Microsoft Surface Pro 3 vs Surface Pro 4 comparison preview

With many clones arriving from the likes of HP, Dell and Lenovo, Microsoft has announced a new version of its Surface tablet. But how what's different compared to the old version? Find out in our Surface Pro 3 vs Surface Pro 4 comparison.

It was totally expected that Microsoft would announce the Surface Pro 4 at its event last week. It also announced other products including the Lumia 950, Lumia 550, new Band 2 wearable and a big surprise in the Surface Book laptop.

See also: Surface Pro 4 hands-on review.

Surface Pro 4 vs Pro 3

Surface Pro 3 vs Surface Pro 4: Price UK

Due to go on sale with a release date of 12 November in the UK, the Surface Pro 4 starts at £749 which is a little more than the Pro 3 which was £639. Prices go all the way up to £1,799 depending on what specs you want. See also: Surface Pro 4 release date, price and specs.

Like Apple does with some iPads and iPhones, the old model is still available and has received a price cut due to it now being out-of-date. This means you can pick up a Surface Pro 3 from £549 saving you £200.

See below for a full price table but note that processors are different generations.

Surface Pro 3 vs Surface Pro 4: Design and build

At a glance, the Pro 4 looks extremely similar to the Pro 3 – after all it's just a new version of the same product. It still has the same shape and that now iconic kickstand, but there are some notable changes in the design.

For starters, the Pro 4 has a larger screen despite being the same size (width and height) thanks to smaller bezels. We'll talk about the display in the next section. Arguably more important on the design front is that Microsoft has made the table thinner and lighter.

Surface Pro 4 design

It's now just 8.45mm thick down from 9.1mm with the firm saying it couldn't make it any thinner without dropping the full-size USB port which it didn't want to do.  It's also lighter so you'll only have to lug around 766g instead of 800g for the lightest model (the Core m3) – you can add 20g for a Core i option.

Surface Pro 3 vs Surface Pro 4: Hardware and specs

We mentioned that the screen has got bigger so you'll have 12.3in of real estate rather than 12in. It's not a huge change but welcome since the device hasn't got bigger as a result. The resolution has been bumped to 2736x1824, too, resulting in a crisp and clear pixel density of 267ppi. It's probably not enough of a reason to upgrade but it does look great.

As well as a thinner and lighter design, Microsoft has made some big improvements under the surface (sorry).

While the Pro 3 is available with a Core i3, i5 and i7 – they are all 4th-generation Intel chips. The Surface Pro 4 starts with a Core m3 processor but you can also get Core i5 and i7 models which are all 6th-gen Skylake processors.

We haven't had a chance to run benchmarks since we've only had hands-on time with the new Pro 4 but Microsoft claims that it offers a 30 percent boost in speed.

Surface Pro 4

Aiding this speed boost is the fact that the Surface Pro 4 is available with up to 16GB of RAM which is double the Pro 3. Both do start at 4GB if you're looking at the cheapest models, though.

Storage has also been increased with a new 1TB model but the big news is that this isn't available in the UK. You'll have to choose between 128-, 256- and 512GB capacities with the smallest being double the entry-level Pro 3 which has 64GB.

Some specs remain the same such as 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 5Mp front facing camera. Ports also offer USB 3.0, Mini-DisplayPort and a Micro-SD cards slot. Microsoft has upgraded the rear camera from 5- to 8Mp although we'd rather this was at the front for video calls. The firm also touts up to 9 hours battery life when used for video playback.

The Surface Pro 4 comes with Windows 10 Pro but this isn't a big difference since the new OS is a free upgrade for existing users. So even if you buy a Surface Pro 3, you can upgrade it to Windows 10 Pro for nothing.

Surface Pen and Type Cover

Keeping with tradition, the Pro 4 comes with the Surface Pen stylus and it comes with various improvements. Not only does it come in different colours, but supports interchangeable tips and 1,024 levels of pressure. The eraser button on the end can not only erase but the button will do things like open OneNote and activate Cortana. Last but not least is that it attaches with magnets rather than having to sit in a fabric loop on the Type Cover.

For some, graphic designers and the like, this might be a big reason to upgrade but the new Surface Pen works with the Pro 3 so you could just buy it separately. Just note that the magnetic way of attaching it won't work.

The new Pro 4 Type Cover isn't included as usual but it's well worth a mention, partly because it's an essential accessory in order to get the most out of the device.

While typing and using the trackpad on the previous model can be a bit clumsy at times, the new Type Cover is a big improvement. The keys have a 19mm pitch and 1.3mm travel for a much more comfortable experience. The trackpad is made from glass and is 40 percent bigger.

Surface Pro 4 Type Cover

All of this is very welcome and might be persuading you to upgrade but hold on because the Pro 4 Type Cover is fully compatible with the Pro 3 so you can upgrade that element.

There seems to be some confusion about the new Type Cover with a fingerprint scanner. This model is specifically for the Pro 3 for Windows Hello authentication since the Pro 4 supports facial recognition.

Reasons to upgrade to the Surface Pro 4

•    Thinner and lighter design
•    Larger and higher resolution screen
•    16GB of RAM available
•    6th-gen Intel Skylake processor
•    8Mp camera
•    Comes with new Surface Pen

Buy the Surface Pro 4

Reasons to stick with/opt for the Surface Pro 3

•    Cheaper
•    Compatible with new Surface Pen
•    Compatible with Pro 4 Type Cover
•    Upgradable to Windows 10 for free

Buy the Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 4: Specs

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 12.3in PixelSense display, 2736x1824, 267ppi
  • Up to Intel Skylake Core i7
  • Up to 16GB RAM
  • Up to 512GB storage
  • USB 3.0
  • Mini-DisplayPort
  • Micro-SD card reader
  • 11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 5Mp front camera
  • 8Mp rear camera
  • Surface Pen included
  • 292x201x8.45mm
  • 766g
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 12.3in PixelSense display, 2736x1824, 267ppi
  • Up to Intel Skylake Core i7
  • Up to 16GB RAM
  • Up to 512GB storage
  • USB 3.0
  • Mini-DisplayPort
  • Micro-SD card reader
  • 11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 5Mp front camera
  • 8Mp rear camera
  • Surface Pen included
  • 292x201x8.45mm
  • 766g

OUR VERDICT

With a number of upgrades, the Surface Pro 4 is a decent upgrade. It's thinner and lighter yet has a bigger screen, the same ports and the latest Intel processors. However, the 1TB model isn't available in the UK and the price has gone up. The Surface Pro 3 is by no means suddenly rubbish and the fact you can get it cheaper and it supports the new Surface Pen and Type Cover make it a tempting buy.

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