Brief Introduction

The DLLs are a group of students who are reviewing a number of portable devices at Senior School this term.

Hello everyone, this is Alex, a Senior Digital Learning Leader, and here is my first actual review of the Surface Pro 4 (4GB). I have done it based upon each criteria that I have listed. If you have not already please see my first post: http://voices.britishschool.nl/digitalleaders/chromebook-review-first-post-alex/ There I have listed and explained my criteria.

Cost

The cost is ridiculous, whether you think that the device is worth that amount or not, it is still really expensive for learning in a school. €780 – €880 for this device, and this is the 4GB of RAM version, the 8GB version is over €1000. Yes, bulk-buying and an educational discount may bring this number down, but it will still cost a fortune. Yes, the Surface Pro 4 does have great specs, but is it really worth the money? Is the power behind the device actually needed at the school? On the other hand, there are more expensive devices out there (e.g. MacBook’s). So I have given the device a 2 for cost.

Compatibility

Now you would initially think that because this is a Windows based system that everything works well with, but not really. There is an incompatibility between this device and the Mobile WiFi, that I did not experience at all with the Chromebook, the WiFi system keeps kicking off the Surface Pro 4 forcing me to use the Guest WiFi, which is not that good. In addition, actually getting the Surface Pro to link with my school account was pain, involving several resets, each taking hours to complete. Now on the bright side the device seemed to work pretty well with most programs that I need. But due to the annoyances at the start do put the device in a negative light despite the compatible programs (however, the annoyances appear to be one-off events, so I have reduces their impact on the score slightly). As a result, I have given the device a 8 for compatibility.

Intuitiveness

So this section is about how easy it was to use. Now being a Windows 10 computer I thought this would also be a top scorer, again there were many things annoyances, for example the automatic updates that took hours to complete which I could not stop once they began, and so I had to wait until they were done in order to turn off the updates and also there was some issues with transferring between tablet and computer modes. However, the rest of the device seemed to be quite okay to use, the stylus took a bit of getting used to, but that wasn’t hard, and once I got the hang of it, it was really nice for taking notes whilst using OneNote. Thus, I have given the device an 8 for intuitiveness.

Flexibility

The device was quite dynamic, if you wanted it in a computer format then you could, and if you wanted a tablet, then you could. The position of the keyboard was able to change, albeit either flat or at a small incline, nevertheless it was good to have that flexibility. The weight of the device was not bad either, however, I believe that if we begin to change towards a more ’paperless’ environment, replacing physical textbooks with digital ones, and notebooks with note making programs, although this is not really something that can or should be enforced on people, then the weight will have less of an impact. So, I have given the device a 9 for flexibility.

Battery

Frankly, its battery life was terrible, every day I charged it full before school, and almost every day, par Wednesdays and Fridays, I needed to charge the device in at least one free to keep it going throughout the day, which brings me concerns about the lower years, where they do not have frees to charge their device, and even if they did, there would not be enough sockets to charge with. Eventually, I resorted to setting the brightness to ‘darker’ mode, and set my WiFi to turn off when put into sleep mode, in order to save battery. Extremely different to the Chromebook I reviewed last time, where it never seemed to run low. As a result, I have given the device a 2 for battery.

Speed

I have not had a problem with the speed of the Surface Pro, there was no lagging that I noticed. Any real issues with speed were internet based, due to the school WiFi, but again the Surface Pro was having problems when connecting to the Mobile WiFi, forcing me to use guest, this was an issue for the other Surface testers as well. Even though the speed of the WiFi was more of an issue than normal, it does not compromise the speed of the device on its own. Thus I have given it a 9 for speed.

Endurance

Okay, so it was not that bad for heating normally. When it use it would heat up a little so that you could feel the change in temperature, but it was that much to worry about. However, when doing it automatic update it heated up, now I did not know it was updating, as it was lunch and so I was not using it, but then when I put my bag on (I have a ‘laptop’ slot at the back of my bag where I stored the device) it feel warm. When I took out the device, it was hot. I had to put it down quickly, because of how hot it became. This I would say could be a safety hazard, and perhaps it was just because that one update was so large, but the default setting is to update without any prompt or confirmation, which could be a problem if some forget to turn off this feature, I think that if you left it to update during the night it would be fine. But considering the heating, outside of the updates, it is not so bad, just turn off automatic updates and there will not be too many problems. Therefore I have given the device a 5.

Features

The stylus is very impressive, and combining it with OneNote, proved to be amazing for notetaking in class and it allowed me to stop using paper for taking notes but retain the flexibility and creativity of using pen and paper style notetaking. But if you would prefer typing your notes then there is a good keyboard as well. There are two camera which, unlike the Chromebook, can take photos of worksheets or of textbook pages should you forget your book etc. The ability to use Microsoft Office programs was great to have and of course the device also uses Windows 10, which is a great bonus. Overall, the features of the device are outstanding. Therefore, I have given the device a 10 for features.

Memory

The memory was not massive only 128GB, but as mentioned in my previous review, you can use clouds like OneDrive and Google Drive, and the former is what intergrates best with Microsoft and the device itself, and is what I believe is the most popular among students, due to the linkage with their school accounts. In short, it should be enough for school purposes, but it is not a monster with its memory. So, I have given it a 6 for memory.

Conclusion

Overall, I found the device to be great, despite the small hiccups at the beginning, I could see that these would be intial problems only, and after sorting out would be a great device. My main problems with the device include the battery life, which is not enough for school, and the cost, which is huge. I know that with educational discounts and bulk-purchase discounts that the Surface Pro 4 could become a lot cheaper, but that does not change the battery life, unlike most items on this list, battery life generally degrades over time and usage for most devices, and already struggling to get through the day is problematic, so on that point alone, I take issue with potentially introducing it as an educational tool. I have chosen to do the Lenovo Yoga device next, as it is supposedly similar to the Surface Pro 4, but with differences in specs, in order to see how its battery life measures up against the Surface, and if they really are similar. Compared to the Chromebook, I think that the Surface Pro 4 is much better than the Chromebook in terms of improving my ability to learn, some of you may question why the Surface is only two marks better than the Chromebook if I think it is far superior for learning, but that battery life is the real killer here, and it just cannot stand up to the Chromebook in that respect, and the Surface provided me with the first and only physical problems of not being able to use the device thus far in the trial (but this is just the second device). Now remember these grades have not been weighted in terms of importance yet, which could completely swing the scores around.

The Overall Rating

In order to understand my ratings and point of view please see my first post: http://voices.britishschool.nl/digitalleaders/chromebook-review-first-post-alex/

  • Cost – 2
  • Compatibility – 8
  • Intuitiveness – 8
  • Flexibility – 9
  • Battery – 2
  • Speed – 9
  • Endurance (Essentially how fast it heats up) – 5
  • Features – 10
  • Memory – 6

Raw Score = 59/90

I will do all of the weighted scores in my final review as I look back upon my experiences during this experiment and think about what was most important to me in school.