I'm over a month into my project to find a Windows 10 tablet that can replace the iPad Pro I've been using for the last few months. Over the last couple of weeks I've been running with a Surface Pro 4. That includes time on planes, at home, in cafes and on public transport. Microsoft's tablet is meant to be a standard by which other Windows 10 devices are judged. Here's what I thought.
Speeds and feeds
The Surface Pro comes in a variety of different configurations ranging from $899 for a CoreM processor, 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage to the Core i7, 16GB of memory and 1TB of storage for a touch over $4000. The model I tested had a Core i5, 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage and retails for around $1200.
The minimum spec I was hoping to work to is:
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB storage
- Pen input (preferred)
- Detachable (preferred) 12 to 13 inch touchscreen display
- Under $1500
- Cellular comms (strongly preferred)
The model I tested fell a little short in a couple of areas. But with a new Surface Pro expected later this year, I can hit the target price as the 8GB/256GB model is being discounted at below $1500 at some outlets.
Interestingly, Microsoft has not included USB-C on the Surface. And while there's just one USB-A connector, the presence of another connector on the power supply for charging devices is really handy - something other manufacturers would do well to emulate.
Although the unit I tested was under my minimum spec, I didn't encounter any major performance issues. But whichever device I end up buying will need 256GB of storage. Without any movies of TV shows to entertain me while travelling, I had less than 20GB of free space once my OneDrive data synced across.
Why does Microsoft do this?
One of the things I have found annoying is Microsoft's insistence on loading extra apps. With the Lenovo MIIX 510 and Dell XPS 2-in-1, I put some of the blame with those OEMs. But Windows 10 kept suggesting I install games and added icons to the Start menu that led to the Windows Market.
It's very annoying.
Day to day use
One of the best things about using a Microsoft designed machine is that it is meant to run Windows 10 as Microsoft intended. Of the three devices I've tested thus far, the Surface Pro 4 feels the most "complete". The fingerprint scanner and camera work well so I could use Windows Hello for logging in without entering a password.
The keyboard is comfortable to use. One of the hassles I had with the Dell was the arrangement of the arrow keys. The Page Up and Down keys were adjacent to the left and right arrows, resulting in my jumping around the page more than I planned. But the Surface keyboard retains a more traditional arrangement. The back-lighting worked well and made it easy to type in poorly lit conditions.
The screen, running at a resolution of 2736 by 1824, is excellent. I used the pen to mark-up documents which is something I've found to be very handy - and something new to me after a decade or more using Macs.
I really wish Microsoft would offer the Surface with integrated cellular comms. A good example of why I want this happened just this week. I needed to connect to a Webex session while out of the office. While I could use my smartphone as a hotspot, it's much quicker and easier to use integrated cellular comms - something the less expensive MIIX 510 offers.
That aside, I had not other problems with the Surface Pro 4.
Would I buy this?
With the Surface Pro 4 being discounted, it is a very tempting option. The form factor, spec and performance all fit my needs - particularly as I can tick all the boxes other than cellular comms within my price constraints.
I still have a couple of other devices to test but the Surface Pro 4 is my current front runner.