Notebookcheck

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Core i5, 128 GB) Tablet Review

Sebastian Jentsch (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 11/21/2015

One step forward, two steps back? Who can benefit from the more powerful i5 version? How big is the difference compared to the Core m3 and how does the 12-inch device hold up against regular notebooks? Our performance update will provide the answers.

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Surface Pro 4 with 128 GB storage and Core i5 processor -  the better choice?
Surface Pro 4 with 128 GB storage and Core i5 processor - the better choice?

For the original German review, see here.

While the main review of the brand-new Surface Pro 4 has a closer look at the Core m3 version of the 12-inch device, we can now check the Core i5 model. The fanless m3 version entry-level model of the Surface Pro costs almost 1000 Euros (~$1065/128 GB, without Type Cover), while the i5-6300U version starts at 1030 Euros (~$1097/128 GB) without accessories. Obviously, the small price difference raises the question why should anyone choose the m3 configuration?

Maybe the 4.5-watt SoC (TDP) manages much longer battery runtimes compared to "power-hungry" Core i5? If this is the case, how much performance do you have to sacrifice if you want longer runtimes? The Core i5 also affects the power consumption and the temperature development, so we will also cover these sections in this performance update. Both review samples are equipped with the same 128 GB SSD (Samsung MZFL128 NVMe), but we still add the performance figures of the 256 GB drive (Toshiba).

More information about all the other aspects – build quality, input devices (new Type Cover), ports, cameras and speakers – is available in the review of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Core m3).

Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
Processor
Graphics adapter
Memory
4096 MB 
, Dual-channel 1066 MHz
Display
12.3 inch 3:2, 2736x1824 pixel, 10-point multitouch, native pen support, Samsung 123YL01-001 ID: SDC3853, IPS, glossy: yes, detachable screen
Mainboard
Intel Skylake-U Premium PCH
Storage
Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe, 128 GB 
, 87 GB free
Soundcard
Intel Skylake-U/Y PCH - High Definition Audio
Connections
1 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 DisplayPort, Audio Connections: headset port, Card Reader: microSD, Brightness Sensor, Sensors: abient light, gyroscope, Surface Connector
Networking
Marvell AVASTAR Wireless-AC Network Controller (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0 Marvel Avastar
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 8.4 x 292.1 x 201.4 ( = 0.33 x 11.5 x 7.93 in)
Battery
38 Wh Lithium-Ion, integrated, Battery runtime (according to manufacturer): 9 h
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: front camera 5 MP, rear camera 8 MP
Primary Camera: 8 MPix
Secondary Camera: 5 MPix
Additional features
Speakers: stereo, Keyboard: chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, Power adaptor 31 Watts, Surface Pen, Type Cover, Office 365, 24 Months Warranty
Weight
1.092 kg ( = 38.52 oz / 2.41 pounds), Power Supply: 204 g ( = 7.2 oz / 0.45 pounds)
Price
1099 Euro

 

Subpixel array
Subpixel array
With a connected power supply we measured slight brightness variations (below 25% brightness) but no PWM measured, however a reader pointed out he got some PWM induced problems and with a later firmware version we could also see flickering at 50 Hz.
With a connected power supply we measured slight brightness variations (below 25% brightness) but no PWM measured, however a reader pointed out he got some PWM induced problems and with a later firmware version we could also see flickering at 50 Hz.

The display is identical to that of the Surface Pro 4 m3 model, so we will just have a brief look at the results. The measurements of the panel with 2734x1824 pixels differ slightly, which is not surprising since both devices use the same panel from Samsung (SDC3853). Calibration hardly improved the color accuracy, only the DeltaE of the grayscale could be reduced by one point. In factory settings, the color accuracy of the Surface Pro is not on a professional level and we could even notice a slight blue cast in the grayscale analysis, which can be removed by the calibration. You will find a link to our color profile for the Surface Pro 4 in the box below.

Update 12/01/2015: Thanks to a readers tip, who told us that he is suffering from problems caused by flickering / PWM, we looked at the Core i5 version again with the newest firmware and drivers. Now we could also measure flickering at 50 Hz below 50 percent brightness without a connected power adapter. Analyzing our readings, it does not seem to be classic PWM but some other form of flickering. 

