Surface Pro 11 hands-on review: OLED beauty, Snapdragon power

Microsoft's latest Windows tablet could be the best yet

Microsoft Surface Pro 11 on a desk
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

With a new OLED display option and Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon X chips inside, the 13-inch Surface Pro 11 is a much-needed revamp of Microsoft's flagship Windows 11 tablet.

Pros

  • +

    New OLED display option supports HDR, looks lovely

  • +

    Snapdragon chips promise 10+ hours battery life

Cons

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    The Microsoft Surface Pro 11 ($999 to start) is the first Windows tablet Microsoft has shipped with an OLED screen, and the first to pack Qualcomm's Snapdragon X chips inside.

    Those two additions make this the most exciting Surface Pro in ages, potentially offering meaningful performance improvements over older models like the Surface Pro 9 without any price increase. 

    The Surface Pro 11 will also be the first Surface Pro Copilot+ PC, which means it will support all of the AI features Microsoft is cramming into Windows 11 in 2024 and beyond. These features are enabled in part by the NPU built into the Snapdragon X Plus or Snapdragon X Elite chips which drive the Surface Pro 11.

    These new chips are marketed as delivering long-lasting performance with support for on-device AI, and we're looking forward to putting them to the test when we do a full review. We haven't had time to do that yet, but I have gone hands-on with the Microsoft Surface Pro 11 and can tell you that this is the Microsoft's most premium-looking Surface yet.

    Surface Pro 11 hands-on review: Specs

    Swipe to scroll horizontally
    Row 0 - Cell 0 Surface Pro 11Surface Pro 11 with OLED
    Starting Price $999$1,499
    CPUSnapdragon X PlusSnapdragon X Elite
    RAM16GB16GB, 32GB
    Storage256GB, 512GB512GB, 1TB
    Display 13 inches LCD (2880 x 1920)13 inches OLED (2880 x 1920)
    GraphicsQualcomm Adeno Qualcomm Adreno
    Ports2x USB-C/USB 42x USB-C/USB 4
    WirelessWi-Fi 7Wi-Fi 7
    Battery life10 hours web, 14 hours video10 hours web, 14 hours video
    Size11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches
    Weight1.97 pounds 1.97 pounds

    Surface Pro 11 hands-on review: Price & release date

    The Surface Pro 11 is available for preorder right now from Microsoft's website at a starting price of $999, or $1,499 for the model with the new OLED display.

    Technically called the Microsoft Surface Pro 11th Generation, the entry-level $999 model comes with the 13-inch  (2880 x 1920 pixel) touchscreen, a Snapdragon X Plus chip, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. You can get the same model with a 512GB SSD upgrade for $1,199.

    Upgrade to the $1,499 OLED Surface Pro 11 and you get the more capable Snapdragon X Elite chip, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. You can pay $1,699 for the same model with a 1TB SSD or $2,099 to order one with 32GB of RAM and the 1TB SSD.

    All models are available in Platinum and Black, select models are also available in Sapphire and Dune (gold) and all start arriving June 18.

    Surface Pro 11 hands-on review: Design

    Microsoft Surface Pro 11 demo unit

    (Image credit: Future)

    The design of the new Surface Pro 11 is essentially unchanged from its predecessors except in one eye-catching way (more on that shortly), so this is still the 2-pound Windows 11 slate you want if you don't crave the weight (or ports, or power) of a full laptop. The Surface Pro 11 still sports a pair of USB-C ports too, and on the inside it now has support for Wi-Fi 7.

    But the most eye-catching aspect of the Surface Pro 11's design is undoubtedly the new OLED display, which offers contrasts and depths of color that help it stand out even in Microsoft's brightly-lit briefing rooms. 

    While both the LCD and OLED screens on the Pro 11 offer support for Dolby Vision HDR and include 120Hz adaptive refresh rates, the OLED upgrade boasts a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio compared to the 1,200:1 contrast ratio of the LCD display. 

    I didn't have a chance to compare the two in person since Microsoft cannily only stocked our Surface Pro 11 hands-on session with OLED models, so I can't say for sure how much nicer it is over the LCD model. That comparison will have to wait until we get some machines in for testing. 

    Surface Pro 11 hands-on review: Display

    The OLED screen on the Surface Pro 11 is eye-catching in person. (Image credit: Future)

    The base Surface Pro 11 comes with the same 13-inch (2880 x 1920 pixel) LCD 120Hz screen as its predecessors, and it will support Dolby Vision HDR just like those models did.

    These touchscreens have always been one of the high points of the Surface Pro tablets, but the most exciting aspect of the new 11th Gen models is the addition of the OLED upgrade. While it costs a good $500 more than the entry-level Surface Pro 11, it could be worth it based on my hands-on experience.

    In person, I felt like I could easily spot the Surface Pro 11 from across the room because the black background of Windows 11 had a depth of darkness that the LCD displays on Surface Laptop 7 units scattered around the room couldn't match. This is probably why Microsoft seemed to have so many Surface Pro 11 hands-on demo units set to Dark Mode with black backgrounds — it really pops on these slim 13-inch OLED screens.

    Surface Pro 11 hands-on review: Performance

    Microsoft Surface Pro 11 demo unit

    (Image credit: Future)

    The Snapdragon X Plus and Elite chips available inside the Microsoft Surface Pro 11 are new players that could shake up the performance landscape of Windows tablets in a big way.

    The promise of a premium Windows tablet like the Surface Pro is the full power and versatility of Windows with the easy portability and long-lasting power of a tablet. Previous iterations have had a hard time delivering both, but if these Snapdragon chips are as good as promised the Pro 11 could be a game-changer.

    And in my brief Surface Pro 11 hands-on review time with a few of the demo units, they seem plenty fast enough for day-to-day work. I had a chance to use a few different models packing Snapdragon X Elite chips to check out demos of Copilot features or noodle around in Windows 11, and it certainly felt as fast as a modern MacBook.

    Of course, we'll have to put these slates to the test in our performance benchmarks to see how well they really stack up against the competition. 

    Surface Pro 11 hands-on review: Outlook

    Microsoft Surface Pro 11 on a desk

    (Image credit: Future)

    The Surface Pro line has been in dire need of a shot in the arm for some time, and Microsoft may have delivered it in the Surface Pro 11.

    While the base model could deliver meaningful improvements over its predecessors for the same price if the Snapdragon X Plus chip is as good as advertised, I have to admit it's the OLED upgrade that has my attention. It's a small thing that could make this Windows 11 slate feel a lot more premium, especially if it can deliver vivid colors in tandem with killer battery life.

    We're looking forward to finding out exactly how well these tablets live up to the hype in a full review, so stay tuned!

    Alex Wawro
    Senior Editor Computing

    Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice. 

    • ElegantFowl
      Is it fanless? That's the key benefit I expect from an Arm chip - still using an SP7 which is the last fanless one made.
      Reply
    • nickthorley
      You have the LCD and oled showing the same battery life when I would have thought oled would be more power hungry. Is this potentially a misprint and if not, why do you think this is
      Reply
    • Milkdromida
      nickthorley said:
      You have the LCD and oled showing the same battery life when I would have thought oled would be more power-hungry. Is this potentially a misprint and if not, why do you think this is
      OLED is typically more power efficient than LCD as it doesn't need to backlight the whole screen all the time. Microsoft are still quoting the same time between both models though, and I'm pretty sure the OLED model even has a slightly bigger battery.
      Reply
    • Robert_Wade
      Here's my issue: Because it's basically Windows running on a simulated environment, I have zero trust that it can handle what I need it to do. I currently have both an SP6 and SP7, both the i7 variety. I use the SP7 to run my Digital Audio Workstation software along with a number of virtual instruments (I'm in a band). I cannot have a tablet that's going to choke when I put multiple layers of .vst's in play and am in the middle of a performance. As I typically discover, I'm an outlier when it comes to Microsoft's products---and Microsoft doesn't give a squat about people like me as customers (or they would have kept Windows 8 and Windows Phone and Zune and Cortana). But the bottom line is, my SP7 is showing its age, and at some point I expect the SSD to just stop functioning. The SP11 looks interesting enough, but I simply have seen ZERO analysis on how it handles non-traditional, non-mundane workload like audio processing.
      Reply
    • alissa914g
      Most likely it is NOT fanless. I had all three models and they all seem to have a fan on them. Usually you wouldn't need them but if you put it in an enclosed space or left it with the keyboard on and flat, you'll hear the fans go on at some point. Stand it upright and maybe the fan comes on. It's better than throttling although like all other versions of Windows, you can change the fan mode to passive instead of active.. it will throttle to cool down.... but you can barely hear the fan anyway.
      Reply
    • alissa914g
      Robert_Wade said:
      Here's my issue: Because it's basically Windows running on a simulated environment, I have zero trust that it can handle what I need it to do. I currently have both an SP6 and SP7, both the i7 variety. I use the SP7 to run my Digital Audio Workstation software along with a number of virtual instruments (I'm in a band). I cannot have a tablet that's going to choke when I put multiple layers of .vst's in play and am in the middle of a performance. As I typically discover, I'm an outlier when it comes to Microsoft's products---and Microsoft doesn't give a squat about people like me as customers (or they would have kept Windows 8 and Windows Phone and Zune and Cortana). But the bottom line is, my SP7 is showing its age, and at some point I expect the SSD to just stop functioning. The SP11 looks interesting enough, but I simply have seen ZERO analysis on how it handles non-traditional, non-mundane workload like audio processing.
      It's going to be better than SQ1, SQ2, or SQ3. Audio processing isn't very intense and even doing something like mass encoding FLACs to WMA Pro 10 like I did once, it goes very fast even on an SQ3. Video encoding worked as well as it did on an M1 on the SQ3.... so hopefully you'll get an ARM64 native compiled app... but for all the APIs and DLLs that are Windows based, they'll be using ARM64 native code on those so all apps won't run through the Prism layer.
      Reply