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Hands-on with Surface Pro 4, Microsoft's ideal hybrid tablet

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The Surface Pro 4 is here and ... it's pretty much just like the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft basically refined its design from last year to create a hybrid tablet that's slightly thinner and 30 percent more powerful. It also included a slightly larger 12.3-inch screen in the Surface Pro 4 (0.3 inch bigger than the SP3) without making the case larger. Instead, Microsoft just chipped away at the bezel around the screen. All that makes for a Surface Pro that feels exceedingly familiar, but also wonderfully refined. While the Surface Pro 3 was good enough to replace most laptops for me, the SP4's improvements should make that true for even more people.

Gallery: Surface Pro 4 hands-on | 18 Photos

Surface Pro 4: Hands-on

Upon first getting my eager paws on the Surface Pro 4, I immediately noticed that it was ever-so-slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor. It's just 8.4 millimeters thick and 1.69 pounds for the Core M-equipped entry model -- the SP3 is 9.1 millimeters thick and weighs 1.76 pounds, in comparison. If you step up to a more capable Core i5 processor, then the SP4 gains a bit more weight (somewhere around 1.73 pounds), according to an MS rep. It's not a night-and-day change when it comes to thickness and weight, but it's still impressive to feel after spending so much time with the Surface Pro 3.

Sadly, you'll still have to shell out an extra $130 for the new Type Cover, but at least it feels significantly better than the last keyboard cover. The keys are spaced out more than before, and there's a bit more depth when you press down on them. Basically, you'd have a hard time telling the difference between the Type Cover and a decent keyboard you'd find on a typical tablet. Microsoft also showed off one variant of the new Type Cover with a fingerprint sensor, which will eventually be available for around $150.

The biggest upgrade with the Surface Pro 4 might just be the new Surface Pen, which has been redesigned to fit more comfortably in your hand, and now also sports 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Microsoft also spent plenty of time reworking the tip of the Pen -- so much so that it added the option to swap out the tip if you want something better suited to handwriting instead of drawing, and vice versa. The result? Using the new stylus on the Surface Pro 4 practically feels like you're writing on paper with pencil -- there's a great bit of tactile feedback and very little delay between touching the screen and your results appearing. There's also an "eraser" on the top of the Pen that works just like you'd expect, deleting whatever scribbles you point it to (it even feels like you're erasing actual paper).

While it might seem like the Surface Pro 4 is a tad underwhelming, compared to last year's strong showing and the sexy new Surface Book, there's still plenty to like. It's just a device that's geared toward enticing new Surface customers, rather than making existing Surface Pro 3 fans upgrade. In fact, Microsoft is showing a lot of love to SP3 owners by including compatibility with the new Type Cover and Surface Dock. Consider it more of a refinement upgrade, rather than a completely groundbreaking one.

You can pre-order a Surface Pro 4 starting today for $899 (for the Core M model), and it'll be widely available on October 26th (with certain configurations slated for later in the year).

Get all the news from today's Microsoft event right here.

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