Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review

The best one yet, but only just

Surface Pro 6
Surface Pro 6

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It goes without saying that the Surface Pro 6 is more efficient and powerful than the 2017 model. Much of this newfound power comes through the addition of quad-core processing, thanks to Intel’s 8th-generation Kaby Lake Refresh chips that were released earlier in the year.

We’ve also seen some substantial increase in battery life as well as a boost in multi-core performance, which should obviously offer better longevity out of the tablet – as well as faster video encoding and other processor-intensive tasks.

Surface Pro 6

You’ll  get some solid mileage out of this laptop when playing casual games like Hearthstone or Candy Crush.

Here’s how the Surface Pro 6 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
3DMark: Unable to run
Cinebench CPU: 568 points; Graphics: 52 fps
Geekbench 4 Single-Core: 4,234; Multi-Core: 13,905
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,062
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours and 0 minutes
TechRadar Battery Life Test: 8 hours and 45 minutes

Regrettably, there’s not much improvement in visual performance, if at all, of the Surface Pro 6 over the preceding model, with the same graphics subsystem as before in this specification.

As a general rule, the Surface Pro 6 is targeted for creative professionals and even students. However, you’ll also get some solid mileage out of this laptop when playing casual games like Hearthstone or Candy Crush. Just don’t expect this Windows tablet to tackle demanding tasks like media rendering and encoding or complex spreadsheet functions with reams of data.

In contrast, the iPad Pro 2017 with the Apple A10X Fusion chip scored 9,343 points in the Geekbench 4 multi-core test. This is up there along with many laptop processors from 2017, even though a lot has changed since then. Still, the new iPad Pro 2018 has switched things up a bit.

To be fair, the iPad Pro and Surface Pro will forever be a bit of an apples to oranges situation since the two are built on totally different operating systems with different levels of overhead on their corresponding processors. With no true multitasking or open-ended app management on iPad Pro, it will always have less overhead than the Surface Pro. However, because of this, it also has less versatility.

Surface Pro 6

Microsoft has gone and beefed up the long-lasting power of Surface Pro 6.

Battery life

Microsoft has gone and beefed up the long-lasting power of Surface Pro 6 by a big margin, especially in terms of video playback. 

Battery life through simulated everyday use, represented by the PCMark 8 test, stays mostly the same as before. However, we have seen an increase of almost two hours – one hour and 47 minutes, to be specific – in our video rundown test on Surface Pro 6. That’s a welcome improvement. Between the two figures, you should see a considerable improvement in time away from the outlet from its predecessor.

However, the iPad Pro 12.9 has been known to reach its rated 10 hours of battery life consistently – not just in video playback, but also general use. So, the Surface Pro 6 still isn’t quite up to par, which is to be expected. After all, the version of iOS on the iPad Pro was deliberately designed and developed for the device, whereas Windows 10 was intended for countless devices and therefore has no way of being as similarly optimized.

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6 isn’t exactly feature rich.

Software and features

Like the Surface Laptop 2, the Surface Pro 6 isn’t exactly feature rich or have many distinct pieces of software to speak of, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. The good thing about this is that there’s no bloatware on this device at all, as it comes directly from Microsoft.

Another good? The Windows Hello facial recognition, which uses the tablet’s infrared camera next to its webcam, is very fast and accurate. We can barely open the tablet from its Type Cover before it’s already logged us into Windows 10.

The downside here, however, is that there is basically nothing else in the way of distinctive software and features. If it’s on this tablet, you can get it on any other Windows 10 tablet.

Surface Pro 6

The Surface Pro 6 still the best Windows tablet on offer.

Final verdict

The Surface Pro 6 is Microsoft’s best tablet yet. This we have no doubt.

However, we’re truly left wondering why Microsoft thought this one worthy of a number seeing as it improves on fewer aspects of the device compared to 2017’s model. Microsoft hard lined against giving last year’s model a ‘5’ in its name, insisting that it didn’t have enough improvements to make it worthy of a number.

This time, even though the device only has a few enhancements and unique features to offer, Microsoft not only gives it a number, but also skips the ‘5’ entirely. In almost any other case, this would just be marketing drivel. However, due to Microsoft’s previous, well-documented statements, it’s definitely hard to move past.

To be worthy of a number, much less skipping one in the sequence entirely, we anticipated some considerable improvements to the design – an even sharper screen, perhaps; hardwired connections that are modern and not proprietary, maybe; perhaps even a drastic pricing move that includes every essential accessory in the box would have been enough.

Instead, the Surface Pro 6 is faster, longer lasting and now comes in a sleek, new black shell – which, by the way, doesn’t have the 128GB and 1TB storage options. And that’s about it. Make no mistake; it’s a better product than last year, but only barely, hardly worthy of being numbered ‘6’, much less ‘5’.

If you already own a Surface Pro 2017, we’d say that this upgrade isn’t worth the cost. Otherwise, it’s still the best Windows tablet on offer.

Images Credit: TechRadar 

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.