MI­CROSOFT SUR­FACE PRO 6: Mi­crosoft adds quad-core power to its tried-and-true tablet

While an 8th-gen Core pro­ces­sor up­grade is note­wor­thy, this is the third straight gen­er­a­tion that the Sur­face Pro has re­mained largely the same.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews - BY MARK HACH­MAN

Our re­view of Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Pro 6 fo­cuses even more than usual on the dif­fer­ences be­tween this new gen­er­a­tion and its pre­de­ces­sor, the Sur­face Pro (2017), be­cause they seem nearly iden­ti­cal—at least on the, er, sur­face. Vis­ually, you’d be hard­pressed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the Sur­face Pro 6, the Sur­face Pro (2017) ( go.pc­world.com/mi17), or the Sur­face Pro 4 ( go.pc­world.com/mip4),

all it­er­a­tions on Mi­crosoft’s iconic 12.3-inch two-in-one PC.

This time around, the ma­jor changes are in­side: A bump up in the pro­ces­sor to an 8th-gen­er­a­tion Core chip, some weird ad­just­ments in pric­ing, and a new color— black—sep­a­rate the new from the old. There’s ac­tu­ally a down­grade of sorts in the GPU com­pared to the Sur­face Pro (2017), which is a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment. The Per­for­mance sec­tion of our re­view shows the clear­est dif­fer­ences among the three gen­er­a­tions.

We’ve given the Sur­face Pro 6 what some would con­sider an “av­er­age” score of 3.5 stars, a lower score than we’ve given some other tablet PCS we’ve re­viewed re­cently. But we’re also giv­ing it an Edi­tor’s Choice, like those other prod­ucts. De­spite be­ing un­der­whelmed by the Sur­face Pro 6’s fail­ure to break new ground (or even add USB-C), we will give it this: It also has a nice, long 8.5 hours of bat­tery life in our tests, which has been an Achilles heel with re­viewed com­pe­ti­tion. It is still one of the best­de­signed Win­dows tablets you can buy, and its pric­ing is com­pet­i­tive with sim­i­larly con­fig­ured prod­ucts.

BA­SIC SPECS AND BUY­ING AD­VICE

As you may re­call from our hands-on with the Sur­face Pro 6 ( go.pc­world.com/hpr6) af­ter Mi­crosoft’s event, we dis­cov­ered that Mi­crosoft is sell­ing both the Sur­face Pro 6 for Busi­ness ( go.pc­world.com/bsp6) as well as the more generic Sur­face Pro 6 ( go.pc­world. com/bys6) for con­sumers. The Busi­ness model be­gins at $999, rather than $899 for con­sumers. The ad­di­tional $100 buys you a slightly more pow­er­ful Core i5 pro­ces­sor with vpro ca­pa­bil­i­ties, an im­proved war­ranty with the abil­ity to re­ceive a new de­vice be­fore send­ing in the de­fec­tive model (Ad­vanced Ex­change), and Win­dows 10 Pro, rather than Home. We re­viewed the con­sumer ver­sion.

Dis­play: 12.3-inch (2736x1824) Pix­elsense dis­play, with 10-point touch

Pro­ces­sor: 1.6GHZ Core i5 8250U (as tested) or 1.9GHZ i7-8650u (con­sumer); 1.7GHZ Core i5 8350U or 1.9GHZ Core 17-8650U (busi­ness). All pro­ces­sors are quad-core 8th-gen Kaby Lake-r.

Graph­ics: In­tel HD 620

Mem­ory: 8GB-16GB DDR3 (8GB as tested)

Stor­age: 128GB-1TB NVME PCIE SSD (256GB as tested)

Se­cu­rity: TPM 2.0

Ports: USB 3.0 Type-a, Sur­face Con­nect, mini­dis­play­port, mi­cros­dxc card reader, 3.5mm head­phone jack

Wire­less: 802.11ac, Blue­tooth 4.1

Cam­eras: 5MP/1080P (front) with Win­dows Hello; 8MP rear

Bat­tery: 45Wh

Op­er­at­ing sys­tem: Win­dows 10 Home (as tested); Win­dows 10 Pro for busi­ness

Di­men­sions: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches

Weight: 2.36 pounds (with Type Cover); 2.82 pounds (with power brick)

Col­ors: Plat­inum, black

Op­tional ac­ces­sories: Sur­face Pen model 1776 ( go.pc­world.com/sfpn; $99.99); Sur­face Pro Type Cover ( go.pc­world.com/ cvbl; black), $129.99; Sur­face Pro Type Cover ( go.pc­world.com/sgtc; plat­inum, cobalt blue, bur­gundy) $159.99

Price: $1,199 (as tested; go.pc­world. com/bys6), plus a $129.99 Type Cover

Pur­chas­ing a Sur­face Pro 6 can be con­fus­ing—un­nec­es­sar­ily so, in our view. In ad­di­tion to the $100 pre­mium for se­lect­ing the Busi­ness edi­tion over the con­sumer ver­sion, con­fig­ur­ing your pur­chase feels a bit like a puzzle. Here’s an ex­am­ple: If you select the plat­inum Sur­face Pro 6, you can select a Core I5/8GB RAM/128GB SSD model for the min­i­mum price of $899. But that same option is not avail­able in black; in­stead you’ll be forced to up­grade slightly to a Core I5/8GB/256GB model, for $999. Would you like a Core i5 with a ter­abyte of stor­age? Sorry, you can’t right now. And so on.

You have two CPU op­tions, pe­riod: a Core i5 and Core i7, and not the power-sip­ping Core m option of the Sur­face Pro (2017). The 7th-gen­er­a­tion Core i7 chip pow­er­ing the Sur­face Pro (2017) came with a pow­er­ful Iris Plus GPU at­tached. This time around, Mi­crosoft’s re­turned to a more ba­sic in­te­grated graph­ics chip, the HD 620, on both the Core i5 and the Core i7.

