Microsoft unveiled a slew of updates and new products during a dedicated event at the end of 2019, one of which was its seventh-generation Surface Pro. While the popular tablet-based 2-in-1 didn’t see much of a change on the outside, the internal components received a significant upgrade.
Specifically, the Surface Pro 7 relies on Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake CPUs, making it competitive with traditional clamshell laptops. But the Surface Pro 6 is still plenty fast. Does this update make the Surface Pro 7 an imperative purchase? Read on to find out.
You’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 6. Both sport Microsoft‘s familiar Surface design aesthetic and build, with silver-gray magnesium formed into a very robust thin and light tablet at 0.33 inches and around 1.73 pounds. Both devices feel like solid chunks of glass and metal.
That said, the Surface Pro is probably the most elegant and modern Windows tablet around, thanks in part to the most flexible and smoothest kickstand you’ll find today.
Both 2-in-1s share the same 12.3-inch display in the productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio and a sharp 2,736 x 1,824 (267 pixels-per-inch) resolution. The displays use Microsoft’s latest Pixelsense technology, which creates a very thin panel for images that pop and for pen and fingertip presses that are as natural as possible. The display has some of the best contrast you’ll find on a 2-in1 today and over 400 nits of brightness.
However, the Surface Pro 7 does improve connectivity over the prior generation. While both offer the same USB-A and Surface Connect ports, the Surface Pro 7 swaps out the Mini DisplayPort used on the older device for USB-C connectivity — without Thunderbolt 3, alas.
Both detachables are compatible with the same optional $130 Type Cover. This keyboard offers precise mechanism, consistent backlighting, and a very good (if a bit small) Microsoft Precision touchpad with reliable support for all Windows 10 gestures. As usual, it magnetically clings to the slate and is propped up for a comfortable typing experience.
The $100 Surface Pen remains the same as well, with the usual 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt support, and fast response time.
Finally, both Surface Pro models ship in Platinum. However, Microsoft serves up the Surface Pro 6 in Black whereas the Surface Pro 7 has a Matte Black option.
For design, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 is the clear winner thanks to its up-to-date connectivity.
As noted earlier, the big difference between the Surface Pro 7 and its predecessor is the switch to Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake CPUs. These are faster and more efficient processors with integrated Intel Iris Pro graphics that rival entry-level discrete graphics in performance. The Surface Pro 7 won’t be a bona fide gaming laptop, but it will handle casual games along with creative apps like photo and video editing much better than the Surface Pro 6’s 8th-gen Intel CPUs.
The Surface Pro 6 model we tested in 2018 had Intel’s eighth-generation Core i5-8250U. It scored 4,074 in the Geekbench single-core test and 13,567 in the multi-core test. When we tested the Surface Pro 7 with a newer chip, we experienced a 20% increased improvement in multi-core performance, and 24% faster 4K video conversions in Handbrake. Our only note is that if you do plan to game on the Surface Pro 7, you’ll see better performance on the Core i7 configuration that uses Intel’s integrated G7 graphics core.
For performance, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 is a meaningful upgrade in power and takes the lead over the Surface Pro 6.
The Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 6 are the same size and weight. Neither will weigh you down, even with the connected Type Cover and Surface Pen tucked away inside your bag.
However, battery longevity clearly divides the two generations. One would assume that the Surface Pro 7 should see increased performance, but that’s not the case. Even Microsoft admits that its newer model has less battery life than the Surface Pro 6. Where the company estimated 13.5 hours for the Surface Pro 6, you’ll only see an estimated 10.5 hours for the Surface Pro 7.
Our reviews point to this huge dividing factor. In testing, the Surface Pro 6 saw 570 minutes in web browsing, 849 minutes in our video loop test, and 228 minutes using Basemark. Meanwhile, the same browser test performed on the Surface Pro 7 revealed a shorter duration: One hour and 20 minutes less than the Surface Pro 6.
Overall, you can expect 8.5 hours of battery life in light usage on the Surface Pro 7. The Surface Pro 6, however, can blaze through a full 8-hour workday without a problem.
For portability, the clear winner is Microsoft’s older Surface Pro 6.
The Surface Pro 7’s jump in power wins the day
The Surface Pro 7 starts at $750 for a Core i3, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Upgrading to a Core i5 with 8GB of RAM is only $50 more, but opting for a Core i7 and a 256GB SSD will run you close to $1,300.
The Surface Pro 6 has some variation with its price, but setting it up through Microsoft can cost more than $900. The entry-level model features a Core i5 chip, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The top-tier model with Intel’s Core i7 chip, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage costs a hefty $2,300 through Microsoft.
The Surface Pro 7 has faster performance and is more modern with fresher connectivity. The predecessor can’t compete with the Surface Pro 7 in performance, but the newer model’s battery life is its Achilles heel. Depending on a tenth-generation CPU sucks up power faster than the Pro 6 chip, so you need to decide if you want top-notch performance or lengthier battery life.
Keep in mind, Microsoft jumped the price of the Pro 6 without enough reason to justify it (in our opinion), so it could be well worth it to spend the extra money and go for updated Surface Pro configurations.