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Mi­crosoft gets its mojo work­ing with a groovy new Win­dows 10 tablet. So hold fire on buy­ing a new lap­top un­til you read this

Mi­crosoft has its mojo back. The Sur­face Pro 3 showed that the com­pany’s tablets have come a long way since the dis­as­ter that was the Sur­face RT. The Sur­face Pro 4 is the most an­tic­i­pated com­puter in ages. Can it live up to ex­pec­ta­tions? Can it con­vince us to ditch lap­top for tablet?

Well, that de­pends on whether you pre­fer lap­tops to tablets – but there’s never been a bet­ter time to take the plunge. The Sur­face Pro 4 isn’t the rad­i­cal over­haul its pre­de­ces­sor was, but it ben­e­fits from nu­mer­ous sub­tle im­prove­ments. It’s it­er­a­tive in the best sense of the word.

The sleek, all-magnesium uni­body chas­sis is un­mis­tak­ably Sur­face and feels pre­mium to boot. The tablet sits nicely in the palm of the hand, thanks to its cham­fered edges and the dis­play’s pa­per-shaped 3:2 as­pect ratio. The fact that it’s 7mm thin­ner and 0.7lbs lighter this time around only adds to the com­fort fac­tor.

The bezel sur­round­ing the dis­play has been slimmed down, en­abling Mi­crosoft to in­crease the screen size from 12 to 12.3 inches. That doesn’t sound much, but the ex­tra space makes a real dif­fer­ence when it comes to pro­duc­tiv­ity, watch­ing video or play­ing games. Thank­fully, the bezels aren’t so thin that you’ll mash the screen with your thumbs when hold­ing the de­vice in tablet mode.

By do­ing away with the ca­pac­i­tive Win­dows but­ton, Mi­crosoft was able to in­crease the screen size with­out al­ter­ing the tablet’s di­men­sions. That’s ex­cel­lent news for Sur­face Pro 3 own­ers, who can use their old key­board, dock ac­ces­sories and Sur­face Pen with the Sur­face Pro 4.

Around the back, there’s a mul­ti­po­si­tion kick­stand. It’s sturdy and makes it easy to in­ter­act with the tablet at any an­gle when propped up on a hard sur­face. But it still has a ten­dency to wob­ble and even fall off your lap if you’re not care­ful. The new key­board cover does lit­tle to help with this, which is a shame be­cause it’s su­pe­rior in ev­ery way to the Sur­face Pro 3’s mushy-keyed Type Cover.

Snap to it The Sur­face Pro 4 key­board sports is­land-style keys sim­i­lar to those on lap­tops and, de­spite be­ing on the shal­low side, they’re snappy and re­spon­sive. Com­bined with per-key back­light­ing and a thin­ner de­sign, it all makes for an ac­ces­sory that al­most jus­ti­fies the hefty £110 price tag.

The Sur­face Pro 4’s bright­est fea­ture – lit­er­ally – is the gor­geous

dis­play. It’s in­cred­i­bly vi­brant, to the point where you can use the tablet out­side on a sunny day and read web­sites with­out squint­ing. Deep, but not over-the-top, colour sat­u­ra­tion lends images an im­pres­sive hue.

Pack­ing a pixel res­o­lu­tion of 2,736 x 1,824, it’s also one of the sharpest screens on any tablet. The Sur­face Pro 3’s 216ppi (pix­els per inch) was hardly bad, but at 267ppi the Sur­face Pro 4’s dis­play ups the clar­ity a notch or two. It nar­rowly beats the 264ppi on Ap­ple’s iPad Pro, and far sur­passes the 13-inch MacBook Air’s 128ppi. Your eyes soon ad­just to its crisp fonts and sharp lines, and even Net­flix binges are en­joy­able thanks to the IPS dis­play’s wide view­ing an­gles.

Be­ing a tablet dis­play, it’s meant to be touched. Whether you’re prod­ding at menus with your fin­ger or draw­ing us­ing the re­designed Sur­face Pen, touch in­ter­ac­tion is a de­light.

Mi­crosoft moved the Sur­face Pro 4’s power and vol­ume keys to the de­vice’s top edge to free up the left­hand side of the tablet, which now houses a re­in­forced mag­net used for snap­ping the Sur­face Pen into place when not in use.

jot lag

Draw­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties have im­proved on each Sur­face tablet, and the Sur­face Pro 4 con­tin­ues the trend. The ever so slightly longer and thicker Sur­face Pro 4 Pen sports 1,024 lev­els of pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity, up from 256, which makes for more ac­cu­rate strokes. It hasn’t elim­i­nated lag com­pletely, but it’s good enough to jot down notes with speed.

The top eraser but­ton en­ables you to ac­ti­vate OneNote with a dou­ble click, while a long press springs Cor­tana into ac­tion. Bet­ter yet, Mi­crosoft claims that the new Sur­face Pen can last for up to 12 months on a sin­gle AAAA bat­tery.

The Sur­face Pro 4 runs Win­dows 10 Pro, which in­tro­duces a bold, trans­par­ent in­ter­face that shines on the Sur­face Pro 4’s dis­play. The Start screen is out and the Start menu is (back) in, which makes the de­vice feel more like a tra­di­tional lap­top than a tablet most of the time.

