Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Review: The Hybrid You’ve Been Looking For

We have seen the world of notebooks change somewhat in recent years, much of which as a result of the pandemic. As people could not go into the office, they invested in more permanent computing fixtures to work from home, with better cameras and speakers for videoconferencing.

While some of that still remains, the world has changed again in a short period of time, as people are buying less notebooks and wanting options that make hybrid work possible.

This is where hybrids and convertibles have a role to play, as these notebooks feature the convenience and ease of portability, while also being powerful enough to handle tasks during a typical nine to five.

So what then of the Microsoft Surface Pro 9? It is the latest piece of Surface hardware to land in South Africa, and while that segment of Microsoft’s device ecosystem has been going for a decade or more now, they have only been available locally in an official capacity for a couple of years.

As such, people may have slept on the Surface Pro 9, bit being fully familiar with Surface devices in general.

It’s also not a cheap piece of equipment, with pricing starting at R26 999 depending on how you get it specced. Whenever you go north of R25k on a notebook, you’re invariably expecting a certain level of performance, not to mention craftsmanship, battery life, and a handy feature or two to boot.

So does the Surface Pro 9 meet those requirements? Is it a worthwhile replacement for a traditional notebook? Can it make Windows 11 a little less frustrating?

To find all of this out we spent the past couple of weeks reviewing the Pro 9 in Sapphire, along with an accompanying Surface Arc Mouse, Surface Pen, and Signature Keyboard. We should point out that only the Keyboard ships with the Pro 9, but more on the peripherals later.

Blue is the colour

Let’s start as always, with design.

While Microsoft would hate to admit to it, we think there is an air of iPad Pro to this device. Yes the Surface Pro came before Apple’s high-powered tablet, but we say this because of the colour of this hybrid notebook.

The Sapphire really does pop and stand out against the sea of Silver, Dark Grey, and Black unibody options that Microsoft OEMs usually favour. At the very least this colourway hints that you may not be as stuffy or boring as the other people at the office, even if all you’re doing is moving numbers around in Excel.

As for the design itself, it is nothing new. Microsoft is after all several iterations deep with this form factor and series. That said, Microsoft still seems to have taken great care with this device. The 13″ 2-in-1 as the company calls it has a good deal of heft to it, with it tipping the scales at 879g. Still it is lighter than a 2022 13″ MacBook Pro, and most other notebooks classed with a similar set of specs.

The aluminium of the body is sturdy and feels capable of taking a couple of knocks, with the kickstand equally rigid when being propped into place.

Whether it works as well in tablet mode as it does in notebook is up for debate. Much of this has to do with size, as a 13″ pane of glass that weighs nearly 900g can become unwieldy at times. As such, it will never quite offer the freedom of movement that a normal smaller tablet will, but for inking, scribing, doodling, and navigating, in tablet mode, the Pro 9 is fairly solid.

In fact, of all the 2-in-1’s, convertibles, and hybrids we have reviewed over the years, this feels the best in terms of how it is to use in tablet mode, with Windows 11 not proving as frustrating as we normally find it (we use a MacBook as our daily driver). Windows OS bashing aside, the Pro 9 feels more capable than past hybrids we’ve reviewed, and does not feel limited by its operating system either.

I mean it’s alright

Shifting to performance and we must admit we wanted a bit more oomph. Our review model is running a 12th Gen Intel Core i5-1235U processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of storage. There is an i7 version available to purchase too that doubles both RAM and storage, but also nearly doubles the asking price to R42 999, which ventures into a hemisphere of pricing we cannot fully justify.

The i5 version may be best for purpose then, but as mentioned could be speeded up a touch. It is by no means a slouch, but as we were multitasking, we wanted things to open up, close, and switch a fraction quicker. We’re splitting hairs year, but when you’re dropping this kind of money on a device for work, you want it to do things with urgency.

Areas we cannot fault the Pro 9 on, however, are battery life and its display.

Starting with the former and the Pro 9 has a 47.7Wh option, with Microsoft advertising up to 15.5 hours from a single full charge. We got pretty darn close in our testing, average around 13 hours between charges, but this also takes into account multimedia viewing and fiddling with the brightness settings, not to mention running benchmark tests on the device. Either way, you can muster a full work day without needing to worry, which is important these days for South Africans.

As for the display it’s a 13″ PixelSense option that delivers a resolution of 2880×1920, a 267 ppi, and 120Hz refresh rate. It is one of the more vibrant displays we have encountered and makes watching movies and videos a treat instead of a chore.

Now for some things we’re less enamoured with. Starting with the Keyboard, which has the suede-esque Alcantara texture to the exterior. It is a handsome look, and snaps into place neatly, but the touch and type experience leave a lot to be desired. The keys lack that clacky-ness we like while typing and the touchpad does not feel as premium as it should for an accessory that’s designed to pair with this device.

The stylus that’s included is solid though, as is the Surface Pen, which attaches magnetically to the side of the notebook. The Surface Arc Mouse is nice too, and the ability to snap it into shape to use and snap it flat again when you’re done is quite satisfying, but seeing as how it’s not included as standard when buying the Pro 9, we cannot wax too lyrical about it.

Lastly worth mentioning is dongles. The Surface Pro 9 has two USB Type-C ports on one side which support Thunderbolt 4, and a Surface Connect port for charging. The Type-C support charging too, but that’s it – no Type-A port in sight. This is fine for some, but those well entrenched in the Windows ecosystem may need to buy some additional accessories to make the computing experience on the Pro 9 fully fledged. It is by no means a dealbreaker, but certainly something to consider.

Final verdict

The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 does a lot of things right. It feels premium, is solidly constructed, yields good performance, has excellent battery life, and makes Windows 11 more palatable. For all these positives, it still is very expensive, especially if you want the better specced i7 model.

With people not buying notebooks with the regularity they once did, at R26 999 the Surface Pro 9 becomes a harder sell, and we have not even factored in the cost of the Surface-branded accessories.

As such, consumers may opt for something more traditional, or kinder on the budget, which is a shame given how well this 2-in-1 performs.



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