397
cd/m²
406
cd/m²
401
cd/m²
385
cd/m²
413
cd/m²
403
cd/m²
358
cd/m²
398
cd/m²
403
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 413 cd/m² Average: 396 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 87 %
Center on Battery: 413 cd/m²
Contrast: 1147:1 (Black: 0.36 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 3.09 | - Ø
ΔE Greyscale 3.92 | - Ø
97% sRGB (Argyll) 61% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll)
Gamma: 2.3
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
12.3 2736x1824 Samsung SDC3853
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
12.3 2736x1824 Samsung SDC3853
Surface Pro 3
12.0 2160x1440 SEC3542
Apple iPad Air 2
9.7 2048x1536
Dell XPS 13-9343
13.3 3200x1800 SHP1421
Surface Book (i5)
13.5 3000x2000 Panasonic MEI96A2
Response Times
0%
-5%
Response Time Grey 50% / Grey 80% *
46
46
-0%
48.4
-5%
Response Time Black / White *
31.2
31
1%
32.8
-5%
PWM Frequency
50
50
0%
Screen
6%
-19%
-1%
0%
21%
Brightness
396
392
-1%
338
-15%
427
8%
372
-6%
410
4%
Brightness Distribution
87
92
6%
91
5%
92
6%
77
-11%
93
7%
Black Level *
0.36
0.27
25%
0.33
8%
0.61
-69%
0.178
51%
0.254
29%
Contrast
1147
1441
26%
1077
-6%
693
-40%
2063
80%
1696
48%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
3.09
3.61
-17%
4.72
-53%
2.86
7%
5.92
-92%
2.06
33%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
3.92
3.8
3%
6.53
-67%
2.37
40%
4.79
-22%
2.22
43%
Gamma
2.3 104%
2.16 111%
2.17 111%
2.43 99%
2.42 99%
2.13 113%
CCT
7333 89%
5969 109%
6707 97%
6941 94%
7013 93%
6520 100%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
61
63
3%
59.37
-3%
88
44%
63
3%
64
5%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
97
97
0%
96.4
-1%
96
-1%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
3% / 4%
-19% / -19%
-1% / -1%
0% / 0%
8% / 16%

* ... smaller is better

Color analysis, pre-calibration
Color analysis, pre-calibration
Saturation sweeps, pre-calibration
Saturation sweeps, pre-calibration
Grayscale analysis, pre-calibration
Grayscale analysis, pre-calibration
Color analysis, post-calibration
Color analysis, post-calibration
Saturation sweeps, post-calibration
Saturation sweeps, post-calibration
Grayscale analysis, post-calibration
Grayscale analysis, post-calibration
97% sRGB coverage
97% sRGB coverage
61% AdobeRGB coverage
61% AdobeRGB coverage

Display Response Times

Display response times show how fast the screen is able to change from one color to the next. Slow response times can lead to afterimages and can cause moving objects to appear blurry (ghosting). Gamers of fast-paced 3D titles should pay special attention to fast response times.
       Response Time Black to White
31.2 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 6 ms rise
↘ 25.2 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.8 (minimum) to 240 (maximum) ms. » 80 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is worse than the average of all tested devices (27.9 ms).
       Response Time 50% Grey to 80% Grey
46 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 17.2 ms rise
↘ 28.8 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.9 (minimum) to 250 (maximum) ms. » 65 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is similar to the average of all tested devices (43.3 ms).

Performance

At the heart of our 12-inch device is the Intel Core i5-6300U (2.4 GHz), a dual-core chip that could also be used for subnotebooks or notebooks. A TDP of 15 watts has been the standard for laptops and convertibles for a few years. So far, the 6300U is not available in any other device, only the sibling i5-6200U is used for the new Dell XPS 13-9350 and the HP Spectre x360 13. The small difference: The 6300U of the Surface Pro 4 can (in theory) reach a 200 MHz higher Turbo clock and supports additional features like vPro and TXT. The latter can be used in combination with a TPM chip and prevent data accesses by highly privileged applications (Intel’s "Safer Computing" initiative). You will probably not mistake the 6300U with the Core i5-6300HQ (quad-core) since this SoC has a specified TDP of 45 watts and is used for powerful multimedia and gaming laptops.

