I just ordered the cheapest Surface Pro option – why I (probably) won’t regret it

Surface Pro

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

Microsoft and its partner OEMs announced their long-awaited lineup of PCs powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon X processors this week. This generation is an absolute game-changer in the history of PCs, with the potential to increase battery life on mobile devices by 60%-100% over comparable Intel CPUs, while also ratcheting up performance. And, as a major bonus, this should all happen without generating the heat that makes it uncomfortable to use a laptop on your lap.

MacBooks powered by Apple’s own M-series processors have already proven what a dramatic difference the shift to an ARM architecture can make. Although it’s too early to say whether these new Copilot+ PCs can truly outrun the competition from Cupertino, there’s no question that they’ll make it an exciting race.

Also: Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Laptop are the ultimate ‘AI PCs’, and I’m worried for Apple

So, when the preorder window for the new Surface Pro models opened this week, I had my credit card at the ready. After I studied all the options, I did something I’d never done before: I placed my order for the absolute minimum configuration.

my-surface-pro-copilot-plus

If you dig deep into the purchase details, you’ll see this is a Surface Pro, 11th Edition. But we’ll go with Copilot+ PC.

Screenshot by Ed Bott/ZDNET

Before I made my final decision, I ran through a four-question checklist. Your answers (and thus your decision) might differ from mine, so allow me to explain how I got to my final choice.

How much hardware do I need?

Manufacturers usually offer a minimum configuration for a new PC model in order to brag about a low, low starting price. Historically, they hit that number by cutting corners in every spec that matters, resulting in an unsatisfactory experience on Day 1.

In this case, though, the entry-level specs are more than acceptable. The model I chose has 16GB of RAM and 256GB of NVMe storage. I won’t run VMs on this machine, so 16GB should be more than adequate. As for storage, I just checked my well-used Surface Pro X and discovered that I’m using only 143GB of its 1TB storage capacity, so 256GB will satisfy my requirements. Additionally, the storage should be easily upgradeable if I change my mind, thanks to the form factor that modern Surface devices use.

Unlike previous generations of cheap PCs, this series has only two processor options, and even the lesser of the two is likely to be an excellent performer.

Also: Windows 11 FAQ: ZDNET’s upgrade guide and everything else you need to know

The basic model has an LED screen instead of an OLED display. I intend to use the PC as a lightweight secondary device away from my desktop, both in the living room and on road trips. That LED display should be fine for my purposes.

Will Windows on Arm work for me?

This one’s easy. I’ve been using a first-generation Surface Pro X (purchased used on eBay) for nearly three years, and it’s been an excellent traveling machine. There are plenty of native 64-bit ARM-compiled apps for the device (including Google Chrome, WhatsApp, and Spotify), and the only compatibility issues I’ve had with it have involved drivers.

Also: Every Copilot+ PC Microsoft just announced to take on Apple’s M3 MacBooks

My Surface Pro X wouldn’t work with a VPN app that I tried to use in Europe (which required a special network driver), and I’ve encountered a few other oddball devices that fail because their driver packages are compiled for x86 and won’t work in the ARM environment. Thankfully, none of these devices are mission-critical for me, and the VPN issue was easy to work around by switching to a different provider.

If you or your organization require a specific device or service that doesn’t work with an ARM-powered device, that might be a dealbreaker, but my experience says I have nothing to worry about.

Do I need any extras?

As mentioned above, I can keep the Type Cover and Surface Pen from my current Surface Pro X, so I don’t need to buy new ones. The new Flex Keyboard, which offers the option to work as an external Bluetooth keyboard when detached, sounds cool but costs $350 or more. So, I’ll pass.

The Microsoft Complete extended warranty, on the other hand, is available for half-price as part of the preorder program. It covers manufacturing defects and accidental damage from dropping the device, spilling liquids on it, or cracking the screen. I normally don’t pay for that option, but at $109.50 for three years of coverage, I couldn’t say no.

Also: 3 AI features coming to Copilot+ PCs that I wish were on my MacBook

Is the price fair?

I’m still shaking my head in disbelief (the good kind) at the final price tag I am paying for this machine.

The base configuration comes in four colors. The Sapphire, Dune, and Black options look very slick, but they come only in configurations with 512GB of storage and start at $1,200. The Platinum model offers a 256GB option for $1,000. I will take the $200 in savings.

Oh, and I qualify for a $100 discount available through employer programs, to customers who are in the military, and to students and teachers. On top of that, my American Express Business Cash card will give me a $175 rebate if I spend over $1,000 at the Microsoft Store before June 30. (My purchase qualifies, because the device and warranty together add up to $1009.49; sales tax adds another $73.19, for a total of $1082.68.)

Also: I demoed every new AI feature coming to Copilot+ PCs, and I’m nearly sold on the hype

Finally, the preorder program offers an enhanced trade-in, which means I can turn in my Surface Pro X (but keep the Type Cover) and get a $406 credit.

I am swapping a three-year-old ARM device for a sleek new one that should be worlds faster, with a three-year warranty, and after sales tax and all those credits, my out-of-pocket cost will be $501. That’s pretty hard to resist.

Will I regret this purchase? I don’t think so. In fact, the only thing I’m likely to miss is the collection of stickers on the back of my current Surface Pro X. Oh well, time to start fresh.


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