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 even 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 and choose what comes inside some of their most expensive Surface Pro 4 devices. What we’ve collectively called the Surface Pro 4 since Microsoft’s Windows 10 Devices Event on October 6th is really a gaggle of devices. They look the same on the outside, but have very different internal components. One Microsoft Surface Pro 4 doesn’t have a fan, making it whisper quiet.
Asking yourself which Surface Pro 4 you should buy is the easy part. Actually figuring what you need and who the different models are for is the tricky part.
Which Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Should You Buy: Comparing the Hardware Models
In total there are three different 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 power button are all in the same places. Different Surface Pro 4 models all have the same Type cover.
Where they differ is in internal hardware. Each Surface Pro 4 looks the same, but different processors, memory and available storage give them distinct markets. Every Surface Pro 4 uses Intel’s 6th Generation Core processors to get better battery life and a performance boost.
At the bottom is 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. Other Surfaces have these expansion options too.
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 a lot of heat. The Intel Core m3 processor doesn’t produce enough heat to warrant a fan. This model uses Intel’s HD 515 integrated 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 absolutely requires a fan. Users can configure this model with as much as 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. This model has Intel 520 graphics.
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. It too has a fan. This model has Intel Iris Graphics.
Which Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Should You Buy: Your Use Cases
Three different base models with three different base prices makes everything a bit confusing.
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, download 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. Many speculate that it’ll have better battery life than other models due to its lower clock speed. Clock speed is a measure PC makers use to quantify how fast the processors in their machines are. Each of these PCs can boost their clock speed if they’re cool enough. PCWorldsays that the processor has a 900 MHz clock speed.
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. The Intel Core i5 Surface Pro 4 has a clock speed of 2.4-GHz making it twice as fast as the Core m3 version without Turbo Boost.
The Intel Core i7 Surface Pro 4 is amid at media professionals, users who truly want their games to look amazing or want to use industry-specific applications like 3D modeling and wholesale video editing. It packs the most power you can get in a Surface Pro 4 with a clock speed of 2.2-GHz. The Core i7 model has a slightly slower clock speed, but faster Intel Iris 540 graphics backing it up.
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 and aren’t into resource intense activities are ok buying this one.
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 this version. Digital media professionals and true PC gaming aficionados are better of purchasing the Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core i7 processor.
Good luck with your Microsoft Surface Pro 4 pre-order and purchase. Microsoft starts selling the devices in store on October 26th.