Sign in with Microsoft

In Part 1 I discussed what a wonderful device the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is, and why I chose it, and why I selected the basic configuration. And I posed the question, can a product get better than it was when new.

The answer to that is: yes indeed. Let’s see the ways that has happened.

Getting better

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 was not as good as I described in the last part out of the box. First, as usual with many devices, it was hard to know what its feature set was, given that there’s no such thing as a manual. I was only vaguely aware of the now invaluable writing to text conversion feature, and couldn’t make it work. It turned out I had to find and install the English (Australian) language package to enable it. That was also required for Cortana.

And then when it did work it was maddeningly inaccurate on some characters. But then it improved, and now it’s extremely reliable.

The Anniversary Edition of Windows 10, released a few weeks ago, has significantly enhanced the utility of the Surface Pro 4, positively inviting me to use the stylus more both for drawing and writing. If I were a decent artist, I could use Photoshop on the Surface to create art rather than merely edit photos.

When I need to reboot the Surface, it does it fast. When I need to really reboot it (it normally leaves the kernel in memory even during a regular shut down), it does that fast as well. The power pack that comes with the Surface (the Dock has its own) is compact, and so it’s easy to bring with me when travelling.

The wireless screen mirroring function works very well with almost all the many devices I use. Microsoft’s own wireless display adaptor for TVs would be the ideal complement for travelling, and I still hold out a dwindling hope for a chance to review one, but apparently Microsoft doesn’t have any available.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4, great for artists

Microsoft Surface Pro 4, great for artists

Firmware fixing hardware

In addition to the usual periodic Windows updates, there have been firmware or driver upgrades. Perhaps six or so big ones since I bought the Surface, most recently on 1 September 2016. These are the software components for things that work at the system level, making the hardware work, and the components of the hardware work together. These have been to address particular issues such as the poor handling of sleep (due to the new sleep modes, apparently, of the Skylake series of Intel CPUs used in the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book). There were moments in the weeks following purchase where my heart spent quite a bit of time in my mouth as the Surface refused to switch on after it had switched itself off. Always these were eventually resolved by holding down the power key long enough, or sometimes combining that with holding down one of the volume keys.

The first time I travelled with it, when I arrived at the destination after only a couple of hours, the battery was three quarters depleted even though the Type Cover had been closed over it in my bag. That was the “hot bag” issue, in which the Surface would unexpectedly wake up while was supposed to be snoozing in your bag, run down the battery and, at the same time, heating up your bag thanks to the unintentional and poorly ventilated power use.

"Update history" in settings shows the firmware updates

“Update history” in settings shows the firmware updates

But over time, with new firmware updates, those issues disappeared for me, although I do read occasional reports of others still having them.

Others which had been reported which I haven’t experienced (although I haven’t tested extensively, either) included problems with additional displays, especially using the Surface Dock, and some issues with the display on the Surface itself.

Many people have suggested these problems have also been resolved, although I still see the occasional report.

My Surface used to be afflicted by the task bar flickering on and offer, about two beats a second, for a few seconds up to several minutes for no apparent reason. Since the most recent round of firmware updates I’ve only seen it happen the once, for a short time.