Sometimes the only way to make progress is to leave something behind.
The Surface Pro 4 is a rare tablet that is portable and powerful enough to fulfill almost any role in the classroom. In fact, it easily shifts from a full-featured desktop computer into a reliable and portable tablet on the fly.
Most Surface Pro 4s come with either an Intel i5 or i7 chipset. Our test unit had a 2.4-gigahertz i5, and nothing we threw at it could slow it down.
Movies ran seamlessly, and all manner of educational and productivity software performed well, opening in just a few seconds as one might expect from a powerful desktop computer or workstation. In fact, when the optional keyboard is attached via a magnetic clip, the Surface Pro 4 is, in every practical sense, a desktop. It runs a full version of Windows 10 and full versions of every program available for that OS.
Despite the increase in power, the Surface Pro 4 also manages to improve functionality when working as a tablet, including having a long enough battery life to get though a full day of classes without needing to recharge. When running a high-definition movie, the SP4 was able to provide continuous power for eight hours and 47 minutes.
A stylus pen is included, adding even greater functionality. Clicking the pen automatically performs tasks such as launching OneNote, taking a screenshot or alerting the Cortana digital assistant that help or a search is needed. The stylus allows for very precise writing on the touch-sensitive screen, allowing complex formulas to be sketched out quickly and shared with other Surface Pro users. The Surface Pro 4’s features, power and flexibility will go far to enhance student learning.
The cameras also were treated to an upgrade in the Surface Pro 4: The user-facing camera is now a 5-megapixel model with a wide-angle lens, perfect for video conferencing or remote teaching. The rear camera, an 8MP model, includes autofocus — a first for the Surface lineup.
Another, user-facing camera might go unnoticed: an infrared model included as part of the Windows Hello secure login. Users introduce themselves to the unit, and the device stays on the lookout for them ever after. When an authorized user steps up, they will be logged in automatically and securely. Because it’s infrared, the camera also allows the device to detect and verify users in nearly dark conditions, a nice perk for those who log in and take notes in darkened classrooms.
The Edge browser represents another remarkable feature. Of course, Edge works with any Windows 10 device, but it seems tailored to tablets.
While Edge is more stripped down than Explorer, the new browser offers several built-in features that also seem tailor-made for educational environments. Distraction-free reading, and the ability to create reading lists of articles or assignments that students might like to look at after class, come first to mind.
To create a reading list, users simply click a button to add an article to a personal reading list. Users can save the page on the list so that it can be examined offline later, even where no Wi-Fi is available (which is perfect when not every student has Wi-Fi at home).
The distraction-free reading mode — also available with a single touch — removes all ads and peripheral data on a web page, leaving only the actual text of an article on a plain background, with little to interrupt study time.
Edge allows users to write directly on web pages with the Surface pen. Notes can be taken directly on articles or photographs while browsing, and the whole experience can be saved and shared with other Surface Pro users through the included OneNote program.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a powerful tool that would be an advantage to almost any type of user. Integrated with the new Edge browser, it shines even more brightly in most classrooms.
Processor: Intel i5-6300U dual-core 2.4GHz CPU
Memory: 8GB RAM
Hard drive: 256GB solid-state drive
Display: 12.3-inch PixelSense LCD touch screen
Dimensions: 7.9x11.5x0.03 inches
Weight: 1.73 pounds