The Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 9 with 5G are at the top of the 2-in-1 charts. Models start at a more affordable price, you have far more configuration options, and the design and display are outstanding.
- Available in Intel and ARM configs
- 5G connectivity readily available
- Kickstand built into the tablet
- Gorgeous display
- Upgradeable SSD
- Keyboard and pen sold separately
- ARM has some limitations
- 5G version lacks Dolby Vision
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315)
Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 is direct competition for the Pro 9, though it starts at a higher price and doesn’t offer as many high-end features. If you’d like a quality tablet without a built-in stand, this might be the way to go.
- Thinner and lighter build
- Gorgeous display with Dolby Vision
- Solid performance from 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Good cameras and audio
- 5G models are hard to find in some regions
- Stand ties into the attachable keyboard
- Higher starting price
Microsoft’s Surface Pro series of 2-in-1 laptops has spawned many lookalikes and imitations over the years, no doubt because of what a fine example it sets when it comes to versatility, display quality, and performance. Nevertheless, the Surface Pro is a constant in our collection of the best Windows laptops.
Microsoft recently unveiled its latest Surface Pro 9, which essentially merges the older Pro 8 and Pro X devices into one dual-prong offering with modern hardware and some other upgrades. The Pro 9 is an Intel-based system with the latest 12th Gen chips, while the Pro 9 with 5G is an ARM-based system with Microsoft’s custom SQ3 processor. Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315), announced August 2022, sticks with Intel processors only.
Here’s a look at the tech specifications that make up these laptops.
|Surface Pro 9||Surface Pro 9 with 5G||Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315)|
|OS||Windows 11 Home||Windows 11 Home||Windows 11 Home, Windows 11 Pro|
|Processor||12th Gen Intel, Intel Evo||Microsoft SQ3||12th Gen Intel|
|Core i5-1235U, Core i7-1255U||Core i5-1230U, i7-1250U|
|RAM||8GB, 16GB, 32GB LPDDR5||8GB, 16GB LPDDR4x||8GB, 16GB LPDDR4x-4266|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe||Microsoft SQ3 Adreno 8CX (Gen 3)||Intel Iris Xe|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB||128GB, 256GB, 512GB||256GB, 512GB, 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD|
|Removable SSD||Removable SSD|
|Display||13 inches, 2880×1920 (267 PPI), touch, 3:2 aspect ratio||13 inches, 2880×1920 (267 PPI), touch, 3:2 aspect ratio||13 inches, 3:2 aspect ratio, Dolby Vision, Eyesafe|
|Up to 120Hz (dynamic refresh rate), Dolby Vision IQ||Up to 120Hz (dynamic refresh rate)||2880×1920 (3K), touch, 500 nits, HDR 400, 100% sRGB, AR, pen support|
|Pen||Surface Slim Pen 2 (Sold separately)||Surface Slim Pen 2 (Sold separately)||XPS Stylus (sold separately)|
|Ports||Two Thunderbolt 4, Surface Connect||Two USB-C 3.2, NanoSIM, Surface Connect||Two Thunderbolt 4|
|Audio||Dual 2W speakers, Dolby Atmos, dual far-field mics, Voice Clarity||Dual 2W speakers, Voice Clarity, Windows Studio Effects, dual far-field mics||Waves MaxxAudio Pro, Waves Nx 3D, dual mics|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, NanoSIM, eSIM, 5G, mmWave, Sub-6||Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E 1675 (AX211), Bluetooth 5.2, 5G|
|Camera||Front-facing 1080p, IR camera, rear-facing 10MP (4K video)||Front-facing 1080p (Windows Studio Effects), IR camera, rear-facing 10MP (4K video)||Front-facing 1080p, RGB + IR, ambient light sensor, rear-facing 11MP|
|Security||TPM 2.0, Windows Hello IR camera, Windows 11 Secured-core PC||Microsoft Pluton, Windows Hello IR camera, Windows 11 Secured-core PC||Fingerprint reader, IR camera|
|Battery||Up to 15.5 hours||Up to 19 hours||49.5Wh|
|Dimensions||11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches||11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches||11.5 x 7.9 x 0.29 inches|
|(287mm x 208.3mm x 9.4mm)||(287mm x 208.3mm x 9.4mm)||(292.5mm x 201.2mm x 7.4mm)|
|Weight||1.94 pounds (879g)||mmWave: 1.95 pounds (883g)||From 1.6 pounds (736g)|
|Sub-6: 1.94 pounds (878g)||Folio: 1.23 pounds (560g)|
|Color||Platinum, Graphite, Sapphire, Forest||Platinum||Sky, Slate|
Note that the above specs make up the Surface Pro 9’s consumer listings. Microsoft’s Business side of its store also offers commercial setups, with 12th Gen Intel Core vPro processors and Windows 11 Pro.
Design and features
The Surface Pro 9 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315) share a similar 2-in-1 design that allows you to use the laptop as a tablet or notebook. Microsoft’s Surface Pro lineup has always had an attached stand that folds out of the back of the tablet, keeping the display propped up when needed even if the keyboard isn’t attached. The XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315) incorporates the stand into the attachable keyboard, meaning it won’t stand up on its own.
