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Surface pro comparison:- Surface pro 1 VS Surface pro 2 VS Surface pro 3 VS Surface pro 4


Let’s Compare The Surface Pro Models

Surface Pro is a very neat tablet, but it can be a bit expensive for some people, especially those who only wants to use it for simple drawing, or those on tight budget. Over the years, the Surface Pro has been updated multiple of times, and changed over few iterations. So getting an older iteration can be a good idea for some. To help you with the process, I made this comparison, which compares all the models side by side, while talking to their drawing capabilities as well. Bear in mind that I don’t own any of the 4 models in this article, and the info in this article are based on research. I hope my research have made it easier for you to pick the right tablet for you.

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Surface Pro 1 Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4






Let’s start by comparison the processor for all the models, since that’s the main component for many of the applications you may run on your device. The first generation comes with only one option, which is Intel 1.7 GHz, which can be boosted to up to 2.6 GHz.

Surface Pro 2 comes with one of the following options:-

    • Intel low-voltage dual-core i5-4300U 1.9 up to 2.9 GHz, 3 MB cache.
    • Intel i5-4200U (Prior to Dec. 2013) 1.6 GHz and up to 2.6 GHz, 3 MB cache, 4th generation.

Surface Pro 3 comes with one of the following options:-

    • Intel Haswell low-voltage dual-core i3-4020Y 1.5 GHz, 3 MB cache.
    • Intel Haswell i5-4300U 1.9 up to 2.9 GHz, 3 MB cache.
    • Intel Haswell i7-4650U 1.7 up to 3.3 GHz, 4 MB cache.

Surface Pro 4 comes with one of the following options:-

    • Intel Core m3 6Y30 900 MHz up to 2.2 GHz, 4 MB cache, 4.5 W
    • Intel Core i5-6300U 2.4 up to 3.0 GHz, 3 MB cache, 15 W
    • Intel Core i7-6650U 2.2 up to 3.4 GHz, 4 MB cache, 15 W

Generally speaking, choosing faster CPU is good to run any application faster, having more cores is good if the application you want to run supports them, many art applications like Photoshop support multiple cores. It is worth noting that the Surface Pro 4 with the M3 processor doesn’t have fans at all, and it is a bit lighter too.


If you want to play games, or run any application that requires graphical power (like Photoshop with GPU acceleration), graphics performance is important. But if all you want to use your Surface Pro tablet for is note-taking, browsing the web or running office applications, then graphics may not be all that important to you.

When it comes to gaming performance, I used the excellent Intel HD Graphics tests in Digital Trends’s article as a reference. Looking at the different tests, it is easy to see that Intel HD 4000, the graphical processor in Surface Pro 1, comes close to Intel HD 4400, the one in Surface Pro 2 by a good margin. The difference is not huge, but it is worth it in case you are picking between the two, and want to get as much performance as possible. It is also worth noting that Intel HD 4400 comes with Intel Core i5 version of Surface Pro 3.

The Intel Core i3 model of the Surface Pro 3 comes with Intel HD 4200, which is weaker than Intel HD-4000, the Intel Core i5 comes with Intel HD 4400, which is more powerful. The Intel Core i7 comes with Intel HD 5000, the most powerful GPU among all the first 3 Surface Pro models. The article above only covers the one GPU used in Surface Pro 4, which is Intel HD Graphics 520, which comes with the i5 version, and is more powerful than Intel HD 4400.

Surface Pro 4 models also comes with 3 different GPUs, the M3 model comes with Intel HD graphics 515, the i5 comes with the more powerful Intel HD Graphics 520, and the i7 version with Intel Iris Graphics, the most powerful among the 3.

According to the numbers in this NotebookCheck article, the GPU in the 3 Surface Pro 4 models beat the ones in Surface Pro 3 hands down.

Ports & Configurations

When it comes to the main ports, all the 4 Surface Pro models share the same features. They all come with a Full-Size USB 3.0 port, a microSDXC card slot, Mini DisplayPort (for connecting your tablet to an external display), as well as cover port & headset jack.

The microSDXC card slot in each of the models support different maximum capacities, The Surface Pro 1 & 3 support up to 200 GB, the Surface Pro 2 supports 128GB, though it could support more, but I couldn’t find anything to indicate that. The Surface Pro 4 supports up to 2TB.

Unlike the iPad pro, all the Surface Pro models come with the pen out of the box, so there’s no need to buy it separately. But you may need to buy additional nibs for the Surface Pro 4.

All the models come with only 1 USB port, getting a USB hub is a must in case you want to connect more than one device. There are docking station that provides you with multiple USB & display ports, as well as Ethernet port, you can check out these ports from the following Amazon links:-


Looks & Weight

Having a kickstand in your tablet is something Microsoft innovated with their Surface Pro tablets. Since many of the other tablets in the market doesn’t come with one out of the box. And so you had to buy a separate case to get one.

