Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 First Impressions / Review.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

My Surface Pro 4

I have just got hold of a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 so thought I’d give some first impressions. There are very much ‘first’ as in it was just a couple of days ago that I got it from my local John Lewis store.

(I had not intended to get the Pro 4 but wait till the 5, however recent press comments indicated that the 5 may not come out till next year. I don’t mind waiting a few months but not a year, plus John Lewis were having a bit of an Easter promotion.)

As soon as I had my hands on the box it was straight to my favourite Starbucks, get a coffee, then head to the upstairs seating area and ‘investigate’.

Inside the box was the Surface Pro 4, a power supply unit, its Surface pen, and a sticky-back loop of material as a pen holder (if you want to fit it). Also an instruction manual whose content can be summarised in one sentence… Switch on and follow the screen instructions.

Before powering up I set up my phone as a mobile hot-spot (my local Starbucks does have free wi-fi, but it’s crap and rarely works properly) as a way of getting straight onto the internet. The Pro 4 quickly found my connection and it was then just a matter of logging on to Windows with my Microsoft account. The usual boxes to select / de-select various options common to any Windows 10 install, and within a few minutes (and it really was just a few minutes) Windows was up and running and was I downloading my usual things like Firefox, Dropbox and all that stuff.

After about 5 minutes I did get a prompt asking for a re-boot in order to enable some graphics drivers that Windows had been downloading in the background. One thing to note; it wanted a proper switch off then switch on, don’t get tricked into putting it to sleep then waking it up thinking you have re-booted!

I have a mid range model; i5 processor, 8 gig RAM, 256 gig SSD; and is exactly as I would expect, fast and snappy to use. The screen is really nice (and I mean *really nice*). It’s bright and crisp, and the touch aspect of it has worked well.

Surface 4 Keyboard

Surface 4 Keyboard

I also got its keyboard / track-pad cover. First impressions of this are also positive. The keyboard has a nice feel to it and is as good as I could expect from such a device. The track pad I’ll class as fully workable. It’s not brilliant, I’ve used far better, but still a perfectly good practical mouse substitute.

As for the touch pen, it’s slightly fiddly to use but I like this idea of being able to precisely touch or select a point on the screen without having your hand cover half the screen or worry about leaving greasy finger marks. I suspect for many people the pen will be one of those “like it or hate it” devices with the majority not bothering with it once the novelty of it has worn off. For me though fully integrated pen functionality is one of the reasons I bought the device.

I’ll need to use it far more as a keyboard-free item before I can make much of a comment on how good it is to use as a pure tablet-type machine.

The one thing I am disappointed with, and I knew this before I got it, is that Microsoft has gone down the route of using its own connector for power. I, like many others, wish they’d gone the USB route. Never mind, I can live with this.

Surface 4 high angled

Screen high angle

I can’t at his stage comment too much on battery life as I’ve not had it long enough to draw any real conclusions, however from reviews I’ve read that talk about 6, perhaps 7 hours of use seems consistent with what I’ve seen so far.

Other negatives; the keyboard cover, as nice as it is as a keyboard, is structurally fairly flexible. When resting on a firm surface like a table this is not a problem, but when resting across your knees it flexes a little too much for comfort.

Surface screen low angle

Screen low angle

It’s a bit heavier than I expected. The basic tablet weight is mid way between my iPad Mini 2 and my old (2011) 11 inch MacBook Air, however add the keyboard cover and it almost matches the Air. I could of course not bother with the keyboard cover when out-and-about, however I’ll want something to protect the machine when it’s inside my bag, so if I’m going to have a cover it might as well be the keyboard one. Neither of these two things are in any way deal-killers, just minor irritations.

So, overall first Surface Pro 4 impressions… I have NO regrets in buying this over the similar sized iPad Pro (despite being an Apple user), especially as the Surface Pro runs a full desk-top operating system rather than the iPad’s iOS one, originally designed for mobile phones.

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