Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review

The best one yet, but only just

Surface Pro 6

Our Verdict

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 is faster, longer lasting and now comes in a sleek, new black shell and … that’s about it. It’s a better device 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 the cost. 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 led us to believe that it is going to feature some kind of radical change for the Surface Pro 6. Or, at the very least, it would have one or two of the changes we’ve been asking Microsoft for since the Surface Pro 4 debuted in 2015. 

After all, when the Surface Pro 2017 was released without a number, Microsoft insisted that a ‘Surface Pro 5’ would only exist if it brought enough of an experiential change to the product line to deserve 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 present in Surface Pro 6. Still, we wouldn’t say that the Surface Pro 6 is devoid of enhancements. 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, appear on the Surface Pro 7, at least according to a recent patent that shows off a thinner Type Cover. That, plus the changes within the Windows 10 May 2019 Update and beyond, makes us curious about what the next Surface will be like. 

But in the meantime, we have the Surface Pro 6. And, beyond improved silicon and that beautiful black color option, this tablets, as it exists today, doesn’t change the formula – not even the dated USB 3.0 port. So, where does that leave potential tablet buyers?

surface pro 6

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 price starts at $899 (£879, AU$1,145), right in line with the pricing for the Surface Pro 2017, albeit slightly more expensive. The tablet is available for purchase right now in the US, UK and Australia.

Keep in mind that, much like with previous models, the Surface Pro 6 doesn’t include the $99 (£99, AU$139) Surface Pen nor the $159 (£149, AU$249) Type Cover. That, regrettably, will probably never change, so definitely be prepared to spend more than the tablet price.

The Surface Pro 6 we reviewed here, as listed on the right, costs a whopping $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 quite a price bump for just 128GB of extra space.

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

On the other hand, 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 include 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 the better value in that you’re getting more of a full computer for only about 100 bucks (or quid) more. However, it’s definitely a closer race than it’s ever been.

If you want to go with Chrome OS, you can pick up the new Google Pixel Slate for $799 (£749, AU$1,162) to start, which might have been an excellent 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

Image 2 of 16

Image 3 of 16

Image 4 of 16

Image 5 of 16

Image 6 of 16

Image 7 of 16

Image 8 of 16

Image 9 of 16

Image 10 of 16

Image 11 of 16

Image 12 of 16

Image 13 of 16

Image 14 of 16

Image 15 of 16

Image 16 of 16

Design and display

Besides for the stunning new black color scheme that’s nice to touch, just about nothing is different about the Surface Pro design when compared to the 2017 model. The tablet measures only 0.33 inches thin and weighs a mere 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, not to mention the exact same Type Cover. We’re fine with the latter since the Type Cover is terrific – it’s the most impressive accessory of its kind that we’ve used yet.

However, we’re seriously disappointed by the absence of USB-C this time, and it’s not even about any obvious benefits of the platform. 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, adding more to the cost.

surface pro 6

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 than necessary to unlock the full flexibility of a device that Microsoft claims can serve as their one and only computer.

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

This should be a bonus to both content creators and consumers alike, with deeper blacks and even brighter colors that certainly make movies more impressive, and possibly makes media editing easier and more accurate for content creators.

First reviewed November 2018

Images Credit: TechRadar