Mobile Technology

With Windows 10 waiting in the wings, our wish list for the Surface Pro 4

With Windows 10 waiting in the...
Gizmag ponders some ways that Microsoft could improve on the Surface Pro 3
Gizmag ponders some ways that Microsoft could improve on the Surface Pro 3
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The Surface Pro 3 is a great device, but improvement is a never-ending game
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The Surface Pro 3 is a great device, but improvement is a never-ending game
Gizmag ponders some ways that Microsoft could improve on the Surface Pro 3
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Gizmag ponders some ways that Microsoft could improve on the Surface Pro 3
The Power Cover, which Microsoft sold for the first two generations of Surfaces, could extend SP4 battery life
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The Power Cover, which Microsoft sold for the first two generations of Surfaces, could extend SP4 battery life
The Surface Pro 3's trackpad is solid enough, but this is one area that still has lots of room for improvement
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The Surface Pro 3's trackpad is solid enough, but this is one area that still has lots of room for improvement
If you're charging your Surface, there's no convenient place to snap on the pen
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If you're charging your Surface, there's no convenient place to snap on the pen
A fanless – or at least quieter – Surface would be a big improvement
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A fanless – or at least quieter – Surface would be a big improvement
The Surface Pro 3 has one USB port ... a second would be welcome on the SP4
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The Surface Pro 3 has one USB port ... a second would be welcome on the SP4
Windows 10 is coming to the Surface Pro 3 later this month ... but will we also see a Surface Pro 4?
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Windows 10 is coming to the Surface Pro 3 later this month ... but will we also see a Surface Pro 4?

We don't yet know if we'll see a Surface Pro 4 anytime soon. We don't even know with any certainty that there will be a Surface Pro 4. But if or when Microsoft does release a follow-up to its popular 2-in-1, we have a few thoughts on what could make it better.

First, the obvious

The Surface Pro 3 is a great device, but improvement is a never-ending game
The Surface Pro 3 is a great device, but improvement is a never-ending game

Some things are going to be on the wishlist for any "next version" of a mobile device. Sharper display, longer battery life, lighter and thinner build, faster performance … these things apply to the Surface Pro 4 just as they would the Galaxy S7, iPhone 7, iPad Air 3 or HTC One M10.

... in other words, "duh."

The Surface Pro 3 is already in pretty good shape in all of those categories, but its display resolution could afford to be sharper for tablet mode (when you hold it closer to your eyes). It looks outstanding at laptop distance, but at tablet distance, we do notice pixels. Upping its resolution could kick tablet mode up to the "dazzling" eye candy level that the SP3 falls a bit short of.

A lighter build would also be a big improvement. The 12-inch SP3 makes for such a huge tablet that a feathery build would help to make up for the fact that you're hoisting a device with a screen that's 47 percent bigger than the iPad Air 2's.

Give the Surface Pen a (better) home

If you're charging your Surface, there's no convenient place to snap on the pen
If you're charging your Surface, there's no convenient place to snap on the pen

The Surface Pen in the Pro 3 is awesome. It has a solid aluminum build, great sensitivity and can even launch OneNote with a one-click shortcut.

But Microsoft hasn't been quite as successful in handling the Surface Pen storage situation. Sure, you can slide it into the loop that attaches to the keyboard, but that takes some finagling – and isn't something you'll want to do more than a couple times in one session.

You can also snap it magnetically onto the right side of the tablet (well, it's the right side in laptop mode), but that's also where the Surface's charging port is. If you're charging while you're working, and you don't feel like messing with the keyboard loop, you have nowhere to put it.

Why not just magnetize the device's left side as well? Then you can snap the pen on even while charging, for easy access and easy stashing when you're done.

Silence is golden

A fanless – or at least quieter – Surface would be a big improvement
A fanless – or at least quieter – Surface would be a big improvement

On our Surface Pro 3, the fan fires up often. And loudly. Either a fanless Surface or one with a quieter fan would help to push things forward.

One option would be a Broadwell Core M processor, like in Apple's 12-inch MacBook, but that would also mean a step backwards in performance. So perhaps a quieter fan that can do its job on a newer model Core i5 or i7 without setting off tornado sirens would be just what the doctor ordered.

