Mountaineering & Expeditions

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Tablet Review

These days, tech plays an ever-increasing role in outdoor life. GPS watches and apps like Strava have all changed the game in various ways, but perhaps the biggest leap forward has been in the fields of outdoor photography and film-making. Today’s lightweight mirrorless cameras and GoPros are able to produce incredibly high-quality photos and footage. This means that getting amazing-looking photos and videos of your trips, whether it’s climbing, skiing, mountain biking or hiking has all become much more possible.

Of course, as lightweight and as portable as digital cameras are, you still need a computer to use them properly. Whether it’s clearing cards, logging and backing up footage or editing using Adobe Lightroom or Premiere Pro, having a powerful, portable laptop back in the chalet or at basecamp is an essential adventure tool for anyone with an interest in outdoor photography or film-making.

The Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft fits the bill perfectly. It’s as powerful as a proper computer, but it’s lightweight and as slimline as a large tablet. With its svelte design, Swiss Army Knife spec sheet, and a removable keyboard that enables you to use it either as a laptop or tablet, it’s been beating out the competition and bagging five-star reviews throughout 2016.

“It’s as powerful as a proper computer, but as lightweight and as slimline as a large tablet.”

What sets the Surface Pro 4 apart is the fact that, as a 2-in-1 detachable, it combines the power of a PC with the convenience of a tablet—the Surface Pro can be used with a detachable Type Cover keyboard, which is then be easily removed if you want to use it as a tablet. And via Microsoft’s PixelSense technology, you can also use a Surface Pen stylus that enables you to draw and take notes directly on the device. In fact, the Surface Pro 4 can detect 1,024 levels of pressure, even during a single pen stroke.

Everything you do on the Surface Pro 4 is complimented by its stunning screen. Microsoft doesn’t give a name to the technology used in its Surface displays, but at 2736 x 1824 pixels on a 12.3-inch screen it has a greater pixel density than Apple’s ‘Retina’ models. Whether it’s watching movies, editing images, browsing online, or even gaming (yes, incredibly this tiny package packs enough of a punch for even the most CPU-intensive games!), you’ll be doing it in style.

And courtesy of Microsoft’s existing partnerships with software providers such as Adobe, you’ll also find that your favourite creative tools, such as Photoshop, Lightroom and Premiere Pro (essential tools for outdoor photographers and film-makers) have been optimised for touch (with tool menus and interfaces updated for operation via a stylus). And Microsoft hasn’t been dragging its heels, either, with its own apps—from the bundled paint tool Fresh Paint, to the fantastic OneNote—being improved for use with the Surface Pen.

“Powerful, packed with groundbreaking tech, multi-functional, compact and lightweight. This could tick more outdoor gear boxes if it tried.”

Another standout feature in the Surface Pro 4 (and one that again photographers and filmers will love) is how it handles storage. Although the Surface Pro 4’s USB 3.0 port enables you to use an external storage drive, and the laptop features an SD card slot so you don’t need to carry card readers or extra cables around with you. Also, if you really wanted to travel light, you could pack SD cards and use them for storage – you can specify an SD card as your primary storage drive, and even have apps run directly from your card.

Of course, like all self-respecting tablets, the Surface Pro has an impressive camera of its own too. It can capture 8-megapixel images and HD video through the rear-facing lens.

There are some great hidden features in the Surface Pro 4, too; one of our favourites being the Windows Hello security tool. Security options don’t grab many headlines, but this is facial recognition on steroids. Using the Surface Pro 4’s two front-facing cameras—one 5-megapixel, and one infrared—Windows Hello enables you to log in to your device using your face (with no more need for annoying passwords!). This is some next level, Mission Impossible, hacking-from-a-van tech that we’re talking about.

The SP4’s infrared camera uses depth perception; so someone can’t simply hold up a picture of your face to fool the camera, as it requires a three-dimensional model. Bottom line: unless you allow yourself to be decapitated, or give someone a 3D print out of your head—both of which we’d advise against—you can rest assured that no one else can access your PC.

On the face of it (sorry, we couldn’t resist) it may not seem that special, but it becomes invaluable over time. Combine this with the fingerprint recognition built into the Surface Pro 4’s Type Cover, and you can guarantee that no one’s ever updating your Facebook status without you knowing about it again.

Powerful, packed with groundbreaking tech, multi-functional, compact and lightweight. It might not have been designed specifically for outdoor adventures, but Microsoft couldn’t have ticked any more boxes with the Surface Pro 4 if they’d tried!

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Tablet Stats:

The 100 Best Outdoor Products for Winter 2016 View them all

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