You can now line up five years of Surface Pro devices next to each other and it would be virtually indistinguishable from them. Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 7 Plus maintains the same familiar design, which will only satisfy companies that want to standardize their hardware for years to come. This might be good news for business customers, but for the rest of us who want thinner bezels and a more modern design like the Surface Pro X, the wait continues.
So it’s no surprise that Microsoft is limiting sales of Surface Pro 7 Plus exclusively to businesses and schools. Consumers won’t be able to buy it in a store, and it’s really for businesses and schools looking to upgrade older machines.
While I have been bemoaning the current Surface Pro design for a few years now, there are a few changes inside the Surface Pro 7 Plus that will appeal to many. Microsoft now offers built-in LTE on some models, and the SSD is now removable, just like the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro X. Intel’s latest processors also promise better performance and better battery life. That’s almost everything you’d expect from a Surface tablet in 2021, but I’d still like it to look like a Surface Pro X with an Intel chip inside.
The Surface Pro 7 Plus starts at $ 899.99, which is a premium of $ 150 over the price of the Surface Pro 7. Fortunately, the base model is now the Intel Core i3 version, with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of RAM. GB of storage. Microsoft has ditched the 4GB RAM option for the Plus model. I tested a Core i5 model with 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and built-in LTE connectivity, which comes to $ 1,649.99 before adding a keyboard or stylus. The cheapest option for LTE is the $ 1,149.99 model with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. Microsoft offers all 11 models in the classic silver option, but oddly enough, the black version is not available with built-in LTE. You’ll also need a separate Type Cover, and the pro versions are priced at $ 159.99.
Overall, the hardware of the Surface Pro 7 Plus is almost identical to that of the Surface Pro 7. There’s the same 12.3-inch (2736 x 1824) touchscreen with its aspect ratio of 3: 2, a single USB-C port and the standard USB -One port. Microsoft still hasn’t made the switch to Thunderbolt 3 or 4 here, so you can’t connect this tablet to an external GPU or use most of the available Thunderbolt drives and docks.
The real changes to the Surface Pro 7 Plus are inside. Microsoft has gone for the latest 11th gen Intel processors and you can choose between the Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 variants. I tested the Core i5 model, and it remained cool even when using heavy apps like video or video editing software. Like other Core i5 Pro 7 models, it does not have an internal fan, so it is also quiet while working.
These latest processors also include Intel’s Iris Xe graphics. While it’s not enough to turn it into a portable gaming laptop, it does help make the Surface Pro 7 Plus much more lively in a variety of tasks. Combined with improved SSD read and write speeds, lightweight photo and video editing is certainly faster than I’m used to with the regular Surface Pro 7.
The biggest hardware addition, however, is built-in LTE. This is the first time the Surface Pro line has included this in a few years, but unfortunately there is no support for 5G. Microsoft is using Qualcomm’s older Snapdragon X20 LTE modem in the Surface Pro 7 Plus. There is a dedicated SIM slot on the side of the device, which replaces where you would normally find the microSD slot.
With England being in a pandemic lockdown for months, I haven’t ventured outside enough to really push LTE connectivity to its limits, but I haven’t found it to have too much of an impact over time. of battery life in my limited tests. LTE connectivity is a great option to have on a device like the Surface Pro, especially for those who normally work remotely, visit clients, or just want something to replace very poor Wi-Fi connectivity.
The other big hardware change on the Surface Pro 7 Plus is removable SSDs. This is really designed for business users to replace failed SSDs or to preserve corporate data. The SSD is easily accessible from an access door on the back of the Surface Pro 7 Plus, and a simple SIM tool will open it. Microsoft’s reseller network has started selling SSD kits, with options of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB, so it’s even possible to upgrade the storage space here. It’s encouraging to see Microsoft making this so easy to do, which allows IT admins to get a machine back up and running much faster.
All of these internal hardware changes also mean that Microsoft has managed to squeeze a bigger battery (46.5 Wh to 50.4 Wh) inside the Surface Pro 7 Plus. The company is now promising 15 hours of battery life, up from 10.5 hours on the original Surface Pro 7. However, I didn’t notice any drastic improvements in battery life during normal use.
I typically have around seven to eight hours of battery life during my testing, which includes a mix of apps ranging from Chrome, Discord, and Netflix to Adobe Photoshop. If all you’re doing is watching videos, you’ll probably see it closer to Microsoft’s 15-hour promise, but in reality, it’s just enough to get you through a normal workday. I still hope someday a Surface Pro will reliably hit 10 hours, so I’ll never have to worry about traveling without a charger.
I’m still a huge fan of the Surface Pro, despite the lack of design changes. Microsoft is clearly targeting a specific audience here, and the Surface Pro 7 Plus was designed for business. Hopefully that means we’ll soon see a consumer-focused Surface Pro that combines everything great about the Surface Pro X with the power and performance of Intel chips.
Built-in and removable LTE SSDs are great additions to the Surface Pro line, but we’re still waiting years for basics like Thunderbolt 3 support. And while LTE is a great option to have again, it it’s strange that Microsoft doesn’t include more scalable 5G connectivity. If you’re using an older Surface Pro and want to upgrade, a lot might not have changed over the years, but these subtle hardware changes make a little difference.
Microsoft has completely redesigned the interior of the Surface Pro this year to include this LTE support and removable SSDs. I just hope a complete overhaul of the exterior is underway. It’s still the 2-in-1 to beat, but the Surface Pro could offer a lot more.