GPU Performance

While many will lament the loss of the Intel Iris graphics on this year’s lineup of Surface Pro computers, as already stated, there’s no Iris graphics available anymore in the 15-Watt lineup. There’s no doubt that the extra execution units, and the extra eDRAM as a system cache were valuable, but you can’t sell a product that doesn’t exist. As such both the Core i5 and i7 models have the Intel UHD 620 GPU for 2018. Whether or not this will make a dramatic impact on real-world use will depend heavily on what the GPU was used for, since in some cases the wider GPU could made a noticeable impact, but often it was highly thermally limited in a 15-Watt package anyway.

To test GPU performance, the Surface Pro 6 was run through our non-gaming GPU suite. If you’d like to compare it to any other device we’ve tested, please use our online Laptop Bench.

3DMark

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike

Futuremark 3DMark Sky Diver

Futuremark 3DMark Cloud Gate

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited - Graphics

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited - Physics

In the synthetic 3DMark from UL Benchmarks, the Surface Pro 6’s extra CPU grunt helps it stay with the Iris equipped 2017 Surface Pro except in the least demanding tests, although on the most demanding GPU test, which is Fire Strike, the UHD 620 is well behind AMD’s Ryzen 7 in the same 15-Watt package.

GFXBench

GFXBench GL 4.0 Car Chase Offscreen

GFXBench GL 4.0 Manhattan 3.1 Offscreen

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench is an OpenGL based test and is less relevant due to the lack of new OpenGL titles. These tests are aimed at the mobile computing crowd for smartphones and tablets, although in those cases the tests are run in 16-bit mode and not necessarily in OpenGL either so the results aren’t directly comparable. Here again we see the Surface Pro 6 in the middle of the pack, although the AMD based system drops off due to OpenGL drivers.

Dota 2

Dota 2 Reborn - Value

Dota 2 Reborn - Mainstream

Dota 2 Reborn - Enthusiast

Valve’s Dota 2 is a very popular arena battle game, and the game itself is playable on a wide-range of devices. The game engine tends to be CPU bound quite quickly, but is still a good yardstick when looking at lower-power GPUs. Here the Surface Pro 6 does quite well, especially on the lower detail settings. When the game is set to its maximum settings at 1920x1080, the Iris GPU in last year’s Surface Pro ends up throttling heavily and offering lower performance despite being a quicker GPU on paper. You can see quite easily how the game ends up CPU bound though if you look at the Surface Book 2 which features an NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU. This GPU will easily run circles around anything else in the charts, but the game is held back by the U series processor.

GPU Conclusion

Intel hasn’t made significant changes to its GPU lineup for some time, and definitely lags behind AMD’s Vega architecture found in the Ryzen mobile lineup. Due to the lack of availability, Microsoft was unable to  maintain the tradition of offering the Iris GPU either. We’re fairly accustomed to where the Intel iGPU sits and until a new one is launched, we aren’t going to see anything too dramatic in the GPU performance.

Storage Performance

As with last year’s model, the Surface Pro 6 uses a BGA SSD meaning it’s soldered directly onto the motherboard. This saves space, as well as a couple of grams of weight, compared to the M.2 versions. SSDs have become a commodity, so generally manufacturers tend to buy from several suppliers. We can’t say for sure whether Microsoft is doing that this time, since we just have the single sample, but in the past they have so it would not be surprising to see this multi-sourced.

In the review unit we have the SK Hynix BC501 in a 256 GB configuration. This is a PCIe Gen 3 x2 SSD, which SK Hynix rates for 110K IOPS random read and 150K IOPS random write.

The SSD is bumping into the limits of PCIe 3.0 x2 on sequential read and write, and only the 128 GB model won’t do that according to SK Hynix. As usual, larger SSDs offer better performance, but you’re not going to see higher sequential reads than this BGA SSD offers in a x2 configuration.

System Performance Display Analysis
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  • cfenton - Monday, November 5, 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
  • qiechai - Friday, June 12, 2020 - link

    I'm a digital artist . I have a Surface Pro and I use it for drawing in Illustrator and like it a lot! Definitely do not regret the purchase, it saves me hours in terms of workflow. but the pen experience is not as good as the professional drawing tablet . I have a XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro drawing tablet with screen 24" . The pressure on my XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro screen drawing tablet is lighter and smoother especially at the low end, giving better, more natural marks. The Surface is usable, but is a bit of a compromise compared to the Artist 24 Pro . If you are looking for the best pen experience go with the professional graphic tablet. Reply

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