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Surface Pro 4 review round-up - It's the best Surface yet

Earlier this morning, our site and many others reviewed the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. We like to think that our review, which you can find here was very even-handed, but in case you have not read all the other reviews out there, we figured we would round those up too.

Additionally, I'll add a few notes at the end about what it all means.

Brett Howse, Anandtech

"If you are looking for a workhorse tablet that you can be productive on, I don't think anyone else offers the build quality, performance, and accessories, compared to Surface. There have been some other devices recently announced in the PC space which are very similar to the Surface, but with Surface Pro 4, Microsoft has raised the bar again."

Devindra Hardawar, Engadget

"The Surface Pro 3 was a sign that Microsoft's crazy hybrid tablet experiment might actually have legs. The Surface Pro 4, on the other hand, is the company's Surface dream made real. Everything Microsoft promised at that surprise Surface unveiling in 2012 is here today with the Pro 4. Future models might eventually fix the battery life issue and add faster hardware, but we'll likely remember the Surface Pro 4 as the turning point for Microsoft."

Dan Seifert, The Verge

"If the Surface Pro 3 was Microsoft's best idea for the tablet that can replace your laptop, the Pro 4 is the best execution on that idea. It's still not the computer for everyone, but for the Surface believers, it's the best yet."

Peter Bright, Ars Technica

"After the reworking of the Surface Pro concept in the Pro 3, the Pro 4 is a solid refinement. It's easily the best implementation of the concept that Microsoft has put together so far; lighter, thinner, faster, with more storage, more memory, and a better screen, keyboard, and touchpad than it's ever had before. The only complication preventing an unambiguous recommendation is that the Surface Pro 4 will imminently have some competition."

Michael Hession, Gizmodo

"The Surface may go toe-to-toe with a Macbook Air but its real strength is in out iPad-ing the iPad. It's a great second device to take anywhere and do some fun half-productivity, half-creative work. I enjoyed the device most when just putzing around the internet, reading news sites, taking notes, and watching movies. If refinements were made to make Windows 10 just a bit more touch-friendly and allow the hardware to hum smoothly, it would be an amazing machine for those things—a true laptop killer. But for hard work, I (and probably you) need more."

Christopher Null, Wired

"The tablet still has some growing pains to overcome, though hopefully these will be resolved in the course of regular patches. In a few days of testing, I experienced a handful of abruptly crashing apps and, more problematic, the touchpad on the keyboard failing after the keyboard was disconnected and then reconnected. Only a reboot got things working again.""Ultimately these are fairly minor hiccups in what is—finally—shaping up to be a quite capable computing system. The Pro 4 doesn't reinvent the Pro 3 in any meaningful way, but it does offer thoughtful and useful refinements. That's probably as good a sign as any that Microsoft has a solid handle on what it's doing."

Dan Ackerman, CNET

"It's lightweight and portable enough to go around with you anywhere, and the hinge and keyboard cover provide lots of flexibility for setting up in potentially awkward spots, although it still doesn't feel quite right on your lap.""The same complaint comes up over and over again, that the keyboard cover isn't included, and a decent configuration costs well over the $899 starting price (the hardware we tested is $1,428, £1,188 or AU$2,198 altogether). But beyond that, the Surface Pro 4 adds some very valuable refinement to last year's already excellent Surface Pro 3, and its only real competition as a showpiece premium detachable hybrid is the still-embryonic Surface Book."

Pete Pachal, Mashable Choice Mashable

"The Surface Pro 4 did an outstanding job as my primary machine. With Intel's 6th-generation Skylake processors on board, it could handle running all my apps, multiple browser windows and more. And because it's so light (1.69 pounds, or 2.37 with the Type Cover), I never dreaded unhooking the device from my workstation so I could take it to a conference room or train ride home."Something unexpected happened along the ride: I all but forgot the Surface Pro 4 was a tablet. Instead, I got down to business...The Surface Pro 4 took it all with processing power to spare. Battery life wasn't that impressive – I never got even close to the 9 hours promised on the spec sheet – but you have to compromise something if you want a machine so light that you're constantly checking your bag to make sure it's still in there."

Paul Thurrott, Thurrott.com

"That Surface Pro 4 is, in many ways, so completely lacking in surprise is what makes it so surprising. It is just a steady drone of refinement hitting critical mass, the culmination of a history of listening to what people want and then just delivering it again and again until there is nothing left to complain about. Anyone who has gazed longingly at previous Surface Pro devices and found them lacking in some way will be hard pressed to mount much of a defense this time around. With Surface Pro 4, this form factor has in effect been perfected. So what's it really like? Duh. It's awesome."

Alex Wilhelm, TechCrunch

"Iterative improvements are hard to describe without personal hands-on time. Still, the Surface Pro 4 is a fine device, and one that I would cycle into my daily computing life if not for the Surface Book. Power is my favorite, and the Book has more of it… Regardless, it's the best Surface Pro yet. Do what you will."

