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One of the best tablets for work travel I've tested is not made by Lenovo or Apple

Microsoft's first Copilot+ PC is off to a flying start, with the 11th-edition Surface Pro featuring a brilliant OLED screen, solid performance, and a flexible form factor.
Written by Cesar Cadenas, Contributing Writer
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Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • Microsoft has made one of the best work tablets of 2024 with the 11th-generation Surface Pro.
  • It's one of the new Copilot+ PCs housing next-gen hardware, long-lasting battery, and a stunning OLED touchscreen.
  • As great as it may be, the device's generative AI features don't perform at the same level as the rest of the machine's features.

There's been a lot of hype surrounding Copilot+ PCs. When they were first announced back in May, Microsoft waxed on about how well they perform, how they're better than the M3 MacBook Air, and all the new features they're coming with. So far, it seems consumers have responded to the hype, believing the company finally managed to create a worthwhile Windows on arm machine.

Also: I bought the cheapest Surface Pro Copilot+ PC - here are my 3 takeaways as a Windows expert

Recently, I had the opportunity to try out one of these machines: the Microsoft Surface Pro 11th Edition, and I had one question in mind going into it: does it live up to the hype? Now that I've had a chance to test it, I can confidently say that the device meets the hype in some ways, and doesn't in others.

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It starts with the model's hardware. The Surface Pro houses Qualcomm's new Snapdragon X Elite, which, if the hype is to be believed, make this laptop a "MacBook killer". It certainly performs well enough. Browsers ran smoothly, even with multiple videos playing and a lot of open tabs. First-party software and some third-party apps also did pretty well.

I did, however, have some difficulty properly testing the hardware. The Snapdragon X Elite chips are so new that many of the usual benchmark tests we use at ZDNET don't work as intended yet. Geekbench was one of the few that did, earning a score of 14,564, placing the processor above the M3 MacBook Air but below the M3 MacBook Pro. While this suggests the new Surface Pro is better than Apple's hardware, it's hard to say for without proper testing.

microsoft surface pro
Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

We have to wait until the developers update their benchmark software to get a better picture. Additionally, as Windows releases further updates to optimize performance with the new chips, we'll see increased efficiency and performance over the next few months.

Also: I tried Microsoft's new Surface Laptop Copilot+ PC and it beat my MacBook Air in 3 ways

Regarding third-party apps' performance on the new Copilot+ PCs, you may have heard that some are slow, glitchy, or don't work at all. Thankfully, Microsoft's Prism emulator allows may such apps to run on Windows on arm PCs (similar to how Apple's Rosetta lets you run non-native apps on MacOS), although not everything works perfectly yet. 

As a Copilot+ PC, its AI capabilities are a big part of the device's draw. But in practice, I found most of the immediately-available features a little disappointing. Content from the Cocreator AI image generator was low quality. Live Captions was slow and often inaccurate. Studio Effects, on the other hand, was pretty good. It enhances the already fantastic 1440p webcam by improving lighting in video calls, centering the camera, and blurring the background among other things.

Speaking of work, professional users will fall in love with the gorgeous PixelSense Flow touchscreen. It's a 13-inch OLED display that pumps out an image resolution of 2,880 x 1,920 pixels. The PixelSense even has a refresh rate of 120Hz for velvety-smooth visuals. And with all the software enhancers, image quality is nothing short of stunning.

Also: The best 2-in-1 laptop for work I've tested isn't by Lenovo or HP

The speaker system on the Surface Pro was surprisingly good as well, as I was fully expecting tinny audio, but the output has a nice bass to it. The drivers won't be filling the room, but you can watch a movie and feel like you're a part of the action.

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Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

Accessories also play an important role in the Surface Pro ecosystem. I had the opportunity to try out the Surface Slim Pen and the Flex keyboard; both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Tablet keyboards tend to be low quality in my experience, so I wasn't expecting much, but Microsoft did a great job with this keyboard. The new generation has a sturdier design made of carbon fiber, resulting in a light but sturdy product that offers a wonderful typing experience.

Regarding the pen, I loved its accuracy. The accessory was able to perfectly follow my sloppy writing on screen, and that level of precision extends to illustration. Every brush stroke, every scribble is accurately portrayed. Also, the flat end of the pen is a handy button. Double tapping it opens a configured app for instant access.

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Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

And for one of the best qualities of this laptop: battery life is absolutely phenomenal. I performed our usual test of running a YouTube livestream at 720p and 50% brightness. At its peak, the Surface Pro lasted just under 13 hours on a single charge. That's just shy of Microsoft's purported 14-hour battery life. In practical usage, this is a device that will easily last multiple days on a single charge. 

ZDNET's buying advice

Microsoft's Surface Pro 11th edition is an awesome computer for professional artists who want a high-performance machine with a brilliant display. The era of Windows on Arm laptops is finally here, and I can't wait to be a part of it. 

Prices for the device start at $999.99. My review unit with the 12-core Snapdragon X Elite chipset, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD costs $1,699. However, it's important to note that those prices are without accessories like the Flex keyboard. They cost extra, and they're not exactly cheap, with the Flex keyboard and Slim Pen combo running $449. 

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