The past year or so have seen many trying to imitate Microsoft's Surface formula. From Lenovo to HP to Samsung, everyone is trying to cut themselves a slice of the 2-in-1 pie by creating a small form tablet that can be used as a laptop by attaching a keyboard on to it.
With competition for this particular space in the market heating up, Microsoft needs to show the other players in the market that they are still kings of the 2-in-1 market. If the Surface Pro 4 is anything to go by, I can safely say that Microsoft hasn't lost its edge yet.
Nothing much has changed for the Surface Pro 4 in terms of looks. The tablet itself still features the same magnesium unibody casing that its previous iterations sport. In terms of size though, the Surface Pro 4 is slightly bigger than the Surface Pro 3. The tablet now comes with a 12.3 inch screen, making it 0.3 inches bigger than its predecessor. Thickness has also been improved upon as the Surface Pro 4 now measures 8.4 mm.
As for the Surface Pen and the Type Cover, they were on the receiving end of some big changes. First, the Surface Pen. The pen has been redesigned, making it feel like a proper pencil. One the side of the Surface Pen is a magnetic strip that allows you to stick the pen itself on the side of the Surface Pro 4. The top of the Surface Pen features an eraser button which, aside from bringing up the eraser, will open up OneNote with a single press.
The Type Cover is where most of the improvements are made. Perhaps the biggest improvement to the Type Cover is the fact that Microsoft has decided to include some spacing between each keys and have them be individually backlit, making it so much easier to keep track of. Apart from that, the Type Cover feels sturdier this time, allowing me to apply more force when typing than I would normally do on the Surface 3's Type Cover. Lastly, the touchpad on the Type Cover was widen and given a glass coat, making it feel less plasticky than its previous iterations.
As usual, the Surface Pro 4 comes with various configurations, with the entry level version featuring an Intel Core m3 processor and the highest end coming with a Core i7 chip. For our review unit, the tablet comes with a 6th generation Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage on board. For graphics, the Surface Pro 4 comes with a Intel HD Graphics 520.
Screen resolution on the Surface Pro 4 has also been bumped up to 2736 x 1824, and increase from the Surface Pro 3's 2160 x 1440 resolution.
After a week of using the Surface Pro 4, I can safely say that Microsoft's latest version of the 2-in-1 is pretty much what I've expected out of it. As a productivity machine, the Surface Pro 4 is almost perfect. The tablet handles multitasking a media playback without any flaws at all. Some light gaming can also be had on the Surface Pro 4 if you want to, as less resource intensive games such as Hearthstone can be run on the highest settings without problems.
In terms of benchmarks, the Surface Pro 4 shows a slight performance increase over the Surface Pro 3, which is pretty much what I was expecting in the first place.
Battery life on the Surface Pro 4 is a bit on the underwhelming side. In a single charge, the Surface Pro 4 can last around six to seven hours on normal usage. When we tested the battery through PCMark 8, the device managed to clock up around 3 hours and 10 minutes, which isn't too shabby. If videos are more your thing, the Surface Pro 4 can survive for 5 hours or so on a single charge.
The only one gripe that I really have for the Surface Pro 4 is the fact that Microsoft STILL refuses to bundle in the Type Cover with the tablet itself. I'm not sure why Microsoft chooses to not include the Type Cover with the device, but when your competitors are deciding to bundle keyboards with their 2-in-1 offerings, I think it is time to take a leaf out of their books and do so.
Is the Surface Pro 4 a huge improvement over the Surface Pro 3? Not really, but it does nail some of the parts that I found lacking on Microsoft's previous 2-in-1s. Improvements to the screen and the peripherals, particularly to the Type Cover, is something that I greatly appreaciate from Microsoft. If you still have a perfectly functional Surface Pro 3, you probably could still stick with it as the performance on the Surface Pro 4 isn't really a huge spike over its predecessor.
That said, Microsoft's refusal to bundle the Type Cover is getting very irritating at this point and I wish they would drop this nonsense for the Surface Pro 5.
Other than that though, the Surface Pro 4 shows that Microsoft's Surface will continue to be one of the top choices when it comes to portable 2-in-1s.
- Improved Surface Pen and Type Cover
- Slightly improved performance over the Surface Pro 3
- Bigger screen, thinner body
- Type Cover is still not bundled in
- Mediocre battery life