I tested Microsoft’s Surface Pro Copilot+ PC and it beat the MacBook Air in three major ways

microsoft surface pro 11th edition laptop

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • Microsoft has created one of the best work tablets of 2024 with the Surface Pro 11th Generation.
  • This is one of the new Copilot+ PCs featuring next-gen hardware, long-lasting battery life and a stunning OLED touchscreen.
  • As cool as the device’s generative AI features are, they don’t perform at the same level as the machine’s other features.

The Copilot+ PCs have been getting a lot of hype. When they were first announced in May, Microsoft touted their performance, their superiority over the M3 MacBook Air, and all the new features they offered. So far, it seems like consumers have responded to that hype, confident that the company has finally succeeded in creating a Windows on Arm machine worth their while.

Also: I bought the cheapest Surface Pro Copilot+ PC – here are my 3 takeaways as a Windows expert

Recently I had the opportunity to try out one of these machines: the Microsoft Surface Pro 11th Editionand I had only one question in mind before I looked into it: does it live up to its promises? Now that I’ve had the chance to test it, I can confidently say that the device lives up to its promises in some areas, and not in others.

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It all starts with the hardware of the model. The Surface Pro is powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite, which, if the hype is to be believed, makes this laptop a “MacBook killer.” It’s certainly quite capable. Browsers run smoothly, even with multiple videos playing and many tabs open. Proprietary software and some third-party apps also fare quite well.

I had some trouble testing the hardware properly, though. The Snapdragon X Elite chips are so new that most of the usual benchmarks we use at ZDNET don’t work as expected yet. Geekbench was one of the few that did, scoring 14,564, putting the processor above the M3 MacBook Air but below the M3 MacBook Pro. suggests Whether the new Surface Pro is better than Apple’s hardware is hard to say without proper testing.

Microsoft Surface Pro

Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

We’ll have to wait for developers to update their benchmark software to get a better idea of ​​the situation. Additionally, as Windows releases new updates to optimize the performance of the new chips, we’ll see increased efficiency and performance over the coming months.

Also: I Tried Microsoft’s New Surface Laptop Copilot+ and It Beat My MacBook Air 3 Ways

When it comes to third-party app performance on new Copilot+ PCs, you may have heard that some are slow, glitchy, or don’t work at all. Fortunately, Microsoft’s Prism emulator lets many apps run on Windows on ARM PCs (similar to how Apple’s Rosetta lets you run non-native apps on macOS), though not everything works perfectly yet.

As a PC Copilot+, its AI capabilities are a big part of the device’s appeal. But in practice, I found most of the out-of-the-box features a bit disappointing. The content from the AI ​​image generator Cocreator was shoddy. Live Captions was slow and often inaccurate. Studio Effects, on the other hand, was pretty good. It improves on the already fantastic 1440p webcam by improving lighting during video calls, centering the camera, and blurring the background, among other things.

Speaking of work, professional users will fall in love with the stunning PixelSense Flow touchscreen. It’s a 13-inch OLED display that boasts a 2,880 x 1,920 pixel image resolution. The PixelSense even has a 120Hz refresh rate for silky smooth visuals. And with all the software enhancers, the image quality is simply stunning.

Also: The best 2-in-1 laptop for work I’ve tested isn’t from Lenovo or HP

The Surface Pro’s speaker system was also surprisingly good, as I expected a weak sound, but the output offers nice bass. The speakers won’t fill the room, but you’ll be able to watch a movie and feel like you’re part of the action.

Keyboard for Microsoft Surface Pro 11th Edition Laptop

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

Accessories also play an important role in the Surface Pro ecosystem. I had the opportunity to test the Surface Slim Pen and the Flexible keyboard; both of which I really liked. Tablet keyboards tend to be poor quality in my experience, so I wasn’t expecting much, but Microsoft did a great job with this keyboard. The new generation has a more robust carbon fiber design, resulting in a lightweight yet sturdy product that provides a wonderful typing experience.

As for the pen, I loved its precision. The accessory was able to follow my sloppy writing on the screen perfectly, and that level of precision extends to the illustration. Every brushstroke, every scribble is accurately represented. Plus, the flat end of the pen is a handy button. Double-tapping it opens an app set up for instant access.


Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

And for one of the best things about this laptop: the battery life is absolutely phenomenal. I ran our usual test of running a YouTube live stream at 720p and 50% brightness. At its peak, the Surface Pro lasted just under 13 hours on a single charge. That’s just shy of Microsoft’s claimed 14 hours of battery life. In practical use, this is a device that will easily last several days on a single charge.

ZDNET Buying Advice

Microsoft Surface Pro 11th Edition is a great computer for professional artists who want a high-performance machine with a brilliant display. The era of Windows on Arm laptops is finally here, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Pricing for the device starts at $999.99. My review model with the 12-core Snapdragon X Elite chipset, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD costs $1,699. However, it’s important to note that these prices don’t include accessories like the Flex Keyboard. They cost extra and aren’t exactly cheap, with the Flex Keyboard and Slim Pen combo costing $449.

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