The 7 Biggest Complaints About the Surface Pro

Are you considering purchasing the new Microsoft Surface Pro 9 2-in-1 PC? As the latest refinement of Microsoft‘s pioneering tablet-laptop hybrid, the Surface Pro 9 brings thoughtful improvements like 5G connectivity, 120Hz displays, and cutting-edge 12th Gen Intel or Qualcomm ARM processors.

But before taking the plunge, it‘s wise to understand the most common complaints cited about the Surface Pro 9 by experts and verified owners. Despite its versatile design and premium build quality, lingering compromises hold the Surface Pro 9 back from delivering the seamless experience many users expect in 2023.

Below, we break down the seven most prominent pain points cited by reviewers and customers after using the Surface Pro 9 for everyday work and play. For each complaint category, we’ll analyze root causes, provide concrete examples, and compare against rival devices. Finally, we offer tips to help mitigate the limitations based on your individual needs and use cases.

Let‘s dive in!


First, a quick rundown of what the Surface Pro 9 packs under the hood:

Processor12th Gen Intel Core i5/i7
OR Microsoft SQ3 ARM Chip
MemoryUp to 32GB LPDDR5 RAM
StorageUp to 1TB SSD
Display13" touch display up to 120Hz
Ports2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4
Surface Connect port
Surface Keyboard connector
WirelessWiFi 6E
Bluetooth 5.1
5G (SQ3 only)
Cameras5MP (Front)
10 MP (Rear)
Battery LifeUp to 15 hrs (Intel)
Up to 19 hrs (SQ3)

Pricing starts at $999 before you add essential accessories like Microsoft‘s Surface Keyboard and Surface Pen. Keep reading to discover the key downsides to weigh given the Surface Pro 9‘s premium price tag.

Complaint #1: Essential Accessories Sold Separately

The Surface Pro 9 works seamlessly as both a compact tablet and a fully capable laptop only when paired with Microsoft‘s proprietary Signature Keyboard Cover and Surface Pen. Without them, the device falls woefully short if you need to type comfortably or take digital notes.

Unfortunately, these vital accessories don‘t come bundled in the box. Here‘s what you‘ll pay if you want the real Surface Pro experience:

  • Surface Pro 9 tablet – $999+
  • Surface Pro Signature Keyboard – $179.99 additional
  • Surface Slim Pen 2 – $129.99 additional

That‘s over $300 extra after already shelling out $1,000+ for the base device. Compared to Apple bundling the Apple Pencil free with its latest iPad Pro, Microsoft lags far behind rivals in terms of out-of-box value.

Yes, you can utilize cheaper Bluetooth keyboards and styli from third parties. But most Surface enthusiasts pay extra for Microsoft‘s optimized, precision-crafted accessories. As a result, the total investment soars closer to $1,400 to unlock the Surface Pro‘s full capabilities—a nasty hidden cost new buyers hate discovering post-purchase.

Complaint #2 – Tiny, Uncomfortable Trackpad

The Surface Signature Keyboard delivers a premium typing experience thanks to rigid construction and tactile key travel. But flip the keyboard cover over, and a glaring issue leaps out: the tiny glass trackpad measuring just 4 x 2.1 inches.

To put that into perspective, Apple‘s Magic Keyboard trackpad boasts 50% more surface area for buttery smooth multi-touch gestures. It makes executing common tasks like two-finger scrolling and three-finger swiping far less comfortable over long periods.

You can bypass the trackpad limitations by reaching up to touch the screen thanks to the Surface Pro‘s tablet DNA. But that negates the laptop-style experience that Microsoft wants you to associate with the Surface Pro 9 and Signature Keyboard combo.

According to UX experts, the undersized trackpad remains the Signature Keyboard‘s Achilles heel despite its otherwise flawless execution. And shrinking screen bezels give Microsoft negligible room to enlarge the trackpad substantially in future iterations.

Complaint #3 – Lackluster Graphics Performance

The Surface Pro 9 ships exclusively with integrated GPUs to preserve thinness and battery life. Models equipped with Intel 12th Gen processors utilize the Iris Xe graphics built into Core i5 or i7 chips. Meanwhile, the SQ3 ARM-based variant features an integrated Adreno 8CX GPU.

In both cases, graphics performance sees roughly a 15-20% boost over the previous Surface Pro 8‘s Intel Iris Xe solution. But for real-world gaming or intensive graphics workloads, the results prove underwhelming.

Independent testing showed the Iris Xe-equipped Surface Pro 9 averaging between 20-30 fps running AAA games like Forza Horizon 5, even at lowered 1080p resolution and minimum detail settings. Creative apps like Blender fare little better.

And the Adreno GPU inside the SQ3 chipset even trails far behind the Intel models in terms of rendering speeds, visual effects capabilities, and playable frame rates, as evidenced by graphics benchmark comparisons below:

Surface Pro 9 Graphics Benchmarks

Clearly, neither configuration of the Surface Pro 9 works well for gaming or graphics-focused tasks. Stick to lightweight indie games and 2D apps if you value performance.

