MICROSOFT DEBUTED ITS latest Surface device today, the Surface Pro 4. The price starts at $899 and it will be available October 26. Pre-orderes begin tomorrow, October 7.
The new Surface Pro 4 is 30 percent faster than the Pro 3, Microsoft says. It has up to 1TB of storage, 16GB RAM, and the new design is 8.4mm thick, down from 9.1mm for the Pro 3. The 12.3-inch screen has a pixel density of 267ppi. The base configuration gets you 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. Tighter bezels help the screen takes up almost the entire surface of the machine’s face. The Gorilla Glass panel over the display is 0.4mm thick.
There’s also a new Surface pen with a new touch controller chip that refines the input when you’re writing or drawing. The battery inside the pen lasts a full year—a metaphorical nod to liquid ink inside an old-school pen, the company says. Fortunately, the Surface pen draws from its analog in other ways as well. Using it on the Surface Pro 4 feels like you’re actually writing with ink on paper. The eraser—which Microsoft pointedly noted Apple’s Pencil stylus lacks altogether—feels similarly lifelike.
The pen has a few other satisfying surprises as well. The magnetic locking to the Surface Pro 4 is stronger than expected, helping minimize the odds that you’ll misplace it. You can also hold down the the cap to summon Cortana, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant, a trick that worked as advertised when we were able to try it in person.
The keyboard cover has been redesigned as well, and now includes redesigned keys and a fingerprint sensor. In our hands on time, the Type Cover felt much-improved over its predecessor; it’s thicker, less bouncy, and offers great key travel given that it’s a detachable cover.
Even though it looks and acts very similar to last year’s Surface Pro 3, there’s a huuuuge difference, and it has nothing to do with the Pro 4 hardware. The Pro 3 shipped with Windows 8.1, an operating system that forced you to pick between desktop and tablet environments. There were very few apps for the latter scenario, making using it as a laptop the more fruitful way to go. The ability to run desktop software wasn’t just an amazing feature, it was an essential one.
At the same time, the Surface Pro 3 marked the company’s departure from Windows RT development and devices. A trip back to the OS drawing board produced Windows 10, another unicorn that promised a mix of “write once, run anywhere” magic and aspects of responsive design. Everything, from phones to tablets to laptops to hybrids, would just run Windows 10. App development would just take care of itself: Software would act like apps on touchscreen devices and full-tilt desktop programs on bigger screens with keyboards.
While it’ll be interesting to see how the new Lumia phones will handle Windows 10 on the small screen, the new Surface Pro 4 is the piece of kit that shows how Windows 10 will flip between our ever-changing computing whims.