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Hands on: Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 outdoes itself with more power and refined features

Mark Hachman | Oct. 7, 2015
Intel's Skylake chip, a revamped Surface Pen and Type Cover, and gobs of memory and storage pump up this productivity tablet.

A month back, and we’d likely be trumpeting Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 4 as the next-generation of Surface. And it is. It’s just that, compared to its newly announced, mic-dropping rockstar cousin—the Surface Book—the Surface Pro 4 loses a bit of its luster.

Shade your eyes from the Surface Book's dazzle, and the Surface Pro 4 has a lot to offer. Bumping up its processor to a sixth-generation Core, or Skylake, has boosted the performance by 30 percent over the Surface Pro 3 and 50 percent over the Apple MacBook Air, according to Microsoft. At a starting price of just $899 (and available for preorder on Oct. 7, with availability on the 26th) the Surface Pro 4 is priced right, too.

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Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 boasts a new Type Cover with a fingerprint reader, laptop-size keys, and a larger, more sensitive touchpad.

Externally, the Surface Pro 4 boasts a new Type Cover. complete with fingerprint reader,  a new dock, and a revamped Surface Pen, which does away with that pesky pen loop entirely.

But wait. $899 doesn’t buy you a Core i-series chip. Instead, the low end of the Surface Pro 4 is powered by an Intel Core m3. Why Microsoft didn’t hold back the Core m for a Surface 4 isn’t clear. At the low end of the Surface Pro 3 lineup is an Intel “Broadwell” Core i3. The Surface Pro 4 skips to Skylake-powered Core i5 and i7 chips, while the Surface 3 uses a quad-core Atom chip—it all makes for an interesting mishmash at the low end of the spectrum. (Only the Core m3 and Core i5 versions are available for preorder, however.) 

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The kickstand has been slightly improved, so that it’s quite apparent when you’ve reached the end of its range of motion, rather than stuttering to a stop. Credit: Mark Hachman

Microsoft helpfully spelled out the integrated graphics options: The Core m includes Intel’s HD Graphics 515, the Core i5 includes HD Graphics 520, and the Intel Core i7 includes the Intel Iris graphics.)

Buy it for the specs, love it for the peripherals

The Surface Pro 4’s display is a bit bigger than the Surface Pro 3's: 12.3 inches (2,736x1,824), as opposed to 11.5 inches. In part, that’s because Microsoft pushed out the bezel, eliminating the Windows home key in the process. You’ll use the soft home key instead, as the tablet (obviously) ships with Windows 10. As before, the display supports ten-finger multitouch. Memory options include 4-, 8-, or 16GB of RAM, and up to a whopping 1TB of SSD storage—the same storage options you’ll find in the Surface Book. Microsoft uses a single USB 3.0 connector for expansion, as it did on the Surface Pro 3.


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