Surface Pro 6 vs. Surface Laptop 2: Which should you buy?

Ultimately the battle between the Pro and the Laptop boils down to their form factors. Do you need 2-in-1 with great inking support, pr would you prefer something a little more traditional?

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CategorySurface Laptop 2Surface Pro 6
Display13.5-inch Pixel Sense display10 point multi-touch12.3-inch Pixel Sense display10 point multi-touch
Display resolution2256 x 1504 (201ppi)Aspect Ratio: 3:22736 x 1824 (267 PPI)Aspect Ratio: 3:2
SoftwareWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 Home
Processor8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U or i7-8650U8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U or i7-8650U
Storage (SSD)128GB, 256GB, 512GB SSD128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Memory8GB or 16GB LPDDR3 RAM8GB or 16GB LPDDR3 RAM
GraphicsIntel Graphics UHD 620Intel UHD Graphics 620
Rear cameraNone8.0MP autofocus camera with 1080p HD video
Front camera720pWindows Hello face-authentication1080p HDWindows Hello face-authentication
SpeakersOmnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio Premium1.6W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium
PortsOne full-size USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, headset jack, and Surface ConnectOne full-size USB 3.0Mini DisplayPortHeadset jackSurface ConnectmicroSDXC card reader
SensorsAmbient light sensorAmbient light sensorAccelerometerGyroscope
KeyboardFull-sized, backlit, soft-touch1.5mm travelType Cover sold separately ($130
SecurityTPM 2.0TPM 2.0
Battery life14.5 hours of use13.5 hours of use
PenSurface Pen ($99Surface Pen ($99
Weighti5 2.76 lbs (1.25 kg)i7 2.83 lbs (1.28 kg)1.7 lbs to 1.73 lbs (770 g to 784 g)
Dimensions12.13 in (308.02 mm) x 8.79 in (223.27mm) x 0.57 in (14.47 mm)11.50 in (292 mm) x 7.9 in (201 mm) x 0.33 in (8.5 mm)

Inking vs. Lapability

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

On paper, the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 share many of the same internal characteristics, revolving around the latest quad-core processors from Intel, with improved thermals to reduce throttling as seen with the previous generation. We have full, comprehensive reviews of both the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6 available for more information. They're both solid devices, but which one you go for depends on what you're looking for.

The Surface Laptop 2, like its predecessor, is slim and light, perfect for plugging away at a desk or in your lap. Unlike the Surface Pro line, the Surface Laptop 2 doesn't have a kickstand, and should feel a lot more natural to use when you don't have a desk handy. Sadly, it doesn't include a 360-degree hinge, which prevents it from providing a solid inking or tablet experience, despite sporting a digitizer and a 10-point touch screen. At best, you'll be signing documents, annotating, and doing the occasional tap here and there. Of course, if you're not interested in doing much digital inking, all of these facts might be a plus, rather than a negative.

On the flip side, the Surface Pro 6 is a bit awkward to use as "lapable" device, but the trade off is a better inking experience. If you're a digital artist or student who prefers taking hand-written notes (which are, studies say, better for learning), then you'll want a Surface Pro 6 (of course, be aware that that the Surface Pen costs extra). There are other differences between the two worth being aware of, though.

Surface Laptop 2

Surface Laptop 2. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Surface Laptop 2 gets slightly better performance overall than the Pro 6 owing to its form factor — there's simply more spare room to distribute heat. The Pro 6 by comparison is packed a lot more densely. The trade off is that the Pro 6 is designed to be a true "mobile" experience, with a reverse-facing camera which is surprisingly capable, as well as an accelerometer and a gyroscope. It also comes with microSD expandable storage, whereas the Laptop 2 does not.

Additionally, the Laptop 2's alcantara fabric keyboard finish is often the subject of controversy. Some say it stains easily over time, and isn't particularly easy to clean. Plus, if it gets damaged, you'll have to send away the whole laptop to get it repaired, whereas with the Pro 6, you need only send the detachable keyboard in for repairs. However, some think it adds some luxury to the product, so it depends on your preference.

The Laptop 2 has a slightly worse display than the Pro 6, with a lower PPI density across a larger panel. Digital artists will enjoy the Pro 6's richer display, but will envy the Laptop 2's battery life, which is at least two hours better than that of the Pro 6.

So, which should you buy?

Most of the differences between the two devices are relatively minor. The Laptop 2 gets slightly better battery life and performance while the Pro 6 gets a better display and more feature versatility. The biggest question is: how much do you value inking?

The Pro 6's form factor lends itself to inking far better than the Laptop 2, with an experience completed with magnetic Pen storage. If you're a digital artist or student looking for a perfect note-taking companion, look no further than the Pro 6. If you want something more traditional you can use in your lap, and don't care so much about inking or tablet-style usage, get the Laptop 2.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!