Microsoft is in a bit of a unique place in the PC space compared to other manufacturers. Other than Apple, Microsoft is the only company that controls both the hardware and software sides, and when the Surface lineup launched way back in 2012, Microsoft’s goal was to showcase the advantages of their platform with a premium hardware lineup. On October 2nd 2018, the company unveiled their sixth iteration of what is now a staple in the PC space, the Surface Pro 6.

On the outside, it would be easy to write this refresh off as a spec bump, but there are tangible improvements throughout the Surface Pro which make this a worthwhile successor to the 2017 Surface Pro. The company hasn’t completely reinvented Surface Pro since the Surface Pro 3 launched in 2014, with the move to the new thin and light form factor, showcasing the 3:2 aspect ratio display. Surface Pro 4 stretched the display from 12-inches to 12.3-inches in the same size device, and moved from Haswell to Skylake, and Surface Pro 2017 made some more small tweaks, and with the move to Kaby Lake finally solved the power management issues that plagued the Skylake generation of Surface devices.

Arguably the biggest change that people will see with the Surface Pro 6 is that it’s available in a new color: black. Surface hasn’t been offered in black since the days of the Surface Pro 2, and the new color will live alongside the existing platinum color we’ve come to know throughout Microsoft’s PC lineup. But, inside the device are new components which help move the Surface Pro to a new level. The most noticeable is that Microsoft has moved to the quad-core Kaby Lake Refresh chips, and as we’ve seen throughout the rest of the PC industry, Kaby Lake Refresh brings a significant performance boost.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6
  Model Tested: Core i5-8250U 8GB 256GB $1199
Processor Intel Core i5-8250U
4C/8T, 1.6-3.4GHz, 6MB L3, 14nm, 15w

Intel Core i7-8650U
4C/8T, 1.9-4.2GHz, 8MB L3, 14nm, 15w
Memory 8 GB or 16 GB Dual-Channel LPDDR3
Graphics Intel Core i5-8250U
Intel UHD Graphics 620 (24 EUs, 300-1100 MHz)
Intel Core i7-8650U
Intel UHD Graphics 620 (24 EUs, 300-1150 MHz)
Display 12.3" 2736x1824 3:2 PixelSense
LG Display, Touch and Pen support
100% sRGB color + enhanced color, individually calibrated panels
Storage 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB PCIe 3.0 x2
Networking 802.11ac, 2x2:2, 866Mpbs Max, 2.4 and 5GHz
Bluetooth 4.1
Marvell AVASTAR
Audio 1.6 W Stereo Speakers (front facing)
Dolby Audio Premium
Battery 45 Wh, 44 W AC Adapter with USB charging port
Right Side USB 3.0 Type-A
Mini DisplayPort 1.2
MicroSDXC Card Reader
Surface Connect Port (charging and docking)
Left Side Headset Jack
  Power Button
Volume Rocker
  Keyboard Connector
Dimensions 292 x 201 x 8.5 mm (11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches)
Weight Core i5: 770 grams (1.70 lbs)
Core i5/i7: 784 grams (1.73 lbs)
Cameras Rear: 8.0 MP auto-focus
Front: 5.0 MP auto-focus and Windows Hello support
Dual microphones
Extras Surface Pen and Dial (sold separately)
Surface Dock - 2 x mDP 1.2, 4 x USB 3.0, 1 x Gigabit (sold separately)
TPM 2.0
Pricing 128 GB Core i5 8GB RAM: $899
256 GB Intel Core i5 with 8GB of RAM: $1199
256 GB Intel Core i7 with 8GB of RAM: $1499
512 GB Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM: $1899
1 TB Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM: $2299

One decision that we’ve seen questioned since the launch event was disappointment in the lack of an Iris GPU option in the Surface Pro with this generation. The 2017 model we reviewed was outfitted with the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, which doubles the execution units compared to the standard UHD Graphics 620, as well as adds 64 MB of eDRAM. The Iris option is no more though, but even if Microsoft had wanted to continue offering it, Intel no longer sells any 15-Watt CPUs in their current lineup with the Iris option. You’d have to move up to a 28-Watt model at the moment to be offered access.