Better trackpad

The Surface Pro 3's trackpad is solid enough, but this is one area that still has lots of room for improvement
The Surface Pro 3's trackpad is solid enough, but this is one area that still has lots of room for improvement

The Surface Pro 3's keyboard has a much better trackpad than on any of its predecessors, but there's still room for improvement. Try switching from a MacBook to the SP3, and you'll see what we mean – you'll be going from a huge glass pad that's incredibly responsive to a smaller plastic one that's ... sufficiently responsive.

There's only so much real estate to work with on the Surface keyboard cover, but if Microsoft could manage a pad that's about 25 percent bigger, with improved sensitivity and perhaps a higher-end material (glass?), that would be a big win for the Surface Pro 4.

Bring back the Power Cover – and make it standard

The Power Cover, which Microsoft sold for the first two generations of Surfaces, could extend SP4 battery life
The Power Cover, which Microsoft sold for the first two generations of Surfaces, could extend SP4 battery life

We're already asking for a lighter Surface Pro 4 with a sharper display, and doing both of those and extending battery life would be a very tall order. So why not put some extra battery in the keyboard – like Microsoft did a couple years ago?

Microsoft never released a Power Cover for the Surface Pro 3, presumably because the device's battery life was already pretty darn good. But you can never have battery life that's too long, so why not resurrect the Power Cover for the Surface Pro 4? And why not make it the default keyboard cover?

Cost could be an issue, and a US$200-ish price tag for the keyboard alone (after throwing down nearly $1,000 for the Surface itself) would likely kill this approach. But $130 for the non-battery Surface covers always seemed a bit steep to us, so perhaps a $160 cover with a built-in battery could be a reasonable compromise for both Microsoft and Surface buyers?

One more USB port

The Surface Pro 3 has one USB port ... a second would be welcome on the SP4
The Surface Pro 3 has one USB port ... a second would be welcome on the SP4

We don't have a big problem getting by with the Surface Pro 3's single USB port, and you can always add a Surface Docking Station (or a cheap USB splitter adapter) if you want to expand that. But one more USB port would still be welcome.

There's also the question of whether to switch to USB Type C, or stick with the current model's USB 3.0. We could live with either approach, but our only request is that, should Microsoft go the Type C route, include an adapter in the box.

Free Windows for life!

Windows 10 is coming to the Surface Pro 3 later this month ... but will we also see a Surface Pro 4?
Windows 10 is coming to the Surface Pro 3 later this month ... but will we also see a Surface Pro 4?

We're probably venturing into fantasy land here, but when you buy a Surface, you aren't just investing in Microsoft's software platform, you're also investing in its specific vision for the future of the PC. Why not thank the buyers that are helping to make that a reality by promising free Windows updates for the life of the product? Meaning Windows 11, 12 or whatever comes next will be free upgrades for that Surface, as long as the device's specs fall above the minimum for that Windows version.

We won't hold our breath for this one though. It could be too big an incentive to buy a Surface over a similar device from HP, Lenovo or other Windows OEMs, causing unnecessary friction with Microsoft's partners. Oh well, it can't hurt to ask.

What else?

Surface Pro 3 owners: what else would you want to see in the next version of your favorite 2-in-1? Drop us a line in the comments below.

