Superficially, Microsoft doesn’t appear to have made serious changes with its latest 2-in-1 tablets. Indeed, in our Surface Pro 9 review, we called it the “definition of a minor update,” but it appears that Microsoft has made massive changes on the inside.
True, they’re the kind of changes that most users will never see, but they’re also the type that are invaluable if you ever need them.
While past Microsoft Surface units have been incredibly tricky to repair even by experienced hardware tinkerers, the new Surface Pro 9 appears to have been built with repairs and even a modest upgrade in mind. That’s according to the latest teardown from iFixit (opens in new tab), which gives the Surface Pro 9 a 7/10 rating for repairability.
That may not sound too impressive on paper, but there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly the 2019 Surface Pro 7 managed a 1/10 score so this is a huge improvement in three years. Secondly, the site says this score may rise further as Microsoft has promised spare parts and repair guides by the end of the year and the first half of 2023 respectively. iFixit could then reassess the score.
In the here and now, what makes the Surface Pro 9 such a big improvement from a repairability perspective? Well first of all, you don’t have to open it up to upgrade your internal storage. Just pop the hatch on the back with your finger, remove a single screw and you can put in another 30mm SSD of your choosing.
As iFixit’s Shahram Mokhtari points out, this easy access isn’t just helpful if you decide you need more storage. It also means you can jump between operating systems without bothering with a messy dual-boot system.
But this has actually been a feature since the Surface Pro 7 Plus, so where are the new improvements?
They start as soon as you crack it open. While the “tenacious glue” used in previous models would often result in cracked screens for something as simple as a battery replacement, the Surface Pro 9’s screen gives way easily with a little heat, and offers a bit more flex to prevent breakage.
Once the screen is out of the way, almost everything is removable via screws — including the battery, which was once glued down and incredibly hard to dislodge.
“It’s hard to understate how big a change this is to repairability,” Mokhtari says. “No longer will people spend an hour and a half on a screen and battery replacement. By using screws, they’ve made the entire process of battery replacement both accessible to the average consumer and much safer too. A big thumbs up from us.”
Is it perfect? Not quite. The RAM is still soldered to the motherboard, but Mokhtari is forgiving on this point, thanks to the power saving and performance boost such memory can offer. “Just like with Apple’s M-series SoC’s, we can’t justify penalizing soldered RAM in cases where it’s accompanied by significant performance gains,” he wrote.
None of this changes our 3/5 rating we gave the Surface Pro 9 in our review, as the main criticisms still stand. The display is decent but falls short of some rivals, and the fact that Microsoft still sells the Pen 2 and Signature Keyboard separately continues to leave a bad taste in the mouth.
All the same, this should be applauded, and means that if you are tempted by the Surface Pro 9, you can buy it with more confidence than ever before.