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A detailed hands-on session with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4
By Bryan Chan & Ng Chong Seng - 7 Oct 2015,9:01am

A detailed hands-on session with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4

 

Surface Pro 4 - The tablet that can replace your laptop

The Microsoft Surface Pro is a 2-in-1 tablet/notebook hybrid device that runs full Windows; and for those who remembered, actually didn’t sell very well the first time round in 2013. (The disaster that was Windows 8 didn’t help.) But times have changed. Perhaps Microsoft was ahead of its time, but it certainly looks like consumers today really do want a tablet, but only if they can get real work done on it too. (See exhibits iPad Pro and Google Pixel C.) The Surface Pro’s fortune has been on the up since, and the Surface Pro 3, by all accounts, is a great success.

But it has been 15 months since the Surface Pro 3, and from both hardware and design perspective, it’s starting to look dated. Perhaps Microsoft was waiting for Windows 10 to be ready. Perhaps Microsoft was waiting for Intel’s Skylake chips to be ready. Whatever the case, a new premium Surface running full Windows 10 is now ready; and in fact, there are two of them: Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.

Let’s start off with the highly anticipated Surface Pro 4, which by all means, looks to be the heir to the Surface Pro 3. Sporting a similar overall form factor as its predecessor (so current-gen accessories will still work) but now with a slightly bigger screen (12.3 inches), the continuous kickstand is once again solidly constructed and lets you place the tablet at any angle, and the new Surface Pro Type Cover with its more spaced-out key set and glass trackpad yet another piece of input marvel. Familiar amenities like the full-size USB 3.0 port, SD card slot, and mini-DisplayPort terminal are all present, as are wireless technologies such as Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

And running under the display glass and magnesium alloy case is Intel’s latest 6th-generation Skylake Core processor, so you can be assured that the Surface Pro 4 is equally comfortable crunching numbers in Excel as it is running filters in Photoshop. Interestingly, CPU-wise, the Surface Pro 4 is configurable from an Intel Core M3 chip (a 4.5-watt platform) all the way to a Core i7 (which is up to 15W). Needless to say, there’s a huge price jump if you were to opt for the high-TDP i7 chip; but along with the dedicated eDRAM on this chip, this version may be worth the premium because of its significantly better GPU performances. Other than fast (other hardware include up to 16GB RAM and up to 1TB PCI3 3.0-based SSD storage), I can’t think of a better word to describe the speed of this machine.

Another tentpole feature of the Surface Pro 4 is its 12.3-inch, 10-point multi-touch display, which is both bigger and thinner than the one we saw on the Pro 3. Microsoft even managed to up its resolution to 2,736 x 1,824 pixels. The thinner 0.4mm Gorilla Glass 4 also helps the tablet to achieve its 8.4mm thickness, down from its predecessor’s 9.1mm. In our brief hands-on, this thinner display stack definitely aids in the writing experience. Also, the capacitive Windows button is now gone, so you’ll need to reply on the onscreen button.

Speaking of writing, the Surface Pen has also been updated for the better, and now sports 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. It has magnets, so it attached to the side of the tablet; offers five color options; and supports interchangeable tips (akin to the HB graphite grading scale of regular pencils). Typing-wise, a new Surface Pro 4 Type Cover is also inbound; and as you’d expect, it’s the thinnest and lightest Type Cover yet. Compatible with Surface Pro 3, the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover’s keys have more space between them to prevent typos and are much quieter with more stable key travel. The larger (by 40 percent) 5-point multi-touch trackpad is also welcomed. Alas, this Type Cover is still an optional purchase.

If you’re planning to get the Surface Pro 3, we will say stop and go for the Surface Pro 4 instead. Why? Because it’s better than the Pro 3 in every single way.