8 comments
Joel Detrow
TekSyndicate did a "nerdiest review" of the Surface Pro 3, it addresses some things which this article made no mention of. Likewise, this article mentions some things which that one didn't, so anyone interested should look it up - there isn't much overlap.
JaxCavalera
That's a nice list but here's mine : 1. Dedicated Graphics GTX970+ 2. 16 to 32GB Ram 3. Quad Core i7 CPU Provide these things and you have yourself a device fitting and ready for the professional game developers working with technology such as the Rift etc. A lot of efficiency can be drawn from a tablet computer and the uses for pressure sensitive pen input vs traditional mouse input is growing as well. The sad truth is that there is only one convertible tablet that is scheduled to provide specs remotely close to those I listed and even then it's not quite there. Lenovo Yoga is coming with dedicated graphics and includes a pressure sensitive penabled display. In the future, game developers, graphic designers and other power intensive professional industries won't be confined to their desks. VR and Augmented Reality will play a significant role in this shift so why is it so hard to consider that 2 versions of new consumer tablets be released. Microsoft Surface 4 (the crappy one described in this article) Microsoft Surface PRO 4 (take the best aspects such as display and keyboard with extra power etc.. and usb ports whatever plus the specs listed in this post) When I see the term Pro, I think of professional usage such as the scenarios described in my post, I don't picture yuppies on a couch with their "ipad" alternative doing finger paintings or similar. The device described in this article would be better suited for casual consumers .. not professionals that are going to be taking advantage of all the power and potential that Windows 10 promises to give developers.
Otto De Steene
I love my SP3 i7, but my dream surface? * 4K 15inch thin bezel more matte screen, * i7, dedicated GPU (geforce 650M or AMD alternative @ minimum) * if no dedicated gpu: being able to add this via thunderbolt (for decent premiere pro/ after effects editing) would be great. * 5h battery on load would be ok. * Weight? whatever minimum it needs to be. When I would be able to hang my pen on the cover when the cover is opened, I would be ok. current loop is to stretchy. * power button should be relocated to avoid accidental power-ons * windows logo home button should be relocated to the left * better trackpad on type-cover * 1x full size sd-card reader, 2x latest thunderbolt over usb-c connection (left and right), one old usb 3.1 jack. * no dock, but ability to connect 4K screen, ethernet, dedicated thunderbolt GPU's all over one usb-C * better wifi range needed
DonnPattenden
From an artist's point of view, the pen is not responsive enough. Make it as responsive as the Cintiq Companion's stylus.
Rann Xeroxx
I agree about the pen and touchpad. I don't think the new Surface needs a battery cover. If the newer one can charge off of a portable power pack, I would just sell a 3rd party one of those in the MS store. Just seems like a waste of R&D and device support cost. As far as ports, I assume the SP4 will have the same setup as the Surface 3 with a full USB-3 and a USB-C that can be used to power and/or as a USB port. As far as providing a free dongle, just buy one yourself. Most people will never use it, why make them pay for it with the overall cost of the device? I would like to see a 12-13" version, the smaller screens with the high res just is impossible for me to see the screen.
commonsense
First, I have a Surface 3 Pro, and use it every day (at least 6-10 hours each day), and have NEVER heard a fan running. Occasionally the back is a bit hot, but not overly so. My wish list for a Microsoft Surface 4 Pro would be: 1. Larger size screen. Increase the exterior dimensions slightly, but less bezel on sides and top. Squeeze in a 13.3 inch screen within a body that is 12 1/4"x8 1/2". 2. Lighter weight. Even 750 grams instead of the current 800 grams with the above size tweaks would be appreciated. 3. I agree with adding an additional USB 3.0 port, but also add a USB Type C and put these additional ports on the left side. 4. Ditch the proprietary charge cord for a normal one. While I like the magnetic click, I think it takes up too much space that might be used for ports, etc.
John Banister
I have a fancy Motion Computing tablet, and I always end up using the cheap Walmart HP I bought while that tablet was being repaired for one reason only: screen size. What I would want from the producer of MS Surface is Surface Pro 4XL with a screen like a Dell XPS 18. The next thing I'd want is the Iris Pro GT4e graphics from Skylake. Probably I'll just wait for the XPS 18 to get Skylake and then see what I can do about a power cover for it. Motion Computing has a nice solution for stylus storage. One other thing that Microsoft might want to consider is a Surface Pro tablet where the wireless communication and user authentication are performed by a docked Windows Phone, conceptually similar to Motorola Atrix. Users could save money by buying the same internal radios twice and have the security of keeping sensitive information only on the phone's (slower) storage. Also, this might sell more of the phones and achieve the sort of customer lock-in that's right up Microsoft's alley.
Soundoctor
The stylus of course should retract INTO a hole in the housing. Then it should essentially be flush with the case. Then another push in and it should click out so it can be pulled out and used. This doesn't seem like rocket science to me. Oh. And the tops of ALL laptops and pads should be "solar panels", trickle charging ALL these devices when not in use and closed.