Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review

The best one yet, but only just

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Our Verdict

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 is faster, longer lasting and now comes in a sleek, new black shell but … that’s about it. This is no doubt a better product than last year, but it might not be 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

Before introducing the 2017 Surface Pro, Microsoft came out and said that there would be no such thing as a ‘Surface Pro 5.’ Why? Well, a future Surface Pro would get a number again when it brought forth “an experiential change that made a huge difference in the product line.”

Now, the company 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.

And, while it’s obvious that the Surface Pro 6 is the most powerful and longest lasting Surface tablet on the market to date, we have a hard time accepting that it’s worthy of that number. Aside from those marked improvements in performance, and a new color option, nothing else has changed about the Surface Pro … not even the USB 3.0 port. So, where does that leave prospective 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

Before Black Friday and Cyber Monday (it’s coming soon), the Surface Pro 6 starts at $899 (£879, AU$1,349), which is right in line with the pricing for the Surface Pro 2017. The tablet is available for purchase right now in the US, UK and Australia – though the base model is out of stock in the UK at the time of this writing.

The version you see configured to the right would cost you a cool $1,199 (£1,149, AU$1,670) on account of the upgraded storage from 128GB on the base model to 256GB on the version we’ve reviewed. That’s quite a price hike for another 128GB of space.

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 $2,299 (£1,799, AU$3,200).

Remember, as with previous Surface Pro devices, none of these prices include the $99 (£99, AU$139) Surface Pen nor the $159 (£149, AU$249) Type Cover and that, sadly, probably will never change.

Comparatively, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro calls for a slightly lower $799 (£769, AU$1,199), which gets you a 2,732 x 2,048-pixel display powered by Apple’s A10X processor and with 64GB of flash storage. However, that too doesn’t include a keyboard or stylus, which call for another $169 (about £170, AU$245) and $99 (£99, AU$145), 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.

Then, there’s the brand-new Pixel Slate, which Google wants $599 (about £450, AU$850) for to start with, which is excellent in comparison on paper. However, the company wants another $199 (about £150, AU$280) 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. 

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Design and display

Save for the gorgeous-looking, lovely-feeling, new black color scheme, just about nothing has changed about the Surface Pro design from the 2017 model to today’s Pro 6. The tablet measures just 0.33 inches thin and weighs a mere 1.7 pounds – again, 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 exact same Type Cover. The latter is a good thing, as there is very little – if anything – that needs fixing there. The Type Cover remains the most impressive accessory of its kind that we’ve tested.

However, we have to admit that we’re seriously 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 folks who want that speed and expansion to pick up one of its $199 (about £150, AU$280) Surface Dock accessories.

Surface Pro 6

Not even the included USB 3.0 is up to the latest standard, USB 3.1, which is twice as fast at transferring data than the former. This is no longer acceptable: it’s now costing consumers even more money than is necessary to unlock the full versatility of a device that Microsoft says can serve as their one and only computer.

On a slightly 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.

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