Experiences with Microsoft Surface Pro 4

A few months back, GSM Connections had incredible offers on the Surface Pro 4 (& still do – the m3 @ €799 & i5 @ €899) with a black or blue Type keyboard included free – https://www.gsmconnection.eu/collections/smart-phones/products/microsoft-surface-pro-4-128gb-intel-core-i5 . I was looking for offers on this latest Surface Pro model for both my eldest son and myself.

The first difficulty was choosing between the fan-less m3 and the more powerful i5. Eventually, both of us chose the m3 over the i5 to have something more like an iPad rather than a PC. Both of us have other workhorse machines for heavy-duty work and we wanted something could be taken everywhere and use anytime.

However, there were a number of important lessons along the way.

Patching

Before doing anything else, CHANGE THE DATE to today.

The Surface is almost useless until you do this. Microsoft has released lots of important patches for the Surface but Windows Update does not work while the date is set to the default. It manifested itself in many ways – the normal welcome setup process did not work & I was unable to download my Microsoft profile.

The date issue was not obvious, so I did jump through many hoops. One of the laptops appeared dead for hours on end and I thought that I would have to return it but a forced reboot and that date change and all was well.

More help can be found here

Battery Life

Battery life was found to be lower on the m3 compared to the other models. This was surprising on the “mobility” chipset. The consensus appeared to be that the SkyLake chipset has settings for low power and for overdrive but some internal logic caused the Surface to use overdrive too often reducing battery life too frequently.

There were some articles around this here that I found incredibly useful and help counter the problem

For a finish, it is great to have a laptop that still has an hour left when the battery life dips below 10%

Wake-up

With the keyboard attached, closing the keyboard over the screen can be configured to sleep, hibernate, or shutdown. However, with sleep or hibernate, sometimes, nothing happens when you “open” the keyboard. If it happens, try the following in order until it works.

  • just close and open again – a few times if necessary; this is the most likely solution.
  • press the power button
  • hold the power button for 20-30 seconds
  • hold the power and volume-up button for 20-30 seconds

Bluetooth & WiFi

WiFi performance is far, far better when the Bluetooth is disabled. However, the very cool Surface pen uses Bluetooth so it is a trade-off. Disable Bluetooth if you need to do some serious downloading.

The Surface Pen

… is totally awesome. My son was studying old mathematics exam papers in PDF format. Double-clicking the top of the pen would copy the PDF into OneNote where you could annotate the document, scribbling on equations and graphs.

Handwriting recognition is very nice and, sometimes, I would use the pen over the keyboard because writing just feels so right! The auto-correct works beautifully but words that are run together in web links like “TheJournal” or “NewYorkTimes” are difficult to write correctly; the software does not appear to recognise or allow missing spaces.

Others

The face/eye recognition has improved a lot over the past few months. For a while, I had to remove my glasses to be recognised which was inconvenient since I am almost blind without them. In enhanced security, it does check that I am not 2D, requesting me to shake my head slowly.

The power brick connection is much easier to use than the original Surface. The brick also comes with a USB port for charging another device. It does get very hot and the cable from wall-plug to brick is very short which is impractical for the dog living behind my sofa.

The new type keyboard is an improvement over previous models and is easy to use. It feels far more rigid than earlier versions while still remaining light.

The multi-position kick stand is far better than older versions that had only 1 or 2 positions. I was surprised how easy it was to use both the surface comfortably on my lap while typing on the keyboard.

Summary

Overall, I really do enjoy using the Surface and have stopped “borrowing” my better half’s iPad for quick surfing. My son uses his Surface for everything except serious gaming and brings it everywhere.

It would have been nice to have Office included. It was included in some previous iterations and the Surface is not cheap.

But I have no regrets on this purchase.

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