This allows the XPS 13 2-in-1 to be a couple of millimeters thinner and about 50g lighter than the Pro 9 when the tablets are measured alone, with otherwise similar dimensions. Each device comes standard without the attachable keyboard and touchpad, so you will have to factor that additional hardware into your cost. The Surface Pro 9 is available in Platinum, Graphite, Sapphire, and Forest colors (only Platinum for 5G models), while the XPS 13 2-in-1 comes in Sky and Slate colors.
Port selection is almost the same across devices. The Pro 9 has dual Thunderbolt 4 and a Surface Connect port, while the Pro 9 with 5G goes with dual USB-C 3.2, a NanoSIM slot, and Surface Connect. The XPS 13 2-in-1 has the same dual Thunderbolt 4 setup. If you’re often working at a desk, adding a powerful Thunderbolt 4 docking station will be able to alleviate any connectivity woes.
As for wireless connectivity, the Pro 9 offers standard Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1. The Pro 9 with 5G adds the mobile hookup with mmWave or Sub-6 5G; it’s compatible with NanoSIM and eSIM. Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 is listed as having 5G in reference documents, though it doesn’t seem like all regions currently have models with the extra modem. Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 are otherwise the standard fallbacks.
Cameras and speakers are a big deal in these PCs. Dell goes with dual 2W speakers with a Waves MaxxAudio Pro Smart Amp to boost sound quality. The speakers are installed along the side edges of the tablet. The Surface Pro 9 and Pro 9 with 5G have the same dual 2W speakers, but Dolby Atmos is on board for further tuning. Microphones include Voice Clarity, which makes your voice sound more natural and clear.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 has a 1080p camera facing the user, as well as a rear-facing 11MP camera with 2160p resolution. There’s an ambient light sensor to adjust screen brightness, as well as an IR camera for Windows Hello. The Pro 9 has a similar 1080p user-facing webcam, as well as a 10MP rear-facing camera that shoots 4K video. The Pro 9 with 5G has an additional Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that improves voice and video. With Windows Studio Effects, you get AI-enhanced noise filtering, background blur, eye contact, and auto framing.
And finally, security measures are included with all PCs. The Pro 9 and Pro 9 with 5G have IR cameras and are Windows 11 Secured-core certified. The Pro 9 with 5G also has a Microsoft Pluton chip to protect data. The XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315) has its own IR camera and fingerprint reader to keep out unauthorized users.
The Pro 9 and the XPS 13 2-in-1 have 13-inch touch displays with inking support; active pens are sold separately. Screen resolution is the same 2880×1920 (3K) across devices, with a boxy 3:2 aspect ratio that’s ideal for a tablet.
The Pro 9 has up to a 120Hz refresh rate and Dolby Vision IQ to boost supported content. Pro 9 with 5G models don’t have Dolby Vision but otherwise has the same 120Hz maximum refresh rate. Displays hit up to about 450 nits brightness. The XPS 13 2-in-1’s display hits up to 500 nits brightness, it has an anti-reflective display finish, and there’s HDR 400 support.
Whether you go with Surface or XPS, you can be sure you’re getting a quality display that’s perfect for inking, general productivity work, and even some photo editing thanks to the color profiles. We’ll have a better understanding of precision color reproduction and brightness once we test these laptops in-house.
The Surface Pro 9 is split into two different performance categories. That Intel-based models offer 12th Gen Intel Core U-series CPUs (vPro and non-vPro), while the 5G models go with Microsoft’s custom SQ3 ARM CPU. You’ll get more power out of the Intel models, though the ARM systems are quite agile and deliver better battery life. Keep in mind that ARM systems have some limitations as to what they can run, though this has improved a lot in the last couple of years.
The Pro 9 has LPDDR5 RAM up to 32GB, as well as storage up to 1TB. The SSD is user upgradeable, something the XPS 13 2-in-1 lacks. As for the Pro 9 with 5G model, it comes with up to 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM and up to a 512GB upgradeable SSD. Iris Xe graphics are onboard the Intel model, while the SQ3’s Adreno 8CX (Gen 3) integrated graphics handle the 5G side. Surface Pro 9 models are Intel Evo certified.
Dell offers 12th Gen Intel Core U-series CPUs as well, with up to 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM and a 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD as support. It’ll cut through productivity work with ease, and its 49.5Wh battery should get you through a workday.
Microsoft quotes its Pro 9 as having up to 15 hours of battery life, though that number is most certainly under optimal conditions. The same goes for the Pro 9 with 5G, which is quoted at 19 hours. We’ll have to test ourselves during the review process to see the true battery life.
The Surface Pro 9 and Pro 9 with 5G set the standard for all Windows 2-in-1 PCs. There’s a plethora of configuration options available, allowing you to get exactly what you want from either Intel or ARM. Models start at a more affordable price compared to the XPS 13 2-in-1.
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315)
Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315) is good competition for the Surface Pro 9, but it falls short in some areas. If you prefer a lighter, thinner tablet without a built-in stand, this should be the way to go if the higher starting price doesn’t hold you back.