System info CPU-Z CPU
System info CPU-Z Cache
System info CPU-Z Mainboard
System info CPU-Z Memory
System info HWinfo
System info GPU-Z Intel HD Graphics 520
LatencyMon okay
 

Processor

Prime95 Solo @2.9 GHz, 63 °C
Prime95 Solo @2.9 GHz, 63 °C

The Intel Core m3-6Y30 (0.9 GHz) also has a Turbo, but it can only reach up to 2.2 GHz. Nevertheless, we praised the steady performance during the review of the m3 model, because the chip could maintain its maximum clock in practical applications (CPU stress @2 GHz), which also resulted in the constant benchmark scores. The performance difference is around 30% in the Cinebench tests, which means that the current fourth generation of the 12-inch device surpasses the predecessor Surface Pro 3 (Core i5-4300U) by 20 to 30%.

Interesting: The Microsoft Surface Book, which is equipped with the same SoC, delivers identical results. It seems that the 13.5-inch device with the detachable GPU in the keyboard dock has exactly the same thermal headroom as our 12.3-inch review sample.

Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
1.4 Points ∼5%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
0.98 Points ∼4% -30%
Surface Pro 3
HD Graphics 4400, 4300U, Hynix HFS128G3MNM
1.12 Points ∼4% -20%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
0.98 Points ∼4% -30%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
1.41 Points ∼5% +1%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
3.4 Points ∼5%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
2.27 Points ∼3% -33%
Surface Pro 3
HD Graphics 4400, 4300U, Hynix HFS128G3MNM
2.77 Points ∼4% -19%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
2.33 Points ∼3% -31%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
3.42 Points ∼5% +1%
Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
122 Points ∼66%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
88 Points ∼48% -28%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
88 Points ∼48% -28%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
122 Points ∼66% 0%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
306 Points ∼20%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
206 Points ∼13% -33%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
217 Points ∼14% -29%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
305 Points ∼20% 0%
Cinebench R10
Rendering Single 32Bit (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
4656 Points ∼66%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
3286 Points ∼47% -29%
Surface Pro 3
HD Graphics 4400, 4300U, Hynix HFS128G3MNM
3675 Points ∼52% -21%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
2656 Points ∼38% -43%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
4700 Points ∼67% +1%
Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
10558 Points ∼30%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
6994 Points ∼20% -34%
Surface Pro 3
HD Graphics 4400, 4300U, Hynix HFS128G3MNM
7067 Points ∼20% -33%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
7208 Points ∼21% -32%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
10626 Points ∼31% +1%
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
7574 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
13382 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
6050 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
7662
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
10558
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4656
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
27.43 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
3.4 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.4 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
97.9 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
36.87 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
306 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
122 Points
Help

System Performance

We use the PCMark 7/8 benchmarks for the evaluation of the application performance. The PCM8 Work score is 14% higher and the Home score 12% higher compared to the m3 model of the Surface Pro 4. This is surprising when you consider that the raw processor performance differs by around 30%. The situation is pretty similar in PCMark 7, where the Core m3 falls behind by 18% (overall score).

PCMark 8 v2 Home
PCMark 8 v2 Home
PCMark 8 v2 Creative
PCMark 8 v2 Creative
PCMark 8 v2 Work
PCMark 8 v2 Work

The SSD does not make a difference, because as we have already mentioned both models use the same drive from Samsung. Once again it is interesting that in these benchmarks the small difference compared to the Surface Book does not seem to benefit from its GeForce GPU at all. With such a high score, we do not really have to mention it, but the subjective impression with the smooth handling and quick application launches or copy processes is very good.

PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
3697 Points ∼60%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
3186 Points ∼52% -14%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
3225 Points ∼53% -13%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
3644 Points ∼60% -1%
Home Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
2770 Points ∼49%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
2426 Points ∼43% -12%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
2582 Points ∼46% -7%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
2814 Points ∼50% +2%
PCMark 7
Creativity (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
9134 Points ∼64%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
9098 Points ∼64% 0%
Productivity (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
2468 Points ∼23%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
2394 Points ∼22% -3%
Score (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
5229 Points ∼65%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
4274 Points ∼53% -18%
Surface Pro 3
HD Graphics 4400, 4300U, Hynix HFS128G3MNM
5066 Points ∼63% -3%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
4934 Points ∼61% -6%
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
5135 Points ∼64% -2%

Our review unit can easily beat the Lollipop competition, but it is also significantly heavier and thicker than a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, for example. The situation is very similar when we look at the iPad Air 2, which clearly falls behind in terms of performance. The browser benchmark certainly plays a role as well; we can see the smallest differences in Peacekeeper.

Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
29991 Points ∼66%
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash (Safari 9.0 Mobile)
10512 Points ∼23% -65%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 LTE
Mali-T760 MP6, 5433 Octa, 32 GB eMMC Flash (Chrome 45)
6885 Points ∼15% -77%
Apple iPad Mini 4
PowerVR GX6450, A8, 64 GB SSD (Safari iOS 9)
9962 Points ∼22% -67%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 LTE
Mali-T760 MP6, 5433 Octa, 32 GB eMMC Flash (Chrome 45)
7097 Points ∼16% -76%
Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score (sort by value)
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
104.5 ms * ∼3%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core m3
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
122.4 ms * ∼3% -17%
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash (Safari 8.0 Mobile)
291.1 ms * ∼7% -179%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
115.4 ms * ∼3% -10%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 LTE
Mali-T760 MP6, 5433 Octa, 32 GB eMMC Flash (Chrome 45)
1016.2 ms * ∼25% -872%
Apple iPad Mini 4
PowerVR GX6450, A8, 64 GB SSD (Safari iOS 9)
329 ms * ∼8% -215%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 LTE
Mali-T760 MP6, 5433 Octa, 32 GB eMMC Flash (Chrome 45)
1030.7 ms * ∼26% -886%
Peacekeeper - --- (sort by value)
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
2998 Points ∼48%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core m3
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
2216 Points ∼36% -26%
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash (Safari 8.0 Mobile)
2750 Points ∼44% -8%
Apple iPad Mini 4
PowerVR GX6450, A8, 64 GB SSD (Safari iOS 9)
3048 Points ∼49% +2%

* ... smaller is better

PCMark 7 Score
5229 points
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
2770 points
PCMark 8 Creative Score Accelerated v2
3736 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
3697 points
Help

Storage Devices

The Samsung MZFLV128 provides 87 GB of free storage, the rest is occupied by Windows 10 and a recovery partition. The NVMe (NVM Express) interface, which was originally designed for server applications, connects the storage via PCI Express with the motherboard. Obviously, the module is soldered onto the motherboard and cannot be replaced. The results are pretty much identical to the Surface Pro 4 with the Core m3, which is equipped with the same Samsung SSD. We use the performance figures with the factory settings in our database; we check the hardware as they are shipped to the user and usually do not install new drivers.

Nevertheless, we tested the Samsung driver for the NVMe SSD 950 Pro and can see small performance improvements (see right screenshot). AS SSD does not show any changes after a restart and the individual scores are pretty much identical. We did not notice the low 4K Write transfer rates of the Surface Pro 4 m3, so it is not really necessary to install the Samsung driver. There are differences between the default drive and the Samsung driver (update) in CrystalDiskMark, but they are so small that it could be a normal variation. That this is not the case is evident when you see the AS SSD copy benchmark, where the transfer rates got a bump from 63 to 105 MB/s.

The 256 GB version of the Surface Pro 4 uses an SSD from Toshiba and the scores are shown in the last two screenshots. You can notice the very fast reading results, but the 4K test also shows a low write score that is beaten by every hard drive. The results in CrystalDiskMark are more realistic, where the write transfer rates are almost doubled.

