To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review: The once great Windows 10 king

The rear kickstand of the Surface Pro 4
Our Rating :
£329.99 from
Price when reviewed : £1189
including VAT and Type Cover

Powerful and versatile, the Surface Pro 4 was the ultimate Windows 10 device


Surface Pro 4 review: Type Cover and laptop mode

The Type Cover has seen several changes over last year’s model. Gone are the full-size keys; instead we get an island-style layout that both looks classier and feels better. Button response is great; there’s lots of travel (for such a thin keyboard) and the click response is satisfying. There was no adjustment period whatsoever when I started using the Surface Pro 4 as my primary work device. I was tapping accurately and quickly as soon as I started.

A really nice touch is the togglable FN key. Instead of having to hold down the FN key to access the top row of F buttons, you just hit the FN button once and use the F keys to your heart’s content. Like Caps Lock, the FN key has a light in it to let you know it’s active, which is great. I’d love to see more laptop manufacturers do this.

I’m personally not a fan of the buttons Microsoft has chosen for the top row: F1 and F2 are occupied by keyboard backlight adjustment buttons, which is odd. I’d have preferred screen brightness adjustment here. You get a single media key in the form of Play/Pause on F3, which the next three buttons are occupied by volume controls. There are no skip or back buttons to be found. This makes sense to an extent; the rest of the F keys are occupied by Print Screen, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down and Insert. This is a device for getting work done.

The Type Cover is made from a soft material, which is an equal measure of weird and comfortable. Soft furnishings on a device my hands will spend a lot of time touching seems odd, but looking at heavily used Surface Pro 3s from last year, the material seems to last pretty well.

The touchpad is one of the finest examples I’ve seen. It’s Precision Touchpad branded, which gives it two distinct advantages. The first is that it supports gestures built directly into Windows, including the three-finger swipe gesture for opening the multitasking pop-up. It also means every tap, swipe and drag feels immediate, which is something I’ve only seen so far on a few other laptops that have also joined the Precision Touchpad scheme. The real proof of quality here is that I was rarely tempted to use the touchscreen while reviewing the Surface Pro 4; I find myself reaching out and scrolling and prodding with most other touchscreen laptops, but the Surface Pro 4’s touchpad is so good, I barely even thought about the touchscreen when in laptop mode.

Surface Pro Type Cover with Fingerprint ID

Microsoft has also announced a Surface Pro 4 Type Cover with Fingerprint ID. This is available for £135 and allows you to sign in using your fingerprint. The cover will also work with the Surface Pro 3 allowing older devices to be upgraded with Windows Hello touch capability. Your fingerprint ID is then stored in Microsoft Passport and can then be used to also authenticate purchases from the Windows Store. The new Type Cover with Fingerprint ID will be available March 15th. 

The keyboard and tablet sit comfortably on both my desk and my lap, even when sitting cross-legged with the whole lot balanced on one leg. Thanks to the flexible kickstand, having the laptop on my lap doesn’t mean I have to compromise viewing angles.

The front-facing speakers are great. Even at maximum volume, you lose no fidelity from music and dialogue, and there’s even a hint of mid-range in there. Covering the tiny grilles at the front make little difference to sound quality, with most of the meaningful audio comes from within the tablet portion. You could happily use this device without headphones if you wanted to.

There’s a dual webcam system in place, used primarily for Windows Hello. Windows Hello is Microsoft’s answer to facial recognition, in this case using the two cameras to capture a 3D image of your face. Once it knows your face (with and without glasses), logging in is as seamless as sitting down in front of the Surface. Within a couple of seconds you’re logged in, without having to press a key.

Surface Pro 4 review: Performance and battery life

My review unit was powered by a dual-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U processor from the Skylake generation. It has a low maximum TDP of 15W, even when Turbo Boosting to 3GHz. Web browsing, emails, videos are all smooth as silk and I had no issues with stuttering at any point, even with media-heavy web pages. Strangely, the more programs I had open (Spotify, Paint.NET, Chrome, OneNote) the noisier the fans became, to the extent that they were emitting a whooshing noise constantly until I started to close some windows. This only happened once, and I haven’t been able to recreate this since. For the most part, the Surface Pro 4 remained whisper quiet.

