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17 Feb 2020

Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro X on test: What's the difference?

On the surface they look similar, but Microsoft's new slates are different beasts

Microsoft's Surface Pro range of tablets now includes two distinct models, with the Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 7 vying for your attention - and both have just been through our tough test lab.

They are similar in a number of keys ways, but where they differ will make all the difference to your buying choice. We run through what you need to know about these top-end Windows tablets.

Want to find out how they fared? Members can log in and head straight to our lab-tested Surface Pro X and our Surface Pro 7 reviews, and browse all the best tablets from our tests.

Surface Pro X vs 7 - size, weight, price and accessories

The biggest difference on the outside is that the screen size of the two tablets is different. The Surface Pro 7 clocks in with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and the Surface Pro X super-sizing to 13 inches. However, the Surface Pro X has a much thinner screen border (bezel), so it's only 7mm taller and actually 4mm narrower. It's also a millimetre thinner and only 7g heavier, at 781g.

The Surface Pro 7 looks identical to the models that preceded it, but that's no bad thing

It's impressive that Microsoft has squeezed so much into a smaller space, although the higher base price reflects this extra effort.

There's also a higher price to pay for accessories. While the Type Cover keyboard only costs a fiver more than the one available for the Surface Pro 7, the Surface Slim Pen, which slots nicely into the keyboard, costs £30 more than the standard Surface Pen.

Surface Pro XSurface Pro 7
Cheapest spec£999 (SQ1, 8GB + 128GB)£799 (Core i3, 4GB + 128GB)
Bundle cost£1,259£1,024

Surface Pro X vs 7 - key differences

There's even more to talk about under the bonnet. While they're both Windows tablets, they offer a completely different Windows experience. The Surface Pro 7 runs on a standard processor that'll be familiar to most, with a choice of Intel Core i3, i5 or i7. In this way, it behaves in the same way as the vast majority of Windows 10 laptops. The Surface Pro X, by comparison, runs on a new type of processor, which Microsoft has branded the SQ1. It's a collaboration with chipmaker Qualcomm, which supplies the processors in many modern smartphones.

The Surface Pro X has a thin bezel, disguising its huge screen

What this means in practice is that the Surface Pro X is compatible with fewer apps than the Surface Pro 7 and, in order to have a good experience, you'll probably want to limit the apps you use to those available in the Microsoft Store, which is the Windows equivalent of the App Store. If you predominantly use web-based apps such as Office Online or Google Docs, you shouldn't have any issues. But if you have specialist programs you need to be able to run, you should check whether they are compatible with the Surface Pro X.

Ports are another consideration. Both models have the useful, magnetic Surface Connect port, which can be used to charge the device and connect an external dock to add extra ports. Because Surface Connect is magnetic, it slots in easily but will fall out again if subjected to force, which is useful if you accidentally pick up the tablet while it's plugged in, or if someone trips on the cable.

However, only the Surface Pro 7 has a full-size USB port, a USB-C port, microSD card slot and a headphone jack. The Surface Pro X simply has two USB-C ports and no headphone jack. That's pretty limiting for a pricier device and adds faff where perhaps it isn't needed, especially if you have wired headphones. The one upshot of the Surface Pro X's connectivity is that it has a built-in Sim card slot for connecting to 4G mobile networks.

The latest tablets on test

Both tablets have been through our lab test, which involves standardised screen, sound, battery wi-fi and speed tests. We tested the mid-spec Surface Pro 7, which comes with a Core i5 processor and 128GB of storage and costs £899, and the cheapest Surface Pro X with 128GB of storage, which starts at £999.

Want something cheaper? Our tests show time and again that price is no guarantee of quality. See our guide to the best cheap tablets for 2020 for cheaper models that impress.