ASSSD MZFLV128 NVMe 128 GB
ASSSD MZFLV128 NVMe 128 GB
ASSSD NVMe 128 GB Update
ASSSD NVMe 128 GB Update
CrystalDiskMark MZFLV128 NVMe 128 GB
CrystalDiskMark MZFLV128 NVMe 128 GB
CrystalDiskMark NVMe 128 GB Update
CrystalDiskMark NVMe 128 GB Update
ASSSD Copy MZFLV128 NVMe 128 GB
ASSSD Copy MZFLV128 NVMe 128 GB
ASSSD Copy NVMe 128 GB Update
ASSSD Copy NVMe 128 GB Update
ASSSD Toshiba NVMe THNSN5256GPU7 256 GB
ASSSD Toshiba NVMe THNSN5256GPU7 256 GB
CrystalDiskMark Toshiba NVMe THNSN5256GPU7 256 GB
CrystalDiskMark Toshiba NVMe THNSN5256GPU7 256 GB
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Surface Pro 3
Hynix HFS128G3MNM
Dell XPS 13-9343
Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
Surface Book (i5)
Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
AS SSD
21%
11%
31%
107%
Score Total
1190
1759
48%
965
-19%
1018
-14%
2712
128%
Score Write
239
189
-21%
319
33%
369
54%
394
65%
Score Read
645
1060
64%
430
-33%
425
-34%
1566
143%
4K-64 Write
138.54
112
-19%
215.04
55%
268.28
94%
281.41
103%
4K-64 Read
528.04
943.76
79%
358.34
-32%
345.49
-35%
1409.22
167%
Seq Write
142.52
138.05
-3%
303.05
113%
416.78
192%
275.22
93%
Seq Read
831.78
844.83
2%
493.72
-41%
484.72
-42%
1223
47%
CrystalDiskMark 3.0
-5%
33%
57%
Write 4k QD32
153.6
149.2
-3%
294.4
92%
326.3
112%
Read 4k QD32
368.3
243.7
-34%
345
-6%
354
-4%
Write 4k
101.5
68.02
-33%
76.2
-25%
79.3
-22%
Read 4k
28.51
30.14
6%
20.81
-27%
34.76
22%
Write 512
154.2
158.2
3%
324.6
111%
395.5
156%
Read 512
266.3
313.1
18%
357.8
34%
371.9
40%
Write Seq
154.2
158.2
3%
324
110%
424.2
175%
Read Seq
666
662.5
-1%
501.2
-25%
489.6
-26%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
8% / 7%
22% / 23%
44% / 45%
107% / 107%
Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Sequential Read: 666 MB/s
Sequential Write: 154.2 MB/s
512K Read: 266.3 MB/s
512K Write: 154.2 MB/s
4K Read: 28.51 MB/s
4K Write: 101.5 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 368.3 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 153.6 MB/s

GPU Performance

The graphics card Intel HD Graphics 520 (core clock review unit: 300 – 1000 MHz) is slightly faster than the HD Graphics 515 counterpart in the Surface Pro 4 m3 (core clock review unit: 300 – 850 MHz). Intel's Quick Sync technology can accelerate video rendering when the tool supports it. The manufacturer can influence the maximum turbo clock, as we observed it in the Cinebench R15 OpenGL test. The clock reaches up to 1000 MHz, but there are only small fluctuations and it levels off at 948 MHz.

