After making a powerful impression in 2014 with Surface Pro 3, Microsoft proudly announced this year its newest tablet-slash-portable laptop: the Surface Pro 4. The MacBook Air competitor brings notable improvements over last year's model while maintaining its elegant design.
The first visible upgrade is the Surface Pro 4's 12.3-inch display, supporting a 2,736 x 1,824 resolution. It might not seem much considering that the 2014 model had a 12-inch screen, but it is noticeable. Also, the devices are equal in width, which offers users the familiar 3:2 aspect ratio from the prior model.
The Surface Pro 4 is thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 3, but the port placement and wireless capacities are identical. Connectivity is the same, with a USB 3.0 port, SD card slot, Mini DisplayPort, and port for the Type Cover, next to Bluetooth 4.0 and 866Mbps 802.11ac.
The Type Cover keyboard, although not on par with a desktop keyboard, shows promise. The keys are spread out more, reminiscent of chiclet-style keyboards from the MacBook Air and Ultrabook. The only letdown is that the Type Cover costs an additional $130.
"The new Type Cover's keyboard is an improvement over the old one—there's space between the keys now, and the key travel is firmer," Andrew Cunningham from Arstechnica observed.
The trackpad was redesigned. The surface is bigger; the material is of superior quality (glass); and support for the trackpad gestures introduced in Windows 10 is a nice touch.
All reviewers agree that the Surface Pen got a radical upgrade in both design and functionality.
"It now feels a lot more like a pen and less like a stylus. You can even swap out tips if you want for more control. There is also an 'eraser' at the top of the pen, which works well," noted Christina Warren, senior tech correspondent at Mashable.
The stylus has great maneuverability, both in writing and drawing. The Surface Pen has instant on-screen reaction time and seamless integration with various software such as OneNote or the Adobe Suite. The button that acts as an eraser gives great tactile feedback, the same way correcting texts or drafts on a sheet of paper would.
The magnetic pen can stick to either side of the tablet, but the right side means you'll lock your access to the USB and docking ports. The one-button minimal design and 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity are other features that make the new stylus a must-have. The Surface Pen sells with the Surface Pro 4, as opposed to similar tablets that charge extra for styluses.
A standard Surface Pro 4, priced at $899, comes with an Intel Core m3, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and pen but without the Type Cover. Users who want more power can opt for the more dynamic Intel Core i5 version that contains 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for a price tag of $999. Other variants of Core i5 models go as high as $1,499.
To get the formidable Core i7, with or without the 1TB SSD, fans of the Surface Pro 4 need to do a custom configuration on the manufacturer's site.
"It's just a device that's geared toward enticing new Surface customers, rather than making existing Surface Pro 3 fans upgrade," Devindra Hardawar, senior editor at Engadget, pointed out.
Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 is a premium slate with the force of a notebook under its hood. It suits CAD/CAM applications and content creation, and is able to do tasks that harness the full capacity of a sixth-generation Intel Core m3, i5, i7 processor.
"You can do serious work with this device without lugging around a beefy laptop. That's what the goal of the Surface project from the start, and the Surface 4 does a wonderful job of fulfilling that mission," Jeremy Kaplan, editor-in-chief of Digital Trends, affirmed.