After picking up the new Microsoft Surface Pro 6 during the Black Friday special offer period, I decided to use it every day for a couple of months before writing a review.
For the past five years I’ve been using the 2013 MacBook Air and I absolutely loved it. Great design, great specs, amazing keyboard and trackpad, amazing update support (it received the latest MacOS update Mojave) and the seamless syncing between iPhone & iPad. Unfortunately, after half a decade the battery life began to diminish and the fan began to kick in more and more often.
I was aware for some time that it would need replacing so I watched keenly as the Apple finally announced the updated model in late 2018. Apple took to the stage and showcased a vastly improved screen, larger trackpad, Touch ID and many more improvements. Great, that’s my next laptop sorted I thought…. Until I realised the questionable CPU choice, butterfly keyboard, no magsafe and most of all the price.
Now for a period around 2012-2014 the MacBook Air was the obvious choice when shopping for a new laptop. The price to performance ratio was sublime and the design and weight were the icing on an already tasty cake.
Fast forward to late 2018 and the £1,200 asking price for a 1.6GHz dual core laptop with a subjectively worse keyboard is no longer a no brainer. So my search for a replacement to my beloved 2013 MacBook Air began!
First stop was apple.com – The new MacBook Air wasn’t the right machine for me but Apple surely have something perfect for people looking to upgrade from the MacBook that Steve Jobs famously pulled out of an envelope, right? No. To my amazement, there’s nothing in Apples MacBook line that offers the same price to performance ratio that was available in 2013, worse than that, their whole MacBook line is a bit of a mess. The new MacBook Air isn’t right so how about dropping down to see what the entry level MacBook offers… Astonishingly, what was previously the entry level MacBook now sports a higher price than the Air??!
So off I went to see what Microsoft had to offer towards the end of 2018. I’ve been watching closely as Panos Panay has built Microsoft’s hardware division in to something amazing. The initial Surface Pro was a undoubtedly a visionary product hamstrung by the technology available at the time of launch. But now Panos and his hugely talented team are on to the sixth generation, and that vision of the future of computing is almost fully fleshed out.
To my surprise, the Surface Pro 6 looked like a modern day version everything the MacBook was in 2013. Way back when Steve Jobs first pulled it from a manila envelope at Macworld 2008 he unveiled the next step in laptops. Gone were the bulky, boxy designs and in came slim, light weight, take anywhere computing devices. Just like it took Apple about 5 to perfect the formula, it’s taken roughly the same amount of time for Microsoft to perfectly realise their vision for the Surface Pro. Now the Surface Pro is a powerful computing device that’s flexible and adaptable to your needs and your workflow.
Are you an artist? No problem, simply pull the exquisitely engineered kickstand all the way out and you’re presented with a large, digital, high resolution touchscreen canvas that’s slightly angled off the desk and when paired with the Surface Pen it’s capable of over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Are you an excel mastermind? No worries, simply attached the type cover, angle the kickstand slightly and suddenly you have an unbelievably slim and powerful tablet running full Windows 10 at your disposal. Does your work sometimes drag on in to the night? Fear not, the excellent keyboard is also fully backlit!
The Surface Pro 6 is, in my opinion the best laptop for the most people right now. As standard it features an 8th generation Intel Core i5 quad core CPU (there’s also an i7 option), high resolution touch screen display, stunning design, excellent materials and excellent battery life. Then after weeks of research, the straw that broke the camels back was the incredible Black Friday deal that included the luxury Alcantara type cover (this isn’t included as standard) for only £749! That’s right, the latest and greatest in the Surface Pro lineup was suddenly £450 cheaper (and considerably more powerful) than the new MacBook Air.
Now I certainly value the seamless integration that Apple provides with their iPhone and iPads (Air Drop, iMessage etc), but if I was to put a figure on that integration, it wouldn’t be £450! As such, my Surface Pro journey began….
After years of using MacOS with all it’s amazing gestures and silky smooth UI, it was the transition to Windows 10 that concerned me most about this switch. I’m happy to say that after a few days adjustment period, I was navigating the Windows UI like a veteran! There’s a huge array of super useful keyboard short cuts, great multi touch gestures and even some unexpectedly excellent features that seem under promoted/appreciated like Timeline. The only let down for me has been the tablet experience. Detach the type cover and sure, the Surface Pro 6 is an excellent tablet for Netflix thanks to the amazing 12.3″ screen but general UI and navigation is a significant way behind the iOS powered iPad at the moment and this is the one area that I would like to see improved with future Windows updates.
Having said that, I see this more as a MacBook replacement than an iPad replacement and the Surface Pro 6 has been a true joy to use over the past couple of months. All day battery life, great performance and it’s totally silent thanks to the fanless design. Heck, it’s even got the Microsoft equivalent of Magsafe for charging which is something that Apple unfortunately no longer offer!
Without a doubt in my mind, right now the Surface Pro is the best laptop for the most people. Coming in at under £1,000 and packing amazing performance into a portable, light weight (but sturdy) design the with tremendous flexibility that a detachable keyboard brings as well as an impressive (and innovative) selection of accessories like the Surface Dial and Surface Pen.
In a time when everyone seems to be chasing the future of laptops with 2 in 1 hybrid tablets with detachable keyboards (see Google Pixel Slate and iPad Pro) it is Microsoft that have the best version of this future available right now and that is a testament to the vision of Panos Panay and the Surface team.