Since the launch of the first Surface Pro at the end of 2012, Microsoft is struggling to impose its high-end tablet on the market. Microsoft has repeatedly told us that its hybrid machine could play both the role of tablet and laptop. With this fourth version, the manufacturer finally hopes to make us adopt his slate to the detriment of our traditional laptop. Will Microsoft succeed in the challenge and create an added value in the market?
Before answering this question, we should highlight the fact that Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a product of the two-in-one type; one takes advantage of a large tablet of 12.3 inches Windows 10 equipped with a stand for good stability. As an option, the machine comes with a keyboard that fits on the lower part, which gives the PC set and acts as a protection for the screen when folded down. In short, Surface Pro 4 promises versatility to any test.
The aesthetic differences between Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4 seem to be very discreet. At first glance, the two 12.3-inch tablets do not stand out. They kind of look like identical. Microsoft keeps the same general design; the device is presented with slightly beveled edges and an aluminum coating on the sides and the back. The stand system is also back, offering a maximum angle of 150 degrees and excellent stability. However, the disadvantages of this kind of products are always the same: the use of the machine on the knees with the keyboard plugged remains rather impractical. It is, therefore, advisable to find a flat and stable surface for a convenient use. The goal is to offer the best visual comfort and the best input mode on the virtual keyboard or with the pen delivered.
Microsoft, on the other hand, focuses on some important aspects. The thickness of the shelf increases to 8.45 mm, while the weight does not exceed 806 grams without the keyboard and 1.13 kg with the keyboard and stylus attached. At the front, the Surface Pro 4 displays significantly lower screen margins compared to the Surface Pro 3, which allows us to gain a slight diagonal screen (from 12 to 12.3 inches) while maintaining the same dimensions for the body of the apparatus. The USB 3 port is always present on the right side, accompanied by a mini DisplayPort just above and there is a microSD port behind the stand.
The two main improvements are certainly on the side of the input devices. The stylus, supplied with the tablet, thus intends to provide optimum comfort, while the keyboard, sold separately, finally displays keys separated from each other. No major change was applied on the keyboard, it is always available as an option, it retains its “felted” coating, and can be arranged in two different ways: flat on the desktop or slightly inclined, magnetized to the shelf. The good news for old users is that this new keyboard and this new stylus can be used with the Surface Pro 3 as well.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is obviously an extremely well-designed product. When it comes to the screen, the Surface Pro 4 is equipped with a glossy IPS panel of 12.3 inches 3: 2 format, the definition is also better with 2736 by 1824 pixels compared to 2160 by 1440 pixels on the 3rd version. Given the excellent quality of the Surface Pro 3 screen, we were rather confident about the results of this new generation, and we are clearly not disappointed. With a Delta E of 1.6, a contrast ratio of 958: 1, a maximum brightness of 374 cd / m² and a reflection rate of only 10%. On average, the Surface Pro 4 is 1262: 1 while the previous version was just over 900: 1. Clearly, in a room illuminated, the Surface Pro 4 manages to fight efficiently against the reflections of light. The Surface Pro 4 screen is one of the best in this category of products. Better say, it’s good but not ecstatic for a tablet sold at this high price.
To take over the processor side, Microsoft used the Intel Skylake generation. There is a Core M3-6Y30 version and, for the high end, a Core i7-6650U version. The Core i5 we tested here (two cores, frequencies ranging from 2.4 GHz to 3 GHz in Turbo mode) delivers a very good performance. Only the HP Specter x360 does better. The Surface Pro 4, in its version under Core i5, offers performances sufficiently good to guarantee a complete and versatile use. Windows 10 is very fluid in all circumstances, including a start in 8 seconds and a shutdown in 4 seconds. However, the limitations of the machine are felt through the use of advanced photo or video editing tools.
The audio part of the Surface Pro 4 is actually good compared to other devices of the same category of machines. The headphone output offers a clear sound. The frequency response is good, which allows delivering the sound as neutral as possible to the headphones. The loudspeakers, for their part, are fairly balanced. That said, at maximum volume, it is quite possible to enjoy a series or a film or a good playlist without too much distortion.
Probably, the Surface Pro 4 is a highly mobile and easy to put in a handbag, especially as it comes with a small charger. On the other hand, the discourse is not quite the same when one tackles its autonomy.
The purpose of an ultraportable or tablet is to be sufficiently enduring able to hold a day away from the power outlet. In this regard, Microsoft announces up to 9 hours of video playback on the Surface Pro 4. In practice, this figure unfortunately seems somewhat exaggerated. Our test under Netflix (brightness at 200 cd / m², headphones connected, detached keyboard) held for the battery holds an average of 5 hours 30 minutes only. That’s little, especially compared its competitors. In Wi-Fi surfing, one can envisage a little more than 7 hours of “office” use, which is correct, but far behind other machines. With the keyboard connected and the backlight of this last cut, we arrive at barely more than 5 hours. Note that, theoretically, the Core M3 processor version, running without a fan, should be significantly more enduring.
The tablet from Microsoft is back indeed and in this fourth version, it intends more than ever to replace our laptop. There’s also the heavy task of imposing the brand Microsoft in the world of high-end mobile computing equipment, facing the cohort of Ultrabook PCs.
But now we have an excellent screen, a quality design and a good performance accompanied with a keyboard and stylus that are very successful. However, the keyboard is always sold separately and the autonomy is less than expected.
Unfortunately, its autonomy disappoints us somewhat and it seems very difficult to envisage a day of use without having to carry the charger. This is a very important criterion when purchasing this type of machine.
On a final note, even though the Surface Pro 4 corrects many of the defects of the Surface Pro 3, it does not yet replace, in our opinion, a traditional ultraportable. Even if it is close to do so, it remains too expensive. Addition to the 1450 euros of the tablet, we must add the price of the keyboard (150 euros). For an equivalent price, the MacBook Pro 13 Retina is a solid alternative in the Mac world and in the PC world, the Specter x360 (Core i5 version) of HP, for example, remains a safe choice for about 500 euros less.