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Microsoft touts their Surface line of devices as the tablets that can replace your laptop. After several years and three previous generations, this statement is finally true. The Surface Pro 4 is a tablet that has most of the benefits of a laptop.
The original Surface tablet that debuted in 2012 had many drawbacks including the ole windows 8 operating system. With this generation, however, Microsoft has corrected all the faults and added several new features.
This model has a larger 12.3″ screen with a PixelSense display which offers an improved resolution of 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI) and a welcome 3:2 aspect ratio. It also has a lightweight, slimmer body, body. The base model that I received came with an i5 processor, 128 GB SSD, and 4 GB ram. It is 11.50 x 7.93 x .33 inches (292.10 x 201.42 x 8.45 mm) and weighs in at 1.73 pounds (786g). In addition, the Surface 4 Pro ships with Intel’s latest processors.
While the Windows 10 Pro operating system make it quite useful, Windows 10 was also my first source of Microsoft-induced frustration. The Windows 10 Anniversary Edition added a useful tool called the Windows Ink Workspace which was created to work with a stylus. Even though the Surface 4 came with Windows 10 and a stylus, it didn’t come with the Anniversary Edition. Although it has been several months since the introduction of the Anniversary Edition, when I tried to install it, Microsoft’s servers were not working properly. Other glitches also occurred making the total installation time about 5 hours. Can you imagine that? A brand new device that took 5 hours to get up and running with the latest software.
Okay, after I got through that aggravation, I was finally able give the Surface 4 a thorough testing. I was impressed by the speed and responsiveness and was especially enamored of the Type Keyboard. It snaps on and off magnetically with no connection routine or charging necessary. The full-sized backlit keyboard had just the right amount of click and responsiveness. Without a doubt, it was the best add-on keyboard that I’ve ever used. The only problem is that it isn’t included with the tablet. Instead it is a $129.99 to $159.99 add-on.
The Surface Pen which was included in the price was also impressive. It glides across the screen with ease and registers every move. It is pressure-sensitive making it quite useful. It can be customized in the Windows Ink Workspace where you can set it to perform various tasks with the press of a button.
Two things were a bit of a surprise for me. First, while the kickstand in previous versions was not fully adjustable, in this version it was. Second, the Windows Hello facial recognition is quick and easy. At first it sputtered a few times, but it seemed to get better as I used it. It actually became a feature that I took for granted, opening the tablet without my having to think about it.
The Surface Pro 4 took Photoshop and every other program that I threw at it with ease. While it did okay with movies, the integrated graphics card couldn’t stSurfaceand up to fast-moving games. However, as this tablet is more of a productivity device, that is acceptable. If you like to listen to music while you work, however, the Surface 4 has you covered with a microphone jack and stereo speakers with Dolby audio.
As you might expect, the 5.0 megapixel front-facing HD camera and the 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera are adequate, but not spectacular. Rear camera does have autofocus and will record video in 1080p.
The Surface 4 has all the sensors that you would expect in a tablet including an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. It also has some features that you would expect in a laptop like a full-size USB 3.0 port a microSD Card reader and a Mini DisplayPort.
The base-price i5 unit that I reviewed is $999. Although you might find it slightly discounted, you won’t find any big price reductions. The prices and features go up to $1,799 for a 256 GB Intel Core i7 with 16 GB RAM. When you add the keyboard, which is essential to make it a laptop replacement, the prices range from $1,158 to almost $2,000 making the Surface 4 Pro a pretty pricey commodity. Apple has worked for years to become a premium brand. Microsoft is not known as a premium brand so these Surface devices seem a bit overpriced. After all, most people will just consider it a PC.
Microsoft is currently still selling Surface 3 tablets at a reduced price but its flaws make it a non-starter for me. Rumors of the Surface 5 are already smoldering. Perhaps when the 5 comes out, the price of the 4 will be a little more acceptable.