Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6 look great in black.
So good, in fact, that the new color makes the laptop and Windows tablet appear sleeker and even a bit slimmer than their predecessors, which is emphatically not the case. But other than the option to order them in black, Microsoft’s latest portable PCs are physically identical to their predecessors.
During a brief demo at Microsoft’s unveiling event on Tuesday, I found myself admiring how much sleeker the black Surface Laptop 2 looked side-by-side with its predecessor, the original Surface Laptop. Then I pushed them closer together, as you can see in the image below, to confirm that the apparent slimming down was all in my head: The Surface Laptop 2 is still the same size (0.57 inches thick) and weight (2.83 pounds) as the original.
Most of the other key specs are the same as well. There’s a 13.5-inch touch screen encased in Corning Gorilla Glass that sports Microsoft’s rather unique 3:2 aspect ratio, which is also present on the Surface Book 2 and the Surface Pro 6. That ratio results in a resolution of 2,256 by 1,504, somewhere between full HD and 4K.
The Surface Pro 6 also sports the 3:2 ratio, but at 12.3 inches, its screen is a bit smaller than the one on the Laptop.
Both devices support Microsoft’s unique input accessories, the Surface Pen and the Surface Dial, but it’s more limited than you’ll find on the company’s Surface Studio 2 all-in-one. You can’t stick the pen magnetically to the edge of the Surface Laptop’s screen, for instance, and the Surface Dial only works for off-screen interaction on both the Surface Laptop 2 and the Surface Pro 6 rather than being able to place it directly on the screen like you can with the Surface Studio 2.
Port options haven’t changed either, which means a fairly limited selection, though one that is mostly par for the course for a sleek ultraportable laptop. You get a single USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, a mini DisplayPort output for connecting to external displays, and a proprietary connector that works with the power adapter or the Surface Connect desktop dock. The Surface Pro 6 adds a micro SDXC card reader that’s not available on the Laptop 2.
Still No USB-C Ports
Conspicuously absent from both is a USB-C port, which is now present on just about every other ultraportable in this price range (the Surface Pro 6 starts at $899 while the Laptop 2 begins at $999). It’s not necessarily a glaring omission if you don’t plan to connect peripherals to your laptop right now. But it also means that if you ever plan to connect any in the future, you may need an adapter, since USB-C has already moved past the experimental stage and is now widely available, especially on external hard drives.
Inside, other than a minor update to the processors, the component configurations are largely the same as well. You can select from eighth-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors and 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSDs. Memory options are 8GB or 16GB. All of these component choices, perhaps with the exception of the 1TB SSD, are the same as you’ll find on competing devices from Dell, Lenovo, HP, Apple, and other manufacturers.
Microsoft claims that thanks to the CPU refresh, the Surface Pro 6 is 67 percent faster than its predecessor, while the Surface Laptop 2 is 85 percent faster than the original Surface Laptop. This may well be the case (we’ll have to wait until we test both devices formally to be sure), but it masks the fact that the seventh-generation CPUs in the older devices were well overdue for a refresh. Even Apple and HP, which have recently been among the slowest movers when it comes to processor upgrades, have been selling eighth-generation Intel silicon for months now.
Ultimately, the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 will likely be excellent PCs when they start shipping on Oct. 16. If you don’t own a Surface and are thinking of buying one, the new black color looks great and you can still opt for the original Platinum silver color if you disagree, which means now is likely the time to pull the trigger.
But the differences between the new devices and their excellent predecessors are very minor, especially if you don’t particularly care about the color scheme. Meanwhile, the few glaring holes, such as the lack of USB-C and the fact that Surface Pro keyboards still cost extra, haven’t been fixed. So owners of a Surface Laptop or a Surface Pro 5 should stick with their current devices for a while.
Check back soon for PCMag’s full reviews of the Surface Pro 6 and the Surface Laptop 2.