The table shows GPU differences of around 16%, which is not really a reason to get the Core i5 model. The general performance level is quite low compared to dedicated graphics cards, which is shown by a comparison with the GeForce 940M of the Surface Book. We have also included the Yoga 3 11 and the HP Folio 1040 to show the performance of a Broadwell iGPU.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD 520
1565 Points ∼6%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD 515
1344 Points ∼5% -14%
Surface Pro 3
HD 4400
877 Points ∼3% -44%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD 5500
1109 Points ∼4% -29%
Surface Book (i5)
Geforce 940M
2711 Points ∼11% +73%
Lenovo Yoga 3 11 (Core M 5Y10c)
HD 5300
498 Points ∼2% -68%
HP Folio 1040
HD 5500
1046 Points ∼4% -33%
3DMark
1920x1080 Fire Strike Score (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD 520
844 Points ∼4%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD 515
740 Points ∼3% -12%
Surface Pro 3
HD 4400
483 Points ∼2% -43%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD 5500
746 Points ∼3% -12%
Surface Book (i5)
Geforce 940M
1886 Points ∼8% +123%
Lenovo Yoga 3 11 (Core M 5Y10c)
HD 5300
331 Points ∼1% -61%
HP Folio 1040
HD 5500
656 Points ∼3% -22%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Score (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD 520
5853 Points ∼17%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD 515
4604 Points ∼13% -21%
Surface Pro 3
HD 4400
4146 Points ∼12% -29%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD 5500
5025 Points ∼14% -14%
Surface Book (i5)
Geforce 940M
7424 Points ∼21% +27%
Lenovo Yoga 3 11 (Core M 5Y10c)
HD 5300
1361 Points ∼4% -77%
HP Folio 1040
HD 5500
4946 Points ∼14% -15%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Score (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD 520
51010 Points ∼26%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD 515
42046 Points ∼21% -18%
Surface Pro 3
HD 4400
29229 Points ∼15% -43%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD 5500
46293 Points ∼23% -9%
Surface Book (i5)
Geforce 940M
49514 Points ∼25% -3%
Lenovo Yoga 3 11 (Core M 5Y10c)
HD 5300
15348 Points ∼8% -70%
HP Folio 1040
HD 5500
45827 Points ∼23% -10%
3DMark 11 Performance
1565 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
51010 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
5853 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
844 points
Help

Gaming Performance

The gaming performance is actually not that bad and exceeds the expectations for an integrated GPU. You can even play games in medium details, when the game is slightly older or not that demanding. The Microsoft Surface Book is obviously much faster. Devices with the Broadwell Core M (Yoga 3 11) clearly fall behind and the HD 5500 cannot keep up with the HD Graphics 520, either (see BioShock).

BioShock Infinite
1366x768 Medium Preset (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD 520
30 fps ∼10%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD 515
19.46 fps ∼7% -35%
Surface Pro 3
HD 4400
26.93 fps ∼9% -10%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD 5500
64.8 fps ∼23% +116%
Surface Book (i5)
Geforce 940M
23.39 fps ∼8% -22%
HP Folio 1040
HD 5500
24.38 fps ∼9% -19%
1280x720 Very Low Preset (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD 520
58.1 fps ∼17%
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD 515
38.73 fps ∼12% -33%
Surface Pro 3
HD 4400
52.42 fps ∼16% -10%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD 5500
94.2 fps ∼28% +62%
Surface Book (i5)
Geforce 940M
42.64 fps ∼13% -27%
HP Folio 1040
HD 5500
0 fps ∼0% -100%
Tomb Raider
1366x768 Normal Preset AA:FX AF:4x (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD 520
40.8 fps ∼7%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD 5500
82.8 fps ∼15% +103%
Lenovo Yoga 3 11 (Core M)
HD 5300
14 fps ∼2% -66%
1024x768 Low Preset (sort by value)
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD 520
82 fps ∼13%
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD 5500
161.5 fps ∼26% +97%
Lenovo Yoga 3 11 (Core M)
HD 5300
23 fps ∼4% -72%
low med. high ultra
Tomb Raider (2013) 8240.826.111.6fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 58.13022.77fps

Emissions

System Noise

Noise characteristics: Yellow/red = max/median load; green = silent
Noise characteristics: Yellow/red = max/median load; green = silent

The system noise is pretty restrained, which only gets really loud under sustained load and obviously during the stress test. It is quite audible in this case at up to 41 dB(A), which is pretty high for a tablet. The fan of the Surface Pro 4 is not active (31.5 dB(A)) during normal operation with the web browser, occasional copy transfers or small installations. This is probably the reason why the 12-inch device is pretty warm while idling, even when the room temperature is not very high as in our review.

The cooling solution does not really differentiate between various rpm levels; if the fan starts to spin, it will quickly reach 41 dB(A), it does not matter if we run our stress test for the CPU and GPU simultaneously or a 3DMark. This behavior is different from the Surface Pro 3, which also had a very quiet level at 32 dB(A) under normal load, while it only started to spin up to 44 dB(A) under high sustained load or during the stress test.

Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
Surface Pro 3
Dell XPS 13-9343
Surface Book (i5)
Noise
5%
2%
5%
Idle Minimum *
31.5
30.1
4%
30.2
4%
29.5
6%
Idle Average *
31.5
30.2
4%
30.3
4%
29.6
6%
Idle Maximum *
31.5
30.4
3%
30.4
3%
29.7
6%
Load Average *
40.5
31.9
21%
34.4
15%
37.5
7%
Load Maximum *
40.7
44.4
-9%
48
-18%
40.9
-0%

* ... smaller is better

Noise Level

Idle
31.5 / 31.5 / 31.5 dB(A)
Load
40.5 / 40.7 dB(A)
 
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Audix TM1 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test Prime95+FurMark @start 1.5 GHz
Stress test Prime95+FurMark @start 1.5 GHz
Stress test @course leveled off at 1.4 GHz
Stress test @course leveled off at 1.4 GHz

The warming of the tablet is always clearly perceptible, which is mainly a result of the passive cooling with the conveniently silent operation. We were able to measure up to 40 °C (~104 °C) at some spots while idling without the fan. The average value is in the mid-30s (~95 °F), which is just okay.

It gets really warm under extreme load; a maximum of 52 °C (~126 °F) at some spots can be uncomfortable on the lap or in the hands. At just 1.4 GHz in this case, the SoC is very far away from its reference clock, so there is strong throttling that starts right away. However, this stress test is designed to find the thermal limits of PCs, and the tablet manages to keep the chip at a steady temperature of 54 °C (~130 °F). It also reached up to 64 °C (~147 °F) at one time and obviously exceeded certain limits, which caused the throttling. We have already mentioned that the chip can maintain 2.9 GHz when you only stress the processor. Therefore, throttling is not a normal scenario but a thermal protection mechanism. This is also the reason for the similar benchmark scores after the stress test and with a cold machine.

 32.1 °C34.5 °C34.4 °C 
 32.9 °C34.7 °C34.3 °C 
 37.6 °C43.2 °C40.7 °C 
Maximum: 43.2 °C
Average: 36 °C
35 °C36 °C34 °C
34.8 °C35.4 °C32.4 °C
34.8 °C35.3 °C33.9 °C
Maximum: 36 °C
Average: 34.6 °C
Power Supply (max.)  36.8 °C | Room Temperature 20.8 °C | FIRT 550-Pocket

Comparison Surface Pro 4 Core m3

 28.4 °C28.8 °C28.6 °C 
 28.4 °C29.6 °C28.8 °C 
 31.6 °C32.4 °C31.4 °C 
Maximum: 32.4 °C
Average: 29.8 °C
29.2 °C29.2 °C28 °C
29.2 °C29.6 °C28.8 °C
29.2 °C29.4 °C29.2 °C
Maximum: 29.6 °C
Average: 29.1 °C
Power Supply (max.)  36.8 °C | Room Temperature 20.5 °C | Raytek Raynger ST
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Surface Pro 3
HD Graphics 4400, 4300U, Hynix HFS128G3MNM
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash
Dell XPS 13-9343
HD Graphics 5500, 5200U, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
Surface Book (i5)
Maxwell GPU (940M, GDDR5), 6300U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
Heat
18%
12%
22%
21%
27%
Maximum Upper Side *
52.3
43.6
17%
45.2
14%
36.2
31%
40.6
22%
44.2
15%
Maximum Bottom *
51.4
45.2
12%
46.4
10%
42.8
17%
41.2
20%
41.2
20%
Idle Upper Side *
43.2
32.4
25%
35.2
19%
31
28%
31.2
28%
26
40%
Idle Bottom *
36
29.6
18%
34.4
4%
32
11%
30.6
15%
23.8
34%

