Microsoft's new Surface Pro 6 is the best hybrid laptop you can buy - but there's a catch that's a deal breaker for some people
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- Microsoft has been building itself up as a serious competitor in the PC hardware business, and so far it's been doing a pretty great job.
- The Surface Pro 6 is the latest and greatest in the company's Surface Pro line, but does it really live up to the name?
- We tested out the tablet and were impressed with the impressive specs, including a strong core processor and a lot of storage space, though we think the design could still be updated to include a USB-C port or two.
Microsoft has been slowly but surely building itself up as a serious competitor in the PC hardware business, and so far it's been doing a pretty great job. Recent products include the likes of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2, which we recently reviewed, as well as the Surface Go.
It all started, however, with the original Microsoft Surface Pro, which was arguably the first product that showed the world Microsoft could truly compete in hardware. These days, Microsoft is up to the Surface Pro 6, the latest and greatest in the Surface Pro line. But does the new Surface Pro 6 live up to the Surface Pro name? We put it to the test to find out.
As with any new product, the first thing you'll notice about the new Surface Pro is its design, and it's a great-looking device - but not all that different-looking compared to previous iterations of the Surface Pro. In fact, if you put the Surface Pro 6 next to the Surface Pro 5, or even the Surface Pro 4, you'd be hard-pressed telling them apart - save for the fact that this time around there's a Matte Black color option.
On the front of the device, you'll find the 12.3-inch touchscreen, along with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with support for Windows Hello. On the left side, there's a headphone jack, while the right side is where you'll find the full-sized USB port, mini DisplayPort, and Surface Connect charging port. On the top, there's the power button and volume rocker. Then, on the back, there's the kickstand. Despite what it may look like in photos, the kickstand is very sturdy and infinitely adjustable - so you don't have to live with using the device in one of two positions, like you do using the iPad with Apple's keyboard covers. Like other tablet kickstand-style devices, the Surface Pro 6 isn't overly comfortable to use like a laptop with the Type Cover on your lap - so if you intend on buying the Type Cover, we recommend sticking with a table of some kind.
The only thing we might have changed about the Surface Pro 6 design is that it would have been nice to include a USB-C port or two.
Apple has run full-force into adopting USB-C - causing some outrage. We get that Microsoft is positioning itself as a kind of anti-Apple by not forcing users to adopt dongles for older accessories, but USB-C is still the future, and not adding a USB-C port immediately dates the Surface Pro 6.
As mentioned, the display on the Surface Pro 6 comes in at 12.3-inches, and it has a resolution of 2,736 x 1,824 - and it's beautiful. Sure, it's pretty much the same as the display on last year's Surface Pro 5, but that doesn't take away from the fact that colors were vibrant and bright, making the Surface Pro 6 a great choice for those who appreciate a great display. The display is excellent when it comes to touch features too. We found it to be accurate and responsive to touch, and while you might want to use the Surface Pro Type Cover for some situations - like writing tech reviews - many will find using the on-screen keyboard and touch controls perfectly adequate for what they need this device for.
Under the hood, the Surface Pro 6 is an impressive beast for the form factor that it takes.
The base model includes an 8th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. From there, options range up to an Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and a full 1TB of storage. Of course, with those specs you'll have to pay $2,299, but it's an option if you want it.
We found that our model, which was the base model with a 256GB hard drive, was more than capable enough of handling any day-to-day task, and could get us through a full day of work, plus some video-watching and other entertainment, perfectly fine. Of course, if you expect to use the Surface Pro 6 for more intensive tasks, like any video or audio editing, then it's worth upgrading.
Beyond shelling out the cash for the tablet itself, there's some extra money you might want to spend - on the Microsoft Type Cover, which comes at $130, and the Microsoft Surface Pen, which costs $100. Those are expensive accessories. Sure, they're not quite as pricey as Apple's options, but they're expensive nonetheless.
Now, this isn't a review of the Surface Pro's accessories, but we can offer a few details.
In general, we found the Surface Pro 6's Type Cover to offer a nice, tactile typing experience - which was perfect for longer typing sessions. The touchpad was also nice, and while it could have been a bit larger, it worked perfectly fine. The Type Cover is only available in black if you want to pay the $130, though if you're willing to shell out $160 you can get a Platinum, Cobalt Blue, or Burgandy model too.
The Surface Pro Pen is pretty nice too. Now, take this with a grain of salt considering the fact that this tech reviewer isn't much of an artist, but the Surface Pro Pen generally felt nice and reacted well to our strokes. It has 4,096 levels of pressure, which is nice, though it would have been nice if it had a little more gesture control, like the new second-generation Apple Pencil.
Ultimately, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is an excellent device, and a great option for Windows fans who want to continue their experience in a more portable and tactile format. We do recommend the Type Cover to those who type a lot, but if you don't then you may not need to factor it into the cost.
But the question remains - is there a better option in this price range?
Well, that depends.
For Windows 10 fans, the Surface Pro line is still the best way to experience the hybrid tablet design that has taken off over the past few years, but we still wish Microsoft would update the design a little, even if just to include more modern ports.
For those not married to Windows 10 and who don't mind using a mobile operating system, the new iPad Pro range is definitely something to consider, especially given the fact that it has a USB-C port and arguably better stylus. iPad aside, however, there's still nothing that can truly challenge the Surface Pro 6 in this segment - so if you like Windows 10, and want a hybrid, this is the way to go.
Buy the Microsoft Surface Pro Pen, starting at $99.99, available Best Buy
Buy the Microsoft Surface Type Cover, starting at $129.99, available at Best Buy
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