The Microsoft Surface Pro 4, a Windows 2-in-1 with the body of a tablet and the internals of notebook, is only now just hitting its stride.
The software issues that plagued the device are gone, now fixed by a steady stream of driver updates that Microsoft couldn’t get out soon enough. The device is as attractive as any Surface Pro has even been, with deals and special savings arriving all the time. Despite a tumble in reliability because of the software issues, the Surface Pro 4 is still the best convertible available.
Chances are that if you purchased a Windows 2-in-1 running Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system this year, it’s a Surface Pro 4. Here’s some quick tips to get your Surface Pro 4 up and running,
Update Your Surface Pro 4 Immediately
Gotta Be Mobile recently published a Surface Pro 4 review, describing it as the best Windows 2-in-1 available for purchase. It is, but that’s only after you load it with software updates designed to fix the many bugs that it launched with. During the setup, be sure to provide your Surface Pro 4 with Wi-Fi so that it can download any of the immediate software updates that it needs. After the setup is done, go to the Settings app, Update & Security and manually check for more updates.
The Surface Pro 4 can and will download updates automatically, but it’s better to get them as soon as possible. Software and firmware updates fixed a ton of early issues, including display driver failure, lock-ups and problematic app upgrades.
Keep the Surface Pen On the Left
Microsoft made some small mistakes with the Surface Pro 3, despite its status as beloved device. The company bet that users would want a detachable fabric loop to hold their included Surface Pen. There’s no telling how many people lost their Surface Pen by using these loops. Certainly, they weren’t a great idea.
The Surface Pro 4 leaves the loop behind for a magnetic strip that runs the length of the Surface Pro 4’s left edge. Some have said that this magnet isn’t good enough. They think the Surface Pen could fall off in a bag. Three months of use for me have confirmed that this worry isn’t based on reality. The only time that I’ve misplaced the Surface Pen is when I didn’t attach it to the device itself. Stick your Surface Pen to the Surface Pro 4 worry not.
Get a Surface Pro 4 Stand or Dock
The entire Surface Pro line is inspired by the idea that a singular device can be perfect for multiple situations. Forget having three separate devices, the Surface Pro 4 could be someone’s notebook, desktop and tablet. Switching between notebook and tablet is pretty easy, just remove the Type Cover. Getting a great desktop experience requires some extra work, I’d say.
If you’re into large displays and have one already, consider purchasing the Surface Dock. The dock allows you to connect a few USB devices, Ethernet and a display with just a single cable. It’s perfect for making your Surface Pro 4 into a desktop PC.
If you’re comfortable with the Surface Pro 4’s built-in screen, definitely consider ordering a tablet stand to give you a little more flexibility at your desk. The Surface Dock is $199 from the Microsoft Store. Amazon has a ton of different tablet stands to let you get a better angle for your Surface. To be clear, the built-in kickstand is just fine, but height adjustments make a separate tablet stand at your desk necessary.
Setup Windows Hello for Surface Pro 4
One of the big feature additions for the Surface Pro 4 is its built-in support for Windows Hello. It allows users to ditch their password for a passcode and facial recognition software. The passcode is in the rare case that Windows Hello fails to recognize you. Hit the power button and Windows Hello unlocks your device immediately — provided that it can see you. If it can’t, it’ll stay locked.
Note that you’ll need to install the latest software and firmware updates for your Surface Pro 4 to get this feature running.
Upgrade that Surface Type Cover
Upgrading to the Surface Pro 4 from the Surface Pro 3? The Surface Pro Type Cover that you already own will work fine. That being said, you should unload that old keyboard and upgrade to the latest Surface Pro Type Cover.
The new Surface Pro Type Cover has island-style keys, with spaces between so that it’s easier to type. Each key is covered in a soft touch plastic that feels comfortable below your fingertips. What’s more, the cover’s trackpad is more glass than it is plastic. The trackpad is also bigger than the trackpad in the older Surface Pro Type Cover.
Definitely invest in the new Surface Type Cover if you have the money to spare. It’s better than the earlier versions. $129 isn’t a lot to spend for a significantly improved input experience.
Configure Tablet Mode Auto-Switching
Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest operating system, still has two very distinct user experiences. That much hasn’t changed. The difference between it and Windows 8 is in how it stitches these two experiences together. Windows 8.1 kept them mostly separate. Windows 10 binds them together.
The Surface Pro 4 is one of the Windows 2-in-1s that can automatically switch in and out of Tablet Mode when a keyboard is attached. For the best experience, turn this automatic switching on in the Settings app under System. Look for the setting area labeled Tablet Mode.
Get a Surface Pro 4 Skin
Admittedly, not a lot of people are big on cases. That makes sense, who really wants to ruin the device they’ve spent a lot of money on with a thick, unattractive case. The Surface Pro 4 is durable, but it needs some kind of protection.
If you’re determined to not put your device in a case, consider a skin to cover the metal back and sides of the Surface Pro 4. Toast makes a great real-wood skin to protect from scratches and kicks.
Buy an Older Surface Pen On the Cheap
This is less a tip and more of some wise buying advice. In the event that you lose your Surface Pen, pick up an extra to keep around. It doesn’t matter whether you purchase the Surface Pen for $49.99 or the newer Surface Pen for $59.99, they’ll both work just fine. Note that you won’t get the 1024 different levels of sensitivity with the cheaper Surface Pen. Also, the older model doesn’t attach well to the Surface Pro 4.
Customize the Surface Pen
Once you’ve got everything running. Look for the Surface app in your list of installed apps. In that app you can adjust the Surface Pen’s sensitivity and decide what you’d like its button to do when you click on it. By default, it’s configured for OneNote, but you can add screenshots and reminders. It can also launch other Windows Store apps or programs.
Visit the App Store and Download Essentials Apps for Your Surface Pro 4
Download these essential apps to get you going.
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Microsoft Excel
- Tweet It
- Client Hangouts
- Package Tracker
Note that versions of Microsoft OneNote and Drawboard PDF are available on your device already. Go to Microsoft’s Office website to start a month-long free trial of Microsoft Office 365. You’ll need a subscription to take advantage of the Office apps available in the Windows Store since the Surface Pro 4’s screen is bigger than 10.1-inches. Don’t forget to install the programs that you liked from your old device. Remember, the Surface Pro 4 can install apps from websites and from the Windows Store.
Track Your Surface Pro 4
Once you’ve finished all of your updates, don’t forget to configure your Surface Pro 4’s device tracking. This option lets you track the device from Microsoft’s website in the event that’s it’s ever lost or stolen. To be clear, the Surface doesn’t have built-in GPS, but uses internet connections for tracking. This information is only available to you, Microsoft says.
Good luck with your new Surface Pro 4.