Microsoft Surface Pro 4 in-depth review - One for the family

The Microsoft Surface Book Pro 4 is a tablet first and a laptop second. It is for families who share a laptop at home. The build quality is excellent and the tablet is thinner and lighter than its predecessor. With a range of storage options available, can it replace your laptop?

 Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review - One for the family
4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/14/2016 9:47:08 AM

9

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

9

out of 5

Ease of use

9

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Unadulterated Windows 10 | Bundled Surface Pen | Beautiful display | kickstand negates need for separate type pad

Cons:

Fan kicks in very frequently | Windows app store fairly limited | Battery discharges in sleep mode | expensive

 

- By Sunetra Chakravarti

 With the market for smartphones slowing down, manufacturers are on the lookout for newer ways to get  customers back into stores handing over their cards.

With media consumption on mobile devices at its peak, and the path being shown by iPads, it didn't take long for hybrid tablets, powerful enough to be both your work and leisure device to come into prominence.

And the marketplace has been booming with devices from not just Apple, but also Microsoft, Asus and Huawei making it the next battlefield where fortunes will be made...

I recently finished reviewing the Apple iPad Pro 9.7 and side by side, the devices are strong contenders for your custom. However, despite its name, Microsoft are pushing the Surface Pro 4 as a family device and not as a work laptop replacement and when judged as one, the Surface Pro 4 is absolutely fantastic as a family tablet- right from the kids to the grown ups.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 build quality

Microsoft have put money where their mouth is and the Pro 4 is a solid device. It feels robust in the hand with its all metal body and even the kickstand is not flimsy. The tablet has managed to take all the abuse a family tablet will usually be subjected to, during the past two weeks while I reviewed it. 

 

The tablet is 8.55mm thick and it doesnt have rounded edges, this should have stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of curved numbers but it doesnt. The sharp flat edges gives the tablet a more solid look and is easier to grip or tuck under your arm when transporting. The kick stand can be used to hold the tablet at any angle possible between 22 and 150 degrees and - SD card slot under it 128GB.

It is still heavy though but again, it adds to its reassuring quality as a family tablet and its 786 grams add to the family friendly credentials more than anything else. While using the kick stand, the power button and the volume toggle ends up at the top of the device. 

The model with the m3 processor weighs considerably less than the regular model, but that is because it is a fan-less one. The models with the Intel i processors weigh more and when the fan kicks in, it is like 2006 once again...

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Pen

Microsft have invested time and resource on getting the Pen right and it is my favourite feature of the tablet. It just makes everything so much easier, especially if you are in a rush or need to take notes quickly.

It also adds to the whole package because the Pen is a great hit with the kids and especially handy during long train journeys for colouring in without the mess and even doodling.

The pen is not a super-light affair, and has a reassuring weight to it, so it feels like a premium writing device ratherthan just a Bic you got given at a press conference.

There are an assortment of nibs available to buy depending on the thickness of nib you require and the flat side of the pen attaches itself magnetically to the side of the tablet.

The magnetic hold isnt flimsy at all and even though I was pretty sure I would lose it in my backpack, I didnt. There are three actions that you can use on the pen, and you are able to reassign the  three things that the clicker can do. Press & hold, one click, two clicks. The Pen works well and usually doesnt act up, stopped working altogether just once but that was sorted after I restarted the tablet and started using it again. 

But those who have used Microsoft devices will know this as part and parcel of owning a Microsoft product. 

Surface Pro 4 processor, battery and performance

I love how the tablet has a full size USB port as well as a mini display port as well. Microsoft have used a 6th generation Intel processor which gives the Surface Pro 4 a 30% performance boost over its predecessor while using less power.

The i5 processor on the review unit was fast, worked well and it did really well switching between processes. Browsing, using the paint tools and watching video was really smooth and the processor was super snappy. Combined with the high-res display on the 12.3-inch screen, it gave a very good viewing experiece especially at the end of the day, when you didnt have to prop it up with books etc owing to the kick stand.

The typepad is available separately (£110) and even though it makes the usability a lot better, I found typing on the screen a lot easier primarily owing to the kick stand being so versatile and for the first time ever, I was able to use a hybrid tablet during my commute, with the tablet at a jaunty angle on the little tray table in front.

Battery-wise, it lasted about 7-ish hours on each charge but the sleep mode made it bleed juice to such an extent that very often I found it without charge the next morning if I had just put it in sleep mode the afternoon before.

Back when we had reported on the battery drain issue, a Microsoft rep had said this: 'One of the ways that you can improve the situation right away is to make sure you don't have web sites open that are actively streaming when you close cover of go put the device to sleep. Especially if you have a website open that uses sound. This will keep the PLM service running.'

 

Whats the difference between the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4?

According to Microsoft, a lot has changed. While the Pro 3 was released with Windows 10 onboard in October 2014, the Pro 4 has been built with Windows 10 in mind. Microsoft told me that they built the tablet for those who are on the move a lot and so it could address all the needs of a family tablet. 

The size is the same, but the new Pro 4 is both thinner and lighter with a reduced bezel size. The screen size has been increased by a fraction from 12-inches to 12.3-inches as well as the trackpad being 40% bigger. 

Windows Hello- depth spacing etc stored.

Should I buy the Microsoft Surface Pro 4?

Fourth iteration of Microsoft's fantastic tablet range doesn't disappoint. The superb display, the comfort of the kickstand, great processor and premium build quality screams understated elegance and the bundled Pen is a great bonus. I also really like the kick-stand which for me negates the need for a type pad which is anyway overpriced at about £110.

I love that you can put apps on the SD card and that the SD card is neatly hidden behind the kick stand. 

Microsoft have made $4.3 billion in revenues from Surface products since their launch and 97% of current users would recommend it. 

But, would I recommend it? It is a great tablet but it is also eye-wateringly expensive with the Intel m3 processor (basic model) priced at £749.  There are glitches, sudden stops and starts and even though the display is drop-dead gorgeous and the build quality superb, it is the little things will set the users at an edge. Constantly rebooting a computer/tablet/phone is not pleasant and in 2016 we shouldnt have to do that, especially if we pay quite so much for a device.

There are cheaper and better devices on the market but if you are a Windows person for life and want to see what their latest Surface iteration is like, buy it. But remember to take deep breaths while using it.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 specifications

Price: From £749-£1799

Operating System: Windows 10 Pro

Dimensions: 292.10 x 201.42 x 8.45 mm

Weight: 786g

Resolution: 2,736 x 1,824 (267 PPI) • Aspect Ratio: 3:2

Display: 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreen display

Processor: 6th Gen Intel Core m3, i5, or i7CPU @2.4GHz 2.50GHz. 4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM

Camera: 5.0 megapixel front-facing HD camera 8.0 megapixel rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video recording

Memory: Solid state drive (SSD) options: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB and Full-size USB 3.0 microSD Card reader, Headset jack, Mini Display Port, Cover port and Surface Connect

Battery: Up to 9 hours of video playback

Fingerprint sensor: No, Retina scanner in place via Microsoft Hello

Misc: Pen and touch support with 10 touch points; 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology