Tech review: Microsoft levels up Surface Pro 6 performance

The Surface Pro 6 tablet has been refreshed with Intel's eighth-generation chips that come with four processor cores, up from the two cores on the previous 2017 model.
The Surface Pro 6 tablet has been refreshed with Intel's eighth-generation chips that come with four processor cores, up from the two cores on the previous 2017 model. PHOTO: MICROSOFT

As the saying goes, don't fix it if it ain't broke.

Microsoft seems to think everything is swell with its Surface Pro tablet because the latest sixth iteration is indistinguishable to the previous version.

It has the same successful kickstand design, while its unibody magnesium chassis weighs almost identical to its predecessor. At close to 800g, the Surface Pro still feels too unwieldy and heavy to be used primarily as a tablet. Next to Apple's sleek iPad Pro, the Surface Pro looks large and hefty.

In fact, the only design tweak is cosmetic - the Surface Pro now comes in matte black, though only the original platinum colour is currently available in Singapore.

Keeping to the same design also means that the Surface Pro 6 retains the mini-DisplayPort and USB Type-A port of previous models. I was disappointed that there is no USB Type-C port, even though it is available on the smaller Surface Go.

Like the previous model, the Surface Pro still has relatively chunky bezels around its 12.3-inch display. But these bezels are necessary for a tablet to prevent accidental screen touches. At the top bezel is the front camera, which has an infrared camera to enable facial recognition to unlock the Surface Pro.

The display is bright and lively with good contrast. Its 3:2 aspect ratio lets you see more content while browsing Web pages or editing documents compared to 16:9 screens.

  • SPECS

    Price: $1,788

    Processor: Intel Core i5-8250U (1.6GHz)

    Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620

    RAM: 8GB DDR3

    Screen size: 12.3 inches, 2,736 x 1,824 pixels

    Connectivity: USB 3.0, Mini-DisplayPort, Surface Connect port, MicroSD card slot, headphone jack

    Battery: 45 watt-hour

    RATING

    Features: 4/5

    Design: 4/5

    Performance: 4/5

    Value for money: 3/5

    Battery life: 5/5

    Overall: 4/5

To turn the Surface Pro into a full-fledged laptop, the Surface Type Cover keyboard accessory is a must. The basic keyboard costs $199, but I would recommend the Signature model ($249) with Alcantara fabric for a more luxurious feel. The keyboard is backlit and feels tactile, though the keys have little travel. The Surface Pen stylus ($148) remains unchanged from the last version - it has tilt support and has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity.

While it looks the same on the outside, the Surface Pro 6 has been refreshed with Intel's eighth-generation chips that come with four processor cores, up from the two cores on the previous 2017 model. This processor upgrade helps the new Surface Pro perform significantly better. In the PCMark 10 system benchmark test, the new model scored 3,253 compared to a similarly-configured Surface Pro (2017), which scored 2,587.

Having increased the size of the battery in the previous Surface Pro from 39 watt-hour to 45 watt-hour, there is no further increase in battery capacity in the latest model.

Unsurprisingly, the new Surface Pro lasted 7hr20min in our video-loop battery test at maximum brightness. This is just five minutes longer than the previous version.

Verdict: A safe, minor refresh of the Surface Pro that boosts the performance, while retaining its well-received hybrid design.