The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a hotly selling item this holiday shopping season. Beyond Xbox One, this is new territory for Microsoft, which has only seen a few of its hardware products last this long on store shelves. By its fourth birthday, Zune was on its last leg. The Microsoft Band didn’t make it to a third iteration.
Surface Pro 4 is selling well because people believe in what it has to offer. Microsoft is trying to build an ecosystem full of devices that can morph into something else. The Surface Pro 4 is its device for the two main categories that people use besides their smartphone. It’s both notebook PC and tablet PC.
If you’re thinking about purchasing a Surface Pro 4, there are reasons to make the investment. It’s ability to be both notebook and tablet is definitely one of those reasons. So is its small size and Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system.
Let’s break them down, both the pros and the cons of owning, using and living with a Surface Pro 4. Then you can make an educated decision on whether you’d like to try your hand at one of the many Surface Pro 4 deals floating around this holiday shopping season.
Buy a Surface Pro 4 Because You Want a Digital Notebook
I originally purchased a Surface Pro 4 because I wanted to eliminate an eBook reader. At the time, Amazon was just getting started with its line of Fire tablets. One of the two early victories with the Surface Pro was eBook reading and note taking. Thanks to Amazon’s lack of support for its official app, you shouldn’t expect a Surface Pro 4 or any Windows tablet to replace your eBook reader. Amazon killed its official Kindle app.
Four years later, Surface Pro 4 does make one great digital notebook though. The Surface Pen that comes with the 2-in-1 has an eraser at the top for getting rid of recent scribbles. Recent upgrades packed into Windows 10 make note taking even easier. OneNote now supports digitizing documents and information on white boards easily. It can also interpret your handwriting.
Don’t Buy a Surface Pro 4 for Video Games or Video Recording
Without exception, one thing that I’m constantly asked in public by people under the age of 30 is if my Surface Pro 4 can handle video games. To keep the conversation brief, I always say “no.” The situation is more complicated than that though.
For Minecraft and the simple games that the Windows Store offers, Surface Pro 4 is fine. If you’re expecting to play Gears of War 4, Halo 5 Guardians: Forge, Quantum Break, ReCore or other Xbox Play Anywhere titles, definitely look elsewhere. No Surface Pro 4 has a discrete graphics processor for powering these games. Even the more expensive models won’t handle these games well.
Likewise, processing and editing video aren’t something that you want to do on an entry-level Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core M3 processor. Some of the more expensive versions offer enough RAM and storage space to make it nearly hassle free, but you could still run into some issues.
Buy a Surface Pro 4 for Presentations & Productivity
You really start to appreciate the Surface Pro 4 when you’re out doing a presentation or in a meeting. Earlier this fall, I needed to be in Las Vegas for a series of briefings. Almost everyone else had a notebook for research in real time, plus pen and paper for jotting down things they found important. I split the screen of my Surface in half, dedicating one side to the Edge web browser and the other to OneNote.
Last week, I was out showing a family member how to correctly connect an Apple TV to their television set. When they didn’t understand the words that were coming out of my mouth, I drew them a diagram.
Do Buy a Surface Pro 4 for Programs
Because there’s an Intel processor inside every Surface, the apps that you need are always there. Many prefer the touch-centric mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I ditch them for their more powerful, robust counterparts made for desktop. I can do that because of the Intel chip inside. My Surface has Photoshop Express loaded on it too. Both are things I wouldn’t be able to do my job without, and key reasons I left the Surface RT for the Surface Pro back in 2013.
Don’t Buy a Surface Pro 4 for Apps
As much as I’d have liked this to be different, the truth is that Microsoft is still struggling to attract apps to the Windows Store. For every success, there’s a failure. No major airline has a Windows Store app. Neither does a major national newspaper or cable service. Things are improving marginally, but I’ve resorted to installing an Android emulator named Bluestacks on my Surface Pro 4 to get my hands on the apps that I need but aren’t present. Some would say that I’d have been better served by buying a separate Android tablet.
Buy a Surface Pro 4 If You’re in Need of a Travel Companion
In the last month, I’ve unexpectedly ended up on a plane. Getting work done on anything that moves is always a chore. There’s only so much room you have to yourself. The Surface Pro 4’s adjustable hinge made the entire experience of writing at 30,000 feet in the air easier to get through. I wrote the piece with a Type Cover. I edited every line with a Surface Pen. After I was done, I removed they keyboard and placed the Surface Pen back in my pocket. I spent the rest of the flight catching up on articles I’d found online recently, but didn’t have the time to read before.
Don’t let these reasons to buy a Surface Pro 4 or not buy a Surface Pro 4 completely cause you to doubt your decision. Head to a store near you and try it out for yourself. Make your own conclusions about how you’d use it and what you’d do with it. Think of this more as a blueprint for what you should expect.
The Surface Pro 4 starts at $799 for the Intel Core M model. Ordinarily bundles don’t include the Type Cover. That’s a separate $129 purchase.