Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review, A possible Cintiq Companion 2 alternative for drawing digitally on the go (with comparison with Surface Pro 3)

Surface Pro 4 Review Featured

Surface Pro 4 Review In Few Words (Mini Review)

The newest Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft is a more capable tool for drawing compared to its predecessor, as the stylus requires much less initial pressure to make strokes, as well as how the lines are slightly better compared to the last Surface tablet. While it is still not perfect, it is pretty much a good alternative for Cintiq Companion 2, especially if we took into account the price difference between the two.
 See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon
See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon.co.uk.co.uk
See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon.ca.ca

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====See more Cintiq models in eBay

Pros

  • Very affordable for a portable computer for simple sketching or notes-taking. Especially when compared to Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.
  • Drawing experience been improved from the Surface Pro 3, something we hope will continue to happen in the future generations of the Surface Pro line.
  • Improved parallax over the Surface Pro 3.
  • Since the Surface Pro 4 uses N-Trig, the edges of the screen are accurate compared to all Cintiq models.

Cons

  • The screen is reflective, which means that under certain lighting conditions, the screen will reflect a lot of light. Which makes it hard to use the device.
  • While the pressure needed to generate strokes is much better than the Surface Pro 3. It still could be made better.
  • There are still some jitter while drawing straight lines with the pen.

Technical Specifications

  • Surface Pro 4 powers through everything you need to do, while being lighter than ever before.
  • The 12.3 inches PixelSense screen has extremely high contrast and low glare so you can work through the day without straining your eyes.
  • Go from tablet to laptop in a snap with the multi-position Kickstand and improved keyboard.
  • Screen Aspect Ratio:- 3:2
  • Touch:- 10 point multi-touch
  • Ram:- Ranges between 4-16 GB.
  • SDD:- 128GB-1TB.
  • Processor choices:- Intel Core M, Intel Core i5, Intel Core i7.
  • Wireless:- 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE. 802.11a/b/g/n compatible. Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology.
  • Ports:-
    – Full-size USB 3.0
    – microSD™ card reader
    – Headset jack
    – Mini DisplayPort
    – Cover port
    – SurfaceConnect™
  • Graphics:-
    – m3: Intel® HD graphics 515
    – i5: Intel® HD graphics 520
    – i7: Intel® Iris™ graphics

Surface Pro 4, A Possible Alternative The Cintiq Companion

If you are looking for a device to use as a laptop and to use for creating artworks as well. It is very likely that you considered Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, which is one of the best devices known for this task. But giving how the Surface Pro 4 is much more affordable, and how it also comes with a stylus, you may be wondering if it is worth it as a drawing tool. So in this review, I will try to demonstrate how well the Surface Pro 4 perform when it comes to that. I also incorporated some comparisons between the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Pro 3, as well as some comparisons with the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.

If you are interested in the Cintiq Companion 2, I have a detailed review for it here. I also plan to write a more detailed comparison between the Surface Pro 4 & the Cintiq Companion, once that happen, I will link to it here too.

Design

Design

There is only one word I could use to describe the Surface Pro 4:- Elegant. The device is not just more powerful than its predecessor, but it is also thinner & lighter than it. At the back of the Surface Pro 4, there is a backstand, which keeps the surface propped up in the “Laptop” mode.

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There is a magnet on the left side, which is there to hold the pen while you move around, the magnet is strong to keep the pen attached there so it won’t get lost.

The Surface Pro 4 features one side power button, which puts the Surface to sleep by default, but it can be customized to make hibernated if you want.

The Surface Pro 4 has no hot keys at all, which is not very good for art creation. As opposed to the Cintiq Companion 2. Which has many hot key buttons, as well as touch ring. There is one button on the side of the pen, which performs right-click, but that button can’t be customized as far as I know.

The Windows button found of the Surface Pro 3 has been remove now, since Windows 10 has a Windows button on the corner of the screen, it became much less needed compared to Windows 8 days anyway.

