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. Also John Lewis was 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 as a way of getting straight onto the internet. (My local Starbucks does have free wi-fi, but it’s crap and rarely works properly.) The Pro 4 quickly found my connection and it was then just a matter of logging on with my Microsoft account. The usual boxes to select / de-select various options common to any Windows 10 install. 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. It wanted to enable some graphics drivers that 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 it’s 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 blocking the screen or leaving greasy finger marks. I suspect for many people the pen will be one of those “like it or hate it” devices. I also suspect majority will not bother with it once it’s novelty has worn off. For me though a fully integrated pen functionality is one of the reasons I chose this 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. From reviews I’ve read they talk about 6 to 7 hours of use. This 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. Adding the keyboard cover and it almost matches the Air. I could of course not bother with the keyboard 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 full 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.

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