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Microsoft takes another shot at the Windows-on-Arm thing with a revamped Surface Pro X powered by new SQ2 silicon
Upgrade will soon come up against Apple's take on the post-Intel world
A year after the release of its fan-serving Surface Pro X, Microsoft and new pal Qualcomm have given the Arm-powered fondleslab's chippery a good buffing.
At launch the Pro X was an undeniably attractive bit of kit. Slimmer than a normal Surface Pro, the pricey hardware finally made Windows on Arm make a bit more sense, so long as you stuck to 32-bit Intel-based code. 64-bit was (and still is) a no-no. Sadly, however, performance was somewhat lacklustre compared to its cheaper, Intel-based siblings when in emulation mode and Arm-native versions of the company's apps were notable by their absence.
The X's follow-up arrives as Windows bigwig Panos Panay promised fans that 64-bit Intel emulation was on the way, with its army of Windows Insider enthusiasts due to be on the receiving end in November.
The new configuration for the X will include Microsoft's SQ2 processor, an imaginative increment from the SQ1 found in the first iteration. The jumped-up Snapdragon "will enable increased performance and incredible battery life," squeaked Qualcomm.
Hmmm. We're not entirely sure we'd describe "up to 15 hours of battery life" as particularly "incredible" nowadays. Impressive, for sure, but the usual caveats can be found lurking in the small print, such as "Battery life varies significantly with settings, usage, and other factors".
Still, the X24 LTE modem is a nice thing to have and some additional keyboards have been added to the line-up, including Platinum, Ice Blue, and Poppy Red. All feature the same built-in storage and charging for the Surface Slim Pen.
That SQ2 goodness will cost, however, even if it can come in a platinum coloured case (rather than the black of the SQ1, which remains available). Starting at £1,549 for the 16GB version, and rising to £1,849 if you double the storage to 512GB, this remains a flagship in the Surface fondleslab range.
Microsoft will have some more, but not all (looking at you, Office), of its apps native on the platform. It will also face stiff competition in the form of Apple's Arm-powered hardware.
Apple will be supporting x86_64 code from the get-go (unlike Microsoft) on its latest and greatest. It also claims that fanbois will face minimal disruption during the transition away from Intel hardware, something that even the most forgiving of Surface Pro X users would struggle to insist. ®