Skip to main content

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 better than last year, but it isn’t the generational leap some were hoping for. If you already own a Surface Pro 2017, this upgrade isn’t worth it. Otherwise, it’s the best Windows tablet money can buy.

For

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

Against

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

When the Surface Pro 6 was released in October 2018, it completely skipped number 5, which made us think that Microsoft had some massive updates planned for the Surface Pro 6. At the very least, we hoped it would have one or two of the changes we’ve been asking Microsoft for since the Surface Pro 4 debuted in 2015.

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

Surface news

Microsoft’s Surface sales keep getting stronger with a 21% leap

Microsoft’s next Surface Pen could be a smart stylus usable across all devices 

Unfortunately, not only did it skip that model, but that experiential change also isn’t there in Surface Pro 6. Still, we wouldn’t say that the Surface Pro 6 is devoid of improvements. After all, it does have a faster processor and much longer battery life. It’s just that the fact that it’s worthy of the number when the Surface Pro 2017 wasn’t, is a tough pill to swallow. 

Some more radical changes should, however, happen on the Surface Pro 7, at least if we were to go by the latest patent that shows off a thinner Type Cover. That, alongside the changes within the Windows 10 May 2019 Update and beyond, makes us enthusiastic about what the next Surface will offer.

In the meantime, we have the Surface Pro 6. And, beyond newer silicon and that beautiful black color option, this tablet, as it exists today, doesn’t really change the formula – not even the dated USB 3.0 port.

So, where does that leave potential tablet users?

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 pricing for the Surface Pro 2017, if somewhat just a tad pricier. The tablet is available for purchase right now in the US, UK and Australia

Bear in mind that, much like with previous models, the Surface Pro 6 doesn’t come with the $99 (£99, AU$139) Surface Pen nor the $159 (£149, AU$249) Type Cover. That, regrettably, probably won’t change in the future, so absolutely be ready to shell out more cash than the tablet price, especially if you’re planning on using it as a laptop alternative or for your graphic design projects.

The Surface Pro 6 we reviewed here, as listed on the right, costs a considerable $1,199 (£1,149, AU$1,568), thanks to the refreshed storage – from 128GB on the base model to the 256GB listed here. That’s quite a price jump for only 128GB of additional storage space.

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

As far as the competition, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017) calls 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 call for another $99 (£99, AU$145) and $169 (about £170, AU$245), respectively, if you buy them from Apple.

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

If you want to go with Chrome OS, on the other hand, you can pick up the new Google Pixel Slate for $799 (£749, AU$1,162) to start, which might 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 hardly good value, especially since both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 6 dwarf it in terms of sheer power.

Image 1 of 16

Surface Pro 6 display and pen

Surface Pro 6 display and pen
Image 2 of 16

Surface Pro 6 has the exact same Type Cover.

Surface Pro 6 has the exact same Type Cover.
Image 3 of 16

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.
Image 4 of 16

The tablet measures only 0.33 inches thin.

The tablet measures only 0.33 inches thin.
Image 5 of 16

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.
Image 6 of 16

Surface Pro 6 has the exact same Type Cover.

Surface Pro 6 has the exact same Type Cover.
Image 7 of 16

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.
Image 8 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
Image 9 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
Image 10 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
Image 11 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
Image 12 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
Image 13 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
Image 14 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
Image 15 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6
Image 16 of 16

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6

Design and display

Aside from the beautiful new black color scheme that’s lovely to touch, just about nothing is unique about the Surface Pro design next to the 2017 model. The tablet measures only 0.33 inches thin and weighs only 1.7 pounds – again, the same as the previous year's model.

The Surface Pro 6 has all the same ports and wireless options as its predecessor, as well as the exact same Type Cover. We’re fine with the latter since the Type Cover is great – it’s the most impressive accessory of its kind that we’ve gotten our hands on.

However, we’re very disappointed that Microsoft didn’t include USB-C this time, and it’s not even about any evident advantages the platform affords. 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 and expansion to pick up a $199 (about £150, AU$280) Surface Dock accessory, which adds more to the final cost.

surface pro 6

Surface Pro 6 back

Even the included USB 3.0 is behind the curve of USB 3.1 – the standard in 2019 – which is twice as fast at transferring data than the former. This isn’t OK: it’s now costing consumers more money to unlock the full versatility of a device that Microsoft asserts can serve as their one and only computer.

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

This should benefit both content creators and consumers alike, with deeper blacks and even brighter colors that definitely make movies more remarkable, and possibly makes media editing easier and more accurate for content creators.

First reviewed November 2018

Images Credit: TechRadar