ARM laptops are the future

From the new Macs powered by the Apple M1 to the Microsoft Surface Pro X we’ve been using, ARM-based computers are the new craze in mobile computing. Surface Pro X was the second big impetus for Microsoft’s consumer to enter the ARM platform and even highlights the essentials. Microsoft offers a fast and stable Windows and ARM experience, which is impressive despite the insufficient hardware on the latest Microsoft SQ2 machine. At the same time, some important features are missing while we wait for the corresponding 64-bit emulation to arrive. That makes the price harder to swallow, but I still really enjoyed using the Surface Pro X.

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The design of the Surface Pro X is similar to a Surface Pro x86. It has a 13 inch 2880×1920 touch screen with much smaller frames than previous Surface devices. It gets very bright, so I can use it in sunlight without any problems. The body is magnesium, with the classic Surface Pro support on the back. My unit comes in a silver platinum color, which I really like.

Surface Pro X has a Windows Hello IR face recognition camera on the top frame, next to the webcam. This is the main form of biometrics, so when you want to unlock Surface Pro X, all you have to do is look at it. It’s almost as uniform as Face ID on iPad Pro and iPhone. I wish there was an option to get a keyboard case with a fingerprint scanner – unlocking the face is not very useful when wearing a mask. Microsoft already offers a keyboard-based fingerprint scanner for Intel-based Surface Pro, so it’s frustrating that it’s not an option here.

We are testing the new Surface Pro X model recently updated with the Microsoft SQ2 SoC. This is basically Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 without the 5G modem. Instead, it has an LTE modem and Microsoft branding. My drive also has 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage space. Fortunately, the NVMe SSD can be detached by the user and replaced with third-party SSDs.

In terms of ports and charging, this is a pretty 2020 car. There are two USB-C ports and the Surface Connect port used to charge the device. It has a 65W charger in the box, but Microsoft does not offer a maximum charging speed for the device. I found that the two USB-C ports are more than enough for what they do, but one or two more would have been nice. A large USB port or a USB-A to USB-C adapter in the box would have been much appreciated, but Microsoft decided not to include any.

Microsoft offers surprisingly capable cameras on the Surface Pro X. The front camera is 5MP with 1080p 30fps video, while the rear camera is 10MP and supports up to 4K 30fps video. These are great for video calls or quick document images, but not for many others. “Dual Remote Field Studio Microphones” sounds great, but 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos go a lot desirable.

There is no extract in the box – it’s just the tablet, the charger and the usual textbooks. There is no keyboard in the box, which is normal for Surface Pro cars from Microsoft, but it is still stupid and angry. If you want a keyboard and trackpad, you’ll need to buy one separately or use the touch screen and on-screen keyboard. I’d say it’s not even worth considering this computer if you don’t get the keyboard.

Keyboard and trackpad

The Microsoft Signature slim pen keyboard on the Surface Pro X is a classic Surface Pro keyboard. It is removable and connects magnetically to the bottom of the tablet. It also works as a cover to protect the screen while it is closed.

The keys are good considering the thin shape factor. In fact, I prefer this keyboard to the Surface Book 3 keyboard, Surface Laptop 3 or even the MacBook Pro butterfly (since it was replaced with the Magic Keyboard). It’s just more comfortable and it feels better to type. I will say, however, that the sound of the keyboard is not excellent compared to the competition. It lacks the clicky sound that most other laptops have. Some may like this, but prefer a little more sound.

Microsoft sent me the Keyboard + Slim Pen package with my review unit, which means that this keyboard also has a magnetic slot to hold and charge the Surface Slim Pen. It is a very responsive stylus, and the compact shape factor makes it more comfortable to hold than the usual surface pen. It is included in the Signature Keyboard package with Slim Pen, but normally sells for $ 145, while the Slim Pen + Keyboard package is $ 270. Most of the time the pen will be hidden, unless you disconnect the magnets from the lower frame and flatten the keyboard. Normally, it stays at an angle of about 5 degrees, which I find comfortable for typing.

The trackpad is a delight to use due to the strong tactility of the click and the excellent reaction. This makes gestures easy to use on the Surface Pro X, but I’m convinced that the big trackpads are in place after using the Huawei MateBook X Pro and MacBook Pro. Now, I understand that it’s not possible to get such a large trackpad because of the size of the keyboard and tablet, but Microsoft could have pushed the envelope a little further.

