Help me decide whether to buy a Surface Pro 4

Discussion in 'What Tablet PC Should I Buy?' started by Gus Smedstad, Oct 10, 2015.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Mesosphere

    Mesosphere Geek. Senior Member

    Likes Received:
    Trophy Points:
    I'm usually on my recliner using it like a laptop while browsing. I never really liked tablet browsing, for me slate only use is ~90% OneNote. I find keyboard use better for almost everything else... which is why I ended up not liking my SP1, but the S3 I find to be great in my lap.

    It sounds like the pen would probably be a good mouse substitute in your use. I was thinking more along the lines of general computer navigation, but even there, opinions differ, so I'd go ahead and give it a shot if I were you. Returning it is always an option if you find it doesn't work for you.
  2. dirtyvu

    dirtyvu Pen Pal - Newbie

    Likes Received:
    Trophy Points:
    I'll address your points from my perspective as a Surface Pro 2 user. I did not get a SP3 because I loved my SP2 so much and the SP3 wasn't enough of an upgrade to spend another $1300. Not to say that the SP3 was not worth $1300 but for me to get it, meant I was essentially spending well over $2000.

    I use my Surface Pro 2 as my go-to device. I do everything on it. Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, and Premiere. Office 2013. Everything. It's as fast as you could want. The form factor is fantastic especially if you ever use a computer while standing. More on that later. I loved my SP2 so much I have 2 of them (both i5 with 8 GB but one machine has 512 GB and the other has 256 GB).

    Luckily the SP2 and the SP3 were the same CPU/GPU so it made it easier to turn down the SP3.

    Where the SP3 was better: bigger screen, better dimensions, thinner, lighter, more kickstand positions, bigger keyboard and trackpad, better colors and brightness. Pen can activate OneNote.

    Where the SP2 was better: durable like a tank, faster (both devices have the same GPU but SP2 only had to drive 1920x1080 whereas the SP3 had to drive 2160 x 1440; also, the SP2 had better cooling whereas the SP3 would throttle down the CPU due to overheating if you did sustained heavy loads like with gaming or video encoding). Pen was better (it used WACOM technology instead of SP3's N-Trig) except around the screen edges.

    I also have the Surface 3 which is closer in form factor to the Surface Pro 3 than the SP2 is. Also, the Surface 3 uses the same pen technology as the SP3.

    Now on to the SP4.
    Surface Pro 4:
    6th Gen 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-6650U processor with Intel Iris graphics 540
    6th Gen 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-6300U processor with Intel HD graphics 520
    6th Gen 900-MHz Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor with Intel HD graphics 515

    For most work, the sweet spot in terms of price and performance will be the i5. I have the SP2 Haswell with 8 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD and it's a beast. Except for gaming where Intel's IGP is weak. It was also weak on the SP3. But it's plenty fast for everything else including the workload I mentioned above. Iris is a huge step up. In the SP4, it's also the 1 GB variant. You should be able to get medium level graphics at high framerate for most modern games. That's pretty amazing for an ultrabook class computer.

    They've made some nice improvements on the SP4 screen. With a more powerful GPU, a higher resolution, a more powerful CPU, and better color and brightness, you'll love the screen.

    I also hate trackpads. Always have. I use when I have to. But most of the time I carry around a Logitech trackball. Better than a mouse because it's more precise and I don't need a stable big surface to put it on like a mouse. I can put the trackball on my lap and work. While you can use the pen to navigate, I wouldn't. In the Adobe software, I use the pen all the time (especially great for Photoshop). I use a combination of trackball and the pen in Adobe software. At the desktop it's kind of inconvenient particularly because of how it handles mouse clicks. You press a button to do a right click. You double tap the screen with the pen to do a double click. Also, it depends on your orientation. If you have the machine on a desktop and you're on a chair in front, you're going to be elevating your arm. That can get tiring if you do a lot of "mouse operations" with a pen. When I use the pen, I have my arm and body higher than the SP2 and I lean the SP2 back. Makes it easy to edit the artwork and it eliminates the tired factor. I also occasionally lie the machine flat when I use the pen. Keyboard remains attached so I can still use it.

    For the microSD, keep this in mind. With Windows 8.1 and OneDrive, you could put OneDrive on your external drive (the microSD card). So far, in Windows 10, it's a work-in-progress and you cannot use the external drive for OneDrive. This is critical. Because for me, I have 10 TB storage with OneDrive. So with Windows 8.1, it could fit on my 128 GB microSD card (selective sync) so I could avoid using the limited onboard space. With Windows 10, my OneDrive must reside on the internal SSD. There are hokey workarounds but it's not the ideal solution and requires that you tinker under the hood.

