Hey guys, I’m going to take a look at the Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft and give you a quick overview, that’s coming up next. Inside the box we have the Surface itself, followed by a quick start guide booklet, the Surface Pen, as well as required cabling for charging the device.
Essentially all you get is the tablet, there’s no keyboard included here as that’s considered to be an additional accessory worth around $200 AUD which seems a bit crazy to me, it would have been nice if this was included. First we’ll start with the specs of the Surface Pro 4. There are a few different configurations available when ordering through the Microsoft store.
I have the highest end model here, which includes an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD as the primary hard drive. The CPU is a 6th generation Intel i7-6650U @ 2.20GHz which can turbo up to 3.4GHz. This is a dual core processor featuring 2 cores and 4 total threads with hyper-threading. There’s 16GB of DDR4 memory @ 1866MHz. For storage we have a Samsung NVMe 512GB SSD which stores the operating system and all data. The graphics are integrated within the i7 CPU which uses Intel Iris 540 graphics which has 4K support at 60Hz for an external monitor.
The display is 12.3″ with an odd resolution of 2736 x 1824 pixels with Microsoft’s PixelSense. For network connectivity there is inbuilt WiFi which supports all current standards including 802.11a/b/g/n and AC. Bluetooth 4.0 is also available and this is what the Surface Pen connects with. There’s no ethernet port however you can use a USB to ethernet adapter if required. Inside there’s also a TPM chip which I’ll be using to perform full disk encryption with Microsoft’s Bitlocker. Microsoft claim the battery life for video playback is around 9 hours, I’ll talk about my results later on.
There’s inbuilt stereo microphones which do an average job in voice recording, and stereo speakers with Dolby audio which sound alright, better than I was expecting for internal speakers. All of this hardware is placed nicely into the silver casing which is made out of a magnesium alloy, helping keep the Surface light and durable. The surface looks great and the build quality feels solid and tough. Considering these powerful specs I am a little surprised that it only weighs 786g, or 1.73 pounds. This light weight makes it very easy to transport around, however if you have the keyboard type cover, note that the overall weight will be a little extra.
The dimensions of the Surface Pro 4 are 29.2cm in width, 20.1cm in length, and 8.5mm in height – quite thin! I also like that the silver casing does a good job of hiding fingerprints, with the exception of the Microsoft logo on the back which is a mirror and is definitely subject to fingerprint marks. The 12.3″ screen which features the 2736 x 1824 pixel panel as mentioned comes out as 267 PPI with an aspect ratio of 3:2. It’s also a touch screen as you’d expect in a tablet device, and features 10 point multi-touch. The screen can get pretty bright, and I’ve found the viewing angles to be excellent.
Even on sharp angles the screen still looks really great. The screen is also glossy, so it’s very reflective and can be hard to see if there’s a lot of light in the room, personally I prefer matte screens however it still looks nice until you cover it in fingerprints, and it is a touch screen after all so that’s only a matter of time. I also found that the accuracy of the touch screen was very good, I had no problems there at all. Above the display is an inbuilt 5MP camera capable of HD video, the quality was actually pretty good, I was surprised about that as front cameras generally look pretty bad.
There’s also an 8MP rear facing camera which is a bit better and is capable of recording video at 1080p. Here is a picture taken with the front camera and back camera for comparison. The photo from the rear camera is a higher resolution as expected and looks a bit better in my opinion, there’s more detail and the image looks a bit sharper. Now let’s take a look at the physical features of the Surface Pro 4. On the left we have a 3.5mm headphone jack toward the top, and there’s a groove towards the bottom to put your fingers into to pull out the kickstand.
There’s also space for the Surface Pen to attach to the side of the device as it’s magnetic. Over on the right we have the SurfaceConnect port which is used for charging the device, a single USB 3.0 port, and a Mini DisplayPort for connecting to an external monitor. Toward the bottom there’s another groove you can use to pull out the kickstand. Underneath the kickstand there’s a sneaky MicroSD card slot for expandable storage. I’ve found that the pen can also connect to the right, however the connection here is not as solid as it is with the magnets on the left hand side, I suspect it’s just using the magnets designed for the power adapter. The power adapter also snaps into place easily with the use of magnets, and will light up to indicate charging.
The cable easily comes out should someone trip over it by accident. On the top we have physical power and volume buttons which are nice and clicky. Around the top as well as the upper half of the left and right sides we also have vents for airflow. On the bottom we have the connector for the optional type cover keyboard accessory, which snaps into place magnetically. The front of course features the screen and front facing camera as previously mentioned. On the back we have the kickstand which is used for propping up the Surface, and the Microsoft logo which is a mirror, it looks pretty cool until it gets dirty.
With all of that information in mind, how is the Surface Pro 4 to actually use? Normal usage has been perfectly fine, I haven’t experienced any lag at all within Windows which I expected with great specs like these. During normal use, the Surface has been silent. While I was installing a bunch of Windows updates the fans did kick in and they were moderately noisy. The metal casing of the Surface seems to act like a heat sink, under heavy load from my benchmarking tests I found it gradually warmed up equally all over. The specs here are great, however with no dedicated AMD or Nvidia graphics the card gaming options may be a little limited. With that said the Intel Iris graphics built into the CPU perform fairly well and can even support an external 4K monitor at 60Hz.
