Microsoft Surface Pro4 i5 – Going back to Microsoft tomorrow

Two weeks ago I bought the Surface Pro 4 i5. I have done my homework, done all the research and concluded that the Surface Pro 4 M3 is the model that I *should* buy but decided to go with the i5 to see if this is the better model for me, considering that the i5 is a tad more powerful than the M3.

SurfacePro4_i5

Surface Pro 4 – i5, 4GB Ram, 128GB SSD

Two weeks later today, I come to the conclusion that the i5 is not the model for me. Here are my list of observations:

  1. The SP4 is a beautifully built device. The build quality in general exceeded my expectation.
  2. Whatever you read about the “pros” and good things about the Surface Pro 4 on the internet is true. Whatever you read about the “cons” and not so good things is also true. The followings are the things that I am less enthusiastic about:
    • Screen bleed – Not very serious.  It is really only visible during boot (i.e. when you see the SURFACE logo appear with the black screen behind). On my SP4, the screen bleed is mainly at the bottom of the screen. And unless I crank up the SP4’s brightness during normal use, the screen bleed is not visible at all. And at 25% brightness, I am finding the screen plenty bright enough in indoor conditions. In outdoor under bright sunlight I think the screen brightness will need to be ramped up but I have not tried to see if the screen bleed is visible at higher brightness level in outdoor conditions.
    • Maturity of firmware and drivers and software in general. I have had one blue screen of death in the whole 2 weeks but that is before I updated the firmware, and upgraded Windows 10 to the latest 1511 build. I have not had any issues afterwards. Windows Hello work most of the time. I have had once or twice whereby the camera did not come on at the lockscreen. Not a major problem really.
    • Heat and fan noise. The SP4 runs warm. The fan will kick in when the clock speed gets high enough. The fan will kick in when the device is undergoing firmware update, windows update and the like. I can accept that. But what I cannot accept is that background task like Kaspersky Internet Security 2016 with its scanner will also cause the fan to kick in. And the CPU load is only about 30% (although the clockspeed is close to maximum during the process). So it looks like the fan is more a function of the CPU clockspeed and less a function of the CPU load. If I have onedrive syncing in the background, the fan will also kick in. And yes, I have tried the trick of setting the processor maximum speed to see if this help. I have set the maximum speed to 90%. Nope. Does not help. Fan kicks in regardless. Have also tried 50% even. Still the same. But worse is that the device then gets sluggish with normal use. So the way I see it, getting used to the fan running from time to time is what an i5 owner have to accept.
    • Is the fan loud enough to be a bother? No. It is not. It is loud enough for one (esp. the user) to take notice of but not loud enough to annoy someone, unless I work in a library environment, I wouldn’t worry. But what bothers me is that the SP4 is a tablet first and a laptop/notebook second. It is kind of weird to hear fan noise from a tablet device and because of this mindset, I feel uncomfortable. It is a mind thing really.
    • Battery life. I gets about 5-5.5 hours usually. Nothing great to write home about and in fact the battery life is not as impressive as I would have hoped.
    • Heat issues. Yes the SP4 runs warm. If I push it harder, it will warm up more. If I use the device as tablet and with the kickstand collapsed and the back of the device on my lap/thigh, I feel the warmth of the device and that can become uncomfortable very quickly.
  3. That being said, I like the SP4 a lot. The pen is useful. With bluebeam Revu, it becomes a great marking up tool for drawings. Engineers like myself will love it. The device is really the best kind of device an Engineer can dream of. It is like having a digital notebook that you can bring everywhere which has far more processing power than an iPad/Android tablet and can run conventional desktop software such as Filecentre, Bluebeam, Autocad TrueView, etc.

Bottom line is….am I giving up on the Surface Pro? No. I am giving up on the i5. I don’t think the i7 will fare better and I cannot justify the kind of price for my kind of usage, even as an Engineer. So I am returning the SP4 i5 to Microsoft tomorrow to get a full refund. Microsoft’s 30 days no question ask return policy is greatly appreciated here. It allows an end user to trial run the device before committing to keep the device long term and yes, I took care of the SP4 during all this time. There is not a scratch anywhere.

I am going for the M3 when the refund is sorted. I believed the M3 is the right model for me and what I should have bought in the first place.

Here are some tips for anyone who wishes to return their SP4,

  1. Do not try to reset the device. It seems like a wise thing to do really and that is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, software glitch caused the SP4 to get stuck at 31% for hours when it is trying to reset itself. I ended up having to download a recovery image from Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-ca/support/warranty-service-and-recovery/downloadablerecoveryimage) and then proceed to do a recovery. Wasted a good couple of hours in doing this.
  2. The process of initiating the return is as follows:
    • Call Microsoft sales and customer support, telling them that you wanted to return the device.
    • MS customer support will then send an email which outline the return instructions.
    • An email attaching a post return label from Australia post will be emailed within the next 24-48 hours. This Post return label contains a barcode which is trackable online once the device is sent.
  3. Reuse the original carton box that you received with the original SP4. A lot easier than getting another box for the return.

I am eagerly awaiting the SP4 M3 :-)