Microsoft has been on a quest to create an all-in-one device that can function both as a tablet and a laptop; more specifically to create a tablet that is capable of replacing your laptop.
With the launch of the Surface Pro 3 in 2014, it did conclusively meet this goal. People were awed, and we were of the opinion that the time had almost arrived for Hybrids to challenge laptops’ existence for the traveller and the businessperson.
Now, the Surface Pro 4 throws the gauntlet down even more convincingly.
Designed for artists and designers who like using digitiser styluses for precision drawings, as well as for students, professionals who like to take notes on the go, and the business folk who work from hotel rooms, coffee tables and anywhere else they can find a surface to plant the Surface Pro 4 (see how we did that back there!)
The Surface Pro 4 is truly a “do it all” device.
The Core i7 variant comes with the high-end Intel Iris graphics and an 8 GB RAM + 256 GB SSD configuration. The one we are reviewing here is the Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM.
The Surface Pro 4 comes blessed with a 12.3 inch PixelSense display. The screen’s 2736×1824 resolution and 267 pixel-per-inch pixel density ensures that text and icons consistently look sharp.
Testing the screen with a colorimeter, my opening impressions rang true.
The display, generally speaking, is excellent. The colour and brightness levels are great. The blacks are not too deep and the whites are pretty clear too.
Created for designers, the Surface Pro 4’s screen covers 99.7% of the Adobe RGB colour spectrum. The Adobe RGB is the colour standard used by many creative professionals for digital photography and design work. The common laptop and tablet standard of 68.3% is pretty standard, but any serious design tool is expected to cover at least 90% of the spectrum.
From a touch-sensitivity standpoint and accuracy of multi-touch or styli-input is spot on.
So the screen rocks!
In terms of design, the Surface Pro 4 does not bring anything radically new to the table. That is in no way meant in a derogatory manner. It truly is a case where it’s difficult (and actually, unnecessary) to improve on perfection. The Surface Pro 3 (itself an evolution over two previous iterations) was an excellent culmination of form, material and skill. So, why overdo things, just to ‘show improvement’?
While the Surface Pro 4 retains the industrial metallic-grey magnesium finish, it’s textured metal back and beautifully chiselled edges come together to form an extremely solid and well-built device. Overall, the tablet feels great in your hands. It has that high-end classy feel to it.
The tablet section of the Surface Pro 4 thus looks almost identical to the Pro 3 from a distance. But there has been some streamlining – the Pro 4 is slimmer and the display area has increased from 12 inches to 12.3 inches. Even with this increase in display size, the weight has remained the same.
Taking a closer look at the device though, reveals that Microsoft actually has made some improvements. The adjustable kickstand of the type cover has been reworked on and can now be adjusted to practically any angle. It will stay locked at that angle, providing a sturdy workstation.
The display will not move even when you are furiously tapping away on the touch screen!
Another improvement is the Surface Pen’s new docking mechanism. It now uses a stronger magnet to stop the Pen from unnecessarily detaching in your bag or when you’re moving it around.
While these, and other subtle changes may sound pretty insignificant when looked at one at a time; but the combination of them, certainly has enhanced the quality of user experience vastly.
Overall it’s a sturdier and more refined avatar of all Surface tablets thus far.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 comes with sixth-generation Core i5 and Core i7 processors.
There are two Core i5 variants: a 4 GB RAM with 128 GB internal storage, and a 8 GB RAM+256 GB storage variant. Both come with Intel HD graphics.
There’s a third variant – one that runs on a Core i7 processor comes, with an extremely high-end Intel Iris graphics and 8 GB RAM + 256 GB SSD configuration.
The performance on this device is very, very good. Using it both as a tablet and laptop there aren’t any notable performance issues. Running applications and opening web pages is very easy, quick and smooth.
Windows 10 devices always provide you with a sort of effortlessness in terms of performance, and same is the case here.
What’s amazing is that the device despite it’s slick and thin design manages to put out brilliant performance, akin to that of the MacBook Air.
The Surface Pro 4 is quite snappy, does not guzzle processor capabilities, remains quite cool and is overall a stellar performer.