Drawing Experience

Now, let’s talk about how drawing goes with the Surface Pro 4, which is the main reason I wrote this article. For a starter, the Surface Pro 4’s pressure sensitivity was increased to 1024, about 4 times the 256 pressure levels of the Surface Pro 3. While most artists don’t need a lot of pressure for their artwork creation, having an additional pressure is a welcome addition.

If you are familiar with the Surface Pro 3, you probably know about two problems that made it less ideal to draw with it, one is the initial pressure you needed to apply in order to produce a stroke with it. Which is also known as actuation. The previous model needed some pressure in order to produce strokes, now that problem seems to be alleviated, as you can produce strokes with less pressure with the Surface Pro 4.

The second problem is the jitter you have when you try to draw straight lines with Surface Pro 3. Now that problem is still there, but it has been slightly improved on. I am not sure if Microsoft is taking artists like us into account when they made these changes, but this is a trend I totally hope it would continue.

There are more friction with the screen of Surface Pro 4, which could mean easier drawing. Though some artists prefer a totally glossy surface, so this is pretty much subjective to your preferences.

The Pen

The Surface Pen, which you pair the pen using Bluetooth, requires a battery to work, but just like the case with all the stylus that comes with graphics tablets that requires one, the battery life is too long that this is barely an issue.

One of the new things about the Surface Pro 4 pen is that the nibs can be changed, there are 4 types of nibs, each of them has a different look & feel, some of the nibs has more friction than the others. The nibs are labeled just like the traditional pencils are, the available labels for the pen are, 2H, H, HB & B. The nibs comes with the pen if you bought it separately. And they come in a small elegant case that doubles as a nib removal tool, which is ideal for something you take around with you.

At the side of the Surface Pro 4’s pen, there is one button that performs right-click. As far as I know, there is no way you could customize that button to anything else.

When it comes to the grip, the pen is better than the circular pen of the Surface Pro 3 . With the new contoured & flat side of it that makes it easier to grip.

At the back of the stylus, there is an eraser, which has a nice feel to it, that eraser aims to imitate real erasers. Nowadays, less artists use the eraser at the back of their graphics tablets, but this may cause some of them to use it, as it feels good to do so.

The Surface App

Surface App Icon

To give you some control of how your Surface Pro 4 works, you can download the Surface App, which allows you to adjust various settings related to your device. As of the time of this writing, the App allows you to do 3 things:-

Adjust Pressure Sensitivity For Your Surface Pen

Surface App Sensitivity

You can adjust the pressure sensitivity curve of the pen, which mean you can get different strokes width for the different amounts of pressure you apply. This is a nice option to have, though the app doesn’t allow you to adjust the curve to your heart content, which is the case of Wacom tablets.

Disable The Windows Button (Surface Pro 3)

In case you found yourself pressing the Windows button on your Surface Pro 3 many times while you work, something that happened to many people. You can totally disable that button from within the Surface App.

Adjust Audio Settings

This option enables the Audio enhancement feature.

Peripherals & Ports

1 USB Port

Surface Pro 4-USB Port-Mini-Displayport

The Surface Pro 4 features one USB port, in case you needed to attach more devices. Like in case you wanted to place it on your office & attach multiple devices to it at once, you will need a USB hub or something. I guess any USB hub can does the job here. But one of the options you have here is to use Microsoft Surface Dock, which contains two HD video ports. gigabit Ethernet. 4 USB 3.0 ports, and an audio output.
Microsoft Surface Dock (Compatible with Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Pro 3) – Amazon Link
Microsoft Surface Dock (Compatible with Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Pro 3) – Amazon.co.uk Link
Microsoft Surface Dock (Compatible with Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Pro 3) – Amazon.ca Link

Micro SD Slot

Surface Pro 4-MicroSD-Slot

The Surface Pro 4 features a MicroSD slot supports cards with up to 2TB, which is quite plenty, and that mean it will support all the sizes of cards that will come out in the future for a quite some time too.

