Hands on with the Surface Pro 6: Back in Black

Yesterday, Microsoft announced refreshes to most of the Surface family, including the Surface Pro 6, Laptop 2, and Studio 2. Surface Pro is without a doubt the most popular of the Surface lineup, and frankly, the form factor of this year's model is no different from last year's unnumbered Surface Pro, which we'll now refer to as Surface Pro 5.

Of course, one of the biggest issues with the Surface Pro 6 is that there's no USB Type-C port. Microsoft now has the port in its highest-end mobile PC, the Surface Book 2, and the lowest-end, the Surface Go, but not on the devices in-between.

As you can see, Microsoft stuck with its usual recipe of Surface Connect, USB Type-A, and Mini DisplayPort. On Surface Book 2, that DisplayPort is replaced by USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, which still has a DisplayPort lane.

Of course, I asked why Microsoft decided to once again omit the port from this year's models, and I got all kinds of answers, from customers not wanting it to Panos having a specific vision of when the time is right for something. I also heard the usual bit about how Microsoft doesn't want to kill Surface Connect yet; however, adding a port doesn't necessarily mean removing another. One thing that burned Microsoft in the past was when it used micro-USB for the Surface 3, and people had issues when they tried to charge it with their phone charger.

The other thing that doesn't make any sense is that the Surface Pro 6 runs Windows 10 Home on consumer models. You might recall that the original Surface Pro that was announced in 2012 was first called Surface for Windows 8 Pro. The device is absolutely named after the OS that it runs, as was its Surface RT counterpart.

I couldn't get a straight answer for why Microsoft did this either, other than that consumers just don't need Windows 10 Pro. Commercial Surface Pro 6 units still come with Windows 10 Pro, and they even have a different CPU in the Core i5 model. The Pro 6 can come with a Core i5-8250U or i5-8350U, and the Core i7 is only an i7-8650U. The reason for that is because the 8350U is the one with vPro.

Let's get to the cool part though. For the first time ever, the Surface Pro is offered in two colors: Platinum and Black. You might recall that the original Surface RT, Pro, and Pro 2 all came in Black, while the Surface 2 was the first to ship in Platinum. Yes, the Black color is sexy, and the people I spoke to were pretty proud of it, due to the work it takes to get the magnesium to look that way. I was told that the color will "last forever", and that you won't see scratches on it. It was a concern of mine that if the device gets scratched, you'll see the magnesium color underneath.

As you can see from the images above, all of the Black demo units were paired with Type Covers and Surface Pens of the same color. The Black Type Cover is not made of Alcantara fabric, and in fact, this was a rare Surface event where no new accessories were announced. All of the available Type Covers and Pens are the same as they were before.

That being said, I really don't think that the Black models shown will be the popular configurations. Remember, just because you have a Black Surface Pro 6, that doesn't mean you'll be pairing it with accessories of the same color. This thing looks way better with Burgundy or Cobalt Blue accessories.

The usability of the device hasn't changed at all. If you've ever used the Surface Pro 5, then you know exactly what to expect from this. The screen is beautiful, the kickstand can go to any angle making it great to work on and to draw on, and the Type Cover is the same.

As usual, you probably won't want to buy one of these if you have to do a lot of typing while the device is on your lap. For that, you'll probably want to look at a Surface Laptop or a Surface Book 2.

You can pre-order the Surface Pro 6 here, and one other thing that I want to point out is that this model is much cheaper than the Surface Pro 5 was. The devices maxes out at a Core i7, 16GB RAM, and 1TB SSD for $2,299, while the same configuration for the Pro 5 was $2,699. The base model in the Microsoft Store has a Core i5, 8GB RAM, and 128GB SSD for $899, while the same configuration was $100 more last time around.

Finally, there's also a Core m3 model, which Microsoft doesn't seem to actually be selling. Best Buy and others have it for $749, while it was $799 for the Pro 5. This model hasn't been upgraded though, as it includes the same seventh-gen Core m3, 4GB RAM, and 128GB SSD, so on that one, you're probably only saving a bit of money because it now comes with Windows 10 Home, and it will still cost you $99 to upgrade.

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