Running our intense multimedia benchmarks, it unsurprisingly piped up again, but the rear of the tablet never became uncomfortably hot, which is a credit to the design of the cooling system. The performance was admirable, with an overall score of 44 in the benchmarks, including a high 78 in the photo conversion test. For context, a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 desktop chip scores 100 overall. This is a quick piece of kit for short bursts of activity, but it suffers when performing long, high-intensity tasks such as video editing but arguably if that’s your usage scenario the Surface Pro 4 shouldn’t be on your shortlist.

Our light gaming benchmark is Dirt Showdown. Running at High settings on 1,280×720 resolution, it managed 22.9fps, which isn’t playable. Cranking it down to Low settings at the same resolution, the integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 was able to produce 40fps, which is reasonable enough. This isn’t a device for hardcore gaming, but the simple 3D games found in the Windows Store and some older titles will be just fine and can be a welcome distraction.

Battery life in everyday use is excellent, lasting a little over seven hours. This was reflected in our battery benchmark, where the Surface Pro lasted 7h40m. This benchmark involves playing a Full HD video every half hour with the screen at half brightness.

With conservative use and Battery Saver switched on, you might be able to get through a full day of work, but it’s touch and go. I wouldn’t leave the house without the charger. The charger, by the way, has a USB port on it for charging. It’s an ingenious solution to the Surface Pro 4’s lack of ports and means you can charge your smartphone without having to unplug other USB peripherals.

Surface Pro 4 review: Bugs and glitches

My time with the Surface Pro 4 wasn’t without incident. I had two issues, one of which repeated itself. Twice when waking the device up from sleep, the screen didn’t fire up, despite Windows being logged in and producing sound. I was able to combat this by connecting a monitor via the mini DisplayPort connector, which seemed to fix the problem. The second issue was the touchscreen, which became non-responsive in the middle of a meeting. The touchpad and keyboard continued to work, but I was forced to hard reset the tablet in order to fix the problem.

Since our review was first published in late 2015 Microsoft has released several firmware updates for the Surface Pro 4 that are expected to have an impact on the bug described above. An update in December was specifically for the Intel HD Graphics 520 driver to ‘improve stability’.

Other users had experienced issues where the Surface Pro 4 wouldn’t sleep properly and would experience extremely high power consumption when the device was supposed to be using next to no power. This too has subsequently been fixed with a new firmware update. Users who have installed the new firmware have reported a significant reduction in battery drain when the system is in sleep, from as much as a drop of 7% per hour previously to just 1% after the new firmware.

Surface Pro 4 review: Conclusion

The Surface Pro 4 can replace your laptop, there’s no doubt. It’s fantastically well built, has one of the best styluses out there and can power its way through pretty much anything you throw at it. My reservations are related to its battery life and the glitches I encountered. For such a portable device, battery life that doesn’t seem to stretch to what I’d consider to be ‘all-day’ is a minus point, although not a showstopper. The issue is also slightly negated by the lack of longevity exhibited by many of the Surface Pro 4’s rivals, too. It’s also comforting to see a reasonably consistent stream of firmware updates for the Surface Pro 4, meaning that while it might not be completely polished now but isn’t far off it.

At the moment, it’s the best device to show off the capabilities of both Windows 10 and Microsoft as a whole. It’s a cohesive machine where you feel truly connected, thanks to a great touchpad, tactile keyboard and clever stylus. I’ve only ever previously felt this with Apple MacBook devices in the past. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as they say, and going by the number of devices that look to emulate the Surface Pro range, both already released and on the horizon, and it’s clear Microsoft is on to a good thing. As it stands, the Surface Pro 4 is the ultimate Windows 10 experience.

Pages: 1 2

Core specs
ProcessorDual-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U
Memory slots (free)N/A
Max memory16GB
Weight1.37kg inc keyboard and power brick
SoundRealtek HD Audio (3.5mm headset port)
Pointing deviceTouchpad
Screen size12.3in
Screen resolution2736×1824
Graphics adaptorIntel HD graphics 520
Graphics outputsMini DisplayPort
Graphics memoryShared
Total storage256GB SSD
Optical drive typeNone
Ports and expansion
USB ports1x USB3 (1x USB charging port on power brick)
Networking802.11ac Wi-Fi
Memory card readerNone
Other portsNone
Operating systemWindows 10
Operating system restore optionWindows 10 restore
Buying information
Parts and labour warrantyOne year RTB
Price inc VAT£1,189
Part numberSurface Pro 4