Then, of course, there’s the Type Cover, a vir­tual re­quire­ment for any use­ful work. Mi­crosoft still hasn’t bun­dled the Type Cover with the Sur­face Pro, forc­ing you to pay an ad­di­tional $129.99 to $159.99. The dif­fer­ence de­pends on the color you choose: black, bur­gundy, cobalt blue, and plat­inum. Iron­i­cally, a black Sur­face Pro 6 rep­re­sents a slight pre­mium of sorts, be­cause of the con­fig­u­ra­tion. But the cheap­est Type Cover is the black one, forc­ing true cheap­skates to mix a plat­inum Sur­face Pro 6 with a black Type

Cover to achieve the low­est price.

All told, the “real” min­i­mum price of the Sur­face Pro 6 is $899 for a plat­inum SP6 plus $129.99 for the black Type Cover, or $1,028.99. The $100 Sur­face Pen is truly op­tional.

BA­SIC CON­STRUC­TION AND PORTS

Com­pare it your­self to our re­view of the Sur­face Pro (2017) ( go.pc­world.com/mi17): The new Sur­face Pro 6 is vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal in terms of di­men­sions down to the mil­lime­ter. We found it weighed al­most ex­actly the same, with a bit of vari­ance in our scale. Mi­crosoft has made it avail­able in two col­ors: the mod­ern, tra­di­tional Sur­face plat­inum, and the new jet black, hear­ken­ing back to the first few gen­er­a­tions of Sur­face de­vices.

Like the Sur­face Pro 6, the tablet’s kick­stand folds down about 165 de­grees, nearly flat, for ink­ing with the op­tional Sur­face Pen ac­ces­sory. Mi­crosoft doesn’t of­fer a Sur­face Lap­top that folds back into tablet mode, so if you’re look­ing for a tablet ex­pe­ri­ence with the struc­tural rigid­ity of a lap­top, you might look at our top pick for a con­vert­ible among our best lap­top re­views ( go. pc­world.com/lp17).

Re­mem­ber, though, that the Mi­crosoft Sur­face line be­gins and ends with its mag­nif­i­cent dis­play: 12.3 inches (2736x1824), the same di­men­sions and res­o­lu­tion as its pre­de­ces­sor. Us­ing Mi­crosoft’s gor­geous new de­fault background wall­pa­per as a guide, any dif­fer­ences be­tween the Sur­face Pro (2017) dis­play and the new Sur­face Pro 6 are slightly no­tice­able only in a side-by-side com­par­i­son. Our re­view unit pumped out 378 nits, 7 per­cent more than the SP (2017). At that lu­mi­nance level, the SP6 is us­able out­side, though it’s best for high-con­trast ap­pli­ca­tions like Word.

Like the 2017 model, the Sur­face Pro 6 fea­tures vi­brant “en­hanced” or more col­orac­cu­rate “SRGB” color modes, and sup­ports on-screen use of the Sur­face Dial ( go. pc­world.com/sfdl) for dig­i­tal artists.

We’re told Mi­crosoft im­proved the in­ter­nal cool­ing. The Core i5 model we tested was fan­less (as was its 2017 pre­de­ces­sor), so we’d need to test the Core i7 ver­sion to

gauge its fan be­hav­ior. Un­der some of the heav­ier bench­mark loads—hand­brake, Cinebench, and 3Dmark—the up­per rear of our fan­less Sur­face Pro 6 be­came warm, but cooled off quickly.

Mi­crosoft’s prod­uct page claims the Sur­face Pro 6 uses the same sturdy mag­ne­sium uni­body of the Sur­face Pro

(2017), though it feels a bit more pla­s­ticky to the touch. Mi­crosoft also elim­i­nated the slight two-tone aes­thetic at the top of the chas­sis that the Sur­face Pro (2017) used. There’s still the same slightly rounded cor­ners (not as pro­nounced as on the Sur­face Go) and the same sub­tle vent­ing at the rear. Fi­nally, a small nit­pick: The black-on-black ap­proach made it a chal­lenge to find the ports when us­ing it within my dimly lit home workspace.

Oh, and as for ports—no, there’s no USB-C, even though you’ll find it on the Sur­face Go and Sur­face Book (and many other de­vices). In­stead, there’s the stan­dard com­ple­ment of Sur­face Con­nec­tor, mini­dis­play­port, USB 3.0 Type-a, and the mi­crosd slot hid­den un­der the kick­stand. If you don’t own a Sur­face Dock, the lack of USB-C is a dis­ap­point­ing omis­sion, as your ex­pan­sion op­tions are lim­ited. Per­son­ally, this says yet again that we’re over­due for a new Sur­face Dock, ei­ther as a re­place­ment to the cur­rent brick, or some more por­ta­ble don­gle that en­ables both power and I/O.

In choos­ing be­tween the black and the plat­inum col­ors, con­sider how tar­nished the plat­inum Sur­face Pro (2017) has be­come in a year or so of use, be­ing shut­tled back and forth to work in a back­pack.

Folded down flat, the Sur­face Pro 6 is sturdy enough for draw­ing, though it’s more com­fort­able to de­tach the tablet and hold it while you ink notes.

The Sur­face Con­nec­tor, USB-A, and a mini­dis­play­port con­nec­tor pop­u­late the right side of the Sur­face Pro 6 tablet.

A row of re­cessed vents runs along the top and sides of the Sur­face Pro 6, fun­nel­ing warm air out of the sys­tem sur­pris­ingly quickly.

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