REVIEW: MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO 6

Microsoft’s pro-level portable Surface is back—this time, in black.

RATE – 8/10                                                                                       PRICE-  $899

 

IT’S BEEN NEARLY a year since the last version of the Microsoft Surface Pro 2-in-1 arrived. With the holidays around the bend, the annual refresh was inevitable, and the sixth version of the Pro—formally carrying a version number, unlike last year’s release—is here just in time for Santa.

With six years of history behind it, the Surface Pro has reached a stage of refinement where design changes are largely limited to processor upgrades to keep up with the times, plus minor tweaks here and there. On the former front, the Surface Pro 6 now sports an eighth-generation Intel Core i5—reportedly the first time a quad-core CPU has appeared in a 2-in-1 device. My test unit ($1,199 as configured) included 8GB of RAM and a 256-gigabyte SSD. The 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824-pixel touchscreen hasn’t changed in size or resolution, and I measured its extreme brightness as identical to the Surface Pro 4 I reviewed in 2016.

While the Pro 6 offers roughly the same impressive benchmarks as other eighth-generation Core i5 devices, including convertibles and ultralight laptops, it shines the brightest in the realm of battery life. Clocking in at over 8 hours in my testing, the lifespan of this hybrid is simply outstanding, particularly when compared to the 5 hours, 45 minutes the Surface Pro 4 mustered.

Other refinements may be less immediately obvious, but are equally important. The keyboard on the Type Cover keyboard (an extra $130, and not included in the pricing above) is arguably the best I’ve seen in a device of this type, and the trackpad follows along well (though its clicks are loud enough to wake a sleeping seatmate). A fingertip directly applied to the display is even more effective for input, but creative pros will want to invest in the Surface Pen ($100, also not included), which remains a finely-tuned drawing tool.

Aside from its new color option—in addition to the original gray, you can now choose (wait for it…) black—the Surface Pro’s physical format hasn’t changed dramatically. The metal kickstand now bends back a full 165 degrees to be used akin to a drafting table, but weight (2.4 pounds with keyboard, 1.7 pounds without) and thickness (19mm with keyboard, 9mm without) are still in line with the last few releases. There’s still no cooling fan on the device, so the Pro stays silent no matter what you throw at it.

Also unchanged: The Surface Pro sports only two wired connectivity options, a mini-DisplayPort jack and an old-school USB 3.0 port. As well, a microSD card slot is well-hidden beneath the hinge. Complaints about the lack of at least one USB-C port began more than a year ago, and it’s now getting to the point where it’s a bit embarrassing that Microsoft has not included one (or three) on this device.

It’s also important to note that the Surface Pro isn’t getting any cheaper. While pricing starts at $899, that rock-bottom configuration doesn’t get you much more than a portable web browser—and no accessories, either. Upgrading to a decent configuration with a fast Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD will push you over two grand once you add the keyboard. That remains a huge chunk of cash for what amounts to a fancy tablet … even if it does come in black now.

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