This month I got the new Surface Pro 4 by Microsoft Switzerland and we could test it for one week. Microsoft has been investing for a longtime into the tablet/laptop technology and today Surface might represent the best alternative of all, far beyond the new iPad Pro that just hit the market in November.
Surface Pro 4, beautiful and elegant design
In terms of design, the new Surface Pro 4 has a modern and qualitative aspect. With its magnesium case and its 786gr, the new Surface Pro 4 has improved what Surface 3 do perfectly with some more advantages. By far it is one of the best good looking tablet in the market with the iPad Pro. Thinner than the Surface Pro 3, the weight is also very well balanced along the entire surface of the tablet, so the feeling is that it is lighter. The Surface Pro 4 has an interesting equation between size and thickness. It really gives you the feeling of an ultra-light laptop rather than a tablet. The case has magnetized parts that allows you to hook in the Surface Pen.
Surface Pro 4, a true connectivity
As a true replacement of your usual laptop (and perhaps even the desktop) the new Surface Pro 4 comes with an interesting connectivity. It features a USB 3.0 port, a micro SD card reader and a mini-display port. This opens the possibilities to many external devices. Until all devices are bluetooth and all files come with your Cloud, the new Surface Pro 4 will definitely help you quit your laptop for good. Last but not least lets highlight as well the mini-display port that will allow you to connect your tablet to any external screen. This will allow you to use a bigger screen for your presentations or even for your office work. I am always wondering how efficient is the SD reader. USB Sticks represent a much wider and flexible storage option with a very low cost as well. SDs can be interesting if your Photo camera works on the same cards.
Surface Pro 4, the Display quality HD multi-usage
The new Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3 inches screen, called Pixel touch display. Apple call it Retina in the iPad and at Microsoft we call it Pixel Touch. Different technology and quite similar quality. The new Surface Pro 4 has an amazing resolution of 2736 x 1824, which makes a 267 dpi which is a little higher than the iPad Pro. I must confess that spending 2,5 hours of intense work in a train with the tablet, my eyes truly appreciate a high-resolution screen that is much more comfortable than a normal screen. Another interesting detail is the fact that the new Surface tablet has a touch screen. I realized that the combination of a keyboard and a touchscreen is definitely an amazing combo. The response rate of the touch screen is very good. The pencil is recognized even before you touch the screen with it and there are some interesting functionalities to raise like the direct usage of One Note just by pressing once on top of the pencil. We feel free on our movements, go directly to the thing we wish to do and keep the efficiency of a good keyboard.
Surface Pro 4, the keyboard is a killer
By far what makes this tablet outstanding is the quality of its keyboard. Each key has a true laptop feeling, it is retro-lighted and has a real true trackpad. Left click and right click, zoom in. zoom out, scroll… basically everything you can do with a true laptop trackpad. If you place the tablet on a table or a solid place, you will be able to have a great experience of typing. An interesting feature with the Surface Pro 4 is that you can re-position the keyboard angle in order to allow you a better comfort and efficiency in use. One little thing we could say about the keyboard is the noise. It sounds more “noisy” than a normal laptop keyboard but it depends alot on what you have placed the tablet on. Users who have purchased the Surface Pro 3, I would definitely recommend to purchase the new keyboard. You will win alot with it, especially if you need to write long reports and emails on the run.
Surface Pro 4, the storage capability is outstanding.
Today, Microsoft offers 4 storage options. From 128GB (which frankly might not be enough), to the monster 1TB (that is really alot), users will be happy to choose the right storage limit that correspond to their needs. Naturally the price will jump from “normal tablet” market to “real laptop here” position, so you better choose well. With the micro SD card slot and the USB 3.0 port you can also extend the capacity with external storage. If you were used to work with external drivers, you can keep them. This is definitely a great addition to the tablet market.
Surface Pro 4, two cameras and the face recognition is on!
The new Surface Pro 4 has 2 cameras, a front camera and a rear one. The front camera is a 5.0 megapixel 1080p HD camera. The read one has 8.0 megapixels auto-focus function and a 1080p HD camera as well. Thanks to the camera you can activate the Windows hello functionality. Windows Hello is a part of the Microsoft Passport credentials technology, which encompasses a mixture of biometric authentication techniques – such as facial and iris recognition or fingerprints, and a more traditional PIN sign in method. It works quite well as the password thing is pretty annoying. I have set the face recognition, so it helps a faster and easier access. Nevertheless, security is kept as you need to have your face in front of the camera.
The Operating System, Windows 10: the weakness.
As you were able to read here above, the new Surface Pro 4 has an amazing hardware. unfortunately the weakness is the operating system. Microsoft has tried very hard to improve Windows and we can say that after some unfortunate misleading with Windows NT and Windows 2000, Windows 8 and 10 have opened a new era in which all Microsoft devices would be treated under the same rule. No matter if it is a smartphone, a laptop or a tablet, all devices would be delivered with the same OS. This is my experience with Windows 10 on the Surface Pro tablet.