Performance and software

Surface Pro X runs Windows 10 for ARM. which has all the same features as Windows 10 that you know and (maybe) love. In my usage, the ARM version of Windows felt a little faster and smoother than the x86 version, even though the Surface Pro X has less raw power.

Microsoft has strived to make Windows a good partner for Android phones with Your Phone. The app, which recently received a number of updates, will sync your text, calls, photos, and notifications. On Samsung and Microsoft phones, it will even sync the clipboard and allow you to access Android applications on your computer. In a future Windows update, you will be accepted to have three Android applications open on your Windows computer.

As an Android, access to all my Android apps and data from Windows is a killer feature. In addition, the Your Phone app has been working much better for me lately. I’m not sure if it’s the latest updates to Microsoft or something with the ARM version of Windows, but I have no major complaints. It connects reliably, receives timely notifications, and setup is fairly straightforward.

Because Qualcomm’s Microsoft SQ2 chip is based on ARM instead of x86, programs must be built specifically to run on the ARM architecture. This means that some x86 programs will not work. Microsoft didn’t want to launch a computer that can’t run most programs, so it offers 32-bit x86 program emulation to run on the ARM chip. So, basics like Google Chrome, Slack, and even more complex games like Portal 2 will work, but not at full chip performance. These programs are actually quite buggy and considerably slower than the programs compiled by ARM. The emulation also discharges the battery much faster than it would otherwise, so Microsoft’s estimated 15-hour battery life turns into 6 or 7 hours. Fortunately, fast charging completes the battery fairly quickly – Microsoft doesn’t offer a power value, but it does have a 65W charger in the box. Microsoft added a 64-bit emulation to Windows 10 on ARM Insider versions, but according to my device loan agreement, I can’t install it on the device to test it.

The performance of the SQ2 chip in the Surface Pro X is roughly what is expected of a Qualcomm chip in 2020 – it is the fastest ARM chip available for Windows OEMs. The newly launched Apple M1 chip easily surpasses SQ2, but the Surface Pro X does not feel slow. In Geekbench 5, which runs natively on ARM, it received 784 single-core and 3100 multi-core. In terms of gaming performance, the Adreno 690 is damn good. I managed to get a speed of 60 fps at high settings in Portal 2. Sure, this is an older game, but it still runs in emulation. I haven’t been able to test many other games, as most modern games are 64-bit.

Surface Pro X is fast and stable enough the most of time, but powerful users like me will run into enough problems that you miss the x86 machines. For example, Photoshop in the ARM beta is generally delayed, and advanced features, such as context-sensitive fixes, are not available. Surface works much better for general use – while I have Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, Spotify, Edge, Slack and Discord open without visible delay and CPU usage averaging 60%. Most of these applications also run on emulation.

Should you buy it?

Surface Pro X (2020)


May be. This is one of the most enjoyable Windows computing experiences I’ve had in many years, despite the limitations of ARM. It has all the Windows features you know and love with the hardware advantages of ARM. Microsoft’s Surface hardware is also very well designed with impressive cooling. I’m really impressed with what Microsoft has done.

As a student, this has been my favorite car in recent weeks, largely due to the stellar battery life. Since we’re in the Zoom era, LTE means I can take classes from anywhere without having to worry about connecting, and Active Pen support makes note-taking a breeze. The performance of the webcam is also fantastic. It is by far my favorite device, surpassing the iPad Pro 2020 and the Surface 3 laptop. I was also pleased with the Android integration through the updated Your Phone app. I can manage my photos, mirror notifications, and even run Android apps on Windows.

I would recommend this computer to anyone who spends time away from electrical outlets and spends a lot of time in chat, document editing and browser applications. He will not be able to cope with the editing or development of heavy photos and videos that some people would like. It’s a great machine for people who use Stage, Moon or GeForce Now, but not a serious PC player.

Price is still an issue. Surface Pro X (SQ1) and a Signature keyboard start at $ 1140. If you want the SQ 2 model with a signed keyboard and a thin pen, which is necessary, in my opinion, you will be looking for expenses of at least 1770 USD. It’s incredibly steep for what it is. As much as me love this tablet is not worth the price. This will not be the determining factor for most Surface buyers – Microsoft products have never had good value, but they still have fans.

Buy it if …

  • You need a small, lightweight computer with a good battery life.
  • You want a computer that understands your phone.

Don’t buy it if …

  • You want to play games (non-cloud) on your Windows computer.
  • ARM limitations will affect your nerves.


Microsoft, Best Buy, Amazon