How to train your Surface Pro 4: Tips and tricks

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Impressive performance

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 tablet is not inexpensive – the configuration we tested ran $1,800, and that’s without the $130 keyboard. But the Surface Pro 4 is extraordinarily light and very, very fast for its ultra-slim dimensions and weight. The Pen is more useful than we’d imagined, and its vivid display and serious performance are impressive. Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of your new Surface.

Read Network World's full review of the Surface Pro 4.

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Buy the keyboard

The Surface Pro 4 is expensive and doesn’t come with a keyboard. Should you fork out another $130 for the keyboard. The answer is: Yes. The Surface Pro 4’s Pen is a nice feature, but you still really need a keyboard.

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Beware the power cord

The Surface Pro power supply comes in two pieces, and it’s rather short. Use a piece of Velcro to keep the two pieces together, else you’ll lose the power cord immediately, like we did.

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Use facial recognition

Take your Hello picture with the unit, and use facial recognition authentication. It recognizes your face accurately and quickly, except in the weirdest lighting situations. Beats having to type in your password each time! If you turn AutoPlay off, the Surface Pro 4 becomes exceedingly difficult to crack—and it uses UEFI secure boot for further hardening.

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Get acquainted with Fresh Paint

Spend some time getting familiar with the included Fresh Paint app. You can use your fingers, and it’s like a Color-By-Numbers app on steroids. It works better still with the Pen. You can load pics as the background, then add, modify, edit, or use them to understand how artists use texture, shadowing, brush strokes or simple pencil lines to compose their pictures. It’s not 3D like a CAD product, rather, an enormous palette that wants you to store your drawings on OneCloud for anywhere-access.

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Protect VMs

Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization software is pre-installed, allowing you to easily run virtual machines. We strongly suggest that only Surface Pro 4s with more than 8GB ought to be used, and each VM of course, needs its own antivirus/anti-malware and firewall considerations.

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Delete unnecessary apps

In a welcome fit of bloatware reduction, very few teaser applications are installed on the Surface Pro units we tested. In fact, you need delete hardly anything. Our candidates would be Flipboard (personal magazine viewer), Microsoft Money (not very handy, even if you’re an investor) and Xbox (for the enterprise focused).

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Avoid Bluetooth interference

Be sure to keep your Wi-FI access point off your desk or a few feet away, as it can interfere with the Pen and other Bluetooth devices. Don’t set the Surface Pro 4 atop other WiFi-enabled devices, either, for the same reason. Imagine our surprise when we set a Samsung phone on the Surface and created Bluetooth mayhem.

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Keep the fingerprint reader clean

The fingerprint reader on the Surface Pro 4 Keyboard works almost flawlessly in our test, but in short term use. It’s perhaps the only space that will need occasional deliberate cleaning on the keyboard. Remember your fried chicken fingers!

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Check out movies and tv shows at the Microsoft Store

You can watch videos and consume music. The Movies and TV app captively sources from the Microsoft Store, and we couldn’t find any free movies or TV shows. You can, however, buy subscriptions to TV shows and buy or rent movies. Prices are O.K., but subscribers to other sources like Amazon Prime or Netflix may wince.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.