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Long Term Review of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4

By:Christine Fettinger

Microsoft gets the 4th generation of the Surface family right. The changes from the 1st to 4th are dramatic – yet changes from 3rd to the 4th are minute. The first upgrade is the introduction of Intel’s Skylake processors which is their 6th generation. It’s safe to assume each iteration improves upon processing power, cooling, and power efficiency from its predecessors. Read on as we have our first hands-on review of the Surface Pro 4 (SP4) for a full month.

ThinkstockPhotos-484669294

Configuration and Competition

The SP4 is a high-end premium device that commands top-dollar, similar to those of their Apple rivals. When compared to others, the SP4 is in a league of its own. Currently the SP4 can only be compared to Apple’s IPad Pro, which only runs IOS; this can only mean limitations, in essence – a really big IPhone. With SP4 you have access to a complete version of Windows 10. However, when researching a SP4, one might cross-shop an IPad Pro, MacBook Air or even a MacBook Pro. While I do personally enjoy my fair share of Apple products, one can point out that the IPad Pro will not come with a keyboard, as it is optional. Expect to see other competitions rise to the occasion, such as Lenovo’s Yoga and Google’s Chromebook.

The base configuration of the SP4 comes with 4GB of RAM on an Intel Core m3 Processor with a 128GB SSD – starting at $899. We recommend configuring the SP4 with at least an Intel Core i5 for future proofing this expensive investment. This is the sweet spot with 8GB of RAM on a 256GB SSD. Core i7 is recommended for power users. As time progresses we foresee more RAM being utilized on Windows 10. Even on bare essentials (Outlook, Anti-virus, and Chrome) we are seeing an average of 50% RAM usage. Most will claim Google Chrome is hogging resources and battery life, but that’s another topic itself. When shopping for a device at this price range, it’s better to purchase the specs that will satisfy you for at least 2 or 4 years down the road.

For a complete list of complete hardware specs and pricing check out Microsoft’s Surface site.

Boost from Microsoft

More power hungry Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book users will receive a power upgrade. Both devices can be configured with an Intel Core i7, including 16GB of RAM, with 1TB of storage (as of 1/26/16). The price tops out at $2,699 on the SP4 with the SB topping out at $3,199.

Cameras

With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft released Windows Hello. Luckily, the SP4 comes with a front-facing 5MP camera and an 8MP rear-facing camera. The front-facing camera also contains an infrared camera that makes Windows Hello seamless. It’s safe to say at the correct angles with no changes to hair or eye-wear, Windows Hello will log-in 99% of the time. Say goodbye to password log-ins on Windows! Not to sound cynical, but it almost works too good as Hello can even detect low light or complete dark environments.

Surface Type Cover 4

Yes, the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover is still a separate purchase, but also a must-have. Among other improvements, an option for a biometric scanner is available. For now, however, Windows Hello fulfills most of the log-in duties for the device. Save yourself the money and buy the regular type cover unless you have applications that support biometric authentication.

When configuring a SP4 make sure to account for the Type Cover, as it is a must-have. I can’t imagine using the SP4 without a type cover at all. After using the Type Cover 4 for a lengthy amount of time, the keyboard and touchpad feel laptop-like with keys carrying a generous amount of travel. When closed, the cover itself can also act as a protective shield for the display. The thickness of the device itself can be compared to a plain paperback book or notebook.

The touchpad is almost perfect with extra space compared to the type cover 3. We expect the next type cover to be perfected on the touchpad as the touch to feedback sensitivity is slightly off and could offer a tad more space vertically.

Along with this, the wide dimensions of the tablet make it difficult to use with two hands – it’s best used with the kickstand in almost every position.

The Display

The first thing you notice when turning on the SP4 is the beautiful display. Text and pictures on the display complement the 2736×1824 pixel-resolution. There are details in pictures and videos I was unaware of on an ordinary LCD display. My home 27” display with 2560×1440 seems silly, large, and pixelated compared to the SP4! Even though the screen real estate may seem small measuring in at 12.3 inches, the colors are extremely vibrant. It makes me genuinely enjoy using this device as the display feels soothing to look at and welcoming to use. The premium IPS display is gorgeous to look at in every angle.

Traditionally, most portable devices of this caliber offer a 16:9 aspect ratio. After using a 3:2 aspect ratio, however, it would definitely be difficult to revert back to a traditional 16:9. In essence, there seems to be more screen real estate due to more vertical space, and a thinner bezel compared to its predecessor.

Surface Pen

For some, the Surface Pen is an absolute must-have part of the purchase. If you’re an artist who needs or uses a pen to take notes, this is significant. OneNote is extremely helpful for note taking users on the go. OneNote has come a long ways, syncing everything you write or type.

The tip of the pen has a gritty and grippy feel on the display that simulates a real pen or pencil. Attached to the pen is very strong magnet, and the magnet that attaches to the SP4 is quite strong. However, I’m still afraid of losing the pen in a bag or casually walking around attached.

The Verdict

Overall, the SP4 is a premium product. Those who are early adopters should expect some bugs from Windows 10 and the SP4 as these products are still new in the segment. Hang tight, once the bugs are ironed out, we can only expect to see the SP4 improve as Windows 10 evolves. However, a device at this price range shouldn’t have any problems. Yes, the battery life could be better than advertised—but the sheer amount of technology packed into a single unit is impressive.

Those who value portability, high-quality feel, and lightness on a Windows platform should look no further.

Using the SP4 as a tablet is where it struggles. Trying to use it without a keyboard is a struggle to the touch interface, and the keyboard is laid out awkwardly. Along with this, I feel uncomfortable using the tablet with one hand. Holding it for a lengthy amount of time makes me want to put it down. The apps are not developed around a touch interface, however, some items that are touch friendly generate satisfaction. It’s safe to say that the Microsoft Store has yet to take advantage of the touch features.

For more intense work, I would still prefer the good ol’ desktop. Those who are also looking for high-performance and battery endurance should also look elsewhere. The SP4 is the jack of all trades that excels in portability, though. Microsoft has come a long way – the thought of replacing the laptop was just a silly concept years ago. Today, we have the Surface lineup. As it matures, we’ll continue to see even more improvements.

The only competition that the SP4 faces is the IPad Pro, and Microsoft’s very own Surface Book. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s current lineup will continue to confuse buyers even more as the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 will begin overlapping each other with similar specs and design concepts.

Once Windows 10 and solid firmware updates begin to mature, expect the Surface Pro 4 to become a serious contender.

With the release of Windows 10, it may be a good time to upgrade. To learn more about Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, contact our team of experts here at CyberStreams. Give us a call at (425) 2_74-1121, or send us an email: sales@cyberstreams.com