Microsoft Surface Pro 4 :: First impressions

by Volker Weber


It's kind of weird writing a first impressions for a product that is already more than a year old. But as it so happens, I just started using one today. I am a Mac user but I have a good background in using Windows, all the way back to the very first version. In fact, I have more PCs running Windows than I have Macs. The machine I have used the most during the last 18 months has been a Surface 3 with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. It’s still working fine, but I wanted a better keyboard. And I got way more than I thought I would. Surface 3 runs on a mobile CPU which was mostly fine for me. So I was looking at using the same configuration with Surface Pro 4. But then the opportunity for a much faster machine arose.

So here we are: Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core i7-6650U running at 2.2 GHz with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. I never had issues with not enough RAM or not enough storage. My workloads are simple and I don't keep much data on the device. It’s always somewhere else in the background, in my own storage or in cloud storage. I travel light. That means I would have been fine with 128 GB of storage as well, but 256 is the minimum for i7 machines. Think of it as a two-seater sports car. And a sports car it is. Man, this thing is fast.

The thing I was worried about is fan noise. If you have a big engine, you need big cooling. Surface 3 has a tiny engine and no fans, so does the entry level Surface Pro 4 with an Intel m3 CPU. But now I am glad that I have the fast engine, because the fans only turned on during the initial load when Surface was installing updates, pulling down files from cloud storage and similar background tasks. I have not heard it since. And when it was on, it was rather quiet.

Three things happened today:

  1. I was blown away by the keyboard. It's no compromise. This is the real deal, especially compared to Surface 3, but also compared to many other keyboard I use. It’s completely transparent to me. I don’t notice it at all. I just type without thinking about it. And that experience includes the trackpad on the keyboard. It feels natural to me as a Mac user, unlike the Surface 3 trackpad, which is barely usable at all.
  2. When I set up the machine, it activated Windows Hello. That means it asks you to look at the camera and then it remembers your face through the infrared camera that sits left of the real camera. It also asks you for a backup PIN so you have another means to unlock the machine, if Hello fails. And that never happened. Surface recognizes me immediately, even before I sit down in front of it. This trumps a fingerprint reader by a margin.
  3. The pen I used with Surface 3 was my favorite after Apple Pencil. The pen that comes with Surface Pro 4 however plays on a whole new level. There are no buttons at your fingertips, which were always kind of tricky to hit. It does have a button at the top for launching OneNote, taking a screenshot or calling Cortana. And it also works as an eraser, like you would with a pencil eraser. It has a flat side, there is a strong magnet and you can attach it to the left side of Surface, or the top, depending on how you hold it.

Better pen, much better keyboard and trackpad, very useful Windows Hello. And having that faster CPU has already made a big difference. I can finally use Flipboard on Windows which was way too slow on Surface 3.

For now, vowe is a very happy camper.


The Surface 3 was available in 2GB and 4GB RAM configurations only. The built-in eMMC storage is just horribly slow compared to anything else.

Good choice on the Alcantara keyboard, I liked it on the very first touch as well.

Markus Michalski, 2016-12-21

Corrected, thanks!

Volker Weber, 2016-12-21

Sei nur froh, dass du ein Jahr gewartet hast mit dem Surface Pro. Wir benutzen ein Surface Book and ein Pro in meiner Familie seit der ersten Stunde und die anfaenglichen Probleme waren fast unertraeglich. Aus heutigen Sicht allerdings kann ich beide Geraete nur waermstens empfehlen.

Michael Rohrbach, 2016-12-21

Ich weiß. Das hat mich auch zögern lassen.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-21

Wie sieht es mit der Akkulaufzeit bei diese Konfiguration aus?

Ralph Inselsbacher, 2016-12-21

Das weiß ich noch nicht. Dieser Test zeigt, dass man wohl den i5 nehmen sollte, wenn man die Akkulaufzeit optimieren will.

Der m3 hatte einen etwas kleineren Akku, der i7 kann mehr Leistung abrufen. Ich rechne mal mit ca 6 Stunden bei normaler Nutzung. Das reicht mir dicke.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-21

Die m3 Version hält auch nicht viel länger. Jedenfalls meine.

Das wird einerseits am Display liegen, das überall gleichviel Strom verbrät, zum anderen wird der m3 öfter auf maximal betrieben als der i5 oder i7 nehme ich an. Das relativiert seine Sparsamkeit bestimmt.

Viel Spaß damit.

Johannes Matzke, 2016-12-22

Danke, Johannes. Ich glaube, das liegt an der kleineren Batterie, die auch ein geringeres Gewicht zur Folge hat. Der i5 dagegen hat den Akku des i7, braucht aber weniger Strom. Die können alle was, und die Unterschiede sind eher klein.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-22

Das Pro 4 (i7 Variante) hat genug Leistung dass ich keinen "größeren" Windows Laptop vermisse. Es reicht einfach immer aus. Gegenüber dem Vorgänger beherrscht es auch 4K bei 60Hz am DisplayPort, sehr angenehm.
Mobil komme ich auf um die 5-6h Laufzeit.
Hast du auch das Dock? Macht das Arbeiten sehr angenehm, grade mit dem Ethernet Port. Leider fremdelt es mit manchen externen Monitoren (nach Ruhemodus, früher auch mal das Bild, jetzt noch bei der Tonausgabe).

Tobias Hauser, 2016-12-22

Für das Dock gibt es ein Updateverfahren:

Auch wenn sich die Anleitung grausam liest, bisher habe ich keines kaputt bekommen.

Markus Michalski, 2016-12-22

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