The Surface Pro is a great full-power tablet. But Microsoft has been resting on its laurels for the last few years, and its competitors have caught up—and in some cases, even beaten it.
The latest revisions of the workhorse Surface model still lack a USB-C port, and you still have to buy the keyboard cover separately for over $100. Between that and the Surface Pro’s relatively high price, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
For the sake of specificity, we’re covering more-or-less copies of the original Surface form factor in this article: stand-alone tablets with a paired but detachable keyboard and some kind of integrated stand mechanism. Convertibles (laptops with permanent keyboards and fold-back screens, like the original Lenovo Yoga) aren’t in the running. We’ve selected models that beat the Surface Pro on overall experience and value, beat it on price by a wide margin, beat it on general typing, and beat it for battery life.
The Best Overall Surface Pro Alternative: HP Spectre x2 ($1050+)
If you’re looking for a Surface Pro-type device that works in essentially the same way, with comparable hardware and a much better price, look no further than HP’s Spectre x2. The Spectre family is HP’s top-tier line for aesthetics and power (like Dell’s XPS machines), and the 12-inch x2 tablet copies the Surface Pro form factor while improving on some important areas.
Notably, the ~$1000 model includes a keyboard, stylus, 8GB of RAM, and a Core i7 processor for $500 less than the equivalent Surface Pro model (which has neither keyboard nor stylus). Reviews are positive overall, making special note of the dual USB-C ports, surprisingly loud Bang & Olufsen speakers, and stylish kickstand design. This model is a year old now with 7th-gen Intel Core processors and is unlikely to be updated now that the Spectre Folio has been announced, but it’s still a solid machine at a great value.
The Best Surface Pro Alternative For Typists: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (3rd Gen) ($1175+)
Lenovo’s ThinkPad line continues to be the go-to option for those who spend hours pounding a keyboard every day. The company somehow managed to cram its iconic comfy keyboard design—complete with the TrackPoint mouse “nub”—into a detachable tablet format. It’s a dramatic improvement over the thin keyboards of similar machines.
The third generation of the X1 Tablet uses a more conventional form factor without the awkward modular pieces of older designs, packing in 8th-generation Core processors, a 13-inch screen, a fingerprint reader, a keyboard and stylus included in the box, and two USB-C ports. Optional upgrades include a full LTE radio for wireless data, an IR camera for Windows Hello login, and up to a terabyte of SSD storage. The entry model, with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a Core i5, is more than reasonable at $1163 on Lenovo’s online store.
The Best Budget Surface Pro Alternative: Huawei Matebook E ($485)
Microsoft’s Surface Go makes a strong case as a budget option for fans of Windows tablets, but if you want real bang for your buck at under $500, check out this Huawei model. The Matebook E uses a full tablet design with a combination keyboard/folio cover, and that makes it one of the thinnest and most attractive full-sized tablets around.
There’s a fanless Core M3 processor hiding beneath the 12-inch screen and only 4GB of RAM on the entry model, so it’s not going to win any contests in pure processing power. But at just $485 with the keyboard included, it’s a much better deal than the similarly-equipped Surface Go (which uses a Pentium processor, half the storage, and still doesn’t have a keyboard).
Other highlights include an integrated fingerprint reader and a 2160×1440 screen. Upgraded models are available with more power, RAM, and storage, but they’re not quite the bargain that the M3 model is at the time of writing.
Best Long-Lasting Surface Pro Alternative: Lenovo Miix 630 ($850)
The Surface line has managed to stretch its meager battery life over successive iterations, but with a full-power laptop processor, it’s still no marathon runner. Thanks to the advent of full Windows machines using Qualcomm’s mobile Snapdragon architecture, there’s an alternative available for road warriors.
The Lenovo Miix 630 is powered by a Snapdragon 835, seen elsewhere on high-end smartphones. The ARM-based version of Windows can’t run 64-bit applications or virtual machines, but it will run for 15 hours on a single battery charge. That’s based on this Windows Central review, by the way, so it’s a real-world figure—the marketing material says it will go for 20.
While ARM-powered Windows tablets don’t have the oomph needed for gaming or media applications, if you just want to be able to surf the web and use Office for as long as possible, it’s a great option. The Miix 630 includes a folio-style keyboard and a stylus in the case, and thanks to mobile-friendly hardware it’s equipped with an LTE radio, standard. With that much freedom and battery power, it’s ready to go just about anywhere.
Honorable Mention: Eve V Tablet ($1100+)
The Eve V is a crowdfunded, independently-built Surface-style tablet made specifically to address the shortcomings in Microsoft’s design. It’s from an unproven manufacturer—this is its first-ever retail product—so we’re not comfortable giving it a full recommendation. But based on the specs, the price, and the initial reviews, it’s certainly worth considering if you want a faithful copy of the Surface Pro with a lower price and USB-C Thunderbolt connectivity.
The Eve V uses 7th-generation Core processors and most of the same specs as the 5th-gen Surface Pro, at prices that beat Microsoft. And naturally, the keyboard and stylus are included. The base model uses a Core i5 and 8GB of RAM, but the top tier offers a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a full terabyte of storage for a very reasonable $2000. This supplier is one to watch; here’s hoping they can keep up the value with a second model to compete with this year’s Microsoft refreshes.