Microsoft Surface Pro 6
£900 | $1,199 www.microsoft.com The best one yet, but only just
Before Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro (2017) last year, the company explicitly said that there was no such thing as a ‘Surface Pro 5.’ Why? Essentially, a future Surface Pro would get a number again when it brought “an experiential change that makes a huge difference in product line.”
Now, Microsoft has leapfrogged the ‘5’ moniker entirely in launching the Surface Pro 6. By that logic, you wouldn’t be out of line to expect a massive sea change – or at least one or two of the changes that have been requested for years.
While the Surface Pro 6 is inarguably the most powerful and longest-lasting (when it comes to battery life) Surface tablet yet, we have a hard time accepting that it’s worthy of the number. Aside from those marked improvements in performance, and a shiny new colour scheme, nothing else about the Surface Pro has changed year over year… not even the USB 3.0 port. So, where does that leave prospective buyers?
Price and availability
The starting price for Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 comes in at £690 ($899), which is directly in line with pricing for the Surface Pro 2017. The tablet is available for purchase right now in the UK and US.
The version you see configured here would cost you a cool £900 ($1,199) on account of the upgraded storage from 128GB on the base model to 256GB. That’s quite a price hike for another 128GB.
From there, the tablet can be configured with an Intel Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of memory and as much as 1TB of SSD space. If you want the most souped-up version of this tablet, that’ll cost you a whopping £1,700 ($2,299).
Remember, as with previous Surface Pro devices, none of these prices include the £99 ($99) Surface Pen, nor the £149 ($159) Type Cover.
Comparatively, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro costs £969 ($999), which gets you a 2,732x2,048-pixel display powered by Apple’s A12X processor and with 64GB of flash storage. However, that too doesn’t include a keyboard or stylus, which call for another £199 ($199) and £119, ($129), respectively.
On paper, the Surface Pro 6 remains better value. However, it’s a closer race than it’s ever been.
Then, there’s the brand-new Pixel Slate, which Google wants £450 ($599) for to start with, which is excellent in comparison. However, the company wants another £150 ($199) for its keyboard cover accessory, which is not so excellent, especially considering how both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 6 dwarf it in terms of power.
Design and display
Save for the gorgeous-looking, lovely-feeling, new black colour scheme, just about nothing has
changed about the Surface Pro design from the 2017 model to today’s Pro 6. The tablet measures just 8.5mm thin and weighs 771g – the same as last year’s model.
The tablet has all of the same ports and wireless connectivity options as before, not to mention the same Type Cover.
However, we seriously feel let down by the absence of USB-C this time around, and it’s not even about any perceived benefits of the platform. Microsoft has been gating faster data transfers and wider docking capabilities behind its Surface Connect port for years, forcing anyone who wants that speed and expansion to buy its £150 ($199) Surface Dock accessory.
Not even the included USB 3.0 is up to the latest USB 3.1 standard, which is twice as fast at transferring data than the former, so it’s now costing you more money than is necessary to unlock the full versatility of a device that Microsoft says can serve as your only PC.
On a more positive note, the display is moderately improved in one area but otherwise unchanged. The Surface Pro 6 display now has a stronger contrast ratio of 1,500:1 compared to the previous model’s 1,300:1 figure. That means it delivers deeper blacks and even brighter colours than before – perfect for viewing movies.
This year’s Surface Pro is more powerful and capable than the last. Much of that comes through the use of quad-core processing, thanks to Intel’s eighth-generation Kaby Lake Refresh processors.
Visual performance doesn’t increase much in the Surface Pro 6 over the previous model, with the same graphics subsystem as before in this specification.
However, we’ve recorded some impressive gains in battery life as well as multi-core performance, which should see better longevity out of the tablet as well as faster video encoding and other CPUintensive tasks – but don’t expect the tablet to churn through complex media renderings and encodings or complicated spreadsheet functions.
Microsoft has beefed up the battery life of the Surface Pro 6 by a considerable margin, particularly when it comes to video playback. Battery life through simulated general use, represented by our PCMark 8 test, remains essentially the same as before.
However, we’ve witnessed a gain of one hour and 47 minutes – a near two-hour increase – in our video rundown test on Surface Pro 6. That’s very impressive.
Software and features
Like the Surface Laptop 2, the Surface Pro 6 doesn’t have many unique pieces of software and features to speak of, which is a double-edged sword. The good? There’s no bloatware, as it comes directly from Microsoft.
What’s also good is Windows Hello facial recognition, which uses the tablet’s infra-red camera, and is fast and accurate. We can barely open the tablet from its Type Cover before we’re already logged into Windows 10. The bad? There is basically nothing else in the way of unique software and features. If it’s on this tablet, you can basically get it on any other Windows 10 tablet.
The Surface Pro 6 is Microsoft’s best tablet yet. However, the changes here are incremental, when what was really needed was some drastic improvements.
Instead, the Surface Pro 6 is faster, longer lasting and now comes in a sleek, new black shell… It’s a better product than last year, but barely so. If you own a Surface Pro 2017, skip this upgrade.
The Surface Pro 6 is faster, longer lasting and now comes in a new black shell but… that’s about it.
“Microsoft has beefed up the battery life of the Surface Pro 6 by a considerable margin”