Thank­fully, Mi­crosoft’s lat­est OS makes switch­ing be­tween modes much more seam­less than Win­dows 8.1 on the Sur­face Pro 3 ever did. Win­dows 10 hides the task bar and max­imises the cur­rent ap­pli­ca­tion to fill the dis­play. This makes it quick and easy to de­tach the key­board, launch an app and switch to a tablet-friendly view. Fir­ing up the Spo­tify app and switch­ing modes, for ex­am­ple, lets you pass the tablet among friends to

queue up and play tracks with­out the desk­top get­ting in the way.

Win­dows 10’s Universal Apps are usu­ally bet­ter de­signed for both desk­top and touch, but some, such as Ama­zon’s Kin­dle app, are buggy, while oth­ers fail to re­spond to touch com­pletely. That’s frus­trat­ing, and the ex­cite­ment of be­ing able to switch from, say, edit­ing in Fi­nal Cut Pro or Pho­to­shop on the desk­top, to sit­ting back with an eBook, is soon damp­ened by apps that half-bake touch sup­port, if they in­clude it at all.


The Sur­face Pro 4 comes in two flavours, de­pend­ing on the level of horse­power. The first, which is pow­ered by an In­tel Core M pro­ces­sor backed up by 4GB of RAM, is suit­able if you’re only look­ing to do the ba­sics.

It’s the cheaper op­tion, but not rec­om­mended if you’re plan­ning on delv­ing into heavy multi-task­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as edit­ing large im­age and video files, or hook­ing up the Sur­face Pro 4 to an ex­ter­nal dis­play for catch­ing up on pro­fes­sional work us­ing mul­ti­ple browsers.

If that’s you, opt for one of the other ver­sions, which of­fer more grunt for chew­ing through tasks (ei­ther an In­tel Core i5 with 8GB of RAM or an i7 with 16GB of RAM). Just don’t ex­pect them to do mod­ern PC games any jus­tice: the In­tel graph­ics cards in­side sim­ply aren’t up to the task.

The Sur­face Pro 4 can only be equipped with a fast SSD for stor­age, start­ing at 128GB, ris­ing to 256GB and top­ping out at 512GB. Boot times are prac­ti­cally in­stan­ta­neous, trans­fer times are nippy com­pared to tra­di­tional hard drives, and you’re rarely wait­ing for apps to load.

The Sur­face Pro 4’s bat­tery life is good but not great, clock­ing in at around seven hours in T3’ s tests, which sim­u­lated ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties (brows­ing the in­ter­net, YouTube, doc­u­ment-edit­ing and light gam­ing) with bright­ness set to 75 per cent.

The tablet has a 5.0-megapixel cam­era on the front that can record 1080p video and take pass­able snaps, but it won’t make you want to ditch your smart­phone. Its rear-fac­ing cam­era has an 8.0-megapixel sen­sor that’s slightly bet­ter qual­ity.

If you do take images, they can be eas­ily trans­ferred to a mi­croSD card or stor­age stick thanks to the on-board USB 3.0 port. Other ports in­clude a head­phone jack and a Mini Dis­playPort for hook­ing up an ex­ter­nal mon­i­tor.

Over­all, the Sur­face Pro 4 has built on what made the Sur­face Pro 3 spe­cial in the first place. The hard­ware was al­ready im­pres­sive enough, but no­body is ever likely to com­plain about a more por­ta­ble tablet. Any changes to the de­sign are rooted in prac­ti­cal­ity, which is helped by markedly im­proved ac­ces­sories.

dou­ble value

It’s un­doubt­edly Mi­crosoft’s best tablet yet, and yes, you could re­place your lap­top with one. But would you want to? The Sur­face Pro 4 is great for do­ing desk­top ac­tiv­i­ties on a smaller screen, and if you’re also seek­ing a tablet, it of­fers dou­ble the value.

On the other hand, its flimsy (al­beit im­proved) key­board means that the tablet will never sit quite as com­fort­ably on your lap as a lap­top (the clue’s in the name), and its bright, high-res­o­lu­tion dis­play comes at the ex­pense of all-day bat­tery life.

Draw­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties have im­proved on each Sur­face, and the Pro 4 con­tin­ues the trend nick odant zis, deputy ed­i­tor

WI NDOWS WON­DER Hav­ing Win­dows 10 on board makes tran­si­tion­ing from lap­top to tablet mode quick and easy, but many apps aren’t op­ti­mised for touch just yet

Con­nec­tiv­ity in­cludes USB 3.0, mi­croSD, a head­set jack and a Mini Dis­playPort

The rear-fac­ing 8.0-megapixel cam­era is su­pe­rior to the 5.0-megapixel op­tion on the front

The pixel-packed Pix­elSense Dis­play lets you view pho­tos and videos in pris­tine de­tail

The stun­ning dis­play makes for a vis­ual feast

Bat­tery life is de­cent, but for­get all-day use

Many Win­dows apps are buggy. Sort it out!

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