We tested and compared the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 versus Surface Pro 7 in terms of Performance, Display Quality, Price, Battery life, Portability, Keyboard & more.
Above you can see the Ranking with the results and below you will find the in-depth reports of the two Microsoft Surface Laptops.
Ranking First: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
- Best Performance + Type Cover & Surface Pen included
- Bright display
- Good Interfaces / Ports with USB-C
- More expensive than Surface Pro 6
For three weeks I was allowed to test the new Surface Pro 7. I was kindly provided the version with an Intel Core i7-1065G7, 256 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM worth $1300 on loan from Microsoft.
The prices of the new generation usually start at $900 (Intel Core i3, 128 GB SSD, 4GB RAM) and go up to $2500 (Intel Core i7, 1 TB SSD, 16 GB RAM).
Although the Surface Pro 7 is a new device, as many of you probably know, not too much has changed since the Surface Pro 4/5. Both the design and the technical details have always remained balanced and have hardly changed at all (except for the latest generation of Intel processors, of course).
This has remained the same in the new generation. Here and there there are a few small differences to the Surface Pro 6, which I had the pleasure to test last year, and I would like to present them to you. I would also like to talk a bit about my experiences with the device and Windows 10.
Differences: Design & Hardware
Let us first start with the comparison of the Surface Pro 7 with its predecessor, the Surface Pro 6. Of course, I still have the recordings of the Surface Pro 6 from last year with me, but without a direct comparison, I would not have noticed the details of the changes at all.
Fortunately, one of my fellow students owns the Surface Pro 6 and thus a direct comparison was possible at all. Externally not much has changed. The biggest change is probably the USB-C port instead of a mini display port. But more about that later.
Whereas the Surface Pro 6 had one microphone on the front (display) and one on the back, the Surface Pro 7 now has two far-field studio microphones on the front, which provide significantly better audio recording quality. On the backside the microphone is missing now.
The LED next to the camera, which indicates whether the camera is currently being accessed, has moved slightly to the right in the SP7 – ultra exciting. The camera itself has not changed either.
Both models have a 5MP front camera (Selfie) and a 8Mp rear camera. The quality of the recordings is unfortunately still not satisfactory. A lightning bolt is still missing here as well.
Now let’s get to the inside of the devices: Especially the 10th processor generation from Intel is not only noticeable on the data sheet (previously 8th generation), but also in the usage. As Martin could also see in the Surface Laptop 3 test, the i7 delivers a decent performance.
In addition to the new processors, Microsoft gives the new Surface Pro generation an LPDDR4X memory (instead of LPDDR3). The graphics cards are now set to the Intel UHD (i3) or an Intel Iris Plus (i5 and i7) (full of Intel UHD Graphics 620). The Surface Pro 7 also supports WiFi 6 and is therefore theoretically faster on the Internet.
Thanks to the built-in Intel Core i7, everything goes smoothly and smoothly when using the Surface Pro 7. In “normal use” (Office and browser), as expected, no problems at all could be detected.
Every now and then, when using OneNote (UWP), the fan started and the device became a little warmer. I was surprised, because nothing else was open in the background. But after about 30 seconds the spook was over again.
When using Photoshop Elements 2020 everything runs smoothly as well and I found no reason to complain. There is nothing jerking and I never had to wait a second for something to be processed. But here, too, the fan starts up after a while.
This is then also clearly audible and does not switch itself off so quickly. But I wouldn’t call that really disturbing, because at normal ambient noise it doesn’t even notice.
Even casual games like Angry Birds are easily handled by the i7. Games like Forza Motorsport 7 can be installed but I couldn’t start it.
For that the graphic card is probably too weak-chested after all. But the Surface Pro 7 is also not sold as a gaming tablet. That’s what Project xCloud is for in the future anyway.
Microsoft has changed the procedure for determining the manufacturer’s specification for battery life (see also here) to make it more realistic for end users. In my test of the Surface Pro 6 I wrote that it lasts two days with a full battery charge and that it depends on the usage.
However, the value of 10.5 hours given for the Surface Pro 7 was missed by far every day. Microsoft’s test was conducted with a Surface Pro 7 with Intel Core i5, 256 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM. With an Intel Core i7 the battery just doesn’t last that long.
I used the Surface Pro 7 for several days at the university and used the Edge browser from time to time in addition to OneNote, Outlook and Word. I set the display brightness to 30 percent and disabled the automatic brightness adjustment.
However, the Surface did not last longer than 6.5 hours (active use) during this use. But with that I actually always got through the day without problems. When I arrived at home, I had to charge it, but it did not switch off in the meantime due to the remaining battery capacity being too low. A longer battery life would still be welcome, especially since Microsoft states a 10.5-hour runtime.