    Battery life is great for me and should be even better for the SP4. I can get 4-5 hours under a real workflow (using Acrobat, Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere, and Office 2013 as well as web browsing and other stuff like email) under full screen brightness. That rivals my Acer S7 which is a traditional ultrabook. Remember that battery benchmarks are usually under medium brightness and are done using video playback which is deceptive because video playback only stresses video hardware which is low power when only using h.264.

    The biggest "issues" I saw with the SP3 were addressed with the SP4. Mostly the pen technology was improved and the new CPU runs cooler and the device has a better cooling system which means less or no throttling as was commonly seen with SP3 under sustained loads. Also, the i7 has Iris whereas the SP3/SP2 were limited to the basic IGP.

    Another common usage case is if I want to watch Netflix. When I'm in the kitchen and washing dishes while watching Netflix, I just kick out the kickstand, have the Surface Pro 2 by the sink while I do dishes. The keyboard is away on my desk. Screen is super touchable for any kind of navigation I need to do. It also seemed awkward to have the laptop there with me in the kitchen.

    I see people bringing up the Surface Book. For that, you really need to look at how you use a computer. For me, the Surface Pro 4 makes more sense. Because of how I use a computer. I will definitely be buying the SP4 with i7 8GB and 256 GB SSD.

    I own many form factors. I have the Acer Aspire S7 as the traditional laptop. I have the Surface Pro 2 and Surface 3. I have the Asus Transformer T100TA as a convertible where the tablet separates from the keyboard.

    The Asus is actually most similar to the Surface Book. Surface Book fixed almost all the issues of the Asus.

    With the Asus, all the weight was in the tablet part. The dock was just a keyboard and super light so the Asus would tip over if you pushed the tablet/screen back too far. The Surface Pro 2 was actually more lappable than the Asus because of this tipping over effect. The SB hinge helps shift the center of gravity and the keyboard part is heavier as well so it won't tip over like the Asus does.

    With a Surface Pro machine, if I'm standing, I can swing the keyboard to the backside and keep using it. I can easily detach the keyboard as well. On the Asus, the way the latches were designed, you needed to put the machine on the table to separate them. You may think that is trivial but I'm often in a situation where I'm standing and there's no desk or table around. And if you're in a situation where you're standing and where you detach the keyboard, you really have no idea where to put the keyboard. The Surface Book still seems difficult (but not impossible like the Asus) to detach the keyboard while standing up. They did rectify the where-do-I-put-this-keyboard situation. You simply detach the keyboard and flip the screen around so the keyboard is underneath.

    The last problem with the Asus was that there are no ports on the tablet body. All the ports were in the keyboard dock. There was a microUSB port but that required carrying an adapter. So if I'm in tablet mode, if I need to attach a USB drive, on the Surface Pro, I can just attach the drive and keep working in tablet mode. Especially useful when standing (I need to use a computer while standing a lot). On the Asus, just to use a flash drive, I had to connect the keyboard again. Imagine having a 6 GB movie on a flash drive or a Word DOCX. You had to basically dock the tablet, copy the file over, then disconnect the tablet again. Now, the Surface Book also has zero ports on the tablet body. That means if I need to connect a flash drive, I need to dock it again.

    Using the SB with the aforementioned Netflix/kitchen scenario, I would need to dock the SB since there is no kickstand. I know people buy case covers with kickstands for their iPads and other tablets. I find those so bulky and ugly compared to the elegance of the Surface Pro kickstand which is built in.

    Gus Smedstad likes this.
  3. Gus Smedstad

    Gus Smedstad Pen Pal - Newbie

    Likes Received:
    Trophy Points:
    I dropped by Best Buy today, and they had a spot labeled "Surface Pro 4" but no actual tablet, and the tethered pen next to the type cover in that spot was a SP3 pen.

    The salespeople were ignoring me, so I spent a little time messing with a surface pro 3. The display was great, but I found it hard to get a feel for navigating with the pen.

    Partly it was that no serious programs were available - I tried pulling up Office, and that ran into a wall because it wanted a password to continue past "sure, let's try this in trial mode."

    Mostly, it was that I kept trying to apply touch conventions. I.e. I could tap and drag to scroll if I used my finger, but if used the stylus, I had to tap and drag the scrollbar specifically. Which is how it works if you use a mouse, but because I was touching the screen, I wasn't thinking in mouse terms.

    It seemed very lightweight, but it was chained down so it was hard to get a real impression. Certainly it's night and day lighter than my HP Envy 15 laptop.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page