Let’s talk about the different stands for the different models. The original Surface Pro 1 has a kickstand with only one position, which you can’t adjust to suit the way you sit (not to deny its usefulness though). The Surface Pro 2 offers the same position as its predecessor, while adding a new position. The Surface Pro 3 took the kickstand to another level, as it offers a continuous kickstand, that allows you to sit your Surface Pro tablet between 0-150 degree, just like in the following picture:-


The Surface Pro 4 has a similar kickstand to Surface Pro 3.

Ram Memory

Ram memory is what enables you to run many applications at once, and to run heavy applications as well. It is also crucial in ensuring you can install future versions of Windows by having more Ram for that.

The ram memory in all the 4 Surface Pro models ranges from 4-16 GB. Let’s take the least amount, which is 4GB, it is more than enough to run the latest version of Windows by the time of writing this article, which is Windows 10, as that version requires 2GB of RAM. So any of the Surface Pro models are enough for basic work, but having at least 8GB won’t hurt if you can afford getting a model with that amount, which rules out the Surface Pro 1, which only comes with 4GB. 8GB is the max amount of ram supported in both Surface Pro 2 & 3. While Surface Pro 4 can have up to 16GB, making it the best one for heavy work, you can have that model with 8GB if you want to save few bucks though.


Depending on how you plan to use your Surface Pro tablet, you want to decide how much storage you want to have on your device. For basic usage, the minimum amount that all the models come with, 64GB, is enough, having at least 128GB is better to give you some room for your files, if not more. When it comes to maximum storage capacity, the original Surface Pro 1 offer a 256GB option, Surface Pro 2 & 3 offer 512GB, while Surface Pro 4 has the biggest option as usually, which is 1TB.

It is worth noting that since the operating system will take some space in the SSD, for that reason, you won’t have the full capacity of your tablet for your files & programs. For more details on that, kindly find the available disk space that are available on a brand new Surface Pro tablet on Windows 10, which was taken from Microsoft’s website. I didn’t include the data for Windows RT, as it is outside the scope of this article, but you will see the data for the Surface RT:-

Model Available disk space (Windows 10)
Surface Book
i5 / 128 GB 99 GB
i5 / 256 GB 220 GB
i7 / 256 GB 218 GB
i7 / 512 GB 451 GB
Surface Pro 4
m3 / 128 GB 102 GB
i5 / 128 GB 102 GB
i5 / 256 GB 216 GB
i7 / 256 GB 215 GB
i7 / 512 GB 451 GB
Surface 3
64 GB 37 GB
128 GB 93 GB
Surface Pro 3
64 GB 37 GB
128 GB 97 GB
256 GB 212 GB
512 GB 451 GB
Surface 2
32 GB 18 GB
64 GB 47 GB
Surface Pro 2
64 GB 37 GB
128 GB 97 GB
256 GB 212 GB
512 GB 451 GB
Surface Pro
64 GB 30 GB
128 GB 89 GB
Surface RT
32 GB 15 GB
64 GB 45 GB

Battery Life

Since it is very likely you are going to carry your Surface Pro tablet around with you, you would want it to last you for the durations of your classes or workday.

There are two ways to tell you about the battery life, the announced battery life from Microsoft, and the actual one you get from the device on the long-term, which is reported by people who used the devices so far. The actual battery life will vary on your usage & the power setting, it also depends on the state of your battery, so you may get a different battery life than what I will mention here. But it is good to have an idea on how much your Surface Pro tablet will last.

I wasn’t able to find an official battery life for the Surface Pro 1, but it lasts barely 4 hours based on users reports. On the other hand, the Surface Pro 2, which features the exact same battery, seems to fare much better. The official battery life is 9 hours, and you will be able to get around 7 in reality, which is pretty good, that could be due to the optimization in the Surface Pro 2 hardware.

The Surface Pro 3 is capable of providing you with up to 10 hours of video playback, according to Microsoft’s site. In reality, you will get around 5-10 hours, which is pretty good, it is worth noting that the Surface Pro 3 had a battery drain issue, which could be fixed by updating the firmware. The Surface Pro 4 can get you 9 hours of video playback, however, the actual battery life you may get from it is between 3-6 hours, depending on what you are doing, which is less than the Surface Pro 3.


The Surface Pro 1 & 2 has identical 10.6 ClearType full HD screen, both feature1920 X 1080 resolution. The next two models had an increase in the screen size, to 12~ inches to be specific. And the resolution kept bumping up to 2160 X 1440 in the Surface Pro 3, and to 2736 x 1824 in the Surface Pro 4.

The most important thing to note here is that the Surface Pro 1 & 2 both has standard aspect ratio of 16:9. While the Surface Pro 3 & 4 has 3:2, which mean you will see some black bars while playing movies or games, which are usually not designed for that aspect ratio. Some people like that ratio a lot, while some others totally don’t.

