My Surface Pro 4 Experience so far

I made the decision to buy a Surface Pro 4 shortly after Microsoft revealed the new machine. I always liked the idea behind the machine especially since much of the hardware and the operating system came from a single company which reminded me a lot of Apple devices.

While not all of the hardware comes from Microsoft, the processor is powered by Intel for instance, my hope was that the device would benefit from this.

The main reason why I bought a Surface 4 was that I was going on a trip to Asia in early 2016 and needed a new portable device that would allow me to work from there.

So, my main requirements were that the machine was not too heavy, that the screen was good, that I could attach a keyboard to it that would not slow me down, and that battery life would get me through a day without recharging.

The Surface Pro 4 that I bought

You can select one of the available five default Surface Pro 4 devices on Microsoft's Store, or a custom option that is not available in all countries.

I picked one of the cheaper models, powered by an Intel Core i5 processor (i5-6300U) and 4 Gigabyte of RAM as I had no plans to run taxing applications on the device.

The jump to the 8GB Ram 256 Gigabyte hard drive model cost $300 more at that time. More RAM and storage would have been nice, but since I needed the device only for writing, research, some Netflix watching and light Internet browsing, it was not really something that I needed desperately.



Apart from the device itself, I selected a Surface Pro 4 Type Cover to go along with it which added another $129.99 to the purchase price.

All in all, I paid a bit more than $1000 for the Surface Pro 4.

My Surface Pro 4 Experience

surface pro 4

I did not use the device much at home before the planned trip to Asia. What I did though was set it up for the trip which included the following steps:

  1. Download and install all updates available for the device.
  2. Configure privacy related settings on the device running Windows 10.
  3. Install software like Firefox, Chrome, QuiteRSS, Thunderbird, KeePass and a dozen other programs.
  4. Install security software like EMET, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro and Bitdefender Free.
  5. Migrate email accounts, data from WinSCP and other applications to the device and test them to make sure everything was working fine.

I used the Surface Pro 4 almost exclusively the last two days before the journey as I wanted to make sure that I had everything that I needed set up correctly on the device.

Positive experience

The Surface Pro 4 is a lightweight device even if you attach a Type Cover 4 to it. While it is probably not the lightest device around there, barely anyone should have troubles lugging it around for a day.

The Type Cover acts as a protective shield if you keep it attached to the device which is quite nice as well as it protects the screen from damage when attached to it.

Battery life is quite good, at least when compared to my previous laptops. With the right power settings, I was able to get a full day's worth of work out of the device without recharging it.

This is however not the case if you happen to watch videos or play games on the device as battery drains quickly in this case.

The device charges quickly, great for a quick recharge at the airport or coffee shop.

The Type Cover 4 is an excellent keyboard for a mobile device. While it is not on-pair with a solid mechanical keyboard that I use on my desktop computer (Das Keyboard review), it worked surprisingly well for the most part.

Read also:  USB 3.2 promises twice the performance of USB 3.1

The layout of the keyboard needs some getting used to time though as keys are not always where you'd expect them. There is no numpad for instance, the arrow keys are beneath the Shift key on the right-side, and the Print, Pos and End keys have been added to the top key row.

The Surface Pro 4 shines when it comes to the display it ships with. It runs at a 2736 x 1824 resolution, and is incredibly crisp and sharp.

The not-so-good experience

Probably the biggest disappointment is the pen that Microsoft ships with the device. I had high hopes for the pen hoping that it would allow me to write on the screen like I would on paper.

The main issue that I have with it is that there is still a noticeable delay when you are using the pen. While I only ran writing tests, I imagine the same is true if you want to use the pen for drawing or other activities.

The experience is simply not there yet, and I rarely use the pen on the device especially since you cannot use it to scroll inside windows.

That's another issue I have with it. While you can use it to scroll using the scrollbar of a window, you cannot use it to scroll inside the window directly. You have to use your finger to do that which works just fine.

Another issue that I ran in occasionally was that the Surface sometimes did not detect the Type Cover during log on. It would launch the on-screen keyboard despite the fact that the Type Cover was connected to the device.

