Home > Computing > Surface Pro 3 vs. Surface Pro 4: Spec showdown

Surface Pro 3 vs. Surface Pro 4: Spec showdown

At this point, it’s no surprise when Microsoft reveals a new product in the Surface lineup. The company has been doing so for years, churning out new product release after new product release in a constant effort to combat Apple and others.

The aptly-titled Surface Pro 4 is the company’s newest installment, one featuring a 2,763 x 1,824-pixel display, an improved Surface Pen, and ports designed to simplify connectivity. Moreover, the capable two-in-one packs Intel’s Skylake processors and an accurate and responsive touch system.

That being said, how does Microsoft’s latest-and-greatest stack up beside the last-gen Surface Pro 3? Check out the comparison below for a quick look at the hardware and software under the hood.

Related: Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 rides the wave the Surface Pro 3 started

Surface Pro 3

SP3 Thumb

Surface Pro 4

SP4 Thumb

Size 11.50 x 7.93 x 0.36 (in) 11.50 x 7.93 x 0.33 (in)
Weight 1.76 lbs 1.69 lbs (m3) or 1.73 lbs (i5 and i7)
Screen 12-inch multitouch 12.3-inch multitouch
Resolution 2,160 x 1,440 pixels 2,763 x 1,824 pixels
OS Windows 10 Pro Windows 10 Pro
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
SD Card Slot MicroSD MicroSD
Processor 4th Gen Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 6th Gen Intel Core m3, i5, or i7
Wireless 802.11ac/802.11a/b/g/n 802.11ac/802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0
RAM 4GB or 8GB 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
Ports USB 3.0, headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Cover Port, Charging Port USB 3.0, headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Cover Port, Surface Connect
Camera 5MP front, 5MP rear 5MP front, 8MP rear
Sensors Ambient light, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer Ambient light, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, optional fingerprint reader
Battery Up to 9 hours of video playback Up to 9 hours of video playback
Marketplace Windows Store Windows Store
Base Price $700 $900
Buy it at: Amazon Microsoft Amazon Microsoft
Availability Now Coming October 26, with pre-orders starting October 7
DT Review 3.5 out of 5 stars Hands-on Review

Power and productivity

With Surface Pro 4, Microsoft opted for a multitude of Skylake processors to get the job done, allowing you to choose between a 6th-generation Intel Core m3, i5, or i7 processor. Microsoft claims the upgraded horsepower renders the Pro 4 roughly 30 percent faster than the last-gen Pro 3, but frankly, that’s going to be reliant on which configuration of the system you opt for.

Other facets of the Pro 3 — notably storage and RAM — have also been improved, letting you take advantage of up to a terabyte of storage and 16GB of RAM. The latter will allow the Pro 4 to better handle multitasking and large files.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Not every part of the Surface Pro 4 is complete overhaul, however. Microsoft claims the battery still supports up to 9 hours of video playback on a single charge — same as the Pro 3 — while the connectivity and Wi-Fi capabilities remain identical across both devices. Same goes for the marketplace, operating system, and the embedded sensors. That said, the Surface Pro 4 still offers the promise of more performance with expanded configuration options.

Design

The two-in-one design of the Surface Pro 4 doesn’t deviate from its predecessor, though, there are some important differences.

The newest model touts at 12.3-inch display and 2,763 x 1,824-pixel resolution, a welcome step up from the 2,160 x 1,440-pixel resolution of the Pro 3. This new “PixelSense” display is also said to offer higher contrast, low glare, and the ability to sense 1,024 pressure levels from the included Surface Pen.

The increased sensitivity should give the improved Pen a more tactile feel, while generally rendering the device more accurate and responsive in everyday use. The tighter bezels simply render the display more attractive, allowing it to take up nearly the entire front of the device.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Moreover, the Pro 4 sheds some weight without sacrificing the footprint or the silver, magnesium encasing. Microsoft managed to shave 0.7 millimeters off the thickness and an ounce or so off the weight, regardless of the configuration.

The new Pro 4 keyboard cover ($130), though compatible with the Pro 3, also features an integrated backlight, redesigned scissor switch keys, and a larger touchpad outfitted with 5-point multitouch support.

Camera

Unlike Windows-based smartphones, the camera has never been a central component of the Surface series. The Surface Pro 4 does offer a rear-facing autofocus camera, though, one that allows you to capture 8-megapixel stills instead of the 5-megapixel images you can snap with Pro 3. Both devices still take advantage of a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for conference calls, however, meaning the Pro 4 has only a slighter edge when it comes to camera functionality.

Price and availability

With every new product comes a price cut. Whereas the Surface Pro 3 is now widely available starting at $700, the Pro 4 won’t arrive until October 26 with base m3 models starting at $900.

The configuration also includes 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, though, you can always configure the Pro 4 to include 16GB of RAM, an Intel Core i7 processor, and a terabyte SSD if you have a whopping $2,700 to spare.

The higher-end configurations aren’t currently available for pre-order like the base model, but you can purchase all iterations of the Pro 3 right now at varying price points. It’s safe to say the Pro 4 is the more expensive of the two, but it’s also the more capable.

Conclusion

The Surface Pro 3 was a capable device, but the Pro 4 outshines it in a variety of ways. The option for additional RAM and storage capacity is a plus, as is the improved display, camera, and the device’s processing capabilities.

You might still want the Surface Pro 3 if you’re on a tight budget, as it’s still capable, and not that far behind the Pro 4. However, keep in mind that attractive $700 base price includes a meager 64GB hard drive, while the base version of the Pro 4 has a much more spacious 128GB drive.

If you currently own a Surface Pro 3, you probably don’t need to upgrade. The new model is better, but not so much better that it renders the old one obsolete. You can also gain some of the benefits of the Pro 4 because the new, improved Type Cover and Surface Pen will work with the Pro 3.