It’s that time of the year where Microsoft and Apple unveil their latest products and innovations, which really sparked a lot of interest and hype for the new upcoming devices. Today we will be focusing on Microsoft’s Surface Series which definitely made many people’s mouths water. I am talking about the Surface Pro 4 and its laptop counterpart, the Surface Book. Now if you haven’t heard of these devices definitely check them out as they offer many new features which are very impressive. Note that both of these devices run Windows 10 and have all the features you would expect from this OS namely Cortana, Continuum and Microsoft Edge.

Surface Pro 4

When the Surface series started it didn’t really do very well as compared to Apple’s iPad series although they were different category of devices. Surface was designed to be a mobile replacement for a computer while the iPad was primarily a tablet mobile device. But since then, it has steadily gained ground in the “replacement for a desktop department” and performed quite well with the Surface Pro 3. Now, the Surface Pro 4 looks to be a worthy upgrade (with a bigger price too!)

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The first thing to take note of SP4 is that Microsoft has managed to increase the display screen size (SP4: 12.3 inches compared to SP3: 12 inches) without increasing the overall size of the tablet (Height x Width: 201mm x 291mm). They did this by shrinking its bezels so if you stack a Surface Pro 3 and 4 together, you won’t be able to tell them apart instantly. It is however, thinner than the Surface Pro 3, with 8.5 mm thickness compared to 9.1 mm. Display-wise, the pixel density is decent at 267 ppi because it is a larger device. Microsoft is really promoting their PixelSense technology in the Surface Pro 4, which gives more information to the device about just any external object on the screen, not just your fingers or the Surface Pen. It even has its own processing unit just to keep track of everything on the screen, which also means you can actually put all 10 fingers on your screen plus maybe a paperweight and everything will be considered as an input. How the program actually handles your input is a different story but we’re hoping some cool programs will be written.

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Moving on to the new pen, it boasts 1024 levels of pressure (as compared to 256 for the Surface Pro 3 pen) which gives it a more natural writing experience.  Microsoft gives you a variety of colours to choose from for the pen and I like the diversity offered here but wouldn’t more colours for the device make more sense? They are offering multi-coloured type-covers though (good enough for me). The tip of the Surface Pen is replaceable. As for pen storage, the pen sticks to the side of the Surface Pro 4 like a magnet. I would prefer keeping the pen inside the Surface itself because it might be knocked off by other objects or during transportation, it remains to be seen whether the magnetic pen storage is a good idea. The keyboard cover for Surface Pro 4 on the other hand has been improved a lot with a larger trackpad made of glass and a fingerprint sensor upgrade which is backward compatible with the Surface pro 3 as well.

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For the Windows platform, the most disappointing part is always its Windows Store with many app developers choosing to skip development for Windows in favour of Android or iOS. Recent developments seem to change this trend because the Surface does have an increasing number of users and so new apps which make full use of the Surface and Windows 10 platform start to emerge. One app did so well, that Microsoft decided to use it in their product presentation, the StaffPad. And it worked, it demonstrated the full use of the Surface Pen, and how easy it was to write and make changes to music scores. It all felt very natural and is very convenient to use. It will definitely be a great app to use for musicians and composers.

That being said, the Surface Pro 4 is expensive, starting at RM 3,999 for the most basic model: an Intel Core M3 / 4GB RAM / 128GB Storage which is apparently due to the weakening Ringgit and Microsoft pricing it higher than US prices to take into account any further fluctuations of the Ringgit.

Surface Book

Microsoft finally took a leaf out of Apple’s book and built its own laptop, and they’re calling it the Surface Book. Microsoft is clearly challenging the MacBook’s market share since the Book is aimed at the higher end spectrum of the laptop market. The cheapest model they offer stands at 1,499 USD (RM 6,375.32) which sports a 128GB SDD, a Core Intel i5 and 8GB of RAM while the most expensive model available is at 3,199 USD (RM 13,605.51) and has a  spacious 1TB SDD, a Core Intel i7, more RAM than you’ll ever need (16GB) and a custom-made NVIDIA graphics processing unit (GPU) simply referred to as dGPU in the Windows Store.

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The Surface Book is a 2 in 1 laptop, with a detachable tablet display which Microsoft calls a clipboard. The clipboard has 4 hours of battery life and has a 13.5 inch size. It has a 4:3 instead of a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is unconventional for a laptop. It is nice to have more height to read text though, so you might want to consider trying it out first. This also means that the maximum resolution is an easy to remember number now at 3000 x 2000. The clipboard is released via a button on the keyboard but it is a software mechanism which mean this might be bad news as you need to power on your Book to be able to detach the clipboard. The clipboard is also quite lightweight at 726 g.

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Design-wise, the Book looks amazing and has a unique feature that is both the point of criticism and praise, its fulcrum hinge. The hinge is designed to be sturdy and able to withstand heavy load but a some people seem to have complaints with the gap between the keyboard and the screen because it might trap hair and dust. Dust is certainly not good for your laptop so it remains to be seen if a good solution can be created, maybe having a sheath for the Book? Whatever is done, Microsoft definitely needs to address this issue since it is a very premium item. Weight-wise, it is comparable to any ultrabook series at 1.516 kg and has a huge battery life of 13.6 hours.

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We briefly mentioned about the dGPU in the introduction, but what is a dGPU? Well, the dGPU is short for dual-GPU which means both the clipboard (display/tablet portion) and the base has a GPU which supposedly offer better performance. It is hard to tell currently as the product has  not been shipped so no benchmarking tests can be done extensively. It might be a good idea to wait till the performance is proven before getting one.

Conclusion

The Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are definitely awesome devices but very costly as well (maybe even more than an arm and a leg). If you have deep pockets, they are definitely worth a look. Another reason to consider them is because Microsoft themselves built it, so they might have optimized performance on the hardware they used. If only the USD weakened against the Ringgit eh? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Sources: Microsoft Store, Endgaget, PCWorld