Microsoft Surface Pro 9 vs Surface Pro 8: is the new tablet better?

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 8 shown side-by side on a pink and red background.
(Image credit: Microsoft)

With Microsoft's 2022 Surface hardware reveal event all wrapped up, we now know what the next Windows tablet from the tech giant will be: the next-generation Surface Pro 9.

We had some hands-on time with it and were impressed with what we saw, meaning that the Surface Pro 9 could soon be taking the top spot in our ranking of the best Windows tablets.

However, to do that it'll need to unseat the current reigning champ - its immediate predecessor, the generally excellent Surface Pro 8. At first glance, the two Surface tablets look remarkably similar, but once you dig beneath the surface (ho ho) there's a lot to set them apart.

Which is better, though? With Black Friday approaching, there's a good chance we'll see some sales on the Surface Pro 8 once the Pro 9 goes on sale on October 25. Should you spring for the new model, or wait to snap up a discount on the current-gen Surface Pro? Let's break down the details.

Surface Pro 9 vs Surface Pro 8: Price

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Windows Studio Effects

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
  • Surface Pro 9 starts at $1,000 / £1,099 / AU$1,649
  • Surface Pro 8 MSRP was higher, but now available for less
  • Greater variety of models for the Pro 9

The Surface Pro series has always straddled the line between tablet and laptop, its use of Windows and Intel Core processors giving it the capabilities of the best laptops while keeping to a tablet form factor. This means their pricing generally sits closer to that of professional laptops rather than cheaper Android tablets.

The Surface Pro 9 actually has a slightly lower US MSRP at launch than the comparable starting-spec model of the Pro 8: $1000 vs the Pro 8's $1,099. However, the Pro 8 is now available for a lot less; we've seen the i5 models on Amazon for as little as $800.

Now, you're obviously getting more processing power for your money with the Surface Pro 9, although some of the higher-spec models can get very pricey. If you want a more powerful device, the newer Pro 9 is definitely the way to go. If you're not planning on running any super-demanding software, though, the Pro 8 is better value.

It's worth noting that the Pro 9 is available with either an Intel Core processor or the new Microsoft SQ3 chip (found in the Surface Pro 5G). The 5G-enabled SQ3 models have a slightly higher starting price, which also means that there's a larger overall selection of models than the Pro 8 had. There's also a cheaper non-Evo i5 version of the Pro 9, which seems to only be available in the US.

  • Winner: Draw

Surface Pro 9 vs Surface Pro 8: Specs

Surface Pro 9 on a desk with someone drawing art using a stylus

(Image credit: Microsoft)
  • Surface Pro 9's 12th-gen Intel chips are powerful
  • Pro 9 5G will use the as-of-yet untested Microsoft SQ3 processor
  • Surface Pro 8 is only one generation of Intel chips behind, but it's a big leap

This is a (mostly) clean sweep for the Surface Pro 9. Much like the Pro 8, it's available with either an i5 or an i7 processor - a move to ensure that the new tablets conform to Intel's 'Evo' specifications. No i3 models here.

The key difference is that these are 12th-gen Intel Core processors, also known as 'Alder Lake' CPUs. The 11th-gen 'Tiger Lake' chips found in the Surface Pro 8 are no slouch, to be clear, but Alder Lake brings a unique new microarchitecture called big.LITTLE, which uses two different types of CPU cores: performance cores and efficiency cores.

What this essentially means is a huge generational jump in multi-core performance, with the efficiency cores handling background processors while the performance cores chew through more complex tasks. 12th-gen Intel essentially blows the previous generation out of the water, so we can expect much better performance from the Surface Pro 9.

It's worth noting that the Surface Pro 9 5G runs on the ARM-based Microsoft SQ3 chip instead, and we haven't tested this ourselves yet so we don't know how it stacks up against the Intel models.

  • Winner: Surface Pro 9

Surface Pro 9 vs Surface Pro 8: Design

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

(Image credit: Microsoft)
  • Very similar overall design
  • Surface Pro 9 has a slightly more rounded finish
  • Subtle differences between the Pro 9 and Pro 9 5G

This is a tricky category, since the overall design has barely been changed here. The Surface Pro 8 changed its exterior design up quite a bit compared to previous models; the shift to the Pro 9 feels like a minor tweak at most.

Both are incredibly robust tablets, with a sturdy kickstand hinge and a mostly metal casing. The Surface Pro 9 has had its edges rounded off a little more than the Pro 8, likely a callback to the more curved design of the Surface Pro X, which birthed the Microsoft SQ CPUs.

The are differences between the Intel and SQ3 models of the Pro 9, too. Both versions have a ventilation channel that runs hidden around the back of the display, but only the Intel one has holes cut through the back of the chassis to better cool the chip.

We prefer the slightly more rounded finish of the Surface Pro 9, since it's a little more comfortable to hold in the hands.

  •  Winner: Draw

Surface Pro 9 vs Surface Pro 8: Which should you choose?

Look, the Surface Pro 9 is the clear winner here. We can't say we're surprised by the outcome; it's simply a newer, faster device that we fully expect to outpace the Surface Pro 8 in just about every department when we can properly test it.

The question of which one to buy largely comes down to your personal needs and budget, though. If you can afford a mid- to high-spec model of the Pro 9, we would heartily recommend you get your pre-order in now. If you want a tablet with 5G support, the Pro 9 is again the only pick.

If you're shopping on a budget, though, or you're conscious that you don't need much processing power, it could be a good idea to keep your eye out for a sale on the Surface Pro 8. It's not as powerful, but it can still comfortably handle everyday tasks like web browsing and office work.

So while our overall winner may be the Surface Pro 9, don't discount its predecessor just yet. The Pro 8 is still one of the best Windows tablets money can buy, and if you can find one at a good price, we'd still very much recommend it.

  • Overall winner: Surface Pro 9
Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.