Along with the new Surface Book, Microsoft also revealed a highly anticipated update to the Surface Pro line – the Surface Pro 4. Being a huge fan of the SP 3, I have been patiently waiting to see what Microsoft would bring in the SP 4. Although the Surface Book sounds like a dream come true for serious work, it is both heavier and larger than the Surface Pro 3 once you add up the keyboard shell (which is what hosts an additional battery, external connectors and an optional GPU). My Surface Pro 3 is always with me and it fits nicely in the front compartment of my Think Tank Airport Commuter backpack (the best camera backpack I have used to date), so I will have to evaluate the size differences between the two to decide which one would suit my needs the best. Thankfully, Microsoft kept the Surface Pro 4 nice and compact. In fact, compared to its predecessor, the SP 4 is both thinner and slightly lighter at 8.45mm and 1.73 pounds (high-end models), vs 9.14mm and 1.76 pounds on the SP 3.
Feature-wise, the Surface Pro 4 packs the same sixth generation Intel Skylake CPUs as the Surface Book, which translates to up to 30% increase in performance. Microsoft slightly increased the size of the screen from 12″ to 12.3″ and the company was able to achieve that without increasing the overall size of the Surface Pro, which means that the bezel around the screen was reduced in size to accommodate more pixels. Speaking of which, the SP 4 now packs even more pixels – 2763 x 1824 to be exact, at very impressive 267 ppi, which beats Apple’s newly announced iPad Pro with a 12.9″ Retina display. In comparison, the Surface Pro 3 has a 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution. Depending on what model you choose, the GPU will vary from Intel HD graphics 515 (Core M) to the latest generation Intel Iris GPU. Intel promises up to 50% boost in GPU speed over the previous generation Broadwell processors and considering that the Surface Pro 3 ran on the Haswell architecture, you can expect quite a bit more GPU boost with the SP 4 in comparison.
Microsoft is continuing to make its Type Cover keyboard better and the SP 4 now comes with a newer and better keyboard. While you still have to budget an extra $129 for the Type Cover, the new one is promised to be far superior in comparison. They keys are spaced out more and they have a better feel when depressed, which should make the typing experience more comfortable. The biggest change is the trackpad – the new “Precision Touchpad” is much larger and vastly superior with its glass surface when compared to the predecessor. I have always had a bad experience with trackpads on PCs and that’s one area that I hoped Microsoft would improve, which it did. Hopefully, I won’t have to resort to an external mouse anymore…
Another notable change is the new Surface Pen. A lot of people were pretty disappointed to see the Wacom pen get replaced with an inferior pen on SP 3. Now Microsoft brought something much better – the new Surface Pen has 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, which is huge for graphic artists and designers, as it translates to more accurate and precise drawing experience. The pen also comes with an eraser button, which triggers different actions depending on how many times it is pressed, another neat feature that is not there on the previous generation model.
Price-wise, it all depends on how much hardware you will be packing into the SP 4. The most basic model with an Intel Core M3 processor, 128 GB of SSD storage and 4 GB of RAM will retail for $899 MSRP. Personally, I would recommend avoiding the low-end option, since both storage and RAM will be the bottleneck for running more serious apps like Lightroom and Photoshop. My recommendation would be to get at least the Intel Core i5 model, with 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage, which will retail for $1,499. And if budget is not an issue, the Intel Core i7 model with 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of SSD storage will set you back at $2,699 – a pretty hefty price for this performance monster, which should satisfy pretty much any need out there.
The big question is which model to choose – Surface Book or Surface Pro 4 for photography needs? While both will be excellent choices, giving equivalent CPU performance, the Surface Book is going to be a more serious tool for heavy workloads, as it has far superior GPU performance (provided you choose the high-end model with a dedicated NVIDIA GPU). It also comes with two USB slots and a built-in SD card reader, which eliminates the need to carry external readers. For people who travel a lot and need something smaller and lighter, the Surface Pro 4 will be a better choice in my opinion.
You can pre-order the Surface Pro 4 through Microsoft’s Online Store now. Unless you choose to customize, the typical versions of the SP 4 should be getting shipped on October 26, 2015.