The language choice
First of all, the language choice. Switzerland has always been a challenge for foreign companies proposing products and services in the Swiss soil. Switzerland has 4 official languages: German, French, Italian and Romanche. To these 4 languages we can add more than 700 dialects of Swiss German and even English as there are so many foreigners living in Switzerland. So when you need to set up your device or/and services to Switzerland I agree it is a little “complex”. So with the Surface Pro 4 here is what I did. I set up the tablet in English which is the language that I am the most at ease. Then I realized I had a QWERTZU keyboard which is generally the keyboard type for Germany and Switzerland. So I needed to set up the keyboard as Swiss German and the dominant language English. Then I realized that I also express myself in French, German and Portuguese. Imagine the set up I need to have here. Naturally you need to install manually a new language package. At the end I cannot even see which language I am using or even which one should I use the most? Very complex.
Sharing the connection of my phone – limited.
Yesterday morning I took the train for the first time with the Surface Pro 4. As there is no WIFI connection in the train, I shared the internet connection of my phone. I could easily find the phone in the WIFI settings and connect to it. Unfortunately there was a message saying, connection limited. The tablet was trully connected to the phone but there was no internet connection. This was really very weird as it was the first time since 2007 and my first iPhone that I had such issue. I did not know what it was. I tried to explore the WIFI settings and did not find a way to unlimit this limitation. Last resource: I picked up my phone and checked online for an answer.
After typing on Google “Surface Pro 4 limited connection problem iphone” I got easily to a Microsoft page from 2012. This page explains that there is a bug in the OS that requires to restart the tablet everytime you connect to a new phone. I restarted the tablet and truly I solved the problem. Seriously? Anyway, at least I found a solution.
Internet Explorer Edge – took Chrome instead 🙂
With the Tablet, we get the new Internet Explorer Edge or Microsoft Edge. Microsoft Edge is a web browser developed by Microsoft and included in the company’s Windows 10 operating systems, replacing Internet Explorer as the default web browser on all device classes. According to developer Microsoft Edge is designed to be a lightweight web browser with a layout engine built around web standards, and Microsoft has committed itself to updating Edge to embrace new and existing standards that it does not yet support. It lacks support for legacy technologies such as ActiveX in favour of integration with other Microsoft services, such as the digital assistant Cortana and online storage serviceOneDrive. It also includes annotation tools and a reading mode. It was initially developed under the codename “Project Spartan”. Cortana is not yet available in Switzerland yet, so I could not test Siri’s cousin. 🙂 Unfortunately Edge has some issues in terms of language recognition. In the video you will see here below, the software was blocking me to type the words I wanted. I was really annoyed. So I installed Google Chrome. Since then, no problem at all. Sometimes less is more. I must confess that initially I tried to install Safari but Apple just did not launched Safari 6 for Windows. IT was still the 5 version, so Chrome was a much better deal.
Microsoft Office 365, easy to install.
One of my urgent needs was the MS Office. Without it I could barely do anything. Last month I got to test the new MS Office 365, so I decided to give it a go and install it in the new Surface Pro 4. I logged in from the tablet to my Microsoft account and I could install the new office in less than 15 minutes. I was on WiFi. You can read my full review here. I believe it was the fastest and easiest installation of MS office I have ever done. Everything works very well and all functionalities, including the Surface Pencil is well integrated.
Surface Pro 4 and my blogger life.
My greatest interest was to test the new Surface Pro 4 as a blogger and see how useful it would be for me. In general this experience has shown that nomadic people definitely need ultra-portability with power and true hardware. The new Surface Pro 4 has definitely a great advantage to most of laptops. Naturally it all depends on what you are trying to do. In order to summarize my experience, here are the Pros and Cons for a blogger life.
- Ultra-light, ultra-portable, perfect for a nomadic life
- Very elegant and edgy, so good to have it in a “representation mode”
- Full compatible with OneDrive and MS Office 365
- 9 to 10 hours of autonomy, great for outdoor work
- Connectivity is perfect. Blogger means loads of USB sticks still
- A very comfortable keyboard for hours of typing.
- 8 Megapixel HD camera for in-situe photos and films
- Not very easy to type on the keyboard while sitting in a chair with the tablet on my lap.
- If you are (like me) used to Macbook Pro, you definitely miss power here.
- The initial moments were pretty frustrating, some would have abandoned.
- Windows 10 is not yet as good as the hardware.
- I will loose the pen. The magnetic area is not enough strong for nomadic use
In general, what can we say about the Microsoft Surface Pro 4? In case you might wonder when you will change your laptop for a tablet, well this is it. The ultra-portability of the device and the association with a true non-mobile operating system will definitely make a big advantage. I believe that many companies will change their hardware from Desktops and laptops to Surface. Check the official website here for more information about the new Surface Pro 4: http://www.microsoftstore.com/
You can also read this other very interesting review here about the Surface Pro 4 by Digitaltrends.com:
It is interesting to see hybrids devices being launched. We started with Phablets, which is an acronysm between phone and tablet. Now with the new Surface Pro 4 we could say it is a Lapblet ? Somewhere between a laptop and a tablet.
Info sourced at Microsoft official communication release and life test. Many thanks to Monika Staubli for the trust and the sharing. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available. Images are for illustration purposes only.