Mini Displayport, And Your Choice Of Adapters

Surface Pro 4-Ports-Mini-Displayport

There is also a mini DisplayPort a bit over the USB 3.0 port. To be able to use it with most of the monitors & TVs in the market, you pretty much need some sort of adapter for that. Kindly find two adapters, one for HDMI, and the other for VGA:-
Mini DisplayPort to HD AV Adapter (Surface Pro) – Amazon Link
Mini DisplayPort to HD AV Adapter (Surface Pro) (Amazon.co.uk Search Page)
Mini DisplayPort to HD AV Adapter (Surface Pro) (Amazon.ca Search Page)
Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter for Surface Pro – Amazon Link
Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter for Surface Pro (Amazon.co.uk Search Page)
Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter for Surface Pro (Amazon.ca Search Page)

The Screen

Surface Pro 4-Screen

Compared to the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 4 features a slightly larger 12.3 screen, despite the different of the screen size, the Surface Pro 4 is not that bigger than the Surface Pro 3, as the bezel of the screen are smaller now.

The resolution of the screen is 2736×1824, which is higher than the 2160 X 1440 in the previous model. And overall, the quality of the Surface Pro 4’s screen is much better.

One of the bad things about the Surface Pro 4 screen is how reflective it is, which means that under certain lighting conditions, the screen will reflect light, which will make it harder to use the device, something that is not good for a portable device.

The screen glass is gorilla glass 4, which is not very easy to scratch. And giving how it is thinner than the gorilla glass 3, it can help to reduce any possible parallax while drawing. Though n-trig digitizer, the type used in both Surface Pro 4 & 3, tend to not have that problem giving how different it is from Wacom’s technology.

New Cover

Surface-Cover-4

The Surface Pro 4 has a new surface cover, which has many good improvements over the last one. For one, the keyboard is better, and its key spreads across the surface of the cover. The touchpad was made bigger. In additional to that, the new cover features a Fingerprint reader, which can make it easier to log-in compared to entering a PIN or a password.

There are new keys on the new cover keyboard, like menu key, which triggers the context menu, it is a key that is found on many Windows keyboards, so it is nice to see it here. The new cover also has volume keys to turn the volume up & down.

The space between the buttons are larger now. Unlike the cover of the Surface Pro 3, which has almost no space between them. The keyboard kinda feels like a laptop keys, as they are better to press compared to the older cover.

If you are curious about how the new Surface cover is compared to the previous one. Kindly find a side by side comparison between the Surface Pro 4 keyboard cover & the Surface Pro 3:-

Click on the picture to view it in full size.

Surface-Pro-3-Surface-Pro-4-Keyboard-Cover-Comparison

For the Surface Pro 3 owners, the new type cover is compatible with it, which is good way to enhance the experience you already have with it.

Specifications:-

The specifications of the Surface Pro 4 varies depending on the model. For a starter, the CPU choices are Intel Core M3, Intel Core i5, and Intel Core i7 respectively.

Depending on the model, the ram ranges from 4GB to 16GB. As for the storage, it ranges from 128GB to 1TB. Only the i7 versions offers the 1TB storage.

The most affordable version features an Intel M3 processor, which requires no fans to cool it down at all. Which could translate into a slightly lighter machine as well. The M3 versions comes only with 4GB & 128GB of storage at the time of this writing.

See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon
See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon.co.uk.co.uk
See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon.ca.ca

And Finally

The Surface Pro 4 is a huge improvement over the previous Surface, both as a tablet computer & as a drawing tool. It is a good drawing tool in case you can’t afford to get the Cintiq Companion 2, especially giving how you can get higher specifications for less money.

In case you are still split between the Surface Pro 4 & the Cintiq Companion 2, I highly suggest you try them out at a store before you buy. I also plan to write a comparison article to demonstrate how each of them perform when it comes to drawing.

I hope you liked my Surface Pro 4 review, and see you again in Another review. ^^
See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon
See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon.co.uk.co.uk
See all the available Surface Pro 4 models in Amazon.ca.ca
====See more Cintiq models in eBay

See Also:-

SweetMonia
I am an anime artist, and huge fan of digital art. I love drawing with pencils too. But I rarely do that anymore nowadays. Since some aspects of digital art can be tricky, I try my best to explain the concepts as easily as possible.

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