Microsoft also added a few upgrades to keep the machine modern. It has Intel’s 8th generation processors, which should make it both more powerful and more energy efficient. Plus the 12.3-inch display is brighter and features more contrast, while keeping the same sharp 267 pixels per inch.
As usual, you’ll also have to shell out an additional $130 for the Surface Pro’s Type Cover. The keyboard hasn’t changed from last year: It still offers a great typing experience, with wonderful responsiveness and a solid amount of key travel. And the trackpad remains smooth and accurate. It’s just a shame you have to pay extra, since it’s practically a requirement if you want to use the Pro 6 as a PC.
And just to remind you this is actually a computer, and not a typical tablet, there’s a decent selection of ports, including a traditional USB 3.0 connection, a miniDisplayport, headphone jack and Surface Power connector. There’s also a MicroSDXC card slot tucked under the kickstand. It would have been nice to see Microsoft include USB-C though, since that would have given us another option for charging like on the Surface Go.
In our testing, the Surface Pro 6 didn’t feel significantly different than last year’s model. Our review model featured a Core i5 8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. It had no trouble keeping up with my daily workflow, which involves opening dozens of tabs, multiple documents, playing Spotify, juggling tons of Slack conversations and doing some occasional photo editing.
I never felt any sluggishness — but I didn’t really expect any, since last year’s Surface Pro was more than enough for me. The only major performance downside, as you’d expect, is with games. The Pro 6 still relies on Intel’s integrated graphics, and while it’s gotten better over the years, it’s not something I’d use for any modern PC games.
Surprisingly enough, I didn’t see a huge jump in PCMark benchmarks, which tests overall system performance, but the Pro 6’s 3D Mark scores were a bit higher. Battery life was also better, clocking in at 15:34 in our rundown, compared to 13:40 on last year’s Pro. After using it for a typical eight-hour workday, it had around 20 percent of its battery life left.
As for the Surface’s kickstand, it usually takes a bit of practice for newcomers. It’s most stable on a flat surface, as you’d expect, but I had no problem balancing the computer on my lap too. There are some occasions where the hinge gets in your way, though. I had a lot of trouble holding the Surface Pro steady while I was trying to get work done on a crowded subway car. It worked fine when the train wasn’t moving, but it was tough to balance in motion since I couldn’t readjust my legs. A rider sitting next to me had no trouble working on their MacBook Air.
For the most part, I used the Surface Pro 6 as a laptop, but it still works very well as a tablet. It’s not as finger-friendly as an iPad though, since Windows is still mostly geared toward desktops and notebooks. Until Microsoft’s OS gets more tablet-focused apps, the slate mode will always feel like an afterthought. And who knows if that will ever happen. The Microsoft Store has gathered some popular apps over the last few years, Spotify and iTunes, but they’re rarely optimized for tablets. At least you can still browse the web, read digital comics and watch movies on Netflix in tablet mode.