Microsoft has updated its Surface Pro line, with the introduction of the Surface Pro 4. The latest model packs in more power and more resolution than its Surface Pro 3 predecessor, and with the watching eyes of the Apple iPad Pro now on the horizon, does Microsoft achieve its goal of being the all-powerful and all-productive tablet-meets-laptop device?
Based on what Microsoft has shown off it would seem so. Here's how the Surface Pro 4 differs and betters the earlier Surface Pro 3 model.
Surface Pro 4 vs Pro 3: Same footprint, slimmer design
There were rumours the Surface Pro 4 would be even larger than its Pro 3 predecessor. But that's not the case: the Pro 4 delivers the same 292mm x 200mm front-on footprint as the Pro 3.
However, at 8.4mm thick the Pro 4's magnesium chassis is actually 0.6mm thinner than the Pro 3. It could have been slimmer still, Microsoft claims, but for the sake of keeping the full-size USB 3.0 port in tact that's about as slim as it could be.
The Pro 4 weighs 766g (rising to 786g for the more powerful models) for the tablet only (no Type Cover is included), making it marginally lighter than the 794g Pro 3.
Surface Pro 4 vs Surface Pro 3: Larger, more resolute display
Within that same size footprint, however, the Surface Pro 4 squeezes in a 12.3-inch screen, which is larger than the 12-inch panel in the Pro 3. That might make it sound as though the Surface Pro 4 should be the physically larger model, but by reducing the bezel the two devices maintain the same footprint.
The Surface Pro 4 doesn't only have a larger screen, but it's more resolute too. Exact figures are to be announced, but with 5-million pixels (267ppi) it sounds to us like a 3K screen (somewhere around the 3072 x 1600 pixel mark) - which means a lot more pixels than the 2160 x 1440 pasp4nel of the Pro 3. A surprise move, as nobody had anticipated such a jump, but it's a very welcome one. There are no varying resolution options available for either model.
Surface Pro 4 vs Pro 3: More power, RAM and storage options
When Microsoft revealed the Surface Pro 4 on stage at its New York Windows 10 Devices conference, it made clear that it's a more powerful beast - some 30 per cent more powerful than the Pro 3 thanks to the latest Intel Core (sixth-gen Skylake) processors.
The base model will feature a Core i5, configurable to a faster-yet Core i7 option. RAM options come in abundance too: the entry-level Pro 4 features 4GB RAM, expandable up to 16GB (which wasn't a possible option for the Pro 3 as the memory was part of the main board, so couldn't even be done manually).
Pro 4 storage options will start at 128GB SSD, through 256GB, 512GB and even a maximum 1TB option. Both Pro 3 and Pro 4 have a microSD card slot, however, so paying the extra for the 1TB option might not be worthwhile for many.
Surface Pro 4 vs Surface Pro 3: New Type Cover & Pen
The Surface Pro 4 includes a Surface Pen in the box, whereas that was an optional extra for the Pro 3. The new Pen has 1,024 pressure levels, year-long battery life (no recharge) and connects magnetically to the side of the Pro 4 without needing to use up a charging port.
There's also a brand new Type Cover - a keyboard which clips onto a magnetic port and doubles-up as a protective cover - but this isn't included in the box of the Pro 4. This new Type Cover will work with both Pro 3 and Pro 4 models, so whether you buy this optional accessory is down to you.
The new Type Cover is the thinnest Microsoft has created to date, has a glass-topped trackpad that's 40 per cent larger than the previous version, includes back-lit keys spaced 19mm apart from proper laptop-like placement. They offer 1.3mm travel for a properly reactive typing experience too, one that Microsoft claims is quieter than ever before.
Surface Pro 4 vs Pro 3: Fingerprint scanner (US only though)
A hot new feature of the Surface Pro 4 is the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner. Well, it's an option if you're a US customer anyway as it won't be available anywhere else upon launch. Shame, as we'd like the option of biometric login and payment options from the surface of the, um, Surface. Maybe something that will be found in a wider range of territories in the future.
Surface Pro 4 vs Surface Pro 3: Ships with Windows 10 Pro
The Surface Pro 4 is up to date and so comes with the latest Windows 10 Pro operating system. That means the full bevvy of software: from Office to Cortana and beyond. All of which will come to the Pro 3 via a free software update, so one isn't better than the other, per se, it's just a small out-the-box difference.
Surface Pro 4 vs Pro 3: Price point
With new tech and the Pen included the Surface Pro 4, which starts at £749 in the UK and $899 in the US, is inevitably more expensive than the Pro 3 (which started at £639). Incremental upgrades will each add additional cost, although to what degree it's not yet known - the official Microsoft Surface Pro 4 page is live, but it's not accepting pre-orders yet.
The new Type Cover also doesn't have a price point just yet. We hope it won't be pricier than the £109 of previous Type Covers, but with those backlit keys we wouldn't be surprised to see it retail at £149 this time around.