Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review: A Better Laptop Replacement Solution

7.7Expert Score
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review Summary

In her quest to offer users an improved laptop replacement solution, Microsoft has made serious improvements with the design of Surface Pro 4. Both the tablet mode and laptop mode experiences of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 have seen major improvements. For instance, the Stylus pen, as well as the Type Cover, have been significantly improved. Additionally, the Surface Pro 4 runs on Windows 10 OS as opposed to the Windows 8 OS on its predecessor – Surface Pro 3.

Design, Dimension & Weight Review
9
Processor CPU Performance
9
Memory RAM Performance
7
Storage Options & Performance
8
Graphics Card Performance
7
Battery Life & Performance
6
PROS
  • 1. Improved Type Cover and Stylus pen
  • 2. Larger screen although within the same dimension as its predecessor
  • 3. More adjustable kickstand
CONS
  • 1. Battery life is still not impressive
  • 2. Essential Type Cover need to be purchased separately
  • Still just one USB port

Are you in search of a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review? You’re at the right place – read this review carefully to find out all you need to know about Microsoft Surface Pro 4. 

This review is a critical evaluation of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4’s specifications and features. To deliver on this, I will discuss in detail the overall design of the Surface Pro 4.

Additionally, I will also discuss its CPU, RAM, storage, graphics, and battery performances. Furthermore, I will provide results from benchmark tests as well as comparisons with competing devices.

At the end of this review, you will have sufficient knowledge of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Therefore, making an informed purchasing decision.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review: My Initial Thoughts

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review: My Initial Thoughts

Over the past years, Microsoft has made a name in the hardware industry with its line of Surface computers. Surface Pro 4 is one way Microsoft has tried to compete in this crowded 2-in-1 laptop market.  

There have been lots of criticisms about whether the Surface tablets are viable laptop replacements. However, despite these criticisms, Microsoft has gone ahead to release the laptop/tablet combo.

Even after 6 years of its release, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is still in demand.

With the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft has retained the design pattern of its predecessor – Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – and improved on it even further. Microsoft also offered some other improvements in this new model.

Despite these improvements, Microsoft has delivered the Surface Pro 4 at a reasonable price. At the time we published this review, the Surface Pro 4 starts at a price of $299.99. 

With this sufficient introduction of what to expect from the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, let’s get into the details of its design and specifications.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Design, Dimension & Weight Review

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 still maintained the magnesium chassis as its predecessor, Surface Pro 3. Also, it is still a detachable device that can serve as a standalone tablet as well as a laptop.

Moreover, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is still supported by a kickstand when it is propped up. Additionally, the pressure-sensitive stylus pen is still included in the Surface Pro 4.

As a stand-alone tablet, the Surface Pro 4 delivers a seamless experience. The seamless experience is possible with the help of its capacitive touchscreen, Windows 10 OS, and its improved Stylus Pen.

Also, the display width has increased to 12.3-inches compared to the 12-inches on its predecessor. Despite the increased display width, the overall size of the tablet is now smaller in comparison with the Surface Pro 3.

Microsoft achieved the wider screen on the Surface Pro 4 by getting rid of the Windows button found on its predecessor. The button served as the home button for the Windows 8 OS on the predecessor – Surface Pro 3.

However, now that Microsoft Surface Pro 4 runs on Windows 10 OS, there’s no need for the home button. As a result of the absent button, Microsoft has reduced the bezel width by 0.3-inches.

The top bezel houses the front camera which supports Windows Hello. The front camera allows users to log to Windows 10 by scanning their face on the camera*. 

*This feature requires the configuration of Windows Hello Face.

Additionally, the camera is accurate at face identification and most interestingly, it works in the dark.

Turning to the back of the tablet, you’ll find the 1080p resolution rear camera by the center top. Moving to the bottom part of the tablet, you’ll find the kickstand which supports the tablet when propped up. 

Moreover, the kickstand is sturdier than that of the Surface Pro 3 and you can turn it in wider angles. Also, Microsoft has replaced the Surface logo on the predecessor’s kickstand with a mirror-like Microsoft logo. 

Furthermore, as a solution to the problem with the predecessor, the Surface Pro 4’s kickstand now has a rounded edge. Therefore, the round edge of the kickstand prevents it from digging into the thighs when placed on the lap.

The standalone-tablet experience will be incomplete without the pressure-sensitive Stylus Pen. Microsoft has further improved the Stylus Pen of the Surface Pro 4 compared to that of the Surface Pro 3. 

Impressively, the pen has a rubbery tip which feels better at writing than the plastic tip of most styluses.

Moreover, typing on a virtual keyboard can be a less than ideal experience. However, with the new Stylus Pen, the pen will convert your handwriting into text. 

I tested this feature in the browser, by tapping on text fields, a pop-up box takes my handwritten inputs. 

Furthermore, the handwritten inputs are then converted to texts for web searches. The handwriting conversion technology can also be used for composing emails or any other writing activities.