By the way, the Surface Pro 7 can be charged either with the included 65W power supply (from 3-100% approximately 1,5 to 2 hours) or with a USB-C cable. However, a power supply with at least 30W is absolutely necessary, otherwise you will get an error message.
As power supply I used the Aukey PA-D1 (which Alex has already tested) and a USB-C to USB-C cable. However, charging takes a little longer of course.
The display is, as you are used to with surface devices, razor sharp and leaves nothing to be desired. But as Martin also found out with the Surface Laptop 3, the automatic brightness and contrast change of the Surface Pro 7 is a disaster. I turned off the brightness change for the battery life test anyway, so the problem was eliminated for me.
But before I disabled this automatic change, I noticed an occasional random change in the display brightness, even though the lighting conditions didn’t change. The display was first darkened and then brightened again.
In retrospect, the change in contrast also bothered me rather less. I just wondered again and again why the colours are suddenly so bright. Most of the time this was the case when I woke up the Surface from standby mode.
At first I thought that this had something to do with the night mode, which turns on automatically after sunset for me. I then switched this mode off and had to observe the same phenomenon again. The contrast simply does what it wants.
Unfortunately I could not represent this in pictures in a reasonable way. In the end, Martin’s solution helped me by disabling the “energy-saving display” setting in the “Intel Graphics Control Room” app.
Type cover & Surface Pen
The type cover and the surface pen have not changed. Only on the packaging the compatibility with the Surface Pro 5, 6 and 7 is stated, and the Surface Pen ($110) is also compatible with the mentioned “old” Surface devices.
The Surface Laptop, Book, Go and Studio are also included. The Surface Pen (Model 1776) can also be used there. Since I am not a fan of the “included” rubber tip of the Surface Pen (see Surface Pro 6 Review), I prepared myself better this time and got the alternative pen tips.
These are available at Amazon* for just under $15. There is a 2B tip, which is made of plastic. This and personally gives me a better feeling for writing, because I am not constantly slowed down while writing. This “2B-tip” is standard on the new Surface Slim Pen.
But sometimes I had problems with the pen input. The Surface Pen was not recognized for a short time and only worked again when the display was neither touched by the pen nor by my hand.
If you briefly lift your hand together with the pencil, it works as usual again. The short interruptions are especially annoying when you have to take notes quickly and are then interrupted by these short pauses.
But I still have to say a few words about the type cover. The writing experience remains unchanged at a high level. But the touchpad also has similar dropouts as the stylus and clicking on it is unpleasantly loud. Martin was able to make a similar observation with Surface Por X.
Last year I was allowed to test the Surface Pro 6 with the standard type cover ($150). But this year I got the type cover with Alcantara cover ($180 and the chic color poppy red).
The fellow student mentioned at the beginning has a black standard version and so I could make a direct comparison. After this comparison, I almost want to recommend the Alcantara version, because it simply feels more valuable.
Also with the Surface Pro X I was more comfortable with the Alcantara version (signature type cover) than with the standard version (for companies). More about this in another article.
There has also been little change in the connections. AUX, USB-A and the slot for the Micro-SD card are still present. The Mini Display Port, on the other hand, has disappeared and instead there is now a USB-C 3.1 port at this location.
I criticized this with the Surface Pro 6 and now it has finally been improved. This means, for example, that a USB-C hub can now also be used to connect additional peripheral devices.
Such a hub was kindly provided to me by Aukey. The Aukey CB-C71* is equipped with USB-A 3.0, an SD card slot as well as an HDMI and LAN connection. Furthermore, I can connect a USB-C charging cable there, which charges the Surface Pro 7 at the same time. Again, an appropriate power supply unit is necessary.
What I noticed while using the Hub is the unfortunate position of the connectors on the Surface. Since the cable of the lift is relatively short, it hangs halfway down when the surface is upright and thus only touches the ground with one end.
If you lay the surface down flat, this is of course unnecessary. Either Microsoft’s choice of the position of the connector or Aukey’s choice of a shorter cable is to be criticized.
Since the surface has the kickstand at the bottom end, I would assume that there is simply no room for a side connection. So I’d probably rather blame Aukey.
On “normal” laptops this is of course no question at all – the hub just lies there next to the devices and does what it is supposed to do and does it very reliably. By the way, it looks super chic and feels very valuable thanks to its aluminum case (bottom side) and the slightly rough plastic (top side).
By the way, the choice of the housing colour is well considered. On the black magnesium case, you can see every tiny grain of dust (see extreme example below) and it is a magic magnet for fingerprints. Also, after a few days of use, there was already a first scratch on the back, to be more precise on the kickstand.
It was not tall and at the very first glance not visible at all. But by having a closer look, the scratch becomes very clear. When the last few rays of sunshine shine ideally on the surface at this time of year, the annoyance about the scratch is intensified again, as it can be clearly seen at the latest then. With this picture, you just have to look a little closer. I’m afraid I couldn’t get a better shot of it.
