Choice is the enemy of decisiveness. With notebooks, smartphones and tablets, having choice makes it easier for companies to attract different people who need different things from what’s essentially the same device. Microsoft embraced choice a little with its very first Surface Pro. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 release brings with it a new slate of options.
Microsoft allows users to pick some of the components inside their most expensive Surface Pro 4 devices.
Let’s take a look at your options.
Which Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Should You Buy: Comparing the Hardware Models
In total there are three different base models of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Each comes in silver and each has the same hinge, 12.3-inch PixelSense display, body style and upgraded Surface Pen for taking notes. Their power buttons, USB port and volume buttons are all in the same places. Different Surface Pro 4 models all have the same Type Cover options available to them.
Every Surface Pro 4 uses Intel’s 6th Generation Core processors to get what Microsoft says is better battery life and a performance boost versus what the company offered with the Surface Pro 3.
For casual users there’s the Surface Pro 4 for $899. It includes an Intel Core m3 processor and 4GB of RAM. There’s 128GB of storage built-into the device with the option for users to add more using the USB port or a MicroSD card, just like the other devices in Microsoft’s line-up.
This model is the spiritual successor to last year’s Surface Pro 3 with Intel Core i3 processor. The difference in just a single letter has big implications. Surface Pro 3 with Intel Core i3 was a respectably fast device, but the processor still produced heat, requiring it to have a fan. The Intel Core m3 processor doesn’t produce enough heat to warrant the fan. This model uses Intel’s HD 515 integrated graphics solution.
The Intel Core i5 Surface Pro 4 starts at $999. It has 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. The Intel Core i5 processor is beefy, so beefy that this Surface Pro 4 model has a fan. Users can configure this model with as much as 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Inside are Intel 520 graphics, which offer a slight boost in graphics performance.
Finally there’s the Intel Core i7 Microsoft Surface Pro 4. The base configuration has 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. It can be configured with as much as 1TB of storage and 16GB of RAM. This model has Intel Iris Graphics, making it significantly better at high-end tasks that require more than just a beefy processor and Intel’s basic graphics. It’s also capable or running more things at the same time if the buyer is willing to boost the amount of RAM that comes inside it.
Which Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Should You Buy: Your Use Cases
In trying to make sense of the different models of the Surface Pro 4 Microsoft says that the Intel Core M3 model “runs desktop software just like a laptop.” It also invites users to “stream music and shows with iTunes and Netflix.” Put a different way, this Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is for users who need a thin, light and quiet notebook PC that is as quiet and hopefully cool as their old tablet.
Opening programs, streaming video, downloading apps and programs from the Windows Store are all things that this model excels at. Even better, it’ll make a great large-screen eBook reader. Early on, many believed that this version of the Surface Pro 4 would offer more battery life, but in practice, that is simply not the case.
The Intel Core i5 model Surface Pro 4 is for users who need a tablet, but want a notebook with some power behind it. Microsoft bills this model as great for “desktop gaming,” something that the entry-level Surface Pro 4 shouldn’t be relied on to do because it has no fan and a low standard clock speed. I disagree with that assessment completely, if it’s gaming that you want you’re better off with the high-end Core i7 Surface Pro 4 or getting Microsoft’s Surface Book.
The Intel Core i7 Surface Pro 4 is for media professionals and casual gamers. Want to use industry-specific applications like 3D modeling and wholesale video editing? It’s the Intel Core i7 Model that you want to invest in. Intel Iris 540 graphics help improve the Intel Core i7 device’s graphical prowess with games and desktop programs.
Which Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Should You Buy: Your Decision
Choose the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 that’s geared toward the activities you’re most interested in doing with it. If you’re a gamer or heavily into editing video you don’t want the entry $899 model. On the other hand, lawyers, students, teachers and people who just want a Windows 2-in-1 couldn’t go wrong with the Intel Core M3 model.
The Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core i5 processor is a perfect compromise between performance and pricing. Anyone who even thinks they’re going to be playing 3D games on their Surface Pro 4 should get the Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core i7 processor. Digital media professionals and true PC gaming aficionados are better off purchasing the Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core i7 processor too.
Good luck with your Microsoft Surface Pro 4.