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 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

When the Surface Pro 2017 was released without a number, Microsoft said there would be no ‘Surface Pro 5.’ Why? Well, apparently the Surface Pro 5 would only exist when it brought enough of an experiential change to the product line to deserve the number in the title.

However, when the Surface Pro 6 came out in October 2018, it completely skipped the ‘5’. So, that led us to expect some kind of radical change for the Surface Pro 6 – or at least one or two of the changes we’ve been asking Microsoft for since the Surface Pro 4 debuted in 2015. 

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And, while that wasn’t necessarily the case, we wouldn’t say that the Surface Pro 6 is devoid of improvements. The Surface Pro 6 has a faster processor and much longer battery life, but the fact that it’s worthy of the number when the Surface Pro 2017 wasn’t is a tough pill to swallow. Still, some more radical changes should appear on the Surface Pro 7, at least according to a recent patent that shows off a thinner Type Cover.

That, plus whatever changes are coming in the Windows 10 April 2019 Update and beyond, make us curious what the next Surface will look like. 

However, beyond improved silicon and that beautiful black color option, the Surface Pro 6, as it exists today, doesn’t change the formula – not even the dated USB 3.0 port. So, where does that leave potential 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$1,349), 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.

Just keep in mind, 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 and that, regrettably, will probably never change.

The Surface Pro 6 we reviewed here, as listed on the right, will cost a whopping $1,199 (£1,149, AU$1,670), thanks to the upgraded storage – from 128GB on the base model to the 256GB listed here. That’s quite a price hike 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 giant price tag of $2,299 (£1,799, AU$3,200).

Likewise, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017) calls for a bit less at $799 (£769, AU$1,199), which will get you a 2,732 x 2,048 pixel display powered by Apple’s A10X SOC and with 64GB of flash storage. However, the iPad 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.

And, if you want to go with Chrome OS, you can pick up the new Google Pixel Slate for $599 (£549, AU$850) to start, which is excellent on paper. However, Google is asking for an extra $199 (£189, AU$280) for the keyboard cover. That’s not a great deal, especially when both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 6 dwarf it in terms of sheer 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 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, as the Type Cover is still great – it’s the most impressive accessory of its kind that we’ve used yet.

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 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.

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 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.

  • Images Credit: TechRadar
  • First reviewed November 2018