Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Laptop Review
The Microsoft Surface product line is renowned for serving up some of the most eye-catching designs and hardware components ever seen on a hybrid device. And the Surface Pro 6, without being particularly spectacular, follows the marker laid down by its predecessors in the design of its accessories, none so much as the Type Cover and Stylus. It also makes some slight advances, as seen with the battery and the improved processing power.
There is a high-resolution display and decent audio to cater to your entertainment needs, and four computing cores to take on all your productive endeavors. And while the processor comes in Core i5 or Core i7 options, there is even greater flexibility with RAM and Storage.
The continued omission of a Type-C port is a bit baffling, as is the presence of thick bezel borders at the screen. And even though it’ll often cost much more than is remotely justifiable to get the best out of this device, it still looks like money well spent.
Design and Appearance
At first glance of the Microsoft Surface Pro 6, it appears that very little has changed in terms of build design since its predecessor, the Surface 2017 was spotted at the production line. The Surface Pro 6 first release date was October 16, 2018. Since then it’s had some upgrades. The chassis is still built from a slab of milled aluminum, packing in a few more ounces of heft and getting rid of the seeming material flex that was mildly associated with its predecessor.
The device comes in a couple of configurations with accompanying gross implications on its net weight and price point. While the model with a fanless processor design weighs in slightly less than its actively cooled core i7 counterpart by 16g, it is also priced on the lower side. And as is most often the case with the typical Surface device, most especially with their tablet/laptop hybrids, every other added feature and accessory comes at a price. The Type Cover is sold separately, as is the Surface pen, both of which are rolled out in a variety of color choices, and with the matte black design as the standout option.
The new matte-black Type Cover comes with a bigger price tag and a grippy textured finish that bestows on it an inherent capacity to sweep away fingerprints and smudge streaks from the surface. Then there are a couple of storage options, from the base model and its 128GB capacity to the peak of the crop, a massive 1TB of storage. This device also employs the use of a flexible but firm metallic kickstand that flips the screen up to the 170-degree mark while holding it firmly in place.
As for the screen, it is marked by chunky bezels, a 5mp webcam, and a weight of 1.75 pounds in tablet mode. And even with the Type cover magnetically latched onto the bottom of the display, the Surface Pro 6 ( at 2.4 pounds) still ranks highly among some of the most portable convertible devices ever made.
Ports and Connection
The port selection on the Surface Pro 6 is grossly underwhelming. While a Thunderbolt port might have been too much for asking, it is difficult to justify the omission of a USB Type-C.
You get the dated USB 3.0 Type-A port and a Mini DisplayPort as the primary I/O ports, disappointing, to say the least. Then there is a Surface Connect port for charging the device along with a microSD card slot filling out around the sides of the device.
There’s a Wi-Fi 6 feature along with Bluetooth 4.1 for the provision of wireless connectivity. The former guarantees you snappy and steady bitrates for internet access, not so much for the latter.
Keyboard and Input devices
The Type Cover is majorly relied on to bring the laptop experience to the Surface Pro 6, and with the keyboard that it features, it lives up to its billing. From the feel-some Alcantara finish of its surface to its apt choice of color options, it gets its looks right to start with. Then there is a multilevel backlighting provision along with a near-ideal 1.3mm of key travel for keys that are flat and actuated by a moderate force, making for smooth typing.
And as the Type Cover can be made to lay prostrate, or at a 10° angle of tilt against the screen, you can choose which typing position works best for you. Its thin profile does not necessarily leave it susceptible to a flex problem, this much is glaring once you get to work with it. The deck will not yield, no matter how punchy the press is, leaving you in no doubt as to the robustness of its build.
As for the Windows Precision touchpad, it gets a smooth surface that responds keenly to the slightest of touches and every multi-finger gesture in the books. The depth of the click is so palpable that you can almost feel it roll off your fingertips.
Lastly, the surface pen puts the gloss on what is, without doubt, a very decent overall input selection, with its vast amount of pressure levels and precision that suits it perfectly. Whether you’re jotting down notes or making sketches and drawings on the touchscreen, the exactness and vivid nature of the on-screen impressions will urge you to go on.
There is very little to complain about the audio quality of this laptop’s front-firing speakers. The sounds that they give out are heard to be clear and resounding for the most part. And as they are sited on either side of the device, their range of coverage is even more extensive.
While the mids and highs are palpable even outside of an earshot, you might need to ramp up the volume to perceive all the lower-frequency details away from close range. However, it has to be said that nothing beats the sound experience with headphones plugged in or with external speakers connected.
With a native resolution of 2,736×1,824 pixels and a 267 PPI value on a 3:2 aspect ratio screen, the 12.3-inch PixelSense display on this device gives out visuals that we can barely pick holes in. The quality of the output further raises the bar that was set by the 2017 rollout by a few notches, bar a few exceptions. While the 1,467:1 contrast ratio just about edges out the Surface 2017, a dead-center peak brightness just north of 480 nits is the clincher for our review model. The aforementioned statistics make this device well suited for outdoor use, despite the best efforts of the glossy screen finish to put the damper on the display.