The type cover is naturally disturbing when using the Surface as a tablet. That’s why I took it off a few times and later of course remounted it. After a while I noticed that the cover was wearing out. Instead of red burls it had brown ones on the left and right (?).
Also on the surface itself you could see white wear marks on the lower side (where you dock the type cover). Although the surface was not damaged, it no longer looks like a premium product. I hadn’t noticed anything like that with the Surface Pro 6.
After all, a new generation of a device is usually intended to generate more profit for a company than its predecessor. This is achieved, among other things, by using less expensive materials. But this cannot be said for the Surface Pro 7, because it is still sold with high quality materials and a top workmanship.
Just as one is used to from the Surface machines and I am pleased that the quality has hardly decreased after all these years and different generations. You simply know that you are buying good quality.
In itself, the Surface has been a very solid 2in1 unit since the 4th generation. I would like to quote Martin’s sentence again at this point: “If something is not broken, then you shouldn’t try to repair it”, because he is absolutely right and therefore agrees with him completely.
Surely not many people would have wished for a completely radical design change, because the concept itself is coherent. But if one now looks at the Surface Pro X and compares it with the Surface Pro 7, one thinks that the Pro 7 is an old hat, already due to the thicker display edges and also the wider case.
If the new design had been applied to the Surface Pro 7, there would certainly have been quite a few transfer/upgrader who would have bought the new generation.
But then nobody would have looked at the Surface Pro X and left it alone. Maybe the new design will find its way into the 8th generation of the Surface Pro, we will see. I will add a comparison between the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro X and then I will link here accordingly.
Last but not least, there is of course the question of whether an upgrade to Surface Pro 7 is recommended. For that I would first of all say a general no. For owners of a Surface Pro 5 or Surface Pro 6, an upgrade is not really worthwhile.
But if you need a more powerful processor (because SP6 has the 8th gene and SP5 the 7th gene of the Intel CPUs) then buying the new device would make sense.
However, if the 2in1 device is mainly used for Office and Web, an upgrade is of little use in most cases. For “surface newcomers” the Surface Pro 7 is of course a good choice, which is why it is ranking of course first vs Surface Pro 6.
Ranking Second: Microsoft Surface Pro 6
- Powerful hardware
- Better Price than Surface Pro 7
- Good battery life
- No USB-C port
In my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review you can see how good the expensive premium tablet with Windows 10, keyboard and pen really is.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is the sixth generation of the successful tablet series for Pro users. Not too much changes compared to the predecessor. What is new is that Microsoft is now focusing on the eighth generation of Intel Core processors.
Furthermore, it is now available not only in grey but also in black. Well, is the Windows tablet a good one despite the few new features? You can find out in my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review.
The design of the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 has not changed compared to its predecessor. Well, except for the black color option. But the fact that nothing changes is not bad, but good. I think the design of the Surface series is great. The Surface Pro 6 still consists of a high-quality magnesium housing, is 8.5mm thin and weighs only 1.69 lbs. For such a large tray, these are good measurements.
The Surface Pro 6 feels very high quality. When you hold it in your hands, you have the feeling of holding an expensive tablet. Expensive it actually is. I also like how elegantly the fan slots are hidden above. With the competition, you can clearly see that.
As the Core i5 and Core i7 chips have to be actively cooled, there are of course fans. But they are hardly noticeable at all and can only be heard under load.
On the right side we get a DisplayPort, a normal sized USB 3.0 port and the magnetic surface connector. Right, there is no USB C port and that is the only criticism I have of the design.
So if you already depend on USB C, you have to use adapters. In itself, however, the magnetic surface connector is well implemented. If one stumbles over the charging cable, the whole tablet will not fall down.
At the top there is the power button and the volume control. On the left side there is also a normal headphone jack. A MicroSD card slot is hidden under the kickstand. At the bottom there is also a connector for the keyboard cover.
The speakers are located on the top right and left. The sound quality is actually quite good for a tablet. However, many premium notebooks offer a better sound. Above the display is also a 5-megapixel front camera and the one on the back has a resolution of 8 megapixels.
Also here, the image quality is really good, specially for a Windows tablet. But of course, smartphones have better cameras.
Like all Surface Tablets, the Surface Pro 6 can be unlocked by Windows Hello and Face Recognition. Most of the time this works quite well and reliably.
Microsoft Type Cover
The Surface Pro 6 is only really interesting with a keyboard cover. This one is called Microsoft Type Cover and has to be purchased separately for $100. It is however the same type cover of the predecessor and many shops offer it at a lower price.
The keyboard is connected to the tablet via a magnetic connector. Folded up it protects the display. There is also a magnetic bar, thanks to which you can bend the cover slightly.
