I was an early adapter to the Surface Pro line, having purchased an original Pro as soon as they came out. I still have that first-gen model as well as my current Surface Pro 4 with i5 processor and 256GB memory.
The form factor of the Pro 4 is substantially more useful. The tablet is thinner, lighter, and more comfortable to hold. The larger screen is rich and beautiful. Sound quality is decent. The pen is much improved over the original and is a useful tool.
While the 3.2 ratio may not be ideal for watching movies and video, I don’t mind it. My primary use is for work, and the 3.2 ratio works very well in that setting.
I should note, the build quality is top-notch. The SP4 is certainly a premium device that looks and feels like a premium device.
I use mine with a Type Cover. The current Type Cover is miles ahead of the old Type Cover. Of course, it still lags behind laptop keyboards, but it is excellent for what it is – a thin cover that doubles as a keyboard. The trackpad is actually glass and works very smoothly, although it is too cramped. I generally resort to a BT mouse or using the pen.
Speaking of the Type Cover, yes, I am able to use it on my lap. It is not uncomfortable. However, it is not as stable as a pure laptop, and the keyboard is more cramped than a pure laptop, and you have fewer options in terms of positioning. Although the new Type Cover is an improvement, I wish they had rounded the top edges of the keys to make typing by feel just a tad easier. Note, the soon-to-be-released Brydge Keyboard promises to let you dock your Surface and use it just like a regular laptop without using the kickstand; this looks interesting, and I am planning to review one of these soon. That may at least fix the positioning issue when using it in your lap or certain other situations (like airplane trays) where the kickstand takes up a decent amount of room.
- CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 3GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
- RAM: 8GB LPDDR3
- Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display (Contrast ratio: 1,300:1, 100% sRGB color, 10-point multi-touch, 3:2 aspect ratio)
- Storage: 256GB SSD (PCIe 3.0)
- Ports: 1x USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader (UHS-I), headphone/mic jack
- Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2 x 2 MIMO), Bluetooth 4.0 (Low Energy)
- Cameras: 8MP rear-facing, auto-focus camera (1080p HD); 5MP front-facing, 1080p HD camera
- Weight: 1.73 pounds
- Size: 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches (W x D x H)
Speed and power are impressive. The SP4 easily bests most competitors in the same price range and can easily be used as a desktop replacement. Several of my coworkers have the dock for their SP4s and use them as their only computers.
Battery life, on the other hand, is less than impressive. This has been an issue for the Surface Pro line since day one, and it is still a frustration, particularly when traveling. Admittedly, though, the battery does last longer than before.
My other gripe is about Windows 10. The hamburger menus and such are just more of an eye strain on smaller screens than Windows 8 was. And tablet mode is much worse in W10 than it was in W8, IMO. Also, from time to time, updates fail to install. At least W10 is past the initial debilitating issues that crippled both the SP4 and the Surface Book upon initial release. And while I generally like W10, it can still be annoying and seems to have more issues than prior versions of the OS did.
When I first got the SP4, I really missed the capacitive home button. However, I eventually got used to it. I would still prefer a physical button when using it in tablet mode, but removing the button allowed MS to increase screen size while keeping the body the same size as the prior SP3.
That said, the SP4 is a little bulky to use just as a tablet. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the best experience, either. And while it boots quickly for a computer, it takes a bit long as a tablet. When I use it just as a tablet, I find the best thing is to open the kickstand and use that as wedge to place my hand. This makes supporting the SP4 a lot easier. In fact, when I use other tablets that don’t have a kickstand, I really miss having that kickstand to use.
All-in-all, the SP4 is an excellent device, and I feel confident recommending it. However, there are also some very strong competing 2-in-1 devices that may better suit your use pattern. If you primarily use it for typing or as a laptop, I would suggest you try one of the new 2-in-1 options (note, the Brydge keyboard I mentioned above is supposed to make the SP4 function more like a laptop, so the SP4 may still end up on top, if that works as promised). If you split your world between tablet and desktop dock and want a more portable device, the SP4 is probably your best bet.
The SP4 is very, very close to a “love” score, but falls just a hair short – largely due to battery life, minor inconveniences, and some OS annoyances. But it is so close I almost gave it a love rating, anyway.