The most interesting addition to the pen is a rubbery eraser button at the end of the pen. You can use the eraser to clean just like you would with a traditional pencil and paper. 

Similar to the predecessor, clicking on the eraser button brings up Onenote – a Microsoft software for writing notes. Therefore, you can take notes just with a click.

There is one great feature of the new Stylos worthy of note. You can magnetically attach the newly improved Stylus to the side of the tablet when not in use.

Thankfully, the magnetic technology is better than the awkward fabric loop for storing the pen in the Surface Pro 3. Most Impressively, the magnetically attached pen stays in place while putting the tablet in and out of the bag.

Moving on to the Type Cover, unfortunately, its extra cost adds to the overall cost of the device. However, the Type Cover is an essential accessory for using the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 as a laptop replacement. 

The Type Cover of the Surface Pro 4 has been greatly improved than that of the Surface Pro 3. The newly improved Type Cover now features a backlit chiclet-styled keyboard with spacious keys.

Speaking of the keyboard, it is similar to the keyboard on actual laptops. The keys have more feedbacks and deeper key travel, therefore, delivering a better typing experience than the Surface Pro 3.

The Type Cover also features a larger and more sensitive trackpad than you’ll find on the predecessor. However, the Type Cover still attaches to the tablet via a magnetic surface connector.

Furthermore, Microsoft has offered a version of the keyboard with a fingerprint sensor for added security. However, as you would expect, the fingerprint keyboard costs more than the regular one.

Let’s talk about ports. Similar to the Surface Pro 3, the Surface Pro 4 has a limited number of ports – compared to regular laptops.

On the right, you’ll find a single USB 3.0 port as well as a mini DisplayPort. Also, on the left, you’ll find the headphone jack and beneath the kickstand, you’ll find the MicroSD card slot. 

Microsoft has provided users with a docking station for port expansion, however, at an extra cost. With the docking station, users can access more USB ports, ethernet ports, and also connect multiple monitors.

Moving on to the size, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is portable and compact therefore, it is a good travel partner. It measures 292 x 201 x 8.45 mm and weighs between 766g to 786g.

In comparison, it is slightly thinner and lighter than the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 3 measures 292 x 201.3 x 9.1 mm and weighs 800g. 

Finally, I will rate the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 a nine for its nice looks and quality design.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Processor (CPU) Performance Review

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Processor (CPU) Performance Review

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 comes in three processor configuration variants. Therefore, users can purchase a model based on the processing power they need.

Firstly, the baseline configuration is the dual-core Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor.  It has a base frequency of 900 MHz, a maximum frequency of 2.20 GHz, and 4 MB cache memory.

Secondly, the mid-range configuration is the dual-core Intel Core i5-6300U processor. It has a base frequency of 2.40 GHz, a maximum frequency of 3.0 GHz, and 3 MB cache memory.

Lastly, the highest configuration is the dual-core Intel Core i7-6650U processor. It has a base frequency of  2.20 GHz, a maximum frequency of 3.4 GHz, and 4 MB cache memory.

The low-power Core m3 processor can perform basic computing tasks. However, to perform more CPU-intensive tasks, higher configurations are recommended.

The model I tested shipped with the mid-range Core i5 processor. To illustrate the processor performance, I performed a CPU-intensive video encoding test.

From the test result, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 completed the encoding in 2 minutes 20 seconds. This performance beats that of the Surface Pro 3 which completed the encoding in 2 minutes 59 seconds.

Additionally, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 also beats the MacBook Air 13-inch. The MacBook Air completed the encoding in 2 minutes 49 seconds.

To further illustrate the processor capabilities, I performed a Cinebench 15 benchmark test. From the result of the test, the Surface Pro 4 scored 307 points.

The performance of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 surpassed that of the predecessor which scored 255 points. The Surface Pro 4’s performance also surpassed that of the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi which scored 254 points.

Finally, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a capable device for handling CPU-intensive tasks. As long as you choose the midrange or the highest configuration, you’re good to go.

Therefore, i’ll rate the processor performance a nine.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Memory (RAM) Performance Review

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has a single DDR3 RAM slot. It supports RAM capacities of 4 GB, 8 GB, and a maximum of 16 GB.

The RAM slot is soldered to the board consequently, the RAM cannot be upgraded. Therefore, users will have to make do with the RAM shipped with the model they bought.

The baseline model with the 4 GB RAM is capable of performing a limited number of tasks simultaneously. However, the model I tested which shipped with an 8 GB RAM was an excellent multitasker.

In the multitasking test I performed, I had about 15 Chrome browser tabs opened. At the same time, an HD video was streaming in the background and I was also editing a large spreadsheet.

Despite these multiple activities running concurrently, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 did not exhibit any slowdowns whatsoever.

To further evaluate the RAM performance of the Surface Pro 4, I performed a PCMark 8 benchmark test. In the test, the Surface Pro 4 scored 2,612 points.

