Final Words

Going into the Microsoft Devices event earlier this month, there were a lot of questions on my mind in how Microsoft was going to move forward with Surface Pro. There is no doubt that Surface Pro 3 has been a big success for the company after several years of middling results. Would Microsoft move to Core M to reduce the weight and noise, or would they stick with the U series and keep the performance intact? Interestingly the answer was both.

Surface Pro 4 is not the revolution that Surface Pro 3 is, but more of an evolution. A bigger, better display, coupled with the latest in technology under the hood, but in a thinner and lighter device. The display really is fantastic and is easily the best one in a Surface yet. The move to Skylake has also been a big help for Surface Pro. Not only is it much faster – sometimes 50% faster even – but it can keep its performance up in an 8.4 mm thick chassis, which is something that was not true of the previous generation. Microsoft has gone all-in with the hardware, offering up the best of Skylake-U as an option in the Core i7-6650U, including Iris graphics with 64 MB of eDRAM. Memory capacity has been increased to 16 GB, which should be plenty for any workloads that are going to be done on a tablet. The storage changes to NVMe based SSDs has push performance almost as high as it can be in 2015.

The changes to the accessories are maybe the most noticeable changes. The new pen is much softer, and it’s great that you can now choose which pen tip you want to use depending on the situation. But the big story is the improved Type Cover, which went from serviceable to a really great keyboard. The improved key spacing, along with 1.3 mm of travel, has transformed the keyboard feel and made it much easier to type quickly on it. I found myself making a lot less errors because I could always tell if my finger was on a key or maybe between them. Add in the fact that the new one is much stiffer, and you have to wonder if they can improve it anymore than they already have. One of the biggest complaints with the Surface Pro 3 was the tiny trackpad, and that has been very much corrected. The touchpad surface is now glass, and it is much larger than it was in the past, and it really feels like a trackpad should on a small notebook. You can also get the keyboard in even more colors.

The new dock is going to be universal going forward, unlike the previous one which made you insert the Surface Pro 3 into it. No matter what they do with the chassis design, having an external dock which connects over the Surface Connect port is pretty much guaranteed to work.

It is impressive to look at the Surface Pro 4 and just think about how much is packed into such a small and light package. Inside the 12.3-inch tablet is a full Core i5 or i7, 16 GB of memory, and up to 1 TB of storage. Yet the package itself is actually thinner than the Microsoft Surface 3, which is powered by Intel's Atom CPU. That is pretty amazing, and with Surface Pro 4 Microsoft has made it work. The thermal issues are pretty much resolved, despite the thinner chassis, and the fan noise is a lot less noticeable since it almost never needs to kick in.

One thing notably absent from the Surface Pro 4 though is USB Type-C. I feel like they have missed an opportunity here to add one or more USB Type-C ports in addition to the existing Type-A port. USB Type-C is going to be the future, and not having it on a device that is otherwise outfitted with the latest technology feels like it has one foot in the past.

Surface Pro is an expensive tablet. It’s also an expensive Ultrabook. Microsoft is not playing in the land of low margins with this product. Starting at $899 with Core m3, 128 GB of storage, and 4 GB of memory, this tablet is priced as a premium product. It does come with the Surface Pen, but the keyboard is an extra $129, pushing the final price over a cool grand. If this review was two months ago I would say that Microsoft is charging too much for the keyboard, but it appears that they are now the lowest priced keyboard option, with the iPad Pro and Pixel C announced in the last month or so alongside their respective and more expensive keyboards. With the Surface 3, I said the keyboard was somewhat optional, but that’s not the case with the Surface Pro 4. You really do need the keyboard, and at least for the money the accessory is quite good now. The highest price offering, now with Core i7, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage, is a whopping $2199. The 1 TB model will be even more when it comes out. I think the sweet spot is going to be the SKU we were sampled - Core i5 with a 256 GB SSD and 8 GB of RAM - for $1299. That is the price of a good Ultrabook, and not out of the realm for shoppers looking at a premium product.

If you are looking for a workhorse tablet that you can be productive on, I don’t think anyone else offers the build quality, performance, and accessories, compared to Surface. There have been some other devices recently announced in the PC space which are very similar to the Surface, but with Surface Pro 4, Microsoft has raised the bar again.

Wireless, Speakers, Camera and Software
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  • BMNify - Friday, October 23, 2015 - link

    Thanks for an excellent review Brett, would be interesting to see the battery life tests with m3 version, hopefully you can get hold of it later and add the data to the table and also a pipeline post.
  • Superlight - Friday, October 23, 2015 - link

    Man ... Thanks for the PC Mag review. Anandtech has gone so far downhill :(((
  • SaolDan - Friday, October 23, 2015 - link

    Dude when i read your comment i went straight to OMG what a disappointment that was. And the nonstop ads on my phone( Company issued iphone 6 which i hate btw. I was happier with my $35 lumia 635). Anandtech in my opinion is a good as it always has been. If you dont like the reviews here just go away.
  • Klaus.88 - Friday, October 23, 2015 - link

    I have to ask Anandtech: is it possible to have partial results of 3DMark benchamarks and similar? I need the graphic results.

    Thank you
  • Eleveneleven - Friday, October 23, 2015 - link

    What is taking so long on the Surface Book review? Pretty much everyone else has theirs out. The Surface 4 review should have come out AFTER that. That's no where near as significant of a release.
  • ezridah - Friday, October 23, 2015 - link

    Read the beginning of the second paragraph:
  • Eleveneleven - Monday, October 26, 2015 - link

    So? He got that a week ago or longer. Where is his post production unit? A review should be up by now.
  • Eleveneleven - Monday, October 26, 2015 - link

    They're pretty much the only tech review site without a review on it. That looks really bad.
  • val580 - Monday, October 26, 2015 - link

    Yeah I mean I pay them a lot for Christ sake! Give my money back!
  • IntelUser2000 - Sunday, October 25, 2015 - link

    Guesses on the Core m3 and Core i7 with Iris 540:

    Core m3
    -Performance should be quite a lot better and actually not far off from i5 SP3
    -Battery life is probably similar to Core i5 versions. Ideally it should be better but lets see how good Intel does with it
    -This is going to get stiff competition from the A9X chips. It'll probably get beaten in graphics but be better on CPU

    Core i7 with Iris 540
    -30-40% faster in graphics than Core i5 with HD 520. Closer to 30% if eDRAM affects TDP available to CPU/GPU too much, 40% if it doesn't. On the Iris Pro chips the 128MB costs them 3W, 3W is a lot for a 15W chip
    -10-15% better than Core i5 CPU, with ~5% due to eDRAM
    -Battery life might end up somewhat worse. eDRAM adds 0.25W power to idle power.

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