New Microsoft Leak Reveals Stunning Surface Pro Upgrades
Thanks to the always-useful regulatory filings with the FCC, a number of details on Microsoft’s upcoming Surface release have published. The Surface Pro 9 has been certified for cellular connectivity. Not only will the Surface Pro 9 build on the success of the Surface Pro 8, it will also offer a direct successor to the then cutting-edge ARM-powered Surface Pro X.
The details come from a recent FCC filing picked up by Mayank Parmar:
“According to the FCC listing C3K1997, Surface Pro 9 could use built-in 5G connectivity, Bluetooth 5, and offer Wi-Fi 6. The listing has clearly mentioned support for “multi-band 5G NR, 802.11b/g/n/ax WLAN”, confirming our speculation that the next-gen hardware from the company will feature 5G technology.”
The addition of 5G connectivity would certainly be a step up from the Surface Pro 8, which only offered a 4G LTE as an option to some models. The step up to 5G will be welcomed by those working outside of the office for significant periods.
It’s also a clear point of differentiation from Apple’s Mac platform, which does not yet offer any cellular options.
But the biggest news of all is the inclusion of “Qualcomm’s Smart Transmit 3.0” in the FCC filing. The Surface Pro line-up has, with one exception, run Intel chipsets and the cellular connections use Intel-based modems. The one exception is the Surface Pro X, which ran Qualcomm modems alongside the Qualcomm processor.
The ARM-based Qualcomm processor.
Unlike Apple, which is able to create a specific ARM-based chipset for an extremely limited hardware configuration, Windows needs to address far more combinations, from potentially far more partners, over a number of chipsets. The existing Windows ARM machines – primarily 2019’s Surface Pro X – are not a match for Apple Silicon in terms of raw performance but do offer the same advantages of battery life, instant-on, and improved connectivity.
What there hasn’t been is a significant advance on the Pro X. Much of this has been down to Qualcomm and an industry awaiting the next generation of ARM-based chips for Windows. With the SnapDragon 8cx Gen 3 ready for shipping, a new wave of ARM-based Windows machines should be ready to set sail alongside the more prevalent Intel-based machines.
Microsoft offering both ARM- and Intel-based options for the Surface Pro 9 family is an interesting decision. The biggest impact of this is the adoption of ARM in mainstream devices. The Surface Pro X may have had the branding, but it was pitched as an “X” machine rather than a numerical machine. That “X”perimental halo is going to be removed.
Windows on ARM is ready for the big time. And the Surface Pro 9 will welcome it back to the main stage.