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Surface Pro 4 review

Moderator: Mick

Surface Pro 4 review

Postby Blaquesmith » 14 Jul 2016, 12:01

It's been since Monday night that I finally got my Surface Pro 4 from PCHome, so I thought I'd do a completely subjective review of the device. Keep in mind that this is my personal experience and, as all technological devices are subject to random and mysterious paranormal effects without previous warning, other people might experience issues I did not.

As I said, I got my Surface on Monday, I plugged it to charge, and turned it on immediately, as per the instructions. Surprisingly, it turned on despite having 0% battery charge (as oposed to my old iPad, which had to charge for a while to even consider turning on when the battery had no charge left).

The Surface opened to the installation configuration screens, and I had opened on my desktop computer a website with the privacy issues that may have to be disabled in order to guarantee privacy. After turning almost all of them off (except for a few calculated risks I was willing to take), the machine booted into Windows 10. Then I spent a few hours a couple minutes to install the software I wanted to install, configure my e-mail, calendar and contacts, and tweak the appearance of the OS. I was glad to see they added options to make their OS/default apps use either a light or dark theme (many users complained about the lack of dark themes when W10 came out).

Regarding the physical design of the device, I'd say it's one of the most beautifully designed pieces of hardware I've ever used. The hinges for the stand are a work of art, and the Type Cover is delightful to use, not having to force your wrists up to type, but just resting your hands on it at a horizontal level. It's by far the most comfortable typing experience I've had, and I would get a flat keyboard like that for my desktop computer without even thinking if they had them in regular size (and with a Traditional Spanish layout). The screen is just gorgeous to look at, and the icons and text are upscaled perfectly.

After having used Linux non-stop for 4 years, the thing I miss the most are the endless configuration options. Not that I dislike the overall look of Windows 10, in fact I kind of like it, but I'd like it even more if I could use the Moka/Faba icons I use fon Linux, for example. A cohesive icon theme (all of them with the same shape, with similar design criteria) would do miracles, specially if it could use vectorial icons like Linux does (in SVG format, for example). I also miss the possibility to manually set an icon when you dock an app to the tiles in the start panel, in many cases the icons appear too small and with a lot of space around them. Except for that, I think it looks great and very responsive. Someone might argue that the 90º corners in the panels and windows look too aggressive, and that they would prefer rounded corners, as in Windows 7, MacOS, or some Linux distros. Well, this is not Fisher Price, no need of rounded corners so you don't hurt yourself.

The model I chose was the i7 with Iris graphics, 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD. After installing some software, the system and apps took about 30 GB of that. I added a 128 GB microSDXC card (the one I had in my phone, until I can get my hands on a 256GB one).

I've read some complaints about the battery consumption when you just close the lid and leave it into your bag, as if it was a regular android tablet. Well, this doesn't have an ARM processor, it has a full-fledged i7 processor that can be cranked up to offer much more performance, so it's only natural it would draw more power, even if idle. In any case, after a few days of using it, I've found that there's no need to do that anymore. I've getting used to turn it on and off properly as I would my desktop computer. It boots to the login screen in less than 8 seconds (about 5 in most cases, unless it has to configure some update), and takes another few to type in the password and enter (which you would have to do, anyways, anytime the screen is locked, if you're clever enough to enable that option). So in my opinion, turning it on an off it's not a problem. If it bothers you, you can always hibernate, but with this SSD speeds, I won't even bother. I disabled many of the apps that autostart, like Skype and Steam, to speed things up a little bit (and because if I'm tethering from my phone, I want to choose if I want them to use my data or not).

The OS is responsive and snappy, I configured (easily) to jump into tablet mode everytime I detach the Type Cover, and jump back into desktop mode everytime I reattach it. The pencil works like a charm, it gets attached with magnets to the side of the tablet, and the drawing apps I've tried (basically their own Paint Studio and Clip Painter Pro) identify both the pressure sensitivity of the tip, which is fully customizable, and the eraser tool (no pressure sensitivity) without a hitch. The pen also has one button on the side, hidden into the strip that also contains the magnets. Palm rejection is superb, even if you are not holding the pencil. You can easily configure the pressure sensitivity curve and the shortcuts with the eraser button (one click, double click, press and hold) to perform different actions (launch apps, etc).

Videos look great, and the front-facing speakers sound loud and clear (both of them, unlike the single one in my old iPad). The microphone captures sound really well, and the camera works great in Skype calls.

As for the office suite, I'm still deciding if to install Libreoffice (which is what I've been using for years) or MS Office 365 (I got a Chinese license with the Surface, but I'm not sure if I can install it and select a different language).

As for games (as I'm sure some of you will ask), I haven't tried any 3D-intensive games, but keep in mind that you will have to select lower resolutions for the Intel graphics card to be able to handle them well. Keep in mind the surface's screen has a 2736x1824 pixel resolution, roughly about 2,5 times the number of pixels in a full HD screen. Starting Guild Wars 2 and selecting a lower resolution (about 900 pixels high, and trying to find the available one that would leave me with the smallest black bands on the screen) I managed to get it running at about 40 FPS, and if I lowered a 768 pixel tall resolution, the FPS cranked up to 50-60 (but then I could clearly see the pixellated image, which didn't happen with the 900 pixel tall resolution).

I'm quite happy with my purchase, and I hope I can use it for years. Unless Microsoft pulls out a much better one, which they might. If they want to woo me, get a small battery in the Type cover and make it bluetooth-enabled, so I could use shortcuts when I'm drawing with the tablet in portrait mode. I didn't work in battery mode so long as to have troubles, but I'll try in the future. I'll just keep informing when that happens.

Cheers!
"Roda el món i torna al Born!" - famous saying from Barcelona.
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Blaquesmith
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Re: Surface Pro 4 review

Postby Mr He » 14 Jul 2016, 15:26

I am considering one, however the surface book,do they have that in Taiwan?

I was thinking of it as a replacement for a laptop or for the hopeless macbook pro I have used the last 6 months.
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Re: Surface Pro 4 review

Postby Blaquesmith » 17 Jul 2016, 21:50

Not sure about the Surface Book, but if you have a registered company in Europe, my advice would be getting it there, and deduct the taxes.

Microsoft keeps the price more or less on pair, which means that if you deduct taxes, the price in Europe will be much, much better.
"Roda el món i torna al Born!" - famous saying from Barcelona.
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Wild Chicken Bus Driver (yě jī chē sī jī)
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Location: Taipei
In Taiwan since: 08 Aug 2012



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