A safe upgrade for IT workers

A safe upgrade for IT workers


I knew what to expect from the Surface Pro 10 for Business the minute Microsoft announced it: A faster processor with a neural processing unit (NPU) inside the same case as the Surface Pro 9. As the first “AI PC” Surface devices, the Pro 10 for Business tablet and its more traditional sibling, the Laptop 6, seemed disappointing. And the fact that you could only buy it on Microsoft’s website, or through enterprise resellers, made it seem as if the company was trying to hide its shame.

But after testing the Surface Pro 10 tablet (I’ll omit the “For Business” part of its name for the rest of the review, you get it), I realized Microsoft just wanted to make a PC upgrade to appease IT workers. It’s boring; there aren’t any major new features to learn, and your company’s existing Windows software will all work just fine. No alarms, no surprises.

I can accept this Surface Pro 10 for what it is because we know Microsoft has some intriguing consumer-focused Surface hardware on the horizon. The company has invited media to an event in Seattle on May 20th (a day before its Build conference begins), where we expect to see some consumer-focused Surface devices powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite chips. It makes sense for Microsoft to take a bigger risk with its consumer hardware, instead of the machines IT workers need to manage.

Microsoft

The Surface Pro 10 for Business is basically just a chip upgrade over the previous model, but it’s still a thin, light and well-designed Windows tablet.

Pros

  • Fast and efficient Core Ultra chips
  • NPU can tackle basic AI tasks
  • Slim design
  • Solid 13-inch screen
Cons

  • No major design changes from previous models
  • Only two USB-C ports
  • Keyboard case and stylus sold separately
  • Kickstand makes placement awkward

$1,200 at Microsoft

Both the Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 for Business are powered by Intel’s new Core Ultra chips. These are the company’s first processors to include an NPU for handling AI tasks. Admittedly, there aren’t many AI-driven features in Windows 11 yet, but we’re expecting to see Microsoft sell some new AI capabilities at Build.

For now, having an NPU means you can use Windows Studio Effects, which can glam up your video chats with blurred backgrounds and other features. By tapping into your NPU, instead of your CPU or GPU, Windows 11 can also handle those tasks more efficiently, and without slowing down the rest of your system. Who wouldn’t want that?

Design-wise, the Surface Pro 10 is almost exactly the same as the Pro 9 — the 13-inch 120Hz PixelSense screen returns, and Microsoft is still relying on its clunky kickstand to prop up the tablet. But at least the company shoved in a new 1440p webcam with a wider field of view, which should lead to clearer video chats.

Geekbench 6 CPU

3DMark Wildlife Extreme

Cinebench R23

Microsoft Surface Pro 10 for Business (Intel Core Ultra 5 135U, Intel graphics)

2,085/8,827

2,546

1,555/7,153

Microsoft Surface Laptop 6 for Business (Intel Core Ultra 7 165H, Intel Arc graphics)

2,351/12,531

4,200

1,662/10,298

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 5G (SQ3, Adreno 8cx Gen 3)

N/A

2,959

575/1,866

In spite of its lack of updates, the Surface Pro 10 is still a reliable and capable hybrid tablet. It delivered fast performance, a great display and excellent battery life. Here are my favorite things about it:

  • Intel’s Core Ultra 135U chip is slightly faster than the 12th-gen processors used in the Surface Pro 9: It reached 5,772 points in PCMark 10, compared to its predecessor’s 4,010 points.

  • That Core Ultra chip’s NPU also makes the Pro 10 more future-proof. It’ll be ready to tackle AI features as they appear (developers like Adobe and Audacity are already working on several).

  • Microsoft’s PixelSense display still looks fantastic, with bold colors and enough brightness to use outdoors in direct sunlight.

  • While I would have liked to see a newer design, its case still feels shockingly slim and sturdy. It feels like an iPad, even though it’s running Windows 11.

  • The Surface Pro 10 lasted 12 hours and 19 minutes on the PCMark 10 Modern Office battery benchmark. That’s better than the vast majority of ultraportables we’ve seen this year, and it’s only an hour less than the latest Dell XPS 13.

Surface Pro 10 for BUsiness

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

For a machine that starts at $1,200 though, the Surface Pro 10 is lacking in a few key ways:

  • For a “Pro” device, it has too few ports for accessories.

  • Its trademark kickstand is just a pain to live with now. It’s still awkward to hold on your lap, and it also makes the Pro 10 impossible to use on small surfaces (like my beloved standing desk laptop riser).

  • The Surface Pro Keyboard is still sold separately, and it’s still far too expensive at $140 (there are also pricier models if you really want to punish yourself). Nobody will ever buy a Surface tablet on its own! Microsoft’s inability to recognize this basic truth has haunted these systems since their inception.

  • It may be undercut by the upcoming consumer-focused Surface Pro 10. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite chips are Arm-based, so they’ll have to run an Arm version of Windows 11 and rely on emulation for older apps. But their NPUs also offer 45 TOPS (trillions of operations per second) for AI tasks, while the Core Ultra chips only hit 10 TOPS on their NPUs. These differences may not mean much for the next year or so, but they may make the Snapdragon Surface Pro 10 more future proof as we see more AI features roll out.

Surface Pro 10 for BUsiness

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

At this point, you’re better off waiting to see how Microsoft’s new consumer-focused Surface hardware performs before investing in either the Pro 10 or Laptop 6. But, as I said at the start, these systems aren’t really meant for consumers anyway. They exist to give IT workers a way to update their inventory without having to significantly shift their workflows.



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