Complaint #4 – Terrible Windows App Support (on ARM)

One advantage Qualcomm touts for its ARM-based SQ3 processor lies in the potential for smartphone-like battery efficiency. And in testing, the SQ3 model did last roughly 2 hours longer per charge than the Intel variants with similar workloads.

However, multiple expert reviewers called out the glaring lack of Windows app support on ARM-equipped Surface devices so far. In fact, outside select Microsoft programs like Office and Edge, you‘ll struggle to find popular third party Windows apps optimized to run smoothly on the SQ3 chip.

Due to poor ARM optimization, everyday programs like Slack, Chrome, Zoom, and Adobe Creative Cloud suffer crippling performance issues on the SQ3 Surface Pro 9. Qualcomm‘s emulation for traditional x86 Windows apps has a long way to go before unlocking the true potential of Windows on ARM.

Unless Microsoft dramatically improves native ARM app support, most buyers stand better served by the tried-and-true Intel-powered Surface Pro configurations for now—especially for productivity and business use cases.

Complaint #5 – Mediocre Battery Life (Intel models)

While the ARM-based Surface Pro 9 stretches up to 19 hours per charge, reviewers found the Intel models last roughly half as long under mixed everyday workloads.

In Tom‘s Hardware‘s battery rundown test for example, the Core i7 Surface Pro 9 lasted just 7 hours and 49 minutes on a charge—several hours shy of Microsoft‘s lofty 15 hour claim. Under more strenuous loads, some buyers report their devices dying after only 4 to 6 hours unplugged.

We expect slim tablets like the Surface Pro to trail far behind beefier laptops in battery longevity. But considering Apple‘s latest M2 iPad Pro sees over 13.5 hours of runtime, the Surface Pro 9‘s real-world stats simply don’t cut it for users requiring true all-day endurance.

If battery life matters above all else, the SQ3 model augments things somewhat. But most configurations still fail to deliver laptop-class staying power, falling short of expectations Microsoft sets via its marketing claims.

Complaint #6 – Limited Port Selection

Connectivity looks solid on paper thanks to two Thunderbolt 4 ports for zippy peripheral and external display support. You also get speedy Wi-Fi 6E wireless networking plus Bluetooth 5.1 support across all models.

But in daily use, most buyers will likely need to invest in a USB-C hub before long. With just two ports to spare, you‘ll face frustrating dongle hell soon trying to juggle external drives, monitors, and other legacy gadgets most professionals still utilize regularly.

And since the Surface Pro 9 lacks a dedicated charging port, both USB-C ports get occupied whenever you need to top up the battery while using USB accessories simultaneously. That means no wandering around using your favorite headphones while charging!

Limited bandwidth via the Thunderbolt ports also means external displays over 4K resolution may not function properly. All in all, the anemic port selection significantly throttles the Surface Pro 9‘s capabilities as a laptop stand-in for power users accustomed to more versatile mainstream notebooks.

Complaint #7 – Still Not a Clear-Cut Laptop Replacement

Despite over a decade of refinement, Microsoft has yet to fully bridge the gap between tablet convenience and laptop utility with the Surface Pro formula successfully. Without its must-have keyboard attachment, the Surface Pro 9 remains cumbersome for productivity.

Yet as illustrated above, compromises around graphics performance, battery life runtime, and unpolished OS/app support mar the experience when trying to operate the device as a full-on notebook replacement. And at $1,400+ once you factor in accessories, that value comes into serious question versus rival 2-in-1 PCs or tablets.

In the end, the Surface Pro 9 still forces difficult usability or performance trade-offs regardless of use case. And for the price tag, many customers expect a far tighter integration of desktop-class productivity and tablet-style portability than what Microsoft currently provides.

Should You Buy the Surface Pro 9?

The Surface Pro 9 certainly brings thoughtful, incremental updates cementing Microsoft‘s stake in the hybrid computing space. Premium build quality, vibrant 120Hz displays, and cutting-edge Intel/Qualcomm silicon deserve applause despite lingering shortcomings covered above.

For certain audiences like artists, students, and niche business users, the Surface Pro 9 makes it easier to recommend in 2023—especially if found at discounted pricing. Cons around graphics and app support matter less for note-taking or document editing.

However for general consumers focused on no-fuss web browsing, basic productivity, media streaming, and light gaming, more well-rounded options exist for less money. And professionals requiring portable creative workstations or heavy multitasking enjoy better solutions optimized specifically for those needs at comparable price points.

As with any big-ticket electronics purchase, understanding the core limitations before handing over your hard-earned cash prevents unpleasant surprises down the road. So weigh the Surface Pro 9‘s common complaints above against what you require from a dynamic mobile computing companion.

And if you still have reservations about committing to a device, devices like the Surface Laptop 5 or [Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10]( a smoother user experience for similar money once all costs get factored in.

I hope breaking down the key disadvantages gives you the complete information to determine if the Surface Pro 9 makes sense for your needs and budget despite its persistent shortcomings. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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