Surface Pro 4 vs. Surface Pro 3: Should You Upgrade? - InformationWeek

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11/9/2015
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Kelly Sheridan
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Surface Pro 4 vs. Surface Pro 3: Should You Upgrade?

Microsoft built upon the features in Surface Pro 3 to deliver a more refined and capable hybrid in Surface Pro 4.
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Microsoft launched its Surface portfolio with the intention of replacing the laptop. The Surface Pro 4, released for general availability Oct. 26, is the newest addition to its Surface lineup.

Chances are good there will always be people who opt for traditional laptops over tablet-first hybrids. Microsoft recognized this and consequently released its high-end Surface Book alongside the Surface Pro 4.

Microsoft may have built its own laptop, but it also has its most worthy laptop replacement in Surface Pro 4. If you're thinking about switching to hybrids or have already made the leap, the Pro 4 will not disappoint.

Most of the upgrades are minor, but combined they iron out the kinks of Surface Pro 3. Its footprint is the same size, but the display is larger and sharper. A new hybrid cooling system makes it a quieter machine. It's slightly thinner, lighter, and more powerful.

[Microsoft's MileIQ acquisition targets mobile productivity.]

The accessories were also upgraded. A new Type Cover is sturdier, and provides a writing experience similar to that of a laptop. The Surface Pen writes more like a pen and less like a plastic-tipped stylus.

While the Pro 4 a more refined product, there is room for improvement. It's pricier than the entry-level Pro 3, has the same battery life, and still doesn't ship with a Type Cover, even though the keyboard is necessary to get the full Surface experience.

The Pro 3 was difficult to use for daily productivity, primarily because of its flimsy and cramped Type Cover. It was handy as a secondary device, but I wouldn't have used it to replace my laptop.

After a few days of using the Pro 4, it seems Microsoft has built upon the best parts of Pro 3 and made the necessary improvements to deliver a truly capable 2-in-1 device. I'm not ready to toss my trusty laptop, but I'd be more likely to tote the Pro 4 for work-related travel and other mobile productivity.

Here, we take a closer look at the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Pro 3, and separate the differences between the two. Do you have a Surface or considered it? Are you committed to your laptop? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

(All photos: Kelly Sheridan/InformationWeek)

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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MarianaR727
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MarianaR727,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2016 | 9:17:16 AM
Pro 3 with 8gb ram or pro 4 with 4?
Hi! I was offered a pro 3 (New, supposedly) with 256gb ssd and 8gb ram with i5 processor, or a used pro 4 with 128gb ssd, 4 gb ram and i5 skylake both for the same price. Please advise what would you choose! The used surface seems to be mint, I just wonder about the performance. I usually work on Photoshop and InDesign. I also like to sketch/ draw, and the stylus is important to me.
SteveB078
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SteveB078,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/11/2016 | 2:50:18 PM
Re: So wrong on cannot replace your laptop
How well do you think the Surface Pro 3 would handle Photoshop? Would using the painting tools be a pleasant experience, or more frustrating than it's worth?
GurvinderP952
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GurvinderP952,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/4/2015 | 6:19:30 PM
Re: Surface 4 shortcoming
I would never buy a mobile tablet or laptop with LTE anymore...it's just a pointless feature that can hold up upgrades due to drivers, etc...with so many handheld 4G LTE devices and tethering available, it's just not a needed function anymore.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2015 | 1:14:01 PM
Re: For Pro 2 users it may be time to upgrade
Thanks for clarifying. We don't provide touch capability on our external monitors at the office, so that shouldn't be a problem for us.
MichaelOFaolain
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MichaelOFaolain,
User Rank: Moderator
11/16/2015 | 1:09:00 PM
Re: For Pro 2 users it may be time to upgrade
To expand on my previous post, we previously used a Plugable Docking Station with our Surface Pro 2's very successfully. Now I'm using the MS Surface Dock with Pro 4's. I ran into a significant problem because we use HP Pavilion 23tm touch screen monitors 1920 x 1080, 16:9.

Because of the 3:2 screen on the SP4, the settings had to be set to turn off the SP4's screen in order to take advantage of the monitor's screen size - no big deal. But the screen would freeze up on a regular basis, and after rebooting there was no error log information.

After hours of busily adjusting settings, looking at taskmanager after freezes, etc., what eliminated the freezing was to disconnect the USB plug providing the touchscreen function. I didn't use that function but my wife is irked as she used it regularly. I doubt I will be able to make that function work.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2015 | 12:30:11 PM
Re: For Pro 2 users it may be time to upgrade
For a business user who works in the same office at least 30-40% of the time, the Surface Dock is a great option. It dramatically increases the number of USB slots and allows one to go from one external monitor to two. Well worth the price, especially in a work environment where laptops would traditionally have a docking station or port replicator.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2015 | 12:28:21 PM
Re: So wrong on cannot replace your laptop
Agreed, ivanjay205. We have gone almost exclusively Surface Pro devices for our former laptop staff. We have about 50 Pro 3s out there and will be adding another 40 or so Pro 4s to the fleet for those due to get a replacement machine in early 2016.

We've not heard of any compliants about trading off some potential horsepower for something thin and light. Other than when the firmware has required an update, our staff overwhelmingly love the Surface Pro 3 versus a more traditional laptop.
MichaelOFaolain
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MichaelOFaolain,
User Rank: Moderator
11/13/2015 | 2:55:01 PM
For Pro 2 users it may be time to upgrade
My wife and I are longtime PC users (since 1980) and, as you might guess, are old. We bought Pro 2's when they came out, mostly to replace our desktops using Plugable Docking Stations. Because we don't travel much anymore the Pro 2's were adequate (just barely) laptop substitutes.

We decided it was logical to upgrade from our Pro 2's to Pro 4's. The larger, sharper screen and the new type cover make it more usable as a laptop.

We are using the Microsoft Surface Dock with our Pro 4's. It seems to be working fine. But I'm working to resolve an occastional screen freeze - I'm not sure whether it is because we are using monitors that are 16:9 which means the device's screen is not the same as the desktop monitor.
seescaper
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seescaper,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/12/2015 | 9:53:28 PM
Surface pro vs airbook
How does the surface pro defeat the airbook?

 

It launches a surface-to-air missile:)
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/10/2015 | 6:09:11 PM
Re: Type Cover?
At $130, I think the type cover at this price point is justified as it is a keyboard, track pad and fingerprint reader. If fingerprint readers become a standard function in all devices then, this will increase the security environment.

An extra 3500mAh battery would have been a good feature in the cover.
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