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Surface Pro 4 REVIEW: Microsoft’s hybrid is the laptop of the future

by Brandon Russell | October 22, 2015October 22, 2015 2:55 pm PDT

It was a frightening scene for Microsoft. At an important Surface event last year, there was an overwhelming display of Apple gadgets at its own event. It was like a bad dream, a harsh reality that was on full display. And for a moment, it looked as though Microsoft finally understood just how few people use Windows devices—at least among the tech press, which is who Microsoft was pitching to.

And yet, Microsoft remained unfazed.

Twelve months later, and the company has been completely rejuvenated, back on track with the terrific Windows 10 and some truly innovative gadgets. And while the Surface Book stole the show as its marquee product earlier this month, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 also got an exciting update, one that takes an already wonderful idea and makes it even better. Powerful new guts, improved design, and a screen that’s to die for.

You probably don’t need a Surface Pro 4 if you already have the Surface Pro 3. We want to make sure you know that upfront. But if you’re in the market for something that’s more than your usual laptop fare, Microsoft’s latest update is hard to beat.

There’s always been something special about the Surface Pro, even if nobody really appreciated it when the device first came out. Here was a product that featured a design unlike anything we’d ever seen, and somehow some insane guts were inside. Need a laptop? The Surface Pro is a great laptop. Need a tablet? The Surface Pro fulfills those needs, too.

The thing about Microsoft’s Surface Pro lineup is how much the devices have improved with each new iteration. The first version displayed some first generation jitters, but it slowly got better and better over the years, and the Surface Pro 4 is the culmination of Microsoft’s hard work.

The Surface Pro 4 sports a 12.3-inch PixelSense display, with a ppi of 267; 5 million pixels are strewn across the entire screen, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Compared to last year’s Surface Pro 3, the difference is apparent, especially when peering at videos and reading content across the Web. You won’t want to go back to the Surface Pro 3—and that’s coming from someone who had no complaints about the Surface Pro 3’s screen to begin with.

The overall footprint is the same, carved from a beautiful magnesium alloy material, giving the Surface Pro 4 a wonderful premium feel. And the thing is light! The 6th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 models are just 1.73 pounds, which means you can carry it around and hardly even realize it’s in your backpack. Oh, and the kickstand is still kicking butt, allowing users to adjust the angle to their liking. Microsoft is still championing the “lapability” of its Surface Pro lineup, and it’s true that the Surface Pro 4 carries on that legacy with aplomb.

Microsoft also gave some love to the Surface Pro 4 pen, which comes with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, and attaches magnetically to the side of the device. Now you won’t have to worry about losing one of the Surface’s best accessories—and you’ll want to use it even more now now that it has Cortana integration. Just click on the pen’s eraser, and she’ll pop up. Magic.

Speaking of new accessories, Microsoft also updated the Type Cover, which comes with an onboard fingerprint reader (for Hello), a full sized, backlit keyboard and a glass trackpad. The Type Cover has always been OK, but this latest update really cements the accessory has a must-have, especially if you plan on getting a Surface Pro 4 as your main machine. And even if you don’t get Microsoft’s latest Surface, the updated Type Cover will work with the Surface Pro 3. Nice!

At its event earlier this month, Microsoft said the new Surface Pro 4 is the thinnest and most powerful Intel Core PC ever shipped, and the company wasn’t lying. We’ve been close followers of the Surface Pro lineup since the beginning, and it’s clear this is by far the best version out there, and it starts at just $899. Not a bad deal heading into the holiday season, especially if you’re not quite sold on a competing device like Apple’s MacBook.

If you already own a Surface Pro 3, it’s not worth updating to a Surface Pro 4. However, if you’re looking to upgrade from a much older machine, and you’re ready to try out Windows 10, Microsoft’s new update is a great buy. To hear many more thoughts about the Surface Pro 4 experience, check out Jon’s review in the video above.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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