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Surface Pro 4 excites but leaves room for improvement

Microsoft has at long last unveiled the Surface Pro 4. It has been over a year and a half since Microsoft unveiled the Surface Pro 3 which, in itself, was essentially the Surface Pro 2 with a larger display.

It is essentially the same size, shape and weight as the Surface Pro 3. The key improvements are:

  • Skylake based CPU. It should run about 30% faster than the Surface Pro 3 running much cooler. This will be a major selling point to existing Surface Pro owners who found it running much hotter than they expected. In addition, the 30% faster benchmark is not entirely accurate since the Surface Pro 3 rarely reached its peak performance due to heating issues.
  • The integrated Iris GPU (I7 model with 64MB eDRAM). This is a big deal for those who play games on their Surface. The 520, unlike the HD 4400 in the Surface Pro 3, is up to 10 times faster.
  • The screen is slightly larger. There's a little less bezel. While 0.3 inches may not seem like a lot, I suspect many users will find this to be significant.
  • A new and improved type cover with a fingerprint reader with more spacing between the keys. We haven't had a chance to test this out yet so the jury is out if this is actually better.
  • A much improved pen with an eraser that will magnetically connect to the Surface Pro 4. For those who use the pen this is a major update as this will put the Surface Pro 4 firmly in competition for similarly sized Wacom products.

And yet, it could have been better. It still requires a fan which increases the thickness and weight over what it could be. It includes a full-sized USB 3 connector which, again, requires greater thickness and weight than was otherwise necessary. No cellular option (LTE) is offered which is a striking omission.

As much as I like the Surface Pro 3 (I'm writing this article with one) at 1.7 pounds it is too heavy to use as a tablet. The larger Surface Book actually weighs less than the Surface Pro 4.

If you don't have a Surface at all and are looking for an amazing mobile device, the Surface Pro 4 is a no-brainer. With Windows 10, the Surface Pro 3 replaced my MacBook Pro 15 as my primary mobile device -- but I still bring my iPad Mini with me on trips.

On the other hand, if you have a Surface Pro 3? It's a tougher call. If you're playing a lot of games on it, then yes. If you use it to draw a lot then yes. But otherwise? You won't really notice the speed increase in real world use.

As for me, I will be getting one. The 10X graphics performance make it possible for me to do game development on it while on the road. Thus, I can economically justify the expense. But otherwise, I'd probably wait until they release the inevitable LTE model with USB-C charging that has to be in the not so distant future.

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