Its performance is slightly beaten by the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi which scored 2,615 points. However, its performance surpassed that of the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14 which scored 2,410 points.

In conclusion, I will rate the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 a seven for its impressive RAM performance.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Storage Options & Performance Review

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Storage Options & Performance Review

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ships with a Samsung NVMe SSD or a Toshiba NVMe SSD based on the configuration. The least capacity it can take is 128 GB while the maximum capacity is 1 TB. 

The unit I reviewed shipped with a 256 GB Toshiba SSD which had about 215 GB of free storage space. Additionally, the remaining 41 GB was occupied by Windows 10 OS and the recovery partition.

The SSD recorded fast transfer rates evident in the CrystalDiskmark benchmark test I performed. Based on the test result, the Surface Pro 4 recorded a sequential read speed of 1061 MBps.

Additionally, the Surface Pro 4 also recorded a sequential write speed of 377.8 MBps.

Furthermore, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has a MicroSD card reader which can be used to expand storage space. The SDcard reader is positioned beneath the kickstand.

In conclusion, I will rate the storage performance of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 an eight. This is based on its performance from the benchmark test.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Graphics Card Performance Review

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 supports 3 integrated graphics configurations.

The least of its configuration is the Intel HD graphics 515. It has a base frequency of 300 MHz and a boost frequency of 850 MHz.

The mid-range configuration is the Intel HD graphics 520. It has a base frequency of 300 MHz and a boost frequency of 1000 MHz.

Finally, the top-end configuration is the Intel Iris Graphics 540. It has a base frequency of 300 MHz and a boost frequency of 1050 MHz.

Although the Surface Pro 4 is not a gaming computer, it is competent enough to play most games in low to medium settings. 

The model I tested shipped with the Intel HD graphics 520. Its performance is slightly higher than that of the Intel graphics 515. 

To illustrate its gaming performance, I played some actual games. Specifically, I played Tomb Raider at different quality settings and resolutions of 1080p.

Based on the result of the test – at ultra settings, the game played at 11.6 fps. Also, at high settings, the game played at 26.1 fps.

Finally, at low settings the game played at 82 fps.

Furthermore, I performed a 3DMark 11 benchmark test to determine the overall graphics performance. Based on the outcome of the test, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 scored 1565 points.

In comparison with the Surface Pro 3 which scored 877 points, the Surface Pro 4 performed significantly better. Also, in comparison with the Dell XPS 13-9343 which scored 1109 points, the Surface Pro 4 performed better.

Finally, the overall graphics performance of the Surface Pro 4 is impressive. However, its gaming performance is below average.

Therefore, I’ll rate it a seven in this regard.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Battery life & Performance Review

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Battery life & Performance Review

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ships with a 38.2 Wh Li-ion battery. For this battery, Microsoft has promised 9 hours of battery life under standard operations.

However, in the battery test I performed which simulates continuous surfing of the web over WiFi, the battery lasted just 6 hours 5 minutes.

Comparatively, its performance is better than that of the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12. The Toshiba lasted 5 hours and 17 minutes in the same test. 

However, the 14 hours battery life delivered by MacBook Air in the same test is still unbeatable.

The battery life of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is passable. However, it is not sufficient for travelers that will be on the move for long.

In conclusion I will rate the battery performance a six.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review: Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Much Does The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Cost?

At the time this review was published – May 2021, the Microsoft Surface Pro cost $299.99.

2. When Was The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Released?

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 was released in October 2015.

3. How Many USB Slots Does The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Has?

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has just one USB port. Users that need more USB ports can purchase a docking station.

4. Does Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Have HDMI?

No, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 does not have an HDMI port. Users that need an HDMI port can purchase a docking station.

5. Does The Surface Pro 4 Have Windows 10?

Yes, Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ships with a Windows 10 OS.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review: My Final Thoughts

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review My Final Thoughts

On a quest to deliver a laptop replacement solution for users, Microsoft has offered the Surface Pro 4. The Surface Pro 4 is a better laptop replacement solution than its predecessor, Surface Pro 3.

Both the tablet mode and laptop mode experiences of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 have seen major improvements. For instance, the Stylus pen, as well as the Type Cover, have been significantly improved.

Additionally, the Surface Pro 4 runs on Windows 10 OS as opposed to the Windows 8 OS on its predecessor – Surface Pro 3.

However, the battery performance is still not sufficient for long hours of commuting. In conclusion, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a better 2-in-1 solution than its predecessor.

I hope you found this Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review helpful? If you found the review helpful, click Yes to “Was this post Helpful?” below.

You could also review this product with the “Leave a Reply” form found at the end of this page.

Finally, for more laptop reviews, visit our Laptop Reviews page. You may also find our Laptop Specs page very helpful.”

Okedigba Dorcas is a technical writer at Itechguides.com. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. She is a web development enthusiast. When she isn’t writing tech guides, she reads or codes web applications.

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