Meta-analysis

In reading through all the reviews there does seem to be a consensus. The Surface Pro 4 is the best Surface yet and most reviewers were impressed with the device. They also agree that it is a refinement of the Surface Pro 3 with many smaller improvements that add up to a better experience.

Mediocre battery life, some design awkwardness and increasing competition are brought up as the most common concerns.

Interestingly, I think the Surface Pro 4 is the first Surface to be reviewed as itself as opposed to the concept behind it. Most of the Surface Pro 3 reviews relentlessly questioned the need for the Surface and whether the category could even succeed for Microsoft instead of being some wacky experiment.

Fast forward 18 months and $4 billion later and the conversation has shifted. Not only is Surface a thing for Microsoft, their OEM partners and even Apple are jumping on the hybrid device craze too.

That shift in tone is the real win for Microsoft. It is a validation of their vision. This device category is here to stay, and the Surface Pro 4 is going to carry on that revolution.

Which review did you like the most? Do you think the Surface Pro 4 will be a hit even with the Surface Book? Let us know!

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

90 Comments
  • you went full apple with the title. never go full apple
  • Lol. Good one!
  • You, ma ma ma make me happy :p
  • And here I was about to say the same... Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Going full CrApple, means you are an full iSHEEP, that thinks they are getting something so superior, when they are actually getting ripped off with devices that is "4+ YEARS BEHIND" Microsoft and all other brands. I don't understand, why everyone always have to compare iJUNK and MacCrap to 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000x Windows/PC/Mobile superior devices, is beyond me. Is like comparing ""Ferrari"" to """Geo Metro""" with huge price tag(CrApple)!!!!!?????!!!!!  
  • Which is the convertible?
  • Love your comment and thumbnail image... I want that image.
  • Rubino went full Apple with the title.
    You went full crazy with your reply.
    Never go full crazy!
  • I need my jelly beans man!
  • Whatever you are smoking, stop it.
  • I guess with Apple's blessing of the productivity tablet (with a keyboard) category it's now ok for the tech blogosphere to review it properly.
  • Can't wait to see the iPad Pro getting 9's and 10's on the verge and CNET.
  • I think all reviews hit the nail on head. It is real PC and tablet. Does both well.
  • Brett Howse...right to the point.
  • Microsoft needs to give us a power cover !!
  • Yes. I have money, please take it.
  • Well it should be the best one yet since it is the 4th one.
  • Should be and actually being the best one are two different things. Of course the fourth should be better, but companies have faltered before on iterations.
  • Like the yoga pro 3
  • Is it supring thought that SP4 is better than SP3? Or did you mean that Surface Pro 4 si also better than competition?
  • In my view there is no competition, if you want a 2 in 1, and you don't need to worry about cost, Microsoft has the only solution worth while. Everyone else right now is still playing catch up and will probably be doing so for another few years at least.
  • But will the 5th one be better than the 4th...?
  • And what about the 6th?
    I see dead tablets...
  • Infinity display, no bezels that's good enough for me in SP5!
  • That would make CrApple fans go crazy Posted via the Lenovo K900
  • Bezel is very important in this form factor, otherwise you wouldn't have anywhere to hold it from.
  • Also there are some swipe actions that would be impossible to do without some form of a bezel.  ​Why can't some people understand this?
  • Correct. It almost feels like the touch digitizer starts just outside the actual lit screen. Or maybe it's just the sensitivity level.
  • One plus two is not better than one plus one
  • First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win!! Way to go, Microsoft!!
  • This should be the case with Lumia too:(
  • Or, as Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez says (paraphrased) ... first you lose big. then you lose small. then you win small. and then you win big. This will be MS winning BIG with Surface. 
  • "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win."
    - Gandhi
  • Right now the Surface Pro 5 is in development...
    .....
    The Surface Pro 5... Can you imagine that?
  • So is the book 2 and 3, and likely the pro 6, surface 4 and surface 5.
  • How is increased competition a common concern? Surely competition will drive innovation and lower costs
  • Concern for the buyer. There are some cool things coming out that may be a better purchase.
  • Are we talking cool things that have not yet been announced?  The Surface Pro 4/Surface Book combo has largely crushed the other hardware that has been announced this fall.  I mean, the Dell laptops seem great if you want a pure laptop.  Yoga 900 was underwhelming, though I will definitely look at it.
  • I think that they should not bring the prices down because a persons mind thinks that costly things are better even if they are too bad for their price. Posted via the Lenovo K900
  • LOL. Actually true.
  • That's Apple's marketing strategy.
  • Hopefully a better itteration than the Galaxy Note 5. 
  • Thank God for some positive energy around here.
  • Positive things have to happen for there to be positive comments.... If not, then we're just fooling ourselves... The comment section reflects MS's actions accordingly, and we should want it no other way...