I think this is perfectly acceptable, the Surface is designed primarily as a tablet that can be used for laptop like functionality and seems to be primarily aimed at the enterprise market rather than gamers. In terms of synthetic benchmark performance, I’ve run some basic benchmarks to give you an idea on how the Surface Pro 4 with these specs performs. The CPU temperature rose to 50c while running the PassMark CPU benchmark, the fans were quite loud and the whole Surface was quite hot to the touch, and I got a score of 2914.
I also ran a couple of benchmarks from the 3DMark suite, the links to the full results can be found in the video description. The Sky Diver benchmark ended with a result of 4775, while the the Cloud Gate benchmark ended with a result of 7527. The FPS during these tests was anywhere between 20 and 50. During the benchmarks there was some noticeable lag and the results weren’t too great which is to be expected, however based on the results it would appear that light gaming is definitely possible on the Surface Pro 4.
I ran Crystal Disk Mark to get an idea of the disk speeds of the Samsung NVMe SSD and was quite surprised by the results, with 1600MB/s read speed and 594MB/s write speed this is quite a fast SSD for a tablet, pretty impressive. I am a little annoyed with the singular USB port, I like having lots of ports available however I suppose that’s more of a fully fledged laptop feature, rather than for something that is designed as a portable tablet so I can overlook this here.
Additional expansion can be achieved with an external dock however that may not be a very portable option and would probably end up sitting in one spot. While using the Surface on a flat desk I noticed that while touching the screen it would move around a bit which was a little annoying, it would be nice if there was some sort of grip or rubber feet on the base to prevent this sort of movement, though this is probably less of an issue if you’re using the type cover keyboard.
The adjustable kickstand allows you to put the Surface on virtually any angle, it’s quite stiff so you can place it however you like without it giving way, there are no predefined placement settings, you can set it exactly how you want which is awesome. Overall the Surface is a little heavy for a tablet for me, however as the specs inside are very good I can look passed this, especially as I also have the option of using it as a laptop as well which is very cool. It’s just a bit heavy for me to hold for an extended period of time, if you’re after a lightweight tablet you may want to look at other options unless you need the high specs the Surface provides.
The Surface does have the advantage of running Windows 10 Pro, so you can essentially run games and programs on it like you would on a Windows desktop or laptop which is not something a lot of tablets would be capable of. When compared against the previous generation Surface Pro 3, I found that the Surface Pro 4 was actually thinner and lighter. The larger display also looks noticeably better in my opinion. In terms of battery life while Microsoft state that it’s rated for 9 hours of video playback, while just browsing the Internet and watching random YouTube videos I was able to run for around 5 hours and 20 minutes. While I don’t think this is anything to be excited about, I think it’s adequate considering the beefy specs within my particular model.
I also wanted to note that after 1 hour into viewing YouTube videos the Surface completely froze up on me, nothing responded at all and I had to hold the power button in to restart the device. At this stage I am not sure what exactly the problem is, but it has not happened again and I have all the latest updates installed via Windows update. Finally let’s discuss the Surface Pen. The top of the Surface Pen unscrews and takes a single AAAA battery which is included.
I prefer this over Apple’s method of charging the pencil, where the pencil hangs out of the bottom of the tablet which just seems like it’s begging to be snapped off. The Surface Pen also has a button toward the bottom where you hold it which acts as a right click and select button. The Surface Pen will automatically pair with the Surface via Bluetooth during setup, it can then be used with the Surface simply by touching the point on the screen.
While this is more accurate, it felt more natural for me to just use my fingers, though a mouse is definitely preferable for me. When the Surface is asleep you can click the top button of the Surface Pen to open a new note, allowing you to quickly take notes and start writing or drawing. If you double click the top button it will take a screenshot, save it, and open it in OneNote. The Surface Pen can be secured by magnets on the left hand side when not in use, the magnets feel quite powerful and you don’t have to worry about the Pen randomly falling off unless bumped hard.
So in conclusion I think Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is a more than capable tablet, the specs in my top end model are kind of amazing, and with Windows 10 Pro I can basically do anything I would on my desktop PC or laptop. I would like to have seen more USB ports rather than just the one, but for a portable device I can understand the lack of expansion options. Purely as a tablet, I found the Surface Pro 4 a little on the heavy side and it needed two hands to properly use at all times, however it was still very usable when sitting up on a desk with the kickstand. I didn’t get to experience it as a laptop as the type cover keyboard is an additional $200 AUD which seems pretty crazy to me, I really wish some sort of basic keyboard was included in the box.
The Surface Pen was fun to use but probably not something I’d use often, as simply touching the screen with my finger or using a mouse felt preferable and more natural. If I was more into drawing or back at uni and needed to take notes I could see myself using that more. If you’re after a powerful tablet that you can use as a laptop with portability in mind and great battery life, you may want to look into a Surface Pro 4 as it would be a good choice when combined with the keyboard type cover.
I can definitely see a number of use cases for it for a student, or at work in an office environment. If you’re a gamer and you want to play the latest games at average or above graphics settings you may want to look elsewhere as the integrated Iris graphics aren’t quite as good as a dedicated graphics card. So what did you guys think of the Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft?