Apr 15 2016

Review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Is a Crowd Pleaser

Built-in security and handy tools mobilize government workers of every skill level.

Powerful enough to serve as a desktop replacement yet portable enough to head out into the field, the Surface Pro 4 can deftly switch between roles as needed in government. As a bonus, the new design still accommodates peripherals purchased for the previous Surface model.

Most Surface Pro 4 devices come with either an Intel i5 or i7 chipset. Our test unit had a 2.4-gigahertz i5, and nothing we threw at it could slow it down. Videos ran seamlessly, and all manner of business and productivity software performed well, opening in just a few seconds as one might expect from a powerful desktop computer or workstation. In fact, when the optional keyboard is attached via a magnetic clip, the Surface Pro 4 is a desktop in every practical sense. It runs a full version of Windows 10 and full versions of every program available for that OS.

Microsoft also treated the cameras to an upgrade in the Surface Pro 4: The user-facing camera is now a 5-megapixel model with a wide-angle lens, perfect for video conferencing. The 8MP rear camera includes autofocus — a first for the Surface lineup. The camera is good enough to record detailed images for anything from car crashes to cracks in the road, with optional geotagging showing the exact location of each frame.

Another user-facing camera might go unnoticed: an infrared model included as part of the Windows Hello secure login. Users introduce themselves to the unit, and the device stays on the lookout for them ever after. When authorized users step up, they will be logged in automatically and securely. When they step away, the mobile device can be set to close all files. Because the security camera is infrared, the camera also allows the Surface Pro 4 to detect and verify users in nearly dark conditions, which is helpful for nighttime use in a vehicle.

Despite the increase in power, the Surface Pro 4 also manages to improve functionality when working as a tablet, including having a long enough battery life to get through a full workday without needing to recharge. When running an HD movie, the device was able to provide continuous power for 8 hours and 47 minutes. More reasonable usage could stretch that time even further.

Browsing Around with the Surface Pro 4

The Surface Pro 4 includes a new browser, called Edge, which works with any Windows 10 device but seems tailored for tablets.

While Edge is more stripped down than Explorer, the new browser offers several built-in features that eliminate clutter and help users to get their work done. Distraction-free reading and the ability to create reading lists can help documents travel.

To create a reading list, users simply click a button to add an article to a personal reading list. Users can save the page on the list so that it can be examined offline later, even where no Wi-Fi is available.

The distraction-free reading mode — available with a single touch — removes all ads and peripheral data on web pages, leaving only the actual text of an article on a plain background.

Edge allows users to write directly on web pages with the Surface pen. Notes can be taken directly on articles or photographs while browsing, and the whole experience can be saved and shared with other Surface Pro users through the included OneNote program.

An included stylus pen adds even greater functionality. Clicking the pen automatically performs tasks such as launching OneNote, taking a screenshot or alerting the Cortana digital assistant that help or a search is needed. The stylus allows for very precise writing on the touch-sensitive screen, allowing digital signatures and other handwritten data to be added to official documents as needed.