In July 2013, I had the first-hand experience of ‘Surface’ in a showroom in Singapore. Surface was Microsoft’s vision of merging personal computing experience in the form of tablet. Hybrid design, detachable keyboard, all-in-one device… was all new and made me feel that it’s the future. But then it was a tablet with mere intentions to compete with Apple iPad. I decided not to buy and moved on.
In October 2015, Microsoft launched Surface Pro 4. This looked like a more complete hybrid device (finally a tablet that can replace laptop). I wished to possess one. But the premium pricing made me stay away from it until the ‘Black Friday’ deal in November 2016. Thanks to the deal and relatives in U.S.A. to make it mine on 25th December 2016.
Three months have gone by experiencing the good / bad and the tablet / computer of Surface Pro 4. Let’s explore whether it deserves to be owned.
Surface was Microsoft’s idea of interactive board in the form of touchscreen that could personalise computing experience. The first edition launched in October 2012 was a failure despite being appreciated for its innovative design and detachable keyboard. Not much changed (including sales) with the second edition that was launched in 2013. The third edition was launched in 2014 which was the first full-fledged personal computer running intel processors. Surface Pro 3 grabbed a decent market share. It had Windows OS instead of Windows Mobile OS, it had intel instead of ARM processors; a 12-inch screen instead of 10.6-inch screen; improvements to surface pen and so on.
Then in 2015, Microsoft launched a more refine Surface Pro 4 alongside the premium personal computer name ‘Surface Book’. Surface Book is primarily a 13-inch laptop that can be used as a tablet, whereas surface pro 4 is a 12.3-inch tablet that can be used as a laptop. Atleast that’s how Microsoft markets these products.
I had a feel of Apple when I unboxed Surface Pro 4. The packaging was premium, well designed and thought through, perfect spacing for each of the accessories.
Surface Pro 4 that I had got had Intel Core – i5 processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. It came along with surface pen and type cover included with a cost of USD 1,069 (roughly INR 75K).
Design and Hardware
Microsoft has maintained the design from its initial version of Surface by just playing around the screen size, thickness and premium feel. The Surface Pro 4 like its predecessor runs intel processor and hence works as a complete laptop. In this fourth-generation surface series, the tagline – ‘a tablet that can replace your laptop’ finally started working out.
From the first generation, one thing that stood out in the design was the kick stand. It was a unique design that paved way for number of hybrid devices.
The kickstand is continuous and holds at any angle. It can hold at any angle between 22 and 150 degrees. It is so solid that it doesn’t slip of from where it holds. It hardly moves from the point where its fixed. It works well when you place it on the table, but, with the keyboard (type cover) attached, placing and typing on your lap is a challenge.
Surface Pen is Microsoft’s stylus that can be used to writing and drawing on the screen. The pen is improvised by creating magnetic strip on one side of the pen that helps it to stick onto the tablet. Yes, you heard it right, there is no further requirement to find a place to safeguard / store the pen.
The pen now as a button behind. The button acts as an eraser and further helps to have three shortcuts for a click, double click and long press. It can be configured to program the apps or shortcuts that you would prefer. It could help you access One Note, take screenshots, open an app, take a quick note etc.
I’m very poor in drawing and hence I could not find it of much use. But yes, I do regularly use it for taking notes, writing down tasks, highlighting while reading and playing Sudoku.
Overall, it’s a much improved from earlier version and serves a lot especially when you are an artist.
The type cover connects the bottom of the tablet via a magnetic hinge. The keys are placed at ample space and makes typing easy. The track pad is large and is convenient to use. One of the most comfortable keypad and trackpad available in the market.
You need to buy this in addition to the premium pricing. It’s a mystery why Microsoft is not offering it as a part of the package. By not including in the package, it doesn’t give you that laptop feel. All said, it’s a must buy add-on.
The 3.5mm jack is awkwardly placed on the top on the left side of the screen and makes it difficult when you use your headphone and work (as a laptop).
The system has one USB port, one mini display port, one micro SD card slot and no ethernet port. This will be a problem if you might have to use multiple ports and accessories. To use multiple ports Microsoft recommends you buy a dock.
I haven’t bought a dock and manage with available ports. Ethernet and additional USB slot will be missed some of the time. The ones who use external mouse will face a huge problem as the one and only USB port will be occupied for external mouse. In such case, there are no options other than investing on the dock (Roughly Rs. 16,000).
I have got the one that has 256 GB and its ample for my use. The internal storage is more than sufficient for OS, software and files.
Those who have the habit of playing games and storing movies on your computer might have to shell out extra bucks to get a larger storage. I don’t have the problem as I play in PS4 and store my movies in external hard disk.
Microsoft has promised a battery life of over 9 hours. However, it’s too ambitious and on an average I did manage to get 6 hours a day on using it for MS-Office and surfing. Though not the best, it still has a pretty decent battery backup.
Considering it being a hybrid model, it may not be a powerhouse but still has a very good performance for an average user.
The one I have is a 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 6th generation processor with 8GB RAM. This helps in multitasking without being aware that so many are running on the background.
Without a dedicated graphics card, you might enjoy most of the powerful games. As said earlier, I don’t play many in these and hence it doesn’t matter to me.
Most of these hybrid ranges use the ‘m’ processor and whereas Surface Pro use the fully powered i5 / i7 processors. This makes Surface Pro stand out of the crowd in performance.
Interface & Functionality
With Windows 10, Microsoft is lot more functional now. The touchscreen is smooth and is easy to use.
The Windows is designed to seamlessly move on between tablet mode and laptop mode.
Lack of apps is always an area to worry. Unless they improve this, they won’t be able to grab a decent market share in mobile and tablet space.
Surface Pro 4 serves various purposes of mine – official use, watching movies, reading books, on-the-go usage and so on.
Pros – Design, Type cover, Surface Pen
Cons – Expensive, Type Cover (not part of package), Limited connectivity options
All I wanted was a laptop which could serve as a tablet and Surface Pro 4 does much more than that. After three months, I’m a proud owner of Surface Pro 4.