Microsoft is updating its Surface Pro line today with an updated Surface Pro 7 Plus model available only for businesses and schools. While the design and screen on the outside remain the same as the Surface Pro 7, Microsoft has revamped the inside of the device to make way for the latest 11th Generation Intel processors, a bigger battery, a removable SSD, and LTE connectivity.
This marks the return of LTE to the main Surface Pro line for the first time since 2015, but sadly no 5G connectivity as Microsoft uses the older Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 LTE modem inside the Surface Pro 7 Plus.
Various models will be available, starting with the Intel Core i3 (1115G4) and ending with the Intel Core i7 (1165G7). Only the Intel Core i5 (1135G7) model will have optional LTE starting at $1,149, and the base Core i3 model ships with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage for $899.The top Core i7 options ($2,799) are also configurable up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage.
Microsoft is now promising up to 15 hours of battery life on the Surface Pro 7 Plus, up from the 10.5 hours the company claims. A small part of this battery life improvement will be thanks to the Intel 11th Gen chips, but it’s mostly down to a move from a battery capacity of 46.5Wh to 50.4Wh.
The Surface Pro 7 Plus also ships with the same 12.3-inch (2736 x 1824) PixelSense display found on the original Surface Pro 7, with one USB-C port, a USB-A port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and the Surface Connect port. The Wi-Fi-only model will include a MicroSDXC card reader, while the LTE model will replace it with a nano-SIM. It means that the Surface Pro 7 Plus still doesn’t have Thunderbolt connectivity.
Surface Pro 7 Plus also has some internal changes that are bigger than usual. “We changed the inside quite substantially,” explained Robin Seiler, corporate vice president of device program management at Microsoft, in an interview. “It actually required us to flip the internals in order for us to put the SSD here, so when we did that we also updated the TDM (Thermal Design Model) to create more space for a larger battery size.”
The removable SSD works just like it does on the Surface Pro X or Surface Laptop 3, allowing businesses to swap out drives for repair.
So why isn’t there a big redesign with a thinner display bezel? Microsoft says this is primarily for consistency as businesses want to standardize on Surface Pro configurations and form factors. “When you look at the Surface Pro X, which has the thinner bezels, there are pretty substantial changes in terms of port locations which is driven by those bezels,” says Seiler. “Thinning the bezels does require a significant change in terms of form factor and compatibility with previous [models].”
This focus on business and LTE connectivity, at a time when a home internet connection might not suit the needs of working from home, also explains why Microsoft didn’t choose the Surface Pro 8 moniker and make this device available to consumers. “This is simply an extension of a commercially-focused line,” explains Seiler. “It was important for us to signal that this is an extension of Pro 7, for all of the customers who have standardized on that.”
However, it is disappointing that the updated model with the latest Intel processors and LTE connectivity will not be available directly to consumers. Microsoft won’t say whether that will change anytime soon, but it looks like the company is trying to draw a line between the Surface Pro as a business focus and the Surface Go and Surface Pro X for consumers.
Microsoft plans to start shipping the Surface Pro 7 Plus to customers on January 15 in the US, and it will also be available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and a large number of European countries.