* ... smaller is better

Discussion

Energy Management

Power Consumption

We did not measure the power consumption of the Surface Pro 4 (Core m3). Compared to the iPad Air 2 with an ARM platform, the reviewed Core version has a comparatively high consumption for a tablet in this size. 10 watts while idling at the maximum luminance and with the Type Cover are similar to what we determine for 13/15-inch notebooks. Yes, those devices are usually not as bright, but some devices based on the Broadwell architecture only consume 4 - 5 watts while idling.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.5 / 1.9 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 4.4 / 9 / 10.7 Watt
Load midlight 19.6 / 19.9 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy

Battery Runtime

The rather high power consumption while idling results in poor battery runtimes. The small difference between the maximum idle runtime and the stamina in the Wi-Fi test at 150 nits (60%) is striking. We performed all runtime tests without the Type Cover. The Surface Pro 4 is far away from the advertised 9 hours, it seems that someone just copied the specs from the m3 model. The latter manages more than eight hours in the same test and does not only run for 6 but 13 hours while idling. Our assumptions were correct: If you want a Surface with good battery runtimes, you have to get the m3 model.
Update 10/18/2015: Another attempt resulted in an idle runtime of 8:48 hours (528 minutes). Update 11/20/2015: Two re-runs of the Wi-Fi test resulted in 7:07 and 7:00 hours, respectively, at a brightness of 60%. This time, we activated the "Energy-Saving mode" of the Surface Pro 4, but with the power profile "Balanced", which is the only one that is available.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
14h 59min
WiFi Surfing v1.3
7h 07min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 51min
Surface Pro 4 (Core i5)
Surface Pro 4 (Core m3)
Surface Pro 3
Apple iPad Air 2
Dell XPS 13-9343
Surface Book (i5)
Battery Runtime
9%
17%
72%
14%
17%
Reader / Idle
899
791
-12%
1096
22%
1364
52%
912
1%
1070
19%
Load
111
138
24%
124
12%
212
91%
140
26%
153
38%
WiFi
504
630
580
WiFi v1.3
427
488
14%
402
-6%
H.264
562
604

Pro

+ brightness and contrast
+ restrained fan control
+ improved Type Cover
+ reworked Surface Pen (inlcuded)
+ sophisticated build quality and appealing design
+ high system performance
+ surprisingly powerful integrated GPU
+ no throttling in practice
+ much improved rear camera

Cons

- comparatively short battery runtimes
- only 1x USB 3.0; no USB-C
- no maintainability (clean the fan?)
- very warm surfaces under load
- high price

Verdict

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Core i5, 128 GB), courtesy of Notebooksbilliger.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Core i5, 128 GB), courtesy of Notebooksbilliger.

Microsoft makes it actually pretty easy for the customer: The prices for all versions of the Surface Pro 4 are quite high, the m3 version (here in review) is almost as expensive as the comparable Core i5 model with a 128 GB SSD. We now know the reason why: The m3 version is not a low-cost entry-level model, but just manages by far the longest runtimes. If your Surface Pro 4 has to manage a whole day, there is now an alternative to this model. 

If you are primarily looking for a Surface to replace a laptop on your desk and just sometimes take it to meetings, then the Core i5 version could be the better choice. The performance (CPU, GPU, and SSD) can easily keep up with good 15-Watt subnotebooks like the Dell XPS 13 (2015). In combination with a docking station and an external monitor (Mini-DisplayPort), you will get a practical overall concept.

It seems that the entry-level model of the series with the Intel Core m3 is the best overall package. The i5 model is more powerful, but the battery runtimes take a serious hit. 

You can use our in-depth review of the Surface Pro 4 with the Intel Core m3 for more information about all the other features of the 12-inch device, including the build quality, the connectivity and the cameras.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB - 04/18/2016 v5.1
Sebastian Jentsch

Chassis
86 / 98 → 88%
Keyboard
87%
Pointing Device
92%
Connectivity
39 / 81 → 48%
Weight
74 / 78 → 91%
Battery
89%
Display
88%
Games Performance
57 / 68 → 83%
Application Performance
80 / 87 → 92%
Temperature
81%
Noise
87%
Audio
59 / 91 → 65%
Camera
42 / 85 → 50%
Average
74%
86%
Convertible - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Core i5, 128 GB) Tablet Review
Sebastian Jentsch, 2015-11-21 (Update: 2015-12-15)