It can handle anything that you can throw at it, with ease, and you may even forget you’re using a hybrid machine!
Streamed games also run very smoothly, provided the graphics levels are set to medium. For heavier gaming usage we would recommend you buy the Core i7 variant.
Microsoft claims that battery life is as high as 9 hours on mixed usage, but our real life usage scenarios yielded only about 6.5 hours, (mostly using the device it as a laptop).
Gone is the time when Microsoft used to force-fit their existing (desktop oriented) OS into their mobile devices. In fact it had made Microsoft quite the laughing stock a few years back.
They’ve obviously gone into a long think tank session and turned their strategy on it’s head. Now, Microsoft clearly begins their thought of any OS as a touch-friendly interface first, which then gets altered to fit desktop devices.
And its working in their favour – with many customers appreciating the Surface Pro line of devices being far more usable, and the interactions being far more streamlined, and buttons and interfaces being touch-friendly.
They all come with almost untouched pure versions of Windows, completely free of manufacturer bloatware apps or programs. The Surface Pro 4 continues this tradition with its latest Windows 10 operating system on this machine.
Keeping in mind that the competition from Asus, Acer HP and Dell all come with some sort of bloatware, the untouched version of Windows swings things in favour of the Surface Pro 4.
Consequently Windows 10 is becoming quite the preferred OS specially for this range of ‘hybrid’ devices – after the iOS platform of course. Android is not really in people’s consideration for the most part, simply because it doesn’t have the same focus towards tablet-use, nor does it enjoy any integration with desktop/laptop computers (that users might be relying on during the majority of their day, at work). iOS and Windows truly have Android trumped on this (till Chromebooks and Chrome OS becomes more mainstream and reliable).
Microsoft also releases a lot of software updates, so glitches if any, get sorted out in due course.
Tablets are not intended to be cameras in Chip-Monks’ eyes. In fact, user behaviour also indicates that this has never been a popular feature on these devices. Their huge dimensions and significant weight do not help the cause.
Consequently, manufacturers do not seem to pay too much attention to the quality of the camera and it is not difficult to understand the reasons for that- cameras don’t affect a tablet buying decision, most people don’t use the camera, and most importantly, having passable (document scanning and video-call-capable) cameras helps reduce manufacturing costs.
Well, the Surface Pro 4 takes a mid-path. It has an 8 megapixel rear camera which is pretty good by the general standards of these devices, and is an improvement over the 5 megapixel fixed focus camera found on the Surface Pro 3.
The colours and saturation levels are not overly vibrant but aren’t the worst either. Snaps that are captured in good light conditions are decent enough to share socially but the low-light shots are not too great.
The front 5.0 megapixel shooter is rather more interesting. Not only is it used for video calls, it also forms the lynchpin of the Surface’s biometric security – facial unlocking. The front camera comes loaded with Microsoft’s Windows Hello feature, which pairs the camera with a separate infrared sensor that can read spatial information.
The Surface Pro 4 uses the tech to scan and record registered users’ faces. Once scanned, the Surface in theory will automatically unlock when it detects a registered user’s face – removing the need for you to enter your password each time you turn the device on.
This is super handy and does away completely with you having to enter your password every now and then, and it addresses our one big gripe with the Surface Pro 3.
With it’s form factor, reliable kickstand and fairly good screen, the SurfacePro 4 can easily become a very decent entertainment platform.
It comes with stereo speakers with Dolby audio, which are well above average for a tablet or laptop. Watching shows and movies provides you with a good sound experience, and the speakers don’t overly push the high-end.
However, these speakers are not entirely suitable for serious music listening. The sound quality does deteriorate as you step even a couple of feet away from the speakers.
So it’s not your go-to home entertainment platform, but if you’re at your desk, or in a small cabin at work, or watching movies (with headphones of course) on an airplane – you should quite enjoy the experience.
The Surface Pro 4 comes with all the security features enabled by Windows 10 – emails and other business activities are acceptably secure. You can also use VPN on this device!
There are virus scanners, and protection software so you should be largely safe on that front.
We also recommend you stay within the safe zone and only get Apps and software from official sources, and abstain from the ‘torrent’ pipeline.