So at the time of writing this the Surface Pro 4 is over a year and bit old. Released on the 26th October 2015 and is the 4th generation in the Surface line up. So, whilst it is an older product, is it still worth the hefty price tag that still exists?.
The model I have is the i5 6300U with 4GB RAM as well as a 128gb SSD. I will also mention that I bought the Surface Pro 4 with my own money. I did pick it up in the Black Friday sales from PC World for £699. This included the Surface itself as well as the black keyboard.
So as usual let’s get the specs out the way.
- 12.3-inch 2,736×1,824-pixel touchscreen display
- Intel Core i5 6300U, clocked at 2.4GHz boost to 3.0GHz, dual core hyperthreaded to a quad-core
- 4GB of RAM
- 128GB SSD
- Intel HD graphics 520
- 8MP Rear Camera
- 5MP Front Camera
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Micro SD card slot
- Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Before I begin I would like to first apologise for the unboxing photos and them being on the dark side. This was one of those products that I couldn’t wait to open and getting in at 6 o’clock in December meant that the lighting in my room is pretty awful.
Taking the Surface box out of the box that PC World ship it in you find the tank of the box. Microsoft spared no expense here. Removing the sleeve you’ll find two bits of tape (one at the top and one at the bottom). This is to hold the keyboard box on the back.
Removing the keyboard and continuing with the main box. You’ll find a small compartment to the left. Inside there is the charger, in the two parts. Opening the main flap you get greeted with the Surface itself in its plastic sleeve. Under there you’ll find the boring paperwork.
Heading over to the keyboard, cutting the tape on the sides will allow you the lift the clear plastic and remove the keyboard. The paperwork is under that. Finally on the white tray you’ll find a diagram on how to connect the keyboard to the Surface.
Tour of Device
If you’ve ever seen a Surface, any model, in the wild or online you’ll know they have a pretty simple I/O layout. Not MacBook Pro simple since the Surface Pro 4 has common ports, unlike the MacBook.
Starting around the front you’ll find the 12.3 inch touch screen display, with the flash, camera, camera activity LED and the mic on top. At either side of display at the top you’ll find the speakers. Heading to the left side of the device you’ll find nothing whilst on the right you have the mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0 port and the charging port which is also used to connected Microsoft accessories.
Up top is the power button and volume rocker. Just behind you’ll see the vents and aund the back at the top you’ll find the camera, microphone and the activity LED. Moving down towards the bottom you’ll find the kickstand and under that the microSD card.
Benchmarks & Battery
Benchmarks don’t tell all the story but it’s a nice little indicator of performance and the Surface Pro 4 doesn’t hang around. With Geekbench 4 I managed to get 3366 on the single core test and 6358 on the multicore. Speedy. In OpenCL the Surface Pro 4 scored 17457. Firing up CrystalDiskMark the SSD isn’t sluggish either. This is very noticeable when thundering your way through everyday tasks. Even while you’re booting the Surface up.
As previously mentioned the Surface Pro 4 comes with Windows 10 Pro 64bit. Now this is something that really got me wanting the Surface Pro 4. The idea of having a full Windows operating system was a must when looking for a device. Studying IT level 3 college means that a Chromebook is out of the question. Word, Access, Photoshop, basically all the programs that require full Windows are requirements. As you can imagine running full Windows on this works like a charm. No stutters, no hanging. Not something I would expect on a device which costs the best part of £700 but good to see that delivered. One problem I have stumbled across is the whole Windows scaling options. Some programs scale up perfectly fine but some don’t. Now this isn’t a biggie but it does make some things smaller than personal preference but it still useable. More annoying than anything else.
Microsoft says the Surface Pro 4 should manage 9 hours of usage on its battery. Like with any Windows device in real world, you’ll need to knock off an hour or two. In this case I have been using it in college. Whilst my Tuesday to Thursday are half days, on Fridays I have 6 hours of lessons and the Surface gets me through them easily with about another hour and a bit left when I get home. If my maths is right that’s just over 7 hours. In college I’m not really pushing it hard. No more than a few Word documents and Firefox which normally has some sort of radio/music being streamed.
Keyboard and Trackpad
So the keyboard is made with a very nice felt feel to it. There is the a fair amount of travel to the keys and they aren’t mushy. By no means is it like my mechanical keyboard (review here) but it does have travel and you can hear the keys bottoming out but you quickly get used to it and it becomes second nature and becomes something that you’ll probably quickly come to enjoy. The trackpad is also pretty accurate too not to mention gestures. It has no issue picking up the multi-finger flicks, unlike some other trackpads that I’ve used. Did I mention the keys have adjustable brightness back lightning too. All looking pretty good.
The back camera on the Surface is packing a 8MP rear camera, which does a pretty good job at taking good shots. But using a tablet as a camera is a pretty polarising activity. If you were to use the camera to take a photo of some written notes on paper or a whiteboard then this is more than useable. The 5MP front facing camera is more than useable to do a video call too. Again who uses a front facing camera on a tablet anyway?
Moving over to video. Both cameras perform pretty darn well with enough light. I can’t think of a single use for a rear camera on a tablet in video mode though. So for me it wasn’t and isn’t not going to be used. As far as the front camera goes, whilst I don’t do video calls very often (or when I do I am at home on my desktop), it is again more than useable.
So conclusion time. Yes I would recommend the Surface Pro 4 as a laptop replacement. Especially if all you are using your laptop to do light tasks. Whilst people would argue a Chromebook would be suitable, the Surface Pro 4 allows you to have full version of Windows and allows you to utilise Windows programs which is part of the reason why I purchased it. The felt keyboard is another thing that I like. Plenty of machines use plastic or aluminium, so the felt is a very nice change. Battery life is also great. I love not having to plug it in at college. But by far one of the best parts for me is its weight and size. The 12.3 inch screen has plenty of room for productivity. The weight is probably my favourite part at 800g, I tend to forget that it’s in my backpack which is a great thing when I’m riding my motorcycle. My old Asus weighed 2.3kg and it was really quite annoying. Most of the time it was very noticeable on my back and would leave me with a pulling feeling on my shoulders whilst wearing it. Not anymore!
The cost is where it gets a bit of a tough one really. I paid £699 courtesy of a sale. It’s usually £849 for the Surface Pro 4 itself and £109.99 for the keyboard. That’s £958.99 in total. For that money you could buy a MacBook or any other i5 dual core laptop. If you were to spend about £50 more you could buy the Dell XPS 13 or even a HP Spectre which could be argued would be a bit of a step up in the pure “laptop” stakes. But part of the reason why it is so expensive is that it features the word Pro in it’s name. If you want a thin and light device that is a 2-in-1 and you don’t mind spending a few bob, then the Surface Pro 4 is great choice and is prehaps the only 2-in-1 choice you should be considering. Just don’t be too hasty and buy it from the Microsoft store. Look on trusted third party sites such as PC World as they will often have the keyboard bundled in for a lower price. After you’ve found it for the right price, simply enjoy!