  • That's not necessarily true all the time though. Its not always 1:1 based on MS actions. Sometimes, when there is a lull in new product announcements or software updates, comments drift to negative. It will happen again next year before we hit refresh time next fall. Right now, new announcements can drown out other topics
  • Bring on the cheaper Lenovo copy. These prices are snooty Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • And these devices are snappy.
  • A used Surface Pro 3 can be had for a good price right now.
  • Preorder from Best Buy. Monday can't come soon enough!
  • I'm confused. Why does pro 4 have worse battery life than pro 3? Isn't Skylake supposed to be the battery savior? What happened?
  • They didn't say worse, they said not good. Different things.
  • It may not be a good comparison because of W8.1 vs W10 difference. I felt like my DV8P battery life went down substantially right after upgrading to W10. Not sure if it's the case because I've retasked it as a media server recently.
  • Yeah went back to 8.1 on my DV8P because battery life tanked and edge browser nearly unusable on tablets. Metro Internet Explorer is the Best.
  • Well also the processors in the 4 are clocked higher, and run higher for longer without throttling, thanks to the new heat dispersal. So the chips are much more efficient, but Microsoft in this case used that efficiency to increase the speed, while using about the same energy as before, so the battery life is the same. That's how I see it.
    Also, there are always firmware updates to be made to improve things, after they gather a lot of data over they're in full use by lots of people. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Exactly its going back to regular voltage ram and power hungry video cards
  • I read somewhere that the more power needed for the higher res screen canceled out Skylake gains.
  • Makes sense
  • Read Dan's review.  He mentions the better screen using up more battery life.  Other components like the iris scanner and the higher performing PCIe may require more juice.  The Processor is not the only thing that was changed in this device.
  • I do all my "hard work" on my SP3. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • My Surface Pro 3 said to me today; "Boom chicka wow wow" when I brought up these reviews of its offspring on it's copy of Edge.
  • So after your experience, is the pro 4 battery life better than the pro 3?
  • Do any of these review the i7 model(s)?
  • No.
  • All I'll way is: Viva Microsoft!
  • Say
  • "​It's a validation of their vision." I know they dont' run x86 programs, but I feel validated for my purchases of RT tablets, too.
  • Mashable's review page runs horribly on Edge. Can't even quit the tab properly. Maye explains why they had some battery life issue.  
  • I hate when reviewers state that a product is the best product of its product history. It would be a significant judgement if the product reviewed were wine, but in tech, it's a completely useless statement. At best its a Pass/Fail grade.
  • Cool i wish i could have this
  • So Daniel, coming from a MacBook Pro of 5 years, with its beautiful huge trackpad with scrolling almost as good as an android touchscreen, am I going to like the touchpad on the new surface? I've never really used a windows laptop (I adore my desktop but that has a mouse), since my first computer was a MacBook. In all the review videos I've been watching, it seems like the trackpad isn't very responsive to vertical scrolling? Or is just the edge browser. I'm glad they made it bigger (only so big they can make it with such a tiny body). Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Probably not. However, since the Surface's display is basically one giant trackpad, that is where it can be made up as touching it is second nature for many. Alternatively, a portable mouse might not hurt. End of the day, you are still using a rather small trackpad that I would say is now in the usable-for-average people category.
  • Thanks. I really want one for the pen, since no one else makes such a good integrated pen, and has such a well made physical product. I'm spoiled by having always been lucky with Apple equipment XD I think I can live with the slightly smaller trackpad, in the grand scheme of things, especially with a touchscreen. I've always wanted a surface, and anything is better than my laptop at this point, since the battery is so dead, and OSX is getting really geared towards the Apple ecosystem, which I'm not interested in anymore. I'm more trying to find reasons not to buy it, to see how worth it is. So far only two things I can find are trackpad and USB C for future proof. And those aren't deal breakers for me. Thanks for good reviews. All the mobile nations branches always deliver great stuff. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • You may want to consider the Surface Book also.  It comes with a pen and the trackpad on that device should be better.
  • It does really make the decision hard. I was all set for the pro 4, and then the book just came out of nowhere (I adore it when there are no leaks of a product, so much more exciting). But I only have so much money, and was already looking at a high end pro 4, since I buy laptops to last me for years (for this kind of money it better, it's not a phone). I'm planning on getting one of these to carry around in my bag to take notes during lecture, and do my online homework in one window and scratchwork with the pen in another. So I'd mainly be using it in tablet mode throughout the day. So the surface pro 4 is better because the "clipboard" on the book doesn't last as long, and I'd need to bring the keyboard along to charge it. And my current laptop is the heaviest thing in my bag. Although both are lighter. Although really I wish I could test these. I'm not at home in Chicago, where there's a Microsoft store, but rather in the middle of nowhere for uni. Only