Typing on the keyboard did not work, and I had to use the on-screen keyboard to log on to the system. The keyboard worked again afterwards though which made this a puzzling issue.

Microsoft ships the Surface Pro 4 with only one USB 3.0 port. This may not be a problem for all users, but if you plan to connect multiple USB devices to the Surface, you need to purchase an USB hub to do that.

I could not connect my smartphone, the external hard drive that I bought, a computer mouse, and my photo camera to the Surface 4 Pro at the same time because of it (I did not buy a hub).

It is manageable, but far from comfortable. To transfer photos from my camera to the external drive, I had to first connect the camera to the Surface, transfer the photos to it, then connect the external hard drive to transfer the photos from the Surface to the drive. Last but not least, I had to delete the photos on the Surface.

I had to disconnect the mouse from the device as well to connect any of the other devices to it.

The price of the Type Cover keyboard is steep. At $130, it costs nearly as much as a professional mechanical keyboard but does not deliver the same value in my opinion. It is still recommended to get a keyboard if you plan to do any writing on the device.

Closing Words

Microsoft improved its Surface line with every iteration, and the Surface Pro 4 is no exception to that rule.

It is a very good device that still has a couple of issues that the company needs to address in future versions, or correct through firmware updates.

Would I buy it again? Yes, I would.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Surface Pro 4
Author Rating
4

Please share this article

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail



Responses to My Surface Pro 4 Experience so far

  1. Anonymous February 18, 2016 at 10:06 am #

    You should have got the HP Pro X2 612 which is HP's detachable and rotatable tablet similar to Surface but with a concave Home button so you never press it accidentally. It has dual cameras with flash and autofocus and all the sensors (light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, location sensor).

    I got it for $500 with a backlit power keyboard included which also doubles up as another battery. It can run Windows 7/8.1/10. It has Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, Synaptics touchpad with physical buttons (I can even middle click by pressing 2 buttons at once) and it also has multitouch gestures, a less compromised keyboard with all keys in usual position (Mute, Pause/Break, Print screen, Insert, Delete, Home, End, Pg Up/Down). Dual Battery (one each in top and bottom part) means it doesn't topple easily like Surface Pro does. The typing feel of the keyboard is superb.

    HP gave it THREE USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports (one of them can also be used for fast charging of mobile devices), a microSD card slot, a full SD card slot, a microSIM slot, memory card reader, smartcard reader, Headphone out/mic in combo, a fingerprint reader that works (I use it daily), full DisplayPort out, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet in the base keyboard, M.2 SATA SSD, a TPM for BitLocker and Secure Boot, Bluetooth 4.1, Wireless 802.1ac 2x2 MIMO antennas and a GPS. On Windows 10, it has latest NDIS and WDDM 2.0 drivers for Miracast/Intel WiDi.

    HP designed it to be PC-first and tablet-second. The display is 12.5 inch 1920 x 1080 full HD so it's high resolution enough but doesn't drain battery, nor is DPI scaling in Windows such a huge problem compared to 2736 x 1824. The stylus is battery-free since it has a Wacom EMR (Electromagnetic Resonance) digitizer with a fast responsive pen. Plus you can assign the button on the pen to do right click/middle click/scroll - anything. The base keyboard is always detected reliably.

    The downside: it is heavy (4 lbs) due to two batteries but as a detachable tablet, it's only slightly heavy - you get used to it. Also, the screen is slippery with the pen but if you put a screen protector, the slipperiness goes away.

    • dan February 18, 2016 at 10:23 am #

      Did you buy your HP Pro X2 612 used? On Amazon, this tablet--without keyboard--costs over $1,200... the keyboard alone costs over $200. Looks like a nice kit, though.

      • Anonymous February 18, 2016 at 10:45 am #

        Nope I got a refurbished piece from eBay but it was lightly used. (SSDLife shows less than 24 hours of use).

  2. Nerdebeu February 18, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    I bought the same model that you and use it for two weeks.
    I'm really surprised for the pen that I find very reactive. Compared to a Surface Pro 1 is the day and night. I have no latency with one of the Surface 4.
    I read that some people complained about the same problem as you and that one solution was to reinstall the driver. But maybe the big update this morning will fix your problem.