Drawing Capabilities & Digitizers

When it comes to the digitizers used in the various Surface Pro tablets, the 4 models are split between two common ones, Surface Pro 1 & 2 use Wacom Digitizers, while Surface Pro 3 & 4 use the N-Trig one. The pressure sensitivity varies a lot between the 4 too, Surface Pro 1 & 3 have 256 levels of pressure, while Surface Pro 2 & 4 have 1024 each. If you are new to digital drawing, pressure sensitivity is the feature that allows you to vary the thickness of your strokes based on how much you press within the pen, just like traditional pencils. It is obvious that having 1024 levels is better than 256, unless you plan on doing basic work.

The choice of the digitizer depends on your preference in a way. There are artists happy with both of them, if you have the cash, going to Surface Pro 4 will be future proof the most, especially with how low the IAF it has. IAF stands for “Initial Activation Force”, which is the lowest pressure you need to apply with the pen to create a stroke. If you just want to create simple sketches, going with the Surface Pro 1 or 2 may be okay with you.

Based on the above, it appears that Surface 2 & 4 are the better choices for each of the two corresponding digitizers.

Comparison Table

To make it easier to compare many of the things mentioned in this comparison, I included a table with many of these info below.

Surface Pro 1


Surface Pro 2


Surface Pro 3


Surface Pro 4


Size 10.6 inches 10.6 inches 12 Inch 12.3 inches
Resolution 1920 X 1080 1920 X 1080 2160 X 1440 2736 x 1824
CPU & Graphics
CPU  Intel low-voltage dual-core
1.7 up to 2.6 GHz, 3 MB cache, 17 W
Intel low-voltage dual-core:
1.9 up to 2.9 GHz, 3 MB cache, 15 W
i5-4200U (Prior to Dec. 2013)
1.6 up to 2.6 GHz, 3 MB cache, 15 W4th generation Intel® Core™ i5 Processor (Haswell)
Intel Haswell low-voltage dual-core:
1.5 GHz, 3 MB cache, 11.5 W
1.9 up to 2.9 GHz, 3 MB cache, 15 W
1.7 up to 3.3 GHz, 4 MB cache, 15 W
6th Gen Intel® Core™ m3, i5, or i7Intel Skylake low-voltage dual-core:
900 MHz up to 2.2 GHz, 4 MB cache, 4.5 W
2.4 up to 3.0 GHz, 3 MB cache, 15 W
2.2 up to 3.4 GHz, 4 MB cache, 15 W
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4400 Intel integrated HD Graphics[2]
HD 4200 in i3 CPU
HD 4400 in i5 CPU
HD 5000 in i7 CPU
m3: Intel® HD graphics 515
i5: Intel® HD graphics 520
i7: Intel® Iris™ graphics
Ram 4 GB 4GB , 8GB 4GB , 8GB 4GB – 16GB
Storage 64GB – 256GB 64GB – 512GB 64GB – 512GB 128GB – 1TB
MicroSD Slot Up to 200GB Up to 128 GB Up to 200GB Up to 2TB
Digitizer Wacom Wacom N-Trig N-Trig
Pressure Sensitivity 256 Levels 1024 Levels 256 Levels 1024 Levels
Battery, Weight & Windows
Battery Life Aroun 4 Hours Around 7 hours 5+ hours, often more 3-6 hours
Weight (Approximate) Less than 2lbs 2 lb 1.76 lb 2.36 lbs
Windows Windows 8 Pro. Upgradeable to Windows 8.1 Pro Windows 8.1 Pro Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 10 Windows 10
Bluetooth 4 4 4 4
Front 1.2 MP, 720 HD Video 5 MP, 1080P HD Video 5 MP, 1080P HD Video 1080p 5MP
Rear 1.2 MP with autofocus, 720 HD Video 5 MP, 1080P HD Video 5 MP, 1080P HD Video 8MP autofocus rear-facing

And Finally

While people with money can simply go for the highest model, and maybe the newest iteration. Getting an older Surface Pro is a good idea for many cases, and so I hope this comparison has helped you pick the right Surface Pro Tablet for you.

I hope you liked my Surface Pro comparison, and see you again in another article. ^^

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Surface Pro 1 Surface Pro 2 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4




Sources & Useful Links

Surface 3 Early Battery Test


See Also:-

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.


  1. I think you did a very good job with this comparison of the surface pros – I bought used ones, an RT, a Surgace 1, and surface 1 pro – all of then are excellent – if you know any newer comparison, please advise, and thanks again!

    1. I am glad you like my comparison here, dear Jonathan. This is the newest comparison I have so far, but I will likely make newer one once Microsoft release newer Surface~

  2. Love the review. I have the Surface Pro 1 and I love it. I’ve owned an Intuos Pro, Cintiq 13HD and Cintiq 22HD and I have to say the Surface Pro 1 is still my favorite. Keep up the great work!

  3. 포항출장안마
    I needed to thank you for this good read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of
    it. I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post…

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