a best buy, and they're not on display there yet. However, I haven't been this excited about a piece of technology since I got my PS2 over 10 years ago. It's like Christmas as a 10 year old all over. Except I have to pay for it XD Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I had a hard time making a decision between the SP 4 and the Surface Book. I went with the Book, only because my SP3 is still going strong for on the go tasks. Heck I developed a full business information system on it without any issues. This is why my SP3 will stay until the next iteration hits the shelves. I will probably get the new type cover and the dock though. With the SP3, the Book, the Band 2 and soon the 950XL, there really isn't anything stopping me from fully utilizing the Windows ecosystem. The only thing left is for my X Box One to get windows 10. Then I'm all Windows and a happy camper all around. October 6th will likely be remembered as the day Microsoft became a new company. And I for my part like it.
  • Tell us more about the business information system.
  • It is a very specifically tailored system for a fortune 100 company. Massive amounts of data from many different sources and systems. Quite a fun project.
    I will start to work on a system for SMB soon though and my plan is to have it done as Universal windows 10 exclusive app by the end of next year, with an open beta expected to start in summer of 2016. Still a long way to go, but I believe the concept is solid and bringing enterprise level business information features to SMB without breaking their banks seems like a worthy mission. :)
  • I'll be buying an i7 version Monday. If it can't last a reasonable amount of time of normal operation, I'll be returning it and getting a Dell XPS 13 and a cheap ass 7-8in tablet. NOT happy about the middling battery life. Do people out there REALLY need an almost 4k display in a laptop? Personally I would rather have a couple extra hours of battery life. We'll see.
  • I have had a 4K display for 2 years (Yoga Pro 2), but I have to run the system at 1920 x 1080, mostly because Remote Desktop doesn't play well at the higher resolution.  Even after putting Windows 10 on, I had to dumb down the screen res.  So I think you are right; 4K displays are mostly a check box item, not something that is really needed in a 12-14" convertible PC.  But do be a premium device that demands premium prices, you have to check all the premium boxes.
  • I stick to SP4 personally don't need all that power on SB.
  • I stick to SP4 personally don't need all that power on SB.
  • Heres something conflicting MS is certifying refirb chrome magazines http://m.tigerdirect.ca/product/itemKey/103069396
  • Ackerman's review was the worst of what I read today: obsessing about the keyboard not being included and his ludicrous "isn't lapable" example (which you need to see for yourself). Howse on Anandtech was the best by far with lots of benchmarks and technical details I didnt see anywhere else, including particularly great info about the display. Of course, Daniel did a good job, best video review by far.  
  • The "isn't lapable" comment will be regurgitated for many years to come.  Most reviewers have chosen not to mention it because this is the new form factor with more Surfacelike devices coming out soon.  This reviewer better mention the keyboard on the new Ipad Pro and Android tablets.
  • I don't know why people seem to think that it needs to come with the keyboard. They're forgetting that Microsoft is first and foremost a business company, and that these are devices for businesses to increase productivity. Most businesses will use some kind of dock for their devices to connect to larger monitors and Ethernet, and those will almost always have a large size keyboard. Then you bring the surface around with you and take notes with the pen, or type short things quickly with the on-screen keyboard, and then go back to the dock and slot it in. If you're an employee who travels a lot or works on the go, then they'll give you a type cover. That's not a typical consumer way of doing things, but this isn't completely marketed as a consumer device (although I plan on getting one for that). Also, is it really hard to do math? I know people are lazy and stupid, but the checkout website does all the math for you. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Great ending comments
  • Is It gonna be a Surface Pro 4 with 4G LTE version coming this Christmas?.
  • On your video review of the surface pro 4: 1. The screen edge glare. I have it on two of my surface pro first gen devices. My conclusion would be that I expect glare on other surface pro models too. Though I must say when I recently looked at a showcase model of the surface pro 3 in the store, I had to look hard to find it. But I think with a thinner bezel it will be likely that seeing edge glare will be normal in the production models. 2. Does the higher resultion drain more on the battery? 3.  A pity to see a context label appear in fresh paint when you start inking and erasing. Any news if this will be solved (no labels shown during inking/erasing) in a future update? 4. I notice you placethe pen relatively straight on the screen. How accurate isinking when holding the pen more diagnoally (forexample with handwriting.)? 5. How long does it take tocharge the surface pro with the micro usb port? Is fastcharging possible?
  • 2. It's been mentioned in Dan's review that the higher resolution does drain more battery.  However, it becomes a wash because the new Intel processors use less battery. 5. None of the Surface Pro's charge through USB port.  They all use a proprietary Microsoft connector. (Which helps them charge quicker.)  The only Surface that charges throught micro usb is the Surface 3. Mine takes 4 hours to charge.