    • Amit Mehta February 18, 2016 at 11:19 am #

      On an i7 model, the pen is smooth and with practically no latency - hopefully, with the sleep problem resolved in the update this morning, this should be one of the most revolutionary devices in the past few years...

  3. CHEF-KOCH February 18, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    Why I can't rate all articles? Sadly.

    Besides this nice article. Maybe more screenshots would be helpful from the backside and battery and such to get an overview if it's easy possible to change some components or not.

    • chronnick February 18, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

      How are you living your life? How did you come to this article not knowing what a Microsoft Surface is? Seriously, ghacks is dope, but this is the first time you're hearing about the Surface? And on a super-tech-savvy site?

  4. Teddy's Tiles February 18, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Good review. My SP4 has been life-changing, personally, but then I've always owned desktops. I'm obviously very familiar with laptops, having been issued them, using them, repairing them, but have never had one as a daily driver because of the hardware limitations and price. I owned a few cheapo tablets, but nothing productive. I just needed something to finally fill the gap between work PC and home PC, and wasn't willing to sacrifice functionality (like going to a mobile OS) and in fact required MORE functionality (I decided that any portable device I ever bought in the future would have to have a great pen experience to eliminate as much paper from my life as possible). The Surface is the perfect "between-PCs" PC, and supplements me at work (a great meeting machine for recording, note taking, presenting) and home (working/recreating/sketching on the couch, in bed, on vacation). In a word: perfect.

    I have the same model as you and, while the latency for the pen is noticeable at first, I write on it daily for quite a long time. I've even started sketching again, using Autodesk Sketch and the pen! I don't notice the latency at all any more, and neither do the many artists who have adopted the Surface Pro line for their needs. I also haven't seen the keyboard issue at login; but I use Hello (another revolutionary feature!) which may be why.

    My biggest beef is that Microsoft dropped the price by $100, added a Surface Dock for free (on 2/14), and announced a new Display Adapter; all within a month of me buying all of those things. Wow.

  5. Nilpohc February 18, 2016 at 10:30 pm #

    Interesting review. I own a Surface Pro 3 and after reading the "not-so-good experience" section, I can tell that nothing big has changed ever since :

    - Poor pen sensivity : I have better results with either my finger or a compatible generic pen
    - Type cover frequently not detected : patience is the key. It usually starts to work again after a few days or weeks.
    - 1 USB port only : it's fine for me, I only need one.

    So much for the improvements ;-) not mentionning other issues (unstable wireless connectivity).

    • Anonymous February 27, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

      If you disconnect the type cover and reconnect it, the Surface usually picks it back up. I know we shouldn't need to use this workaround, but it does get past the problem.

  6. S2015 February 18, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

    @Martin: If I were U, I would choose to downgrade (the preinstalled?) Windows 10 for better performance. Meantime, I just do not like those very potentially unwanted apps even pre-installed programs.

    For more starters, if you have any issues about uninstalling a PUP for your computer, you can get some proactive tips@ http://removeunwantedprograms.wordpress.com/

  7. Marco February 25, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    I switch off the TouchScreen Driver when I use my SurFace Pro 3. Although it should not recognize the palm when I use the pen, it always does a little bit. Switching off the TouchScreen let's me use just he pen. I do have to use it to scroll too which is.. the downside.
    Who needs the touch anyways when using the pen? I do either or.

  8. Pat May 5, 2016 at 6:25 am #

    When you suggest downgrading Win 10... To which version, 8.1 ? Has there been any news of developing an app to use Win 7 desktop version on the Surface? I'm only a prospective buyer of a Surface, at this stage. thanks

  9. Teddy's Tiles May 5, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

    I would never, ever suggest downgrading Win 10 to anything else. Why would you? The OS and hardware are married perfectly together and optimized. With all the work they've been doing on the Skylake drivers for Win10 and the SP4 specifically, I can't even imagine that Win8 or Win7 would do well on an SP4.

Leave a Reply