Selecting a Microsoft Surface PC: Which Model is Right for You?

Selecting a Microsoft Surface PC: Which Model is Right for You?
Pick the Type of Experience Needed
Assessing the Value of a Physical Keyboard
Consider Screen Size Options
There Are Big Differences in CPU Options
Consider the Importance of Portability
There's the Surface Hub for Corporate Teamwork
Factor in Battery Life
Consider Ports and Expansion
They Can Run Any Business or Entertainment App
Pricing Is All Over the Map
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Selecting a Microsoft Surface PC: Which Model is Right for You?

There are plenty of models and options to consider when selecting a Microsoft Surface PC, with the choice of a high-end notebook, a tablet or an all-in-one PC.

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Pick the Type of Experience Needed

The Surface line comes with different device types to consider. The Surface Studio is an all-in-one PC, while the Surface Book is a two-in-one hybrid that can work as both a notebook and tablet. Those interested in the pure tablet experience should consider the Surface Pro 4. There’s even the large-scale Surface Hub, for use in business conference rooms.

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Assessing the Value of a Physical Keyboard

For some users, a traditional, physical keyboard could be important. In general, a physical keyboard has more robust keys and is easier to type on than an on-screen version. For many productivity-seekers, it’s a must-have. The Surface Book and Surface Studio have traditional keyboards, but the Surface Pro 4 ships without a keyboard. Those who want one can opt for Microsoft’s cover, which both protects the device and includes a keyboard. But although the cover keyboard has been improved, it’s no match for the real thing. Those who choose a Surface Pro 4, then, might want to consider a Bluetooth keyboard with a traditional design.

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Consider Screen Size Options

If screen real estate matters, there are some real differences to consider. At the top of the spectrum is the Surface Studio, which has a giant, 28-inch screen with a 4,500-by-3,000-pixel resolution. The Surface Book features a 13.5-inch screen and 3,000-by-2,000-pixel resolution, while the Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3-inch screen and 2,736-by-1,824-pixel resolution.

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There Are Big Differences in CPU Options

Like display sizes, customers will find some big differences in power across the Surface spectrum. The Surface Pro 4 ships with an Intel Core m3, Core i5 or Core i7 chip, with relatively low-powered graphics chip topping out at the Intel Iris GPU. The Surface Book comes with more powerful options, ranging from the Intel Core i5 to the Intel Core i7. Its top-of-the-line graphics chip is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M. The Surface Studio is the powerhouse of the bunch, boasting Intel Core i5 to Intel Core i7 processors and up to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M graphics chip.

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Consider the Importance of Portability

If portability is a factor, the Surface Studio—an all-in-one PC with a giant screen—isn’t the best option. However, both the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 are easily portable. Depending on the Surface Book model customers choose, they’ll find a device that’s just 0.9 inches thick and weighs between 3.3 and 3.7 pounds. The Surface Pro 4 is 0.33 inches thick and weighs between 1.7 and 1.73 pounds, depending on the model.

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There's the Surface Hub for Corporate Teamwork

Those who don’t want a traditional computing experience but want to improve corporate teamwork might look at the Surface Hub. The Surface Hub comes in 55- or 84-inch sizes and runs Windows 10 and Microsoft Office. Like the other Surface devices, it supports stylus input, but it’s designed to sit in a conference room for users to collaborate on projects. It features an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and runs on either an Intel HD 4600 or Nvidia Quadro K2200 graphics chip. It’s a fine companion for brainstorming or meetings.

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Factor in Battery Life

Both portable Surfaces—the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book—deliver respectable battery life. The Surface Book can last up to 12 hours during continuous video playback, but can top out at 16 hours on the higher-end Surface Book with Performance Base model. The Surface Pro 4 offers up to four hours of continuous video playback regardless of the components under the hood.

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Consider Ports and Expansion

All of the Surface devices offer expansion through ports. The Surface Pro 4, for instance, has a full-sized USB 3.0 port to complement its microSD card slot and Mini DisplayPort, among others. The Surface Studio has four USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized SD card reader and Mini DisplayPort. Microsoft’s Surface Book ships with two USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized SD card reader and Mini DisplayPort. Microsoft’s Surface Hub delivers two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet and more.

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They Can Run Any Business or Entertainment App

All Surface devices are designed to work well with Windows 10 and just about any application users want to run. So, whether users are planning to work in Office or play some video games, the computers should perform reasonably well. That said, the Surface Studio is the best choice for collaborative work, and the Surface Studio has the best components for design work. So keep that in mind before choosing one of the lesser-powered models.

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Pricing Is All Over the Map

Pricing on Surface models varies greatly depending on the performance customers want. Surface Studio prices range from $2,999 to $4,199. The Surface Book comes in several versions with prices ranging from $1,499 to $3,299. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is priced from $899 to $2,699. The Surface Hub price can soar into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the model.

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