Should you buy the Surface Pro 4 instead of the new Surface Pro?

Should I get the older Surface Pro 4 or the new Surface Pro?

Now that Microsoft's refreshed Surface Pro 4 — named simply the Surface Pro — has been revealed, many people are wondering whether they should stick with a tried and true device or go for the newer hardware. Let's take a look at some of the differences and similarities to see which Surface is best suited to your needs.

The new Surface Pro is more portable

Surface Pro

The Surface Pro line has always been about taking on tablets while maintaining the function of a full PC. The new Surface Pro takes this idea and runs with it. Available in models coming later this year will be optional 4G LTE connectivity. This will work with nano SIM cards commonly used now, as well as eSIM cards that are set to take over.

Adding to the Surface Pro's portability is a battery that will last about 50 percent longer. You should expect up to about 13.5 hours of use on a full charge, meaning you don't have to worry about hauling a charger with you.

Bottom line: If you're working primarily from home or office, LTE connectivity and a larger battery don't mean much. However, if you're constantly on the go to places without Wi-Fi (and likely without an outlet), the new Surface Pro should be your first choice.

The new Surface Pro contains new hardware

With this overhaul comes a host of new hardware, including 7th-generation Intel "Kaby Lake" processors. The upgrade from 6th-generation processors helps with battery life and delivers a slight edge in performance, but the biggest change is perhaps that Core i5 processors are now fanless.

Core i7 models of the new Surface Pro use Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, giving a significant boost to graphics power over the Intel Iris Graphics 540 in the Core i7 Surface Pro 4 models.

Bottom line: If you're interested in graphic design or any other hardware-intensive activity, you'll want to opt for the new Surface Pro. Just need a laptop for browsing the web and word processing? The Surface Pro 4 will handle those tasks with ease.

There have been some changes to the body of the new Surface Pro

Picking up the new Surface Pro, one of the first things you'll notice is how the edges are smoother and more rounded. Also changed are the radial vents that run around the top of the device. They are quite noticeable on the Surface Pro 4, but Microsoft has done a good job of trimming them down on the newer Surface Pro.

One other noticeable aspect on the Surface Pro 4 is the front-facing camera. The cutout in the bezel where it sits is sort of wide and is a different color than the rest of the bezel. Not so on the new Surface Pro. The camera has been blacked out, making it disappear into the bezel. No longer will the eye be drawn there.

Better kickstand, less venting.

The kickstand on the back of the new Surface Pro now opens further, allowing your device to sit at a 165-degree angle. The Surface Pro 4 does open quite wide — at a 150-degree angle — and is suitable for most people, but artists will love the extra 15 degrees.

Bottom line: The big difference here for a lot of people will likely be the extra degrees of rotation in the kickstand, but those concerned with the appearance of their device will also love the smooth edges, hidden camera, and reduced vents on the new Surface Pro.

New Surface Pro Type Covers also work with previous models

New Type Covers

With the new Surface Pro comes a new collection of Type Covers, the slick keyboards that attach with magnets. These new Type Covers are all covered with Alcantara fabric, the luxury stuff found only on previous Signature Type Covers and on the new Surface Laptops.

These new Type Covers are available in three new colors: platinum, burgundy, and cobalt blue. Those who already have a Surface Pro 4 will be happy to know that these new Type Covers are backwards compatible.

Bottom line: This one is a draw. The new Type Covers will work with the Surface Pro 4, leaving the option open.

The new Surface Pen blows the old one away

New Surface Pen

One of the main features of the Surface Pro is inking, and the new Surface Pen has been updated to reflect the demands of users and advances in technology. Instead of 1,024 levels of sensitivity found in the old pen that comes with the Surface Pro 4, the new pen has a whopping 4,096 levels of sensitivity.

Also cut down is the latency. The new Surface Pen sits at 21 milliseconds, while the older pen is more than double that at 45 milliseconds. You can now also use the pen on more of a tilt, great for shading. The extra sensitivity, increased tilt, and decreased latency means an inking experience that's pretty much on par with a real pen on real paper.

The good news here is that the new Surface Pens are backwards compatible with the Surface Pro 4. However, not all features will be available due to different technology in the older displays. It appears that you won't be able to experience the same levels of latency or sensitivity, but a later update will bring the increased tilt support to the Surface Pro 4.

One more thing: the Surface Dial can now be used directly on the screen of the new Surface Pro, something mobile artists have been clamoring for.

Bottom line: For the absolute best pen and inking experience, you have to go with the new Surface Pro. The new Surface Pens will work with the Surface Pro 4, but you won't be getting the same experience.

Price and availability

Surface Pro

Many people will turn to the price comparison as the final decider here. The 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM, Intel Core m3 configuration of the Surface Pro 4 costs about $700, while the same configuration (albeit with newer hardware) in the Surface Pro costs about $800. Neither of these laptops includes a Surface Pen or Type Cover.

As you scale up the hardware, a Surface Pro 4 with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD costs about $2,400, but you also get a Surface Pen (last generation) with the deal. A new Surface Pro with the same specs and no included Surface Pen costs about $2,700.

As for availability, the new Surface Pro and new Type Covers will be available June 15 in the following countries:

  • Australia.
  • Austria.
  • Belgium.
  • Canada.
  • China.
  • Denmark.
  • Finland.
  • France.
  • Germany.
  • Hong Kong.
  • Ireland.
  • Italy.
  • Japan.
  • Korea.
  • Luxembourg.
  • Netherland.
  • New Zealand.
  • Norway.
  • Poland.
  • Portugal.
  • Spain.
  • Sweden.
  • Switzerland.
  • Taiwan.
  • U.K.
  • US.

Bottom line: If you need the least expensive Surface between these two devices, go with the older Surface Pro 4. The included pen (except for the Core m3 model) and price difference of a few hundred dollars can be a pretty heavy factor. The Surface Pro 4 is still a formidable laptop, especially for anyone not worried about the absolute latest hardware.

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