The First Surface Windows on ARM Device

When I heard about the first Surface Pro X release, I couldn’t help but be excited. Windows on ARM boasted a future that brings together the best of mobile phones and computers into one compact and sleek device. So I ordered one in to play with the moment it shipped in Australia. And I’ve been using it for about 10 months now as my main companion device. So how was it 10 months on?

The Surface Pro X is Microsoft's first attempt at Windows on ARM
The first generation Surface Pro X

Chassis Design

The form factor is brilliant. The slimline design of the tablet means that it’s super thin. However, it weighs in around the same as a Surface Pro 7. The stunning screen wastes no space with bezels, gaining 1.2mm of screen real estate either side when compared to the Surface Pro 6. Overall, a beautiful looking device that feels great in the hand.

New Keyboard & Pen

The new keyboard is just as versatile and well made as the other Surface Pro keyboards. But it has a little trick up its sleeve. It houses the new Surface Slim Pen! So I haven’t lost it yet. Just press the keyboard down away from the screen and the pen magnetically attaches into its slot. But that’s not all. The keyboard charges the pen too! So that means no AAAA batteries. With a much flatter design, the Slim Pen feels like a builders pencil. It’s an interesting feel in the hand, and it’s great to draw with.

Without the Alcantara fabric that the non-black Surface Pro 7 keyboards have, it doesn’t feel quite as nice. But the pen holder makes up for it in my book.

Windows on ARM Performance

So after 10 months, I still love the design of Pro X, but what about the performance? Well, for the vast majority of things that I’ve done on the Pro X, it has never felt anything but snappy. For Email, Web browsing with the new Edge, Office docs, Teams and Zoom meetings, Whatsapp messaging, taking notes and watching videos – it’s been perfect. In fact, I have noticed that thanks to its ARM processor the Pro X performs exceptionally well for video conferencing. I haven’t scientifically tested it yet, but I often project a Zoom video conference to my TV using the Pro X and Miracast. It seems to last a lot longer than the Pro 7 does. Probably around double the run time. And that is likely because of the ARM processor. That means they use less power and generate less heat than Intel processors.

Windows on ARM Limitations

Having an ARM processor on board instead of an Intel one has not been without its limitations. It can run most apps that were written for Intel processors amazingly well, but it can only run apps that were compiled for 32 bit, not 64bit. Many apps that require high end performance are not available in 32bit, and most developers have not been released apps specifically for ARM processors, so you can get stuck without an option.

I ran into this limitation during the lockdown when I started 3D printing again. The slicer that I wanted to use – Ultimaker Cura – is only available in Intel 64Bit. So although I could happily design 3D objects on the Pro X using TinkerCad, I couldn’t prepare them for printing. But there are probably some ways around that.

The ARM processor continues to be a problem with Adobe apps too. They have not released any of their key apps for Windows 10 on ARM yet. Acrobat Pro is available. And Photoshop is there too, but it’s an old version from 2018 for Intel 32bit. It’s not great! And Lightroom… Crickets. And although Adobe promised to release Fresco for the ARM processor at the Pro X announcement last year, there’s still no word on when. Personally, I want Lightroom on this device. But I’ll have to do without for now.

The last complaint I have is with 1Password. It’s the only app that I’ve found to be really compromised in terms of performance on the Pro X. Although it works, it is painfully slow at times.

Surface Pro X Device Highlights

What was brilliant for the first few months of using the Pro X was the inbuilt 4G / LTE. The Pro X has a physical SIM and an eSIM, so it’s perfect for staying connected while you’re on the move. That said, for the last four months I really haven’t had a chance to use it since we haven’t been able to travel.

Lastly, I’ve found that the Pro X has been rock solid reliable. The instant on and Windows Hello work perfectly together to get me up and running fast. It hasn’t missed a beat, and I’ve had no problems with it.

Final Comments

So, would I recommend the Surface Pro X? Yes, but carefully. If you really know what software you use and you’re ok without programs like Adobe Lightroom and Ultimaker Cura, then fine. And if you’re doing a lot of web browsing, note taking, video conferencing in Teams or Zoom, or video watching, then why not? It’s a really great device for all of those things. And it’s especially great as a companion device. But for now, the Intel based Surface Pro 7 still has the compatibility and versatility edge. That’s why I took the Pro 7 with me to Japan in February.

Perhaps the Pro X was designed to prove a point: Windows 10 on ARM can work. And after having used the Pro X, despite what the tech bloggers would say, I would say that the Pro X has proven that it can.

Things are only looking up for ARM based processors. So hopefully Microsoft keep pushing Windows 10 on ARM with devices like this so that we can all take advantage of the choice and competition that it will offer in the mobile device space.

Stay tuned for more content on the Pro X line. Especially now that there’s a new Pro X in town!

Check out our YouTube content!

If you prefer to watch or listen, check out our Surface Pro X video review.

And did you know 64 bit apps have finally been announced! They will be available for Windows Insiders this month. Check out our update video to learn more. And get excited for a NEW Surface Pro X! Yep, another one was recently announced along with a new Laptop Go! So for all your Surface news and updates subscribe to oztabletpc on YouTube.

The post The First Surface Windows on ARM Device appeared first on Microsoft Surface and Windows 10 Tablet Reviews & News for Australia.