Microsoft essentially kickstarted an entirely new category of prosumer tablets when it launched the Surface Pro. Realizing Microsoft was onto something, imitators soon followed, including options like Apple’s iPad Pro. The latest entry in Microsoft’s series is the Surface Pro 4 and it is a truly impressive piece of hardware. You can pick up a Surface Pro 4 with specs that rival those of a premium Windows laptop, including a high resolution 12.3-inch PixelSense display, Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
Whether you choose a Surface Pro with screaming specs or a more modestly equipped model, you get a fantastic tablet. But you can transform it into so much more with addition of accessories. Properly equipped, a Surface Pro can replace your laptop, or even become your primary PC. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your Surface Pro.
Surface Pro accessories: Type Cover
The number one accessory to add to your Surface Pro is Microsoft’s Type Cover. This single accessory is key to the Surface Pro’s flexibility. It’s a shame Microsoft didn’t include it with every tablet, but I suppose that would raise the base prices—and not everyone needs the added functionality.
The Type Cover connects securely to the Surface Pro using magnets and works in concert with the tablet’s integrated kickstand to transform the device into a laptop form factor. With the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover, Microsoft has perfected the accessory. You get a chiclet style keyboard that feels solid, offers decent key travel for accurate typing, backlighting and a good-sized built-in precision trackpad. The basic Surface Pro 4 Type Cover is offered in several colours.
But where things get interesting is Microsoft’s premium offerings. There’s an Alcantara Signature Type Cover (I reviewed this premium cover last year) that adds a luxurious and customized look to a Surface Pro, using famed Alcantara fabric. The company also released a collection of NFL fan covers. Want to show everyone the Pittsburgh Steelers are your team? You can equip your Surface Pro 4 with a Type Cover emblazoned with the Steelers’ logo.
Surface Pro accessories: Surface Pen tips
The Surface Pro tablet comes equipped with a Surface Pen. This stylus is extremely useful, especially when using the Surface Pro as a slate and jotting down notes, copying diagrams or using it for illustrating. But did you know that you can swap out the tip on the Surface pen to get different effects or even change the writing experience? The Microsoft Surface Pen Tip Kit comes with four different stylus tips to change up your Surface Pen.
Surface Pro accessories: Microsoft Surface Dock
One of the key advantages the Surface Pro has over traditional tablets is its output and input ports. It offers a full-sized USB 3.0 port and a Mini DisplayPort. This means you can connect standard PC peripherals like an external hard drive, and you can output the video to a computer monitor. For casual use, what Microsoft provides by default is probably fine. But for power users, the company offers something even better: the Surface Dock.
A single cable connects the Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4 to the Surface Dock—which looks like a compact hub. The payoff is a huge increase in connectivity options. The Surface Dock offers four high-speed USB 3.0 ports, two Mini DisplayPorts, Gigabit Ethernet, audio output and a power passthrough so you can keep the tablet fully charged while in use.
A Surface Pro 4 connected to a Surface Dock can drive a pair of big, 4K monitors while enjoying Gigabit ethernet connectivity and multiple peripherals including external drives, thumb drives, printers, microphones—or whatever. You can leave all the extra gear connected to the dock for when it’s needed. In other words, with the Surface Dock (and Surface Type cover or a keyboard), the Surface Pro 4 can be carried around as a powerful Windows tablet, then with the click of a cable, be instantly transformed into a desktop Windows workstation.
It’s tough to beat that for versatility …
There’s even a security lock slot on the Surface Dock so it can be safely left on a desktop until needed.
Surface Pro accessories: External Battery Pack/ Power Bank
Microsoft claims up to nine hours of battery life for the Surface Pro 4. That number is based on video playback with the screen set at a specific brightness. Under more intensive use, that battery life can drop to six or seven hours—not always enough to get through a full day of mobile use.
That’s why an external battery pack can be a lifesaver and significantly improve the usefulness of your Surface Pro. For example, the Surface Pro 4 is equipped with a 5,093mAh battery. The TP-Link 15600mAh Lithium-ion power bank has sufficient capacity and high enough output to recharge a Surface Pro 4 several times, without ever having to track down an electrical outlet. There are lots of power banks to choose from and they make an inexpensive, compact addition to your Surface Pro 4 travel kit.
Surface Pro accessories: Bluetooth Mouse
The Surface Pro 4 Type Cover includes a high quality, integrated touchpad. But sometimes a mouse makes things easier. So add a Bluetooth mouse like the Microsoft Arc Surface Edition to boost your Surface Pro 4 productivity.
Surface Pro accessories: Third Party Cases
Microsoft makes some nice keyboard cases for the Surface Pro 4, but they provide scratch protection for the display and not much else. You might want a case that can stand up to being knocked around in a backpack or even—in a worst case scenario—being dropped. There are multiple third party choices, such as the UAG Surface Pro Rugged Case. This particular case has its own kickstand, keeps all the ports clear, it’s compatible with the Surface Pro Type Cover as a keyboard, and offers a grippy “Frogskin” material to avoid accidental dropping—with military standard drop protection if you accidentally slip and it hits the floor.
There are more add-ons you could choose if you wanted, from an ergonomic Bluetooth keyboard to a 128GB MicroSD memory card for a serious storage boost. The point is, the Surface Pro 4 is an excellent tablet, but with the right accessories you can significantly expand its capabilities and customize it to exactly meet your needs.