comes in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB configurations. RAM is still soldiered on, however, unsurprising considering that the device is only 7.8mm thin and weighs 1.68 lbs.
Occupying the entire front face is a 13-inch 2,880 x 1920p PixelSense display. Port selection includes two USB-C ports and a SIM tray for LTE-A connectivity.
Microsoft has also spent some time pondering where to best place the pen. The answer? The detachable Surface Type Cover. A deep groove at the top of the keyboard now holds the flattened Surface Pen. The pen charges wirelessly when docked. And yes, there’s still an eraser tip on its tail end.
The Surface Pro X will be available on Nov. 5 starting at US$999.
Update: The original article incorrectly referred to the Qualcomm 8cx chip as the Qualcomm 8xc chip. IT World Canada regrets this error.