The rest of the Surface Pro, on a technical specification sheet, is pretty much identical to the outgoing model. The 12.3-inch display is the same 2736 x 1824 resolution, you can get SSD capacities up to 1 TB, and RAM is offered with up to 16 GB as the maximum due to the limitations of LPDDR3 capacities. Also along for the ride is the same Marvell AVASTAR wireless that has been used exclusively in all Surface devices for too long.

The one missing feature that everyone would have likely expected to see with this launch was a USB-C port, since Microsoft finally includes it in place of the mini DisplayPort in the Surface Book 2, as well as on the Surface Go, but in a confusing move, the Surface team has kept the mini DisplayPort connector on Surface Pro rather than move to USB-C which could also double as DisplayPort when needed.

Microsoft has also cut the prices quite significantly, but the very bottom end model with the Core m3 and lowest price is no more. The good news is that the base configuration drops the 4 GB of RAM though, meaning a 128 GB Core i5 with 8 GB of RAM is now the base at $899. Last year the MSRP of the 128 GB Core i5 was $999 and it only came with 4 GB of RAM. At the very top, the savings are even larger, with the 1 TB Core i7 with 16 GB of RAM a full $400 less than the launch price of last year's Surface Pro.

Design
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  • cfenton - Monday, November 05, 2018 - link

    This is just non-sense. I have a 5 year old Macbook Pro I use almost everyday and its battery is fine. I'm sure some will die in 3 years, but most will run just fine for much longer. Reply
  • star-affinity - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    I think it looks great. Some aspects of Windows 10 looks pretty decent too. Too bad a lot of third party Windows software seems made by people who seemingly have little sense of graphic/user interface design an seems stuck with a Windows 95-ish look for their apps. Reply
  • Frenetic Pony - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    "the display on the Surface Pro 6 is one of the best around, with accurate colors, high resolution, and now, even better contrast."

    The hell it is, the Ipad Pro has had a brighter, higher contrast, HDR display since last year AND has great battery life. My phone has a brighter, higher contrast, better calibrated, HDR display than this has. Lenovo has HDR screens on laptops that work fine, and have a higher PPI to boot. Microsoft is driving around competing for an entire division lower than "best tech possible" and charging a thousand+ dollars for it.

    This entire device is pathetic, Whiskey Lake has a USB 3.1 controller built in but MS has deliberately downgraded it, probably just to make it's NEXT Surface seem like a better upgrade. Where's the Thunderboldt 3 ports MS? Intel dropped the licensing, even AMD laptops include it. Calling this device anything other than a deliberately crippled second tier device MS doesn't care about is a journalistic disservice.
    Reply
  • Mitch89 - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - link

    "Other than Apple, Microsoft is the only company that controls both the hardware and software sides, and when the Surface lineup launched way back in 2012, Microsoft’s goal was to showcase the advantages of their platform with a premium hardware lineup. "

    I'm curious what things you think Microsoft have done to take advantage of this in 2018?
    Reply
  • domboy - Friday, October 26, 2018 - link

    Now if they'd just release a new ARM-based Surface with all these same improvements... Reply
  • c.economides - Saturday, October 27, 2018 - link

    Can you please let us know which software you use to measure the thermal performance in this review?
    If it's proprietary are you able to share it with us?

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • c.economides - Saturday, October 27, 2018 - link

    I am asking because my i5 Surface Pro 6 reproduces the results from all other benchmarks you have run on your test unit, but using prime95 or the powermax stress test, I absolutely havent to replicate your thermals.
    When all cores are testes (8 threads) the clock stabilizes at 2.4GHz and is a far way from the 2.9GHz you mention. The way I can replicate your results almost 1:1, is if I set the test to 2 threads, then I get a stable power draw of 18W with an average clock of 2.9GHz
    Reply
  • albert89 - Saturday, November 10, 2018 - link

    Would love to see the same laptop with AMD's APU pro series installed.
    I have no doubt they can more than match CPU & GPU output at a lower price.
    Not that anyone is interested in high performance, low cost laptops these days.
    Reply
  • dehwei - Monday, May 13, 2019 - link

    When running the battery tests what was the brightness set to? (ie. 40%) It's hard for us to translate nits to windows brightness control. Also was the keyboard attached and was the video playback with audio? If so, what was the volume set to? I am trying to recreate the video playback test with my surface. Reply

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