Then there’s a 95% sRGB coverage that is slightly surpassed by the Surface 2017. The display is still very vibrant and clear, the text will not be wrapped up in blocky borders and the images turn out without graininess and flickering. Whether you’re streaming high-res videos or scrolling through web pages and word documents, the display looks just as brilliant as it can afford to be.
And as the 12.3″ screen is touch-enabled, it gets a 10-point multitouch setup that responds in a snap to every move of the Surface pen. The Backlight will not bleed around its edges and the Pen or your fingers will not leave a color trail in their wake as they glide on it.
As is the case with integrated GPU, the Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphics card in this device does not get the luxury of a dedicated graphics memory reserve to pool from or an eDRAM cache to count on. And so it does not pull any trees with its performance over graphic demanding workloads, even at the peak of its powers, which is a clock of up to 1,150 MHz.
However, the Surface Pro 6 will breeze through basic photo editing tasks and then plod through video editing or transcoding. You can only ever get garden-variety performance with even the most regular gaming titles.
By virtue of its low-end integrated GPU provision, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is not particularly a joy to sport with, nor is it an outright flop too. With a little bit of meddling with the system settings, as with the display resolutions and graphics settings, this device will be able to run some decent games with minimal fuss.
Esports titles like Hearthstone and Valorant will run fairly smoothly at sub 40 fps with fair to middling system settings and Full HD resolution. The frame rates will climb a notch higher with the Core i7 processor plugging away at the innards. And the latest PUBG and Fortnite games are a stretch too far for the GPU, regardless of the processor matchup.
We can make a case for an improvement in the battery performance of the Surface Pro 6 from its predecessor, the Surface 2017, but any of such claims will not be particularly standing on solid grounds. With the 2017 rollout and our review device sporting the same 45 Wh battery, there’s only so much disparity between the runtimes posted by both devices.
The processor in use also plays a minor role in the staying power of our test device. For instance, our core i7 processor equipped Surface Pro 6 is outlasted by its core i5 counterpart by half an hour when both models were subjected to testing conditions that incorporate Wi-Fi-based browsing and HD Video playback.
This is probably due to the energy-efficiency advantage that the Core i5-8250U processor has over the core i7-8650U processor. About eight and a half hours of operation is the most practical timeframe that precedes depletion of the Watthour tank, only marginally better than its core i5 predecessor in the Surface 2019 model.
Cooling and Noise Emission
While the core i5 processor-equipped model of the Surface Pro 6 operates on a fanless design, the core i7 iteration makes use of a solitary fan in its setup, and the effect is markedly different. The former is a little vulnerable to the build-up of heat and the sprinkling of hotspots that surface around some parts of its chassis, although it mostly never gets past the temperature thresholds. And although the slim profile of the device does not do much to protect it, the top of the chassis will mostly never be too uncomfortable to the touch, even at the thick of computing action.
Meanwhile, with the Core i7 processor in full tilt, the build-up of heat is steady and prominent around the core of the keyboard and the center of the display, but very quickly repelled by the whirling action of the fan. And to the best part, the cooling operation ensues at an ambiance that is devoid of the din of coil whine and fan noise.
While this device is either powered by a Core i5-8250U or Core i7-8650U processor option, the RAM goes from 8 to 16GB, and storage from 128GB to 1TB. Both processors are armed with four cores that put in the work, regardless of the memory and storage matchup.
From content consumption through high-res media streaming in tablet mode to even more serious computing with photo editing and word processing in laptop mode, the Surface Pro 6 has it all locked in. Our review device, with its core i7 processor joined by 8GB of RAM and 512GB storage, was found to cope well with a load of workloads running simultaneously in the front row.
It is capable of some level of heavy lifting too, as with complex programming and CAD designs, as long as they are done in isolation. Multitasking is seamless as well, with well over a dozen chrome tabs joined in the background by a high-res video and some document editing on Google Docs, this laptop will maintain its stride. Web pages will load in no time, while your applications will launch in a flash.
The overall system functionality is only slightly let down by the performance of the Integrated graphics card, with the impact felt on the smoothness(or lack of it) of gameplay and media editing.
The Surface Pro 6 stays true to the design template that has served its predecessors ever so well, so much that the upgrades and updates almost go under the radar.
With a build that is as lithe and light as we’ve all come to expect, along with the accessories that feature all the bells, whistles, and pedals to the metal, the Surface Pro 6 lives up to its expectations. Our review laptop offers slightly more staying power with which you can engage in even more serious quad-core-powered computing endeavors.
We would’ve loved to see it buck the trend with a long-overdue USB Type-C Port, but we’ll have to wait this one out.
Maybe subsequent rollouts can even go a couple of steps further with a Thunderbolt or even a discrete processor, but then the pricing will possibly take a new shape, a fair deal.
Screen display size
2736 x 1824
1.6 GHz Core i7-8650U
16 GB LPDDR3 1866 MHz
512 GB Flash Memory Solid State
Intel UHD Graphics 620
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