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Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review

The best one yet, but only just

Surface Pro 6
Surface Pro 6

Our Verdict

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 is faster, has longer battery life and now comes in a sleek, new black shell, but that’s about it. It’s unquestionably better than last year’s model. However, it isn’t the generational leap many of us were waiting for. If you already have a Surface Pro 2017, this upgrade isn’t worth it. If you don’t, then this is the best Windows tablet to buy right now.

For

  • Quad-core processing
  • Long battery life
  • Excellent new color option

Against

  • Still no USB-C
  • Dated USB 3.0 port
  • Few meaningful improvements

Did you know the Surface Pro 6 isn’t the newest Surface on the block? Read our review of the Microsoft Surface Pro X, Microsoft’s most recent Surface release.

When the Surface Pro 6 was released in October 2018, it completely skipped number 5, which made us think that Microsoft had a major overhaul in the works for the Surface Pro 6. At the very least, we were expecting one or two of the updates or changes we’ve been asking from Microsoft since the Surface Pro 4’s 2015 debut.

That’s because when the Surface Pro 2017 didn’t get a number, Microsoft insisted that a ‘Surface Pro 5’ would only happen if it brought enough of an experiential change to the product line worthy of the number in the name.

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But, for some bizarre reason, not only did it skip that model, but the experiential change also didn’t come with the arrival of the Surface Pro 6.

It’s not that the Surface Pro 6 lacks improvements. After all, it does have a faster processor and improved longevity. It’s just that the fact that Microsoft deemed it worthy of the number when it didn’t the Surface Pro 2017, is a tough pill to swallow.

However, we expect some major changes to appear on the Surface Pro 7. That is, if the latest patent that showcases a slimmer Type Cover were any indication. That, along with the new features within the Windows 10 May 2019 Update and beyond, makes us keen to see what the next Surface device will bring to the table.

Meanwhile, there’s the Surface Pro 6, and outside of a newer silicon and that stunning black color option, this tablet, as it exists today, hasn’t really changed the formula – not even that pesky and dated USB 3.0 port.

So, where does that leave potential tablet users? Find out more in our Surface Pro 6 review.

surface pro 6

The Surface Pro 6 is has a faster processor and much longer battery life.

Spec Sheet

Here is the Surface Pro 6 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.4GHz boost)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB DDR3
Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display (Contrast ratio: 1,500:1, 100% sRGB color, 10-point multi-touch, 3:2 aspect ratio)
Storage: 256GB SSD
Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, microSDXC card reader (UHS-I), headphone/mic jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2 x 2 MIMO), Bluetooth 4.1 (Low Energy)
Cameras: 8MP rear-facing, auto-focus camera (1080p HD); 5MP front-facing, 1080p HD camera
Weight: 1.7 pounds (771g)
Size: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches (292 x 201 x 8.5mm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

The Surface Pro 6’s base configuration will set you back $899 (£879, AU$1,145), right in line with the Surface Pro 2017’s pricing, if just a bit pricier. The tablet is presently available in the US, UK and Australian markets.

Bear in mind that, much like with earlier models, the Surface Pro 6 doesn’t include the $99 (£99, AU$139) Surface Pen nor the $159 (£149, AU$249) Type Cover in the box. That isn’t likely to change in the future, so anticipate spending more cash than the tablet price, especially if you’re looking to use it as a laptop alternative or to handle your graphic design projects.

The Surface Pro 6 we reviewed here, its configurations listed on the right, costs a lofty $1,199 (£1,149, AU$1,568), thanks to the upgraded storage – from 128GB on the base model to the 256GB listed here. That’s a sizeable price jump for only 128GB of extra storage space.

From there, the Surface Pro 6 can be configured to your desired specifications with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. If you really want to max out the Surface Pro 6 out, you’re looking at an exorbitant $2,299 (£2,149, AU$3,459) price tag.

As far as its main competitor, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017) asks for a bit less at $799 (£769, AU$1,299). This will get you a 2,732 x 2,048 pixel display powered by Apple’s A10X SOC and with 64GB of flash storage. The iPad also doesn’t come with a stylus or a keyboard, which will cost you another $99 (£99, AU$145) and $169 (about £170, AU$245) respectively, if you purchase them from Apple.

On paper, the Surface Pro 6 remains to be the better value since you’re getting more of a full computer experience for only about 100 bucks (or quid) more. However, the race is definitely closer than it’s ever been.

If you want to go with Chrome OS, the new Google Pixel Slate is worth considering, which will set you back $799 (£749, AU$1,162) for the base model. This may have been a great deal if it wasn’t for Google is asking for an extra $199 (£189, AU$280) for the keyboard cover. That’s not exactly good value, especially considering that both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 6 surpass it in terms of sheer power.

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Surface Pro 6 display and pen

Surface Pro 6 display and pen
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Surface Pro 6 has the exact same Type Cover.

Surface Pro 6 has the exact same Type Cover.
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Surface Pro 6 display has a stronger contrast ratio of 1,500:1.

Surface Pro 6 display has a stronger contrast ratio of 1,500:1.
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The tablet measures only 0.33 inches thin.

The tablet measures only 0.33 inches thin.
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The Surface Pro 6's beautiful new black color scheme is lovely to touch.

The Surface Pro 6's beautiful new black color scheme is lovely to touch.
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Surface Pro 6 has the exact same Type Cover.

Surface Pro 6 has the exact same Type Cover.
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The Surface Pro 6 has all the same ports and wireless options as its predecessor.

The Surface Pro 6 has all the same ports and wireless options as its predecessor.
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
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Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6

Design and display

Other than the elegant new black color scheme that’s lovely to touch, just about nothing is different about the Surface Pro design compared to the 2017 model. The tablet measures only 0.33 inches thin and weighs just 1.7 pounds – again, this stays untouched from its predecessor.

The Surface Pro 6 has all the same ports and wireless options as last year’s model as well as ­– not to mention, the exact same Type Cover. We’re satisfied with the latter simply because the Type Cover is already excellent in its current iteration. In fact, we’ll go as far as to say that it might just be the best accessory of its kind that we’ve ever tested.

However, we’re extremely disappointed that Microsoft decided to forgo USB-C again, and that’s not only because of the apparent benefits that the platform has to offer. Microsoft has been gating faster data transfers and wider docking capabilities behind the proprietary Surface Connect port for a while now, forcing users who need that speed boost and expansion to pick up a $199 (about £150, AU$280) Surface Dock accessory, which increases the final cost some more.

surface pro 6

Surface Pro 6 back

Even the included USB 3.0 is behind the curve of USB 3.1, which is the standard in 2019 and boasts twice the transferring data speed as the former. This isn’t OK: it’s now costing consumers more cash to unlock the full versatility of a device that Microsoft insists can function as their one and only computer.

On a slightly more positive note, the display, though mostly unchanged, is marginally improved in one area. It now has a stronger contrast ratio of 1,500:1 in comparison to the previous model’s 1,300:1.

This will benefit not just consumers, but content creators as well, with deeper blacks and more vibrant colors that absolutely make movies more superb looking, and can possibly make media editing much easier and more accurate for content creators.

First reviewed November 2018

Images Credit: TechRadar