The type cover hasn’t changed at all, so the keyboard is still great. The cover is of higher quality than many of our competitors. The keys also offer a good pressure point and overall I was able to write comfortably and fluently blind with the keyboard immediately.
Read: These are the best tablets with keyboard
There is a precision touchpad under the keyboard, which also works very well. But it is considerably smaller than the trackpads of many notebooks.
Display & Surface Pen
Let’s move on to the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 display, which is 12.3 inches tall and has an aspect ratio of 3:2, making it more comfortable to work with and surf the Internet because there’s more room at the bottom. But if you watch videos, you will see black bars at the top and bottom.
The resolution is with 2736 x 1824 pixels very high and therefore texts and icons look nice and sharp. All in all, the screen is quite well implemented. The viewing angles are wide, colours are well reproduced and it is pleasantly bright. It’s a laminated display, but it has to be, given the price.
On the touch screen you can not only use your fingers, but also an active pen called Surface Pen. It’s exactly the same pen as the predecessor, which also works with the Surface Go. The release price is around $100, but as the stylus is a bit older, you can often find it for less than $80.
I don’t have to say much more about the Surface Pen, nothing has changed. The stylus is really well implemented and works excellent on the Surface Pro 6.
Like Samsung’s S Pen, it supports 4096 pressure levels and is beautifully precise. There is one button on the side and one on top. There is also a battery there that needs to be replaced from time to time.
I usually only use such a stylus in Photoshop and it works great there. But of course you can also use apps like OneNote to add handwritten notes or draw artistically.
The only really big innovation is in the built-in processors. You can get the Surface Pro 6 with an eighth generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 chipset. These are both now quad-core processors, so there are four cores in total.
With the predecessors we still got dual-core chips. Depending on the version, there are 8GB or 16GB RAM, as well as a 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD.
In fact, the performance is a good deal better than the predecessor. As you can see in my benchmark comparison, the tablet performs very well in the Geekbench 4 and Cinebench benchmark. Microsoft is quite late though.
Tablets like the Lenovo MIIX 520 have been available with the same processors since the beginning of the year. Those who can do without the particularly high-quality workmanship and some premium features can thus get a similar performance for less money.
As I said, the performance of the Surface Pro 6 is excellent. Even on my test device with the Core i5 and the 8GB RAM, programs like Adobe Photoshop run very smoothly. And of course you can use Office programs or Chrome without any problems. It’s just the same hardware that we get with many premium notebooks.
Since the tablet does not have a dedicated graphics card, it is not perfectly suited for such applications. You can certainly edit FullHD videos and also limited 4K videos in programs like Adobe Premiere Pro, but you have to accept longer render times. Even demanding games of course don’t run as well as on a gaming notebook.
I have played on the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Fortnite and it works well. However, since the tablet has no dedicated graphics card, it is not really suitable for demanding games. But as I said, it’s perfectly possible. When I played Fortnite at medium settings, the refresh rate averaged over 20 frames per second.
In the lowest settings, it is between 30 and 35 frames per second. Nevertheless, there are still some minor jerks from time to time. And with the lowest graphics, Fortnite doesn’t look very stylish of course.
In my battery test, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 performs really well. In fact, I came up with a runtime of just about 12 hours. For this test, I always run an HD video at medium brightness in an endless loop.
As you can see in my comparison, this is a really good value especially for a Windows tablet.
Of course you will only get these 12 hours if you play a video locally at medium brightness. In real use the runtime is shorter. With simple office work, however, up to 8 hours are possible. If you use Photoshop, edit videos or play Fortnite, the battery can run down much faster.
Well, that was my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 test. Of course I can recommend it, because the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is great. Too much has not changed compared to the predecessor, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
The design of the Surface series is excellent and this is also the case here. You always have the feeling of holding a premium device in your hands. However, it would have been nice to get a USB C connection.
Apart from that the display, the type cover and also the surface pen are very good. Thanks to the Intel Core processors of the 8th generation, the performance is also a good deal faster than the predecessor. At the same time, the battery lasts longer than almost all Windows tablets.
In my opinion, there is only one real disadvantage with Microsoft Surface Pro 6. That’s the price. Without accessories you have to put at least $820 on the table. And with a keyboard and pen, you’re quickly off $1000. (We found a great offer for you on Amazon, which is cheaper, just click the button below.)
If you don’t want the entry-level model, you have to spend even more money. Thus, I can only recommend the Surface Pro 6 if you are willing to pay a premium price for a premium device.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is an expensive but great Windows tablet. It offers a proven design, a very high quality finish and an excellent display. The performance and battery life are also very good. At the same time the Type Cover and the Surface Pen work excellently.
The only pity is that there is no USB C connection, which is why the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is ranking behind versus the Surface 7. It is quite a bit cheaper than the Surface Pro 7 though, so if you can accept the lack of ports and a bit less performance, we can recommend you this device with no doubt!