Surface Pro 6 vs. Surface Book 2

The Surface Pro 6 is appealing, but can it beat the beefier Surface Book 2?

Microsoft Surface Book 2 13 Review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Microsoft’s Surface products aren’t for everyone, but if you want a powerful 2-in-1 with great battery life, there aren’t many that can compare. When you look at the new and different entries within the Surface line though, it becomes much harder to decide which is best. To try and nail it down, we pitted the Surface Pro 6 vs. Surface Book 2 and compared them on design, performance, and portability.

For a look at some of our other favorite 2-in-1s, check out our buying guide.

Design

Almost the entirety of Microsoft’s Surface line of products exudes a cool professionalism that is hard to find outside of Apple’s MacBook Pro line of portable computers, and the Surface Book 2 is easily the flagship device in that respect. It’s exceedingly sturdy, with a solid, magnesium frame that’s both lightweight and extremely durable. It feels solid, professional, and high-quality — although you would expect as such with its high price tag.

The Surface Pro 6 is an equally well-built device, though with its thinner keyboard it’s not as substantial or as domineering. It could be argued that its new black color scheme for this-generation of Surface Pro is a little more futuristic than the more classic silver of the Surface Book 2, but that’s largely a personal choice.

Since both devices have detachable keyboards, they are each incredibly light during tablet-mode, with the Surface Book 2 somehow coming in ever so slightly lighter at 1.6 pounds (vs. 1.75 pounds), despite its larger 13.5-inch display.

The Surface Book 2 also has slightly greater and more forward-thinking connectivity options, despite being the older of the two devices. It sports a pair of USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports (it’s confusing, we know) as well as a headphone jack, two Surface Connect ports, and a full-size SDXC card reader. The kicker though, is that it has a USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 port.

While the Surface Pro 6 comes equipped with its own USB-A 3.0 port, a headphone jack, miniDisplayPort, Surface connect port, and microSDXC card reader, it lacks a USB-C connection.

Performance

Despite the pricing disparity between these two devices, their hardware configurations are closer than you might think. The Surface Pro 6 starts at $900 and has 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and an eighth-generation, quad-core Core i5-8250U CPU. Upgrades include an i5-8350U, or for $1,500 you can get a Core i7-8650U CPU with 256GB of storage. For $2,300 you can net yourself 16GB of RAM and a terabyte of SSD space.

The Surface Book 2 starts at $1,200 and comes with a seventh-generation Core i5-7300U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. That’s a rather weak starting point compared to the Surface Pro 6, considering the 7300U is only a dual-core CPU. However, if you’re willing to spend $2,000, you get the same Core i7-8650U found in the Surface Pro 6, the same 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Most importantly though, you get an Nvidia GTX 1050 discrete GPU, which is leaps and founds more powerful than anything the Surface Pro has.

Spending $2,500 gets you double the RAM and storage, while the top-end $3,000 configuration nets you a terabyte of SSD space. There are also options for a 15-inch version if you need more screen-space and power, with a GTX 1060 graphics chip on board, though those configurations are more expensive again.

For general computing, the Surface Pro 6 is easily the better machine in terms of price vs. performance, but when it comes to graphical capabilities, the Surface Book 2 is miles ahead of its smaller sibling if you configure it with the dedicated graphics chip.

Feeding off of all that power, the displays in both systems are excellent, each with identical pixel densities of 267 pixels per inch. The only difference is the Surface Book 2 has a slightly higher resolution of 3,000 x 2,000, vs. 2,736 x 1,824 on the Pro 6, to account for its extra inch of screen space.

Portability

Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends

Both the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Book 2 are amazingly portable 2-in-1s, especially when in tablet mode. The Surface Book 2 is the larger and heavier device with a keyboard attached, measuring 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.59-inches and weighing 3.62 pounds in the Core i7 configuration. However, when you remove the keyboard and use it as a tablet, it weighs just 1.6 pounds.

The Surface Pro 6, on the other hand, weighs 1.7 pounds without the detachable keyboard and measures  11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33-inches.

Where the Surface Pro 6 is a little easier to handle, it can’t match the Surface Book 2’s battery life. The Pro 6 offers an impressive 14.5 hours of life, according to Microsoft, but the Surface Book 2 is rated at up to 17 hours. One important caveat, though, is battery life in tablet mode. The Surface Book 2 has two batteries — one in the keyboard, and one in the tablet. The one in the tablet is smaller, so battery life in tablet-only mode is only two to three hours.

The Book is better, but there’s a but

Picking a winner out of these two Surface 2-in-1s is difficult, as it’s a case of each being better at certain things. The Surface Pro 6 is more affordable and offers better hardware at that lower price point. But it’s not as sturdy, nor as capable graphically, nor as long-lasting as the Surface Book 2. It’s also lacking that important USB-C port.

With that in mind, the Surface Book 2 is the better piece of hardware. However, it’s also more expensive. If you want a dedicated GPU and a system that works great as both a laptop and tablet, it’s near-perfect. If you don’t need that graphical might, the Surface Pro 6 is very comparable and when it